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Swartz v. Superintendent

United States District Court, S.D. Indiana, Indianapolis Division

August 16, 2017



          Hon. William T. Lawrence, Judge

         Once convicted and after exhaustion or waiver of any right to appeal, a defendant is presumed to stand “fairly and finally convicted.” United States v. Frady, 456 U.S. 152, 164 (1982).

         For the reasons explained in this Entry, the effort of Christopher Swartz to show otherwise with respect to his Marion County conviction fails. His petition for a writ of habeas corpus will therefore be denied. In addition, the Court finds that a certificate of appealability should not issue.

         I. Background

         An Indiana jury found Swartz guilty of the fatal stabbing of Jose Hernandez in June 2006. The facts and pertinent procedural history were recited in Swartz's direct appeal:

Seventeen-year-old José Hernandez was walking toward his aunt's house on the southeast side of Indianapolis at approximately 1:30 a.m. on June 24, 2006. Ken Julian and Tanya Bright were sitting on their front porch talking to Joe Culvahouse when they observed three white men approach a neighboring convenience store. One of the men, Matt Miller, entered the store and purchased beer. Swartz and Wilburn Barnard remained outside. Miller returned with the beer and the three men began walking on the sidewalk.
Thirty seconds later, Hernandez began crossing the street when Swartz, Barnard, and Miller began heckling him and shouting racial epithets. Hernandez shrugged his shoulders. At that point, Swartz walked away from Miller and Barnard and began taunting Hernandez. Eventually, Hernandez removed his shirt and approached Swartz. Swartz swung his right fist at Hernandez and Hernandez ducked. Swartz told Hernandez that he was going to “f* * * [him] up.” Tr. p. 55, 60. Swartz and Hernandez began sparring, although neither landed punches. Miller and Barnard egged Swartz on by telling him to “f* * * him up.” Id. at 115. Swartz eventually lifted his shirt and asked Hernandez, “What you got?” Id. at 122. Hernandez looked down, saw a knife, and jumped back. At that point, Swartz lunged forward and stabbed Hernandez in the chest with the knife. Hernandez staggered away and Swartz turned and ran. Hernandez stumbled to his aunt's front porch, where he collapsed. He later died at Wishard Hospital from a stab wound that punctured his lung and heart.
The State charged Swartz with murder on June 27, 2006. Before trial, Swartz filed two motions in limine seeking to exclude (1) a portion of a 911 audiotape in which the caller referred to Swartz as a “wannabe white boy” and (2) photographs of Swartz's upper torso depicting his tattoos “South, ” “Side, ” and “Crazy White Boy.” Appellant's App. p. 111, 114. The trial court denied both motions after a hearing.
A three-day jury trial began on May 7, 2007. Swartz renewed his pretrial objections when the photographs and the objectionable portion of the 911 audiotape were admitted into evidence at trial. The jury ultimately found Swartz guilty as charged. The trial court held a sentencing hearing on June 14, 2007, and sentenced Swartz to sixty years imprisonment.

Swartz v. State, 49A04-0707-CR-393 (Ind.Ct.App. February 25, 2008). The denial of post-conviction relief, in which he claimed that he had been denied ineffective assistance from both his trial counsel and counsel in his direct appeal, was affirmed in Swartz v. State, 2016 WL 2772124 (Ind.Ct.App.), transfer denied, 57 N.E.3d 816 (Ind. 2016).

         Swartz now seeks relief pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254(a). The action is fully at issue and the record has been appropriately expanded.

         II. Applicable Law

         “[I]n all habeas corpus proceedings under 28 U.S.C. § 2254, the successful petitioner must demonstrate that he ‘is in custody in violation of the Constitution or laws or treaties of the United States.'” Brown v. Watters, 599 F.3d 602, 611 (7th Cir. 2010) (quoting 28 U.S.C. § 2254(a)). The Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996 (“AEDPA”), Pub.L. No. 104-132, 110 Stat. 1214, became effective on April 24, 1996, and governs the habeas petition in this case because Swartz filed his petition after the AEDPA's effective date. See Lindh v. Murphy, 521 U.S. 320, 336 (1997).

         As explained by the Supreme Court, the AEDPA “places a new constraint on the power of a federal habeas court to grant a state prisoner's application for a writ of habeas corpus with respect to claims adjudicated on the merits in state court.” Williams v. Taylor,529 U.S. 362, 412 (2000); see also Miller-Elv. Cockrell, 537 U.S. 322, 337 (2003) (‚ÄúStatutes such as AEDPA have placed more, rather ...

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