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Case Number: 1:19-cv-01061
Judge: Susan O. Hickey
Court: United States District Court for the Western District of Arkansas (Union County)
Plaintiff's Attorney: United States Attorney’s Office in El Dorado
Description: El Dorado, Arkansas criminal defense lawyer represented Plaintiff seeking a Write of Habeas Corpus.
After a jury trial in Union County, Arkansas, Petitioner Douglas was convicted of first-degree murder and being a felon in possession of a firearm. He was sentenced as a habitual offender and received a term of life imprisonment for the first-degree murder conviction with a consecutive fifteen-year enhancement for using a firearm to commit the murder. He was sentenced to a forty-year term of imprisonment for being a felon in possession of a firearm to run consecutively with the first-degree murder and enhancement sentences.
After trial, some of Douglas's family members and friends alleged that they were excluded from the courtroom during voir dire. Upon learning this information, Douglas, represented by postconviction counsel, moved for a new trial, claiming that his First and Sixth Amendment rights were violated when several of his relatives and friends were excluded from the courtroom during voir dire. After a hearing, the Union County Circuit Court denied the motion for new trial, finding that there was freedom of access to the courtroom.
Douglas filed a direct appeal, arguing that the trial court erred by denying his motion for new trial and denying his request to instruct the jury on manslaughter and justification. The Arkansas Supreme Court affirmed Douglas's convictions. Douglas v. State, 2017 Ark. 70, 511 S.W.3d 852 (2017).
Douglas then filed a timely petition for postconviction relief pursuant to Arkansas Rule of Criminal Procedure 37.1, arguing that his trial counsel was ineffective for failing to present the proper jury instructions on manslaughter and justification. Douglas's Rule 37.1 petition was denied. The Union County Circuit Court concluded that because Douglas armed himself, went to the victim's home to confront him, and then shot him multiple times, there was no rational basis for giving jury instructions on justification and manslaughter.
Douglas appealed the denial of his Rule 37.1 petition, and the Arkansas Supreme Court affirmed the circuit court's denial of Douglas's ineffective assistance of counsel claim as to the justification instruction. Douglas v. State, 2018 Ark. 89, at 5-9, 540 S.W.3d 685, 690-91 (2018).In a later opinion, the Arkansas Supreme Court affirmed the circuit court's denial of Douglas's ineffective assistance of counsel claim as to the manslaughter instruction. Douglas v. State, 2019 Ark. 57, at 7-14, 567 S.W.3d 483, 490-93 (2019).
Douglas then filed in this Court a timely Petition for Writ of Habeas Corpus pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254, which is the matter currently before the Court. ECF No. 1. In the instant petition, Douglas raises five claims: (1) he was denied his Sixth Amendment right to a public trial; (2) officers of the Union County Circuit Court improperly destroyed video evidence; (3) his postconviction counsel was ineffective because he did not seek forensic analysis to retrieve the video record; (4) his trial counsel was ineffective because he did not request the appropriate affirmative defense jury instruction; and (5) the evidence was insufficient to convict him of first-degree murder because the deadly force was justified. Judge Bryant has issued a Report and Recommendation in which he recommends that the Court deny the instant petition. Petitioner has responded with specific objections.
Outcome: Being well and sufficiently advised, and upon de novo review of all specific objections, the instant report and recommendation (ECF No. 10) is hereby ADOPTED for the above-stated reasons. Douglas's Writ of Habeas Corpus pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254 is DENIED and DISMISSED WITH PREJUDICE.