United States District Court, N.D. Indiana, South Bend Division
TYRUS D. COLEMAN, Petitioner,
OPINION AND ORDER
P. Simon Judge
D. Coleman seeks habeas corpus relief from his conviction for
attempted murder. He was found guilty by a jury, and the
Elkhart County Circuit Court sentenced him to forty-five
years of incarceration. He seeks relief based on a slew of
issues, but I find that none of them entitle him to relief.
start with the facts as set forth by the state court which I
must presume are correct unless they are rebutted with clear
and convincing evidence. 28 U.S.C. § 2254(e)(1). Coleman
does not dispute the Indiana Supreme Court's summary of
the evidence presented at trial. Here are the facts as set
forth by the Indiana Supreme Court:
In a tragic incident occurring March 18, 2007, Tyrus Coleman
shot his friends Anthony Dye and Dye's son Jermaine
Jackson during a confrontation on Coleman's property,
where Coleman operated a music recording studio. The
confrontation stemmed from an event occurring approximately
four months earlier in which Omar Sharpe, one of
Coleman's musician clients, robbed Dye at gunpoint.
Coleman retrieved part of the stolen property from Sharpe and
returned it to Dye. Jermaine was irritated when he later
learned that Sharpe had robbed his father, but Dye asked him
not to get involved. On the afternoon of the shootings,
Jermaine discovered that Sharpe was present at Coleman's
studio and frantically phoned Dye to “[c]ome over here
right now.” Armed with a handgun Dye headed to
Coleman's studio. In the meantime an armed and agitated
Jermaine pushed open the door to the studio and attempted to
enter. Sharpe, who was present inside, prevented
Jermaine's entry and closed the door. Exiting the studio
Coleman attempted to calm Jermaine and to dissuade him from
trying to enter. Coleman called a neighbor to come over to
help calm Jermaine; he also called his business partner to
inform him of the situation. The neighbor testified that he
tried to talk with Jermaine by telling him what he [Jermaine]
was doing “wasn't worth it. Just go ahead and
leave. There was kids around and people around that
didn't have nothing to do with what they was angry
about.” According to the witness Jermaine responded by
saying, “F* *k that. He didn't think about that s*
*t when he did the s* *t to my Daddy.” Coleman armed
himself and walked back and forth in front of the studio door
holding his handgun at his side. As Coleman was making a
phone call, Dye came into the yard through a front gate
carrying a handgun which was pointed toward the ground. Dye
strode toward his son Jermaine, who was standing next to
Coleman on the patio in front of the studio. Within three
seconds, the following occurred: Dye stepped onto the patio
where Jermaine and Coleman were standing. As Dye stepped in
front of Coleman, Coleman raised his gun and fired at Dye,
who immediately fell to the ground. Coleman then shot Dye a
second time. At that point Coleman “turned to
Jermaine.” Coleman saw that Jermaine's handgun,
which before that time had been concealed under his shirt and
in a holster, was “pointed at [Coleman], ” and
Coleman shot Jermaine. Jermaine fell to the ground and died
at the scene as a result of his injuries. After the shooting,
Coleman drove to Milwaukee disposing of his weapon along the
way. Several days later he returned to Elkhart and
surrendered to the police.
Coleman v. State, 946 N.E.2d 1160, 1163-64 (Ind.
2011); ECF 7-11 at 2-3.
not included in the Supreme Court's description of the
evidence is the fact that the entire episode is captured on
video which I have viewed in my consideration of
Coleman's petition. State's Exhibit 25 is a DVD from
a security video from the day in question - March 18, 2007.
The shootings occurred at approximately 3:34 pm. The Supreme
Court's description of the events is accurate. But a
picture is worth a thousand words, and I found viewing the
video to be extremely helpful in bringing the case into
State charged Coleman with murder for the death of Jermaine
Jackson and attempted murder for the shooting of Mr. Dye. In
the first trial, Coleman testified and admitted the
shootings, but contended that his actions against both
victims were justified on the basis of self-defense. The jury
acquitted Coleman on the murder of Jackson, but was hung on
the charge of attempted murder of Mr. Dye. Recall that Dye
was shot twice and survived, and Jackson was shot thereafter
and died. The trial court thus declared a mistrial on the
count of attempted murder of Mr. Dye and scheduled another
trial. Prior to retrial Coleman filed a motion to dismiss
contending a subsequent trial on the attempted murder of Dye
was barred by collateral estoppel and the Double Jeopardy
Clauses of both the United States and Indiana Constitutions.
The trial court denied the motion, and a retrial ensued where
Coleman was found guilty of the attempted murder of Dye. He
was later sentenced to a term of forty-five years.
Id. at 1164.
argues that he is entitled to habeas corpus relief because
his second trial on the charge of attempted murder violated
the Double Jeopardy Clause. He also argues that he was denied
effective assistance of trial counsel when trial counsel: (1)
failed to question the jurors regarding self defense during
voir dire; (2) failed to properly cross-examine Dye's
testimony; (3) failed to comply with a witness separation
order and call character witnesses; (4) failed to call Omar
Sharpe and LaQuisha Hunt as witnesses; (5) failed to present
an uncropped version of the video recording of the shooting;
and (6) presented inconsistent defenses. Coleman has
presented these claims to the Indiana Supreme Court and the
Court of Appeals of Indiana. ECF 7-3 at 16-27; ECF 7-10; ECF
7-14; ECF 7-18. Therefore, Coleman has properly exhausted his
State court remedies, and I will consider his claims on the
merits. See 28 U.S.C. § 2254(b)(1)(A);
Lewis v. Sternes, 390 F.3d 1019, 1025 (7th Cir.
argues that Coleman's petition is untimely because he
missed the limitations deadline of May 10, 2016, by six days.
Respondent concedes that the prison mailbox rule may apply
but notes that Coleman did not corroborate his assertion that
he timely submitted the petition to the prison mail system
with an affidavit. See Ray v. Clements, 700 F.3d
993, 1008 (7th Cir. 2012). However, Coleman has since filed
an affidavit attesting that he submitted the petition to the
prison mail system on May 6, 2016. ECF 10-1. As a result, I
find that Coleman's petition is timely.
habeas review serves as an important error-correction role in
helping to 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
States;” or if the state court decision was based
“on an unreasonable determination of the facts in light
of the evidence presented in the State court
proceeding.” 28 U.S.C. § 2254(d).
a demanding standard that has been described by the Supreme
Court as being “intentionally difficult to meet. We
have explained that clearly established Federal law for
purposes of §2254(d)(1) includes only the holdings . . .
of this Court's decisions. And an unreasonable
application of those holdings must be objectively
unreasonable, not merely wrong; even clear error will not
suffice.” Woods, 135 S.Ct. at 1376 (quotation
marks and citations omitted). What this means is that to
succeed on a habeas claim the petitioner must show that the
state court's ruling “was so lacking in
justification that there was an error well understood and
comprehended in existing law beyond any possibility for
fairminded disagreement.” Id.
defendants are entitled to a fair trial but not a perfect
one. Rose v. Clark, 478 U.S. 570, 579 (1986). To
warrant relief, a state court's decision must be more
than incorrect or erroneous; it must be objectively
unreasonable. Wiggins v. Smith, 539 U.S. 510, 520
(2003). “A state court's determination that a claim
lacks merit precludes federal habeas relief so long as
fairminded jurists could disagree on the correctness of the
state court's decision.” Harrington v.
Richter, 562 U.S. 86, 101 (2011) (quotation marks
these standards in mind I will turn to the various claims for
relief asserted by Mr. Coleman.
Preclusion and Double Jeopardy
claims that the Indiana Supreme Court made an objectively
unreasonable determination that his second trial on the
charge of attempted murder did not violate the Double
Jeopardy Clause. On direct appeal, Coleman argued that issue
preclusion applied to the charge of attempted murder of Dye
barring a retrial on that count. Coleman's theory is that
because the jury acquitted him of the murder of Jackson, that
amounted to a finding of fact that he acted in self-defense
as to the other victim, Dye.
start with some basics. The Double Jeopardy Clause of the
Fifth Amendment “was designed to protect an individual
from being subjected to the hazards of trial and possible
conviction more than once for an alleged offense.“
Green v. United States, 355 U.S. 184, 187 (1957).
The doctrine of issue preclusion “is embodied in the
Fifth Amendment guarantee against double jeopardy.”
Ashe v. Swenson, 397 U.S. 436, 445 (1970). This
means that “when an issue of ultimate fact has once
been determined by a valid and final judgment, that issue
cannot again be litigated between the same parties in any
future lawsuit.” Id. at 443. “Where a
previous judgment of acquittal was based upon a general
verdict, as is usually the case, this approach requires a
court to examine the record of a prior proceeding, taking
into account the pleadings, evidence, charge, and other
relevant matter, and conclude whether a rational jury could
have grounded its verdict upon an issue other than that which
the defendant seeks to foreclose from consideration.”
Id. But consideration of counts upon which the jury
hung “has no place in the issue-preclusion
analysis.” Yeager v. United States, 557 U.S.
110, 122 (2009). “Because a jury speaks only through
its verdict, its failure to reach a verdict cannot-by
negative implication-yield a piece of information that helps
put together the trial puzzle.” Id. at 121.
first trial, the prosecution attempted to prove a charge of
attempted murder for the shooting of Dye and a charge of
murder for the shooting of Jackson. Direct Appeal App. 104.
Recall that Coleman shot Dye twice, and then, immediately
thereafter, Jackson pointed a gun at Coleman, and Coleman
shot and killed Jackson. Coleman asserted self-defense, and
the jury was instructed on this defense. Id. at 112.
The jury acquitted Coleman on the charge of murder of
Jackson, but it could not reach a verdict on the charge of
attempted murder of Dye. Id. at 130. Coleman then
filed a motion to dismiss the charge of attempted murder
based on issue preclusion, which the trial court denied.
Id. at 147-66, 184-88. At the second trial, the jury
convicted Coleman on the charge of attempted murder.
Id. at 317.
how the jury was instructed on self-defense:
A person is justified in using deadly force, and does not
have a duty to retreat, only if he reasonably believes that
deadly force is necessary to prevent serious bodily injury to
himself or a third person or the commission of a forcible
a person may not use force if:
He is committing a crime that is directly and immediately
connected to the confrontation; He provokes a fight with
another person with intent to cause bodily injury to that
person; or He has willingly entered into a fight with another
person or started the fight, unless he withdraws from the
fight and communicates to the other person his intent to
withdraw and the other person nevertheless continues or
threatens to continue the fight.
Id. at 112.
direct appeal, Coleman argued that the jury from the first
trial acquitted him on the charge for the murder of Jackson
based on the self-defense instruction, although this is rank
speculation. ECF 7-3 at 18-22. He further argued that this
means that this jury necessarily found that he did not commit
a crime by shooting Dye, which took place before he shot
Jackson. Id. To which I ask, why then did the jury
not acquit him of the attempted murder? The respondent argued
on direct appeal that the jury could have interpreted the two
shootings as a single confrontation and then considered
whether Coleman had committed a crime prior to this
confrontation. ECF 7-4 at 23-27. The Court of Appeals of
Indiana agreed with Coleman and reversed the trial
court's ruling on the motion to dismiss. ECF 7-6.
petitioned the Indiana Supreme Court for transfer, which was
granted. ECF 7-9. According to the Indiana Supreme Court,
Coleman argued that if the jury found that he was reasonably
in fear of Jackson, then the jury must have necessarily found
that he was reasonably in fear of Dye. ECF 7-11 at 4-6. The
Indiana Supreme Court rejected this argument, noting that the
jury could have sensibly found that the second shooting was
justified but that the first shooting was not because
Jackson, unlike Dye, was clearly agitated and had pointed and
fired a gun at Coleman. Id.
the Indiana Supreme Court's reasoning, though internally
sound, wholly misconstrues Coleman's argument and omits
any mention of the reasoning of the Court of Appeals of
Indiana. Indeed, Coleman's argument regarding issue
preclusion remained consistent at each relevant stage of
litigation from his motion to dismiss to the instant habeas
petition, and there is no apparent explanation as to why the
Indiana Supreme Court declined to address it. This
discrepancy raises the question of which standard of review I
should apply to the Indiana Supreme Court's decision.
Harrington v. Richter, 562 U.S. 86, 98 (2011), the
Supreme Court held that, “Where a state court's
decision is unaccompanied by an explanation, the habeas
petitioner's burden still must be met by showing there
was no reasonable basis for the state court to deny
relief.” In such cases, “a habeas court must
determine what arguments or theories supported or, as here,
could have supported, the state court's decision; and
then it must ask whether it is possible fairminded jurists
could disagree that those arguments or theories are
inconsistent with the holding in a prior decision of [the
Supreme Court].” Id. at 102. The Supreme Court
extended the Harrington standard of review to
“when the state court addresses some of the claims
raised by a defendant but not a claim that is later raised in
a federal habeas proceeding.” Johnson v.
Williams, 568 U.S. 289, 293 (2013).
the Seventh Circuit extended the Harrington standard
of review to cases in which “the last state court to
render a decision offers a bad reason for its
decision.” Brady v. Pfister, 711 F.3d
818, 826 (7th Cir. 2013). In such cases, federal courts must
“still apply AEDPA deference to the
judgment.” Whatley v. Zatecky, 833
F.3d 762, 775 (7th Cir. 2016). Stated otherwise, a federal
habeas petitioner is not entitled “to de novo review
simply because the state court's rationale is
unsound.” Id. Based on these cases, I conclude
that I must apply the deferential standard of review
described in Harrington to the judgment of the
Indiana Supreme Court even if the opinion of the Court did
not address the substance of Coleman's argument.
reviewing the record, there is at least one theory that could
have supported the Indiana Supreme Court's decision. The
trial court denied Coleman's motion to dismiss because
the jury did not necessarily rely on the self defense
instruction to acquit Coleman; they could have acquitted
Coleman of the Jackson murder by finding that the prosecution
did not demonstrate the elements of the offense of murder.
Direct Appeal App. 187.
tells me that the fact that he knowingly killed Jackson was
not in dispute, but the trial record suggests otherwise. The
jury was instructed that to convict Coleman for murder, they
were required to find that he knowingly killed Jackson and
that knowingly was defined as follows: A person engages in
conduct “knowingly” if, when he engages in the
conduct, he is aware of a high probability that ...