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Heironimus v. Brown

United States District Court, S.D. Indiana, Terre Haute Division

May 23, 2018

JEFFREY S. HEIRONIMUS, Petitioner,
v.
RICHARD BROWN, Respondent.

          Kelly A. Loy, OFFICE OF THE INDIANA ATTORNEY GENERAL

          ORDER DENYING PETITION FOR WRIT OF HABEAS CORPUS, AND DENYING A CERTIFICATE OF APPEALABILITY

          Hon. William T. Lawrence, Judge Distribution United States District Court.

         Petitioner Jeffrey S. Heironimus is serving an 18-year sentence for a separate conviction[1] and an 18-month sentence for his 2012 Vanderburgh County, Indiana, conviction for attempted obstruction of justice, to be served consecutively. He brings this petition for a writ of habeas corpus pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254. For the reasons that follow, Mr. Heironimus's petition for a writ of habeas corpus is denied and the action dismissed with prejudice. In addition, the Court finds that a certificate of appealability should not issue.

         I. Factual and Procedural Background

         District court review of a habeas petition presumes all factual findings of the state court to be correct, absent clear and convincing evidence to the contrary. See 28 U.S.C. § 2254(e)(1); Daniels v. Knight, 476 F.3d 426, 434 (7th Cir. 2007). On appeal from post-conviction relief, the Indiana Court of Appeals summarized the relevant facts and procedural history:

In May 2011, Heironimus was charged with Class C felony robbery for robbing a bank in Evansville. The State also alleged that he was an habitual offender.[2] In January 2012, the State also charged Heironimus with Class D felony attempted obstruction of justice and again alleged that he was an habitual offender. The State alleged that Heironimus “knowingly sen[t] a letter to Bradford Talley, who was a witness in [the robbery case], with the intent to induce Bradford Talley, by threat or coercion, to withhold testimony in that proceeding, which conduct constituted a substantial step toward that commission of the said crime of Obstruction of Justice ....“ Petitioner's Ex. D. The letter in question was sent to Talley, who witnessed Heironimus fleeing the bank after the robbery and who was a stranger to Heironimus. It stated:
I hope to get your ear before the state does. The prosecutor & cops are going to try & have you appear @ my trial and point me out, to say you saw me in a red truck. Using this testimony they are trying to prove I was the guy who robbed a bank! They are trying to give me as much as 50 yrs! Crazy dude! Anyway, I didn't do this-the guy driving the red truck, it was his bank; his house where the money was found the next day, they caught him and his wife spending the money while I was in jail (because he lied & said I did it). He set me up & they are going for it-he's a thief, liar and rat! He is out of jail now. I don't know how you see this, but I do hope you are not a rat working with the police on a lie in case like this is B.S.! If they find you they can force you to court-cause their the Nazi pigs, they can not force you to say you ever saw me nor can they make you point me out in court.
Just remember things are always as it appears, right. Please don't let them take my life-not by your helping cool? P.S. Watch your back out there. P.S.S. Probably lookin' for ya-over
The Accused!
They're trying to get you to point me out 1st in a line-up-you don't remember right. They are looking to find you & force you to court on Nov. 14th 2011 just to point me out in court & say you saw me in a red truck. You're not sure, right. Simply put, dude, you just can't remember or be sure! Ok? This is my life-in your hands. I've met a couple people in jail who say they know you & your kin, say it's not your style to work with police.
Good luck-if all works out as it should with right at my back-you may be able to talk me into some serious ink work. I am an artist with my own equipment. Keepin' it real, I keep it right w/friends old and new.
Heironimus's trial counsel advised him that he faced a three-year sentence for the attempted obstruction of justice charge and a four-and-one-half year enhancement for his habitual offender status. Heironimus agreed to plead guilty to attempted obstruction of justice, and the State dismissed the habitual offender allegation. Heironimus agreed to an advisory sentence of eighteen months, which the trial court imposed consecutive to his sentence for the robbery and habitual offender action.
In March 2013, Heironimus filed a petition for post-conviction relief, which was later amended. Heirominus alleged that he did not receive effective assistance of trial counsel and that his guilty plea was involuntary, unknowing, and unintelligent. After a hearing, the post-conviction court entered findings of fact and conclusions thereon denying Heironimus's petition.

Heironimus v. State, 65 N.E.3d 646, 2016 WL 6138958, *1-2 (Ind.Ct.App. Oct. 20, 2016); see also Dkt. No. 13-5.

         Mr. Heironimus appealed, arguing that (1) he was denied effective assistance of trial counsel or his guilty plea was involuntary because he was not properly advised regarding the habitual offender enhancement; and (2) he was denied effective assistance of trial counsel or his guilty plea was involuntary because he was not advised regarding an alleged defense to the charge. Heironimus, 2016 WL 6138958 at *1. The Indiana Court of Appeals affirmed his conviction and sentence. Id. Mr. Heironimus filed a petition for transfer to the Indiana Supreme Court. It was denied on February 9, 2017.

         On March 28, 2017, Mr. Heironimus filed this petition for a writ of habeas corpus.

         II. Applicable Law

         A federal court may grant habeas relief only if the petitioner demonstrates that he is in custody “in violation of the Constitution or laws . . . of the United States.” 28 U.S.C. § 2254(a). Mr. Heironimus's petition is governed by the provisions of the Anti-Terrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996 (“AEDPA”); see Lindh v. Murphy, 521 U.S. 320, 336 (1997).

         The Supreme Court has described AEDPA as “a formidable barrier to federal habeas relief for prisoners whose claims have been adjudicated in state court” and has emphasized that courts must not “lightly conclude that a State's criminal justice system has experienced the ‘extreme malfunction' for which federal habeas relief is the remedy.” Burt v. Titlow, 134 S.Ct. 10, 16 (2013) (quoting Harrington v. Richter, 562 U.S. 86, 102 (2011)); see also Renico v. Lett, 559 U.S. 766, 773 (2010) (“AEDPA . . . imposes a highly deferential standard for evaluating state-court rulings, and demands that state court decisions be given the benefit of the doubt.”) (internal quotation marks, citations, and footnote omitted).

         Where a claim has been adjudicated on the merits in state court, habeas relief is available under the deferential AEDPA standard only if the state court's determination was (1) “contrary to, or involved an unreasonable application of, clearly established federal law, as determined by the Supreme Court of the United States, ” or (2) “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); see Cullen v. Pinholster, 563 U.S. 170, 181 (2011). Thus, “under AEDPA, federal courts do not independently analyze the petitioner's claims; federal courts are limited to reviewing the relevant state court ruling on the claims.” Rever v. Acevedo, 590 F.3d 533, 536 (7th Cir. 2010). “A state-court decision involves an unreasonable application of this Court's clearly established precedents if the state court applies this Court's precedents to the facts in an objectively unreasonable manner.” Brown v. Payton, 544 U.S. 131, 141 (2005) (internal citations omitted). “Under § 2254(d)(2), a decision involves an unreasonable determination of the facts if it rests upon fact-finding that ignores the clear and convincing weight of the evidence.” Goudy v. ...


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