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Chappell v. Brown

United States District Court, S.D. Indiana, Terre Haute Division

June 9, 2017

RICHARD BROWN, Respondent.



         Petitioner Shamir Chappell (“Chappell”) has filed this habeas corpus petition alleging various constitutional and evidentiary irregularities in his trial and alleging that both trial counsel and appellate counsel violated the Strickland standard in not bringing these constitutional problems to the attention of the trial and appellate courts. Dkt. Nos. 1 & 9. For the reasons stated herein, the Court DENIES Chappell's motion and denies a certificate of appealability.

         I. DISCUSSION

         Chappell stands convicted of one count of Class A Felony Aiding and Abetting Burglary Causing Bodily Injury and one count of Aiding or Abetting or Causing a Class C Felony Battery. Chappell's concern is that the victims of the burglary had been the subjects of an eviction judgment and had not yet removed themselves from the burgled home and so they had no possessory interest in the home. He urges, as best the Court can tell, that an individual who has been evicted and stays in a home cannot be the victim of a burglary under the Indiana statute defining burglary because that evicted person has no legally recognized possessory interest in the home. Chappell complains that his counsel at both trial and on appeal were negligent in not urging this theory upon the courts and making the proper objections to any directly contrary theories of prosecution. He urges further that a conviction for these two crimes constitutes double jeopardy and those who neither propounded this theory on his behalf upon the trial courts, or preserved the record for such on appeal or urged the argument on appeal are operating below the Strickland standard.

         These arguments, or arguments that stem from these basic allegations have been raised on direct appeal and in the exercise of his post-trial remedies so that there are no exhaustion issue herein. The Indiana Court of Appeals disposed of these arguments both on direct appeal and on appeal from petitioner's post-conviction relief petition. See Chappell v. Indiana, 966 N.E.2d 124 (Ind.Ct.App. 2012); see also Chappell v. Indiana, Cause No. 89A01-1503-PC-124, 2016 WL 228982 (Ind.Ct.App. Jan. 19, 2016).

         Starkweather v. Smith, 574 F.3d 399, 402 (7th Cir. 2009), provides the standard of review for this Court: “Under the [Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act, ] AEDPA, a federal court may grant habeas relief only if the state court's adjudication of the petitioner's constitutional claims was based on unreasonable fact-finding or was contrary to, or involved an unreasonable application of, clearly established federal law.” (citing 28 U.S.C. § 2254(d); Williams v. Taylor, 529 U.S. 362, 376-77 (2000)). Further, under Strickland v. Washington, 466 U.S. 668 (1984), to succeed on his ineffective assistance of counsel claim Chappell must “show that (1) counsel's performance was objectively unreasonable and (2) counsel's errors affected the outcome of the proceeding.” Starkweather, 574 F.3d at 402 (citing Strickland, 466 U.S. at 688).

         The facts here are not in dispute and are set out with particularity in both state court opinions cited above. Briefly, Chappell broke into a home the inhabitants of which were related to the individual on the lease. The leaseholder failed to abide by the terms of the lease and had been, prior to the break in, the subject of a court ordered eviction. While the lease holder had honored the notice of eviction, her relative and his wife did not. Once inside the home Chappell and his accomplice, Wilkerson, in individual incidents, assaulted the inhabitants. It is significant to note that Chappell does not allege that anyone authorized his entry into the house, a very difficult claim to make given that the evidence was that he kicked in the door.

         The Indiana burglary statute states:

Sec. 1. A person who breaks and enters the building or structure of another person, with intent to commit a felony or theft in it, commits burglary, a Level 5 felony. However, the offense is:
(1) a Level 4 felony if the building or structure is a dwelling;
(2) a Level 3 felony if it results in bodily injury to any person other than a defendant;
(3) a Level 2 felony if it:
(A) is committed while armed with a deadly weapon; or
(B) results in serious bodily injury to any person other than a ...

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