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Blount v. Superintendent

United States District Court, N.D. Indiana, South Bend Division

April 25, 2018

SHAWN BLOUNT, Petitioner,
v.
SUPERINTENDENT, Respondent.

          OPINION AND ORDER

          Philip P. Simon Judge United States District Court

         Shawn 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.

         FACTUAL BACKGROUND

         In 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.

         Governing Standards

          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 ...


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