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Rowley v. Superintendent

United States District Court, N.D. Indiana, Hammond Division

August 30, 2017

JOEL L. ROWLEY, Petitioner,
v.
SUPERINTENDENT, Respondent.

          OPINION AND ORDER

          RUDY LOZANO, JUDGE.

         This matter is before the Court on the 28 U.S.C. § 2254 Habeas Corpus Petition by a Person in State Custody, filed by Joel L. Rowley, a pro se prisoner, on September 22, 2015. For the reasons set forth below, the Court DENIES habeas corpus relief; DENIES a certificate of appealability pursuant to Section 2254 Habeas Corpus Rule 11; DENIES leave to appeal in forma pauperis pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915(a)(3); and DIRECTS the clerk to enter judgment in favor of the Respondent and against the Petitioner.

         BACKGROUND

         Joel L. Rowley, a pro se prisoner, filed a habeas corpus petition challenging his conviction and 75 year sentence for murder by the Marion County Superior Court on January 19, 2011, under cause number 49G02-1003-MR-17433. ECF 3 at 1. In deciding this habeas petition, a court must presume the facts set forth by the state courts are correct. 28 U.S.C. § 2254(e)(1). It is Rowley's burden to rebut this presumption with clear and convincing evidence. Id. On direct appeal, the Indiana Court of Appeals set forth the facts surrounding Rowley's offense as follows:

In the early morning hours of March 5, 2010, Rowley and some of his acquaintances were in involved in a bar fight in Indianapolis. Rowley left the altercation and went to his van, but instead of entering his van he went back into the fray and shot Leon Pepper in the back. Rowley then walked to his van and drove away. Pepper died before emergency personnel could arrive.
Rowley turned himself in to authorities later that day, and the State charged him with murder on March 8. Following the presentation of evidence at his ensuing jury trial, Rowley tendered the following jury instruction on self-defense:
A. A person is justified in using reasonable force against another person to protect himself or a third person from what he reasonably believes to be the imminent use of unlawful force. However, a person is justified in using deadly force only if he reasonably believes that that force is necessary to prevent serious bodily injury to himself or a third person or the commission of a forcible felony. No person in this State shall be placed in legal jeopardy of any kind whatsoever for protecting himself, his family or a third person by reasonable means necessary.
B. Notwithstanding the above a person is not justified in using force if:
1. the person is committing or is escaping after the commission of a crime [;]
2. the person provokes unlawful action by another person with intent to cause bodily injury to the other person; or
3. the person has entered into combat with another person or is the initial aggressor unless the person withdraws from the encounter and communicates to the other person the intent to do so and the other person nevertheless continues or threatens to continue unlawful action[.]
The State has the burden of disproving this defense beyond a reasonable doubt.
Appellant's App. at 170. The trial court accepted Rowley's tendered instruction as the court's final instruction number four. Id. at 156. The jury found Rowley guilty as charged and the trial court entered its judgment of conviction and sentence accordingly.

Rowley v. State, Cause No. 49A04-1102-CR-34 (Ind.Ct.App. August 26, 2011); ECF 8-3.

         After his direct and post-conviction appeals concluded, Rowley filed this federal habeas petition challenging his conviction and sentence. Rowley argues that: (1) trial counsel was ineffective because he did not offer a self-defense jury instruction that highlighted the defendant's perspective; (2) trial counsel was ineffective for failing to interview Officer Hannon; (3) trial counsel was ineffective for failing to advise Rowley to turn in the gun that was used in the shooting to police; (4) appellate counsel was ineffective for failing to challenge the trial court's exclusion of the victim's reputation for carrying a gun; (5) the post-conviction court violated his due process rights by not ruling on one of his claims; (6) the Indiana Court of Appeals violated his due process rights by issuing conflicting opinions; and (7) the Indiana Court of Appeals violated Rowley's due process rights when it determined that Officer Hannon was credible. ECF 3 at 3-5.

         DISCUSSION

         A. Standard

         “Federal habeas review . . . exists as a guard against extreme malfunctions in the state criminal justice systems, not a substitute for ordinary error correction through appeal.” Woods v. Donald, 575 U.S. ___, ___; 135 S.Ct. 1372, 1376 (2015) (quotation marks and citation omitted).

An application for a writ of habeas corpus on behalf of a person in custody pursuant to the judgment of a State court shall not be granted with respect to any claim that was adjudicated on the merits in State court proceedings unless the adjudication of the claim-
(1) resulted in a decision that was contrary to, or involved an unreasonable application of, clearly established Federal law, as determined by the Supreme Court of the United States; or
(2) resulted in a decision that was based on an unreasonable determination of the facts in light of the evidence presented ...

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