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Cromeans v. Norris

November 15, 2006



Danny A. Cromeans, an Arkansas Department of Correction inmate, brings this petition for writ of habeas corpus pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254 (docket entry #2), along with a number of amendments and supporting briefs, pleadings and exhibits (docket entries #9, #11, #13-#25, #27, #29, #31, #33-#38, #43-#48, #52-#60). Respondent has filed a response and other supplemental pleadings (docket entries #8, #30, #32, #42, #51). Because Petitioner's claims are procedurally barred or without merit, the petition, as amended, will be dismissed.*fn1

I. Background

Following a jury trial in July 2002 in the Circuit Court of Lafayette County, Arkansas, Petitioner was convicted of rape and kidnapping and was sentenced to life imprisonment. (Resp't Ex. A.)*fn2 At the trial,*fn3 the victim testified that, during the early morning hours of December 18, 2000, Petitioner knocked on her door and told her that he was a friend of Johnny Saunders, that Saunders had been in a car wreck just down the road, and that Saunders had asked him to come to the victim's house for help. After making some phone calls, Petitioner left. The victim testified that, a short time later, she was awakened by Petitioner "knocking very aggressively" on her door. This time, he had a shotgun, told her he was a cop, grabbed her by the hair, and pulled her outside to his truck. The victim testified that Petitioner drove her around for several hours, raped her twice, repeatedly threatened to kill her, and assaulted her. She finally persuaded him to take her home. She then went to her mother's house, where the police were contacted. Petitioner was arrested later that day based on information from a business card that the victim said she took from the dashboard of his truck. (Tr. 611- 37.) State crime lab experts testified that a pubic hair found on the victim's underwear was microscopically similar to Petitioner's hair, that DNA extracted from semen on the victim's underwear matched Petitioner's DNA, and that the probability of selecting an individual at random from the Caucasian population with the same genetic markers identified on the underwear was approximately one in three billion. (Tr. 495-547.) Two inmates, James Davis Bridges and Elwyn Graham, testified that, while they were incarcerated with Petitioner, he told them about raping the victim. (Tr. 551-99.) Also testifying for the state were Saunders, the victim's mother, various law enforcement officers, and a man who helped Petitioner and the victim on the night in question, when Petitioner's truck was stuck at the end of a rural road. (Tr. 387-438, 440-52, 473-93, 600-02.)

In a direct appeal to the Arkansas Supreme Court, Petitioner's attorney filed a no-merit brief pursuant to Anders v. California, 386 U.S. 738 (1967), addressing fourteen adverse rulings. (Resp't Ex. B.) Petitioner filed a supplemental pro se brief, arguing: (1) he was denied discovery of a business card, (2) he was denied a fair and impartial trial due to references to him as a "skinhead," and (3) the state failed to meet its burden of proof for rape because it did not prove force and penetration and because all the state's testimony was hearsay. (Resp't Ex. C.) Finding no error, the Arkansas Supreme Court affirmed his convictions in an unpublished opinion. Cromeans v. State, No. 02-1186, 2003 WL 21040217 (Ark. Sup. Ct. May 8, 2003) (Resp't Ex. G).

While his appeal was pending, Petitioner filed two almost identical petitions for state post-conviction relief pursuant to Ark. R. Crim. P. 37. (Resp't Ex. D, E.) His petitions were denied summarily as without merit. State v. Cromeans, No. CR-2001-01-1 (Lafayette Co. Cir. Ct. May 19, 2003) (Resp't Ex. H, I). Petitioner did not appeal and sought no further post-conviction relief in state court. (See Resp't Ex. J.)*fn4

Petitioner then filed this federal habeas petition, followed by numerous amendments and supporting briefs. Liberally construing his various interrelated arguments, he advances the following claims:

1. He was denied his constitutional right to the effective assistance of counsel because his trial attorney:

(a) failed to object when Petitioner was referred to as a "skinhead" (docket entries #2, #22);

(b) actively represented conflicting interests because many of the trial participants were related (docket entries #9, #33);

(c) failed to prepare properly for trial and learn of readily available facts which could have supported a defense, failed to investigate or interview any of the state witnesses or the victim, and failed to notify Petitioner that inmates Bridges and Graham would be testifying (docket entries #9, #11, #29, #55);

(d) failed to properly challenge the sufficiency of the evidence (docket entry #9);

(e) failed to object to the admission of hearsay statements from the inmate witnesses (docket entries #22, #29);

2. The prosecutor engaged in misconduct, violating Petitioner's due process rights, by:

(a) failing to disclose a business card during discovery (docket entries #2, #22);

(b) presenting testimony from inmate witnesses Graham and Bridges, which the prosecutor should have known was false or perjured (docket entries #2, #15, #19, #22, #23, #48);

(c) failing to disclose favorable evidence to Petitioner (that the inmate witnesses were lying and that many of the trial participants were related) (docket entries #9, #18, #19, #23, #33, #48);

3. He was denied the right to effective assistance of counsel in his direct appeal (docket entries #2, #9);

4. The trial court erred in denying his motion to suppress the statement of inmate witness Graham (docket entry #9);

5. The trial court erred in allowing hearsay statements by the inmate witnesses into evidence (docket entry #29);

6. He was denied a fair trial due to references to him as a "skinhead" (docket entry #22);

7. There was insufficient evidence to support his rape conviction (docket entries #22, #29, #37, #44, #53, #57);

8. A "conflict of interest" existed because the victim was related to the jury foreman, the judge, the deputy prosecuting attorney, defense counsel, the arresting officer, and key state witness Graham (docket entries #16, #21, #25, #33, #34, #35, #37, #38, #44, #46, #52, #54, #57, #58), and, as a result

(a) the jury foreman withheld prior knowledge of the case during jury selection, convinced the other jurors to convict Petitioner on insufficient evidence, and was seen talking to the victim's stepfather before Petitioner's trial;

(b) the trial judge denied Petitioner's motion for directed verdict of acquittal;

(c) Petitioner's due process right to a fair trial was violated;

9. State witness Johnny Saunders changed his testimony after the prosecutor agreed to drop a drug charge ...

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