United States District Court, N.D. Indiana, South Bend Division
OPINION AND ORDER
P. SIMON UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
Morris Wheeler, a prisoner without a lawyer, filed a habeas
corpus petition to challenge his Indiana sentence for rape,
criminal deviate conduct, criminal confinement, and burglary
under Cause No. 49G04-8807-CF-78324. Following a jury trial,
on May 12, 1989, the Marion Superior Court sentenced Wheeler
to ninety years of incarceration.
deciding this habeas petition, I must presume the facts set
forth by the State courts are correct unless they are
rebutted by clear and convincing evidence. 28 U.S.C. §
2254(e)(1). Here's the evidence according to the Court of
Appeals of Indiana:
[O]n June 22, 1988, the victim, S.M.A., was approached by
Wheeler when she stopped to use the phone on her way home
from work. Wheeler asked her for a cigarette. She gave him
one and lit it for him and then went home.
S.M.A. had intended to lay out in the sun in her backyard
when she got home. Upon arriving home, she placed some
pillows in her back yard. She went back inside to change into
her bathing suit but did not lock the back door. As she came
out of the bathroom, she encountered Wheeler in the hallway.
Wheeler had rope wrapped around both hands and was holding a
knife. He grabbed S.M.A. by the neck and threw her back into
the bathroom into the bathtub causing her to strike her head
on the bathtub. Wheeler then forced her to commit an act of
fellatio upon him. Next, he turned her around, pulled her
bathing suit off, leaned her over the bathtub and raped her
from behind. He ordered her to remain there for a few minutes
as he was going to leave.
S.M.A. did not report the above incident to the police. She
stayed away from her home for approximately three weeks. Upon
S.M.A.'s request, her landlord secured her windows by
placing nails into the sills.
On July 21, 1988, Wheeler broke into S.M.A.'s house late
at night through a window and attacked S.M.A. as she lay
there sleeping on the couch in the living room with her son.
Wheeler threatened her with a knife and told her he would cut
her throat if she made any noise that might wake up her
boyfriend who was sleeping in the bedroom. He also threatened
to kill her boyfriend if she should wake him up. Wheeler
grabbed S.M.A. by the hair and forced her to commit an act of
fellatio upon him. He then forced her to the floor and made
her get down on all fours and raped her from behind. Wheeler
then led S.M.A. by the arm into the kitchen and later had her
walk him to the front door. S.M.A. did not resist because she
feared further violence.
Before leaving, Wheeler asked S.M.A. if he could return. She
agreed to allow Wheeler to return the following Monday night
after 8:00 p.m. She called the police the morning after the
second attack. The police were present and arrested Wheeler
when he arrived at S.M.A.'s home the following Monday
Wheeler v. State, No. 49A02-8907-CR-332, slip op. at
*2-3. (Ind.Ct.App. Mar. 14, 1991); see also Wheeler v.
State, No. 49A02-1101-PC-22, slip op. at *1-8
(Ind.Ct.App. Sept. 2, 2011, reh'g denied, trans. denied.
August 1, 1988, the State charged Wheeler with two counts of
burglary as class B felonies (Counts I and V); two counts of
criminal deviate conduct as class A felonies (Counts II and
VI); two counts of rape as Class A felonies (Counts II and
VII); two counts of confinement as class B felonies. (Counts
IV and VIII). Counts I through IV stemmed from the incident
on July 21, 1988, and Counts V through VIII stemmed from the
incident that occurred on June 22, 1988. Following a two-day
jury trial that commenced on April 17, 1989, Wheeler was
found guilty as charged.
trial court sentenced Wheeler to an aggregate term of ninety
years-thirty-five years for each class A felony conviction
and ten years for each class B felony conviction, with the
sentences for the felony convictions resulting from each
attack to run consecutively to each other and the two sets of
four convictions (each set representing one attack) to run
concurrently. Wheeler v. State, 60 N.E.3d 1144
(Ind.Ct.App. 2016); ECF 44-7 at 2-5.
amended petition, Wheeler argues that he is entitled to
habeas relief, asserting that the trial court violated his
right to due process by improperly relying on inaccurate
information to enhance his sentence; that the trial court
violated his right to a jury trial by improperly enhancing
his sentence based on a fact that had not been submitted to a
jury; and that his trial counsel was ineffective for failing
to investigate the inaccurate information and challenging it
at the sentencing hearing. Though the respondent argues that
the jury finding claim and the ineffective assistance of
counsel claim are procedurally deficient, I will consider
each of Wheeler's three claims.
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).
demanding standard for federal habeas corpus relief from a
state conviction is found in 28 U.S.C. § 2254(d):
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 ...