United States District Court, N.D. Indiana, South Bend Division
OPINION AND ORDER
P. Simon Judge United States District Court
Blount, a prisoner without a lawyer, filed a habeas corpus
petition challenging his conviction at a jury trial for
possession of a firearm by a serious violent felon. Blount
was later sentenced to twelve years of incarceration.
deciding this habeas petition, I must presume the facts set
forth by the state courts are correct unless they are
rebutted with clear and convincing evidence. 28 U.S.C. §
2254(e)(1). Here are the facts as summarized by the Supreme
Court of Indiana:
In November 2012, Detective Terry Smith of the Indianapolis
Metropolitan Police Department was in an unmarked vehicle
conducting surveillance at the Best Inn at 4505 South Harding
Street due to several complaints of prostitution and open air
narcotics activity in the area. Shortly before 11:00 a.m.,
Detective Smith saw two black males exit the motel. One man
was wearing a grey sweatshirt, and the other man was wearing
a black hoodie. The man in the black hoodie continued down a
sidewalk while the man in the grey sweatshirt waved to
someone behind Detective Smith's vehicle and walked in
that direction. A woman walked along the side of Detective
Smith's vehicle and met up with the man in the grey
sweatshirt, and the two then went down the same path as the
man in the black hoodie.
Five to ten seconds later, Detective Smith heard yelling. He
saw the woman and the man in the grey sweatshirt quickly
walking away from a corner of the building and looking back a
couple of times. He then saw the man in the black hoodie step
out with his arm extended downward at a forty-five degree
angle. Detective Smith was twenty-five to thirty-five yards
from the corner, and his view of the man in the black hoodie
was somewhat obscured as he observed him through a chain-link
fence. Further, Detective Smith saw only the outline of the
man's body due to brush and weeds around the chain-link
fence, but he had a clear view from the man's chest up.
He saw a muzzle flash and heard a gunshot, though he did not
actually see a gun.
Detective Nicholas Andrews, who was conducting surveillance
just south of the parking lot at a different motel, called
Detective Smith and confirmed there was a gunshot. They met
up, put on their tactical vests, and ran into the motel. By
that time, 911 calls had come in saying that the suspect had
run into Room 150. As they approached that room, a woman
Detective Smith knew as Ricky Brock exited it and ran up the
stairs. The detectives found no one in Room 150.
They then followed Brock's path up the stairs, and
someone directed them to Room 240. They knocked and announced
themselves, and although they heard a lot of commotion in the
room, no one answered the door. The detectives forced entry
and found Brock, her five-year-old son, and two other
females. Brock provided them with the nickname of the person
she believed fired the weapon, “Big D.” Her son
named the same person.
The search for the suspect was unsuccessful. Detective Smith
went to the location where he saw the gun being fired and
recovered a spent round from a hole in the ground.
During the investigation that day, Detective Andrews was able
to obtain an actual name, Shawn Blount, from the nickname
Brock and her son had provided. He created a photo array and
showed it to Detective Smith, who identified Blount's
picture as the person who fired the gun. A warrant was
issued, and Blount was arrested about a month later. A
firearm was never recovered.
The State charged Blount with Class B felony possession of a
firearm by a serious violent felon. At a jury trial,
Detectives Smith and Andrews testified on behalf of the
State. Over defense objection, Detective Smith testified that
Brock and her son provided him with the nickname of the
person they believed fired the gun. Blount testified in his
own defense that a man named “Bigs, ” who was
shorter than him but stocky, was also at the scene, was angry
over a debt, and fired at Blount's feet from half an
arm's length away. On cross examination, he acknowledged
that Brock was his girlfriend.
Blount v. State, 4 N.E.3d 787 (Ind.Ct.App. 2014);
ECF 6-5 at 3-5.
Federal habeas review serves as an important error-correction
tool to help ensure the proper functioning of the criminal
justice system. But the available relief is very limited.
“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, 135 S.Ct. 1372, 1376
(2015) (quotations and citation omitted). Habeas relief can
only be granted in one of two ways: if it is shown that the
adjudication of the claim by the state court 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 ...