United States District Court, D. New Jersey
ARTHUR L. TIGGS, Petitioner,
STEVEN JOHNSON, el al., Respondents.
MCNULTY, U.S. DISTRICT JUDGE
petitioner, Arthur L. Tiggs, has submitted a petition for a
writ of habeas corpus pursuant to 28 L.S.C. § 2254. (DE
1.) For the reasons stated herein, the petition shall be
denied and no certificate of appealability shall issue.
Jersey Superior Court. Appellate Division, on direct appeal,
summarized Mr. Tiggs's state court criminal proceedings,
and the relevant evidence underlying his resulting
convictions, as follows:
Lance Pettiford was shot and killed shortly before 3:00 a.m.
on April 9, 2006, outside the Cave Lounge on Halsey Street in
Newark. [Mr. Tiggs] was at the Cave to attend his own
birthday party; he had arrived between 1:15 and 1:45 a.m.
The Cave is a bar owned by Vanessa and Charles Walker. El
Raqib Poole, a/k/a Namiel, who is a friend of [Tiggs's]
and worked for the Walkers, helped arrange the party. Not all
of those present were guests; the Cave was also open for
Vanessa Walker and her cousin, Cynthia Boggs, arrived before
[Tiggs], and Vanessa met him at the door and took his coat.
Although there were two men stationed outside the entrance to
check for weapons and identification, Vanessa did not know
whether [Tiggs] was searched. Several others who were there
said they had not been searched, including Poole; Boggs;
Hodges Sears, who is a friend of the Walkers1 son Brad; Sean
Williams, a regular patron who arrived at about 2:00 a.m.;
and Timothy Williams, who came with Sean Williams. Pettiford
went into the Cave with Sean and Timothy Williams. There is
no evidence of any disturbance, fight or altercation inside
the Cave that night.
During the course of the party, [Tiggs], Sears and Poole went
outside to smoke. According to Sears, his companions shared a
cigar filled with marijuana rather than tobacco. While they
were smoking, Pettiford and Sean Williams left the Cave and
crossed the street. Timothy Williams joined them and had a
bottle of liquor.
According to Poole, Timothy Williams cursed at his group from
across the street. Poole was not threatened, but he noticed
that [Tiggs] seemed to be upset. Poole heard [Tiggs] say.
"I had a vision that somebody-somebody got shot-I popped
somebody for my birthday." He told [Tiggs] to think
about his son and "leave it alone."
Sears heard [Tiggs] say he wanted to "push"
somebody, which Sears understood to mean that [Tiggs] wanted
to shoot someone. Sears ignored the comment because he did
not think [Tiggs] would do such a thing, but he also said
that [Tiggs] was mildly intoxicated and appeared to have
something on his mind.
Poole left. From his car he noticed [Tiggs] standing by the
door of the Cave and did not see him with a gun. At 2:53 a.m.
Sears went back into the Cave to find his girlfriend: [Tiggs]
remained outside. After Sears found his girlfriend, they left
the Cave and walked toward his truck. [Tiggs] crossed the
Sean Williams, still outside with Timothy Williams and
Pettiford. heard one loud pop in his left ear, turned around
and saw Pettiford falling into Timothy's arms. [Tiggs]
ran past Sean. As [Tiggs] passed, Sean saw that he had a gun
in his right hand.
Sears, still walking to his truck, also heard a gun shot. He
turned and saw [Tiggs] running in the middle of the street,
yelling something and holding a black "357
revolver" in his right hand.
Vanessa Walker and Boggs had left the Cave just before the
shooting. Both women heard but did not see the shot fired.
Boggs heard someone yell. "Oh my God. Lance got shot in
the head"; she looked across the street and saw [Tiggs]
with a gun in his hand, and she retreated into the Cave with
Videotapes from the Cave's four surveillance cameras were
retrieved by the police who responded to the scene. The tapes
from the camera mounted outside depicted some of the comings
and goings of the patrons described above. including
[Tiggs's] crossing the street just prior to the shooting.
The shooting was not captured by the camera.
The police took statements from the witnesses and compiled a
photo array. Sears, Poole, Boggs and Sean Williams all
selected [Tiggs's] photo from an array and identified him
in court. Sears identified him as the person who ran away
with a gun after the shooting. Poole identified him as the
person who said "I had a vision I popped somebody on my
birthday." Boggs said [Tiggs] was the person she saw
with a gun in his hand, and Sean Williams said he was the
person he saw with a gun on the night of the shooting and the
one who killed his cousin. Timothy Williams could not make an
Later that day, [Tiggs] called Sears. He asked Sears to talk
to Brad Walker so that Brad could get the Cave's
surveillance tapes from his father, Charles Walker. [Tiggs]
also gave Sears his new telephone number. On another occasion
[Tiggs] called Sears and threatened, "[people] better
get money up for my lawyer or I'm gonna say they had
something to do with it." Sears hung up and called a
Reservations were made in [Tiggs's] name to travel to
Atlanta by train and by air. He, his girlfriend and their
child used the stand-by airplane tickets on April 10. 2006.
The train tickets were cancelled. On May 3. 2006. [Tiggs]
surrendered to law enforcement in Orange, New Jersey.
Dr. May Jennifer Amolat. M.D.. an assistant medical examiner,
did the autopsy. She found that Pettiford's death was
caused by a "penetrating gunshot wound of the head,
located at the left forehead, proceeding left to right, front
to back, and slightly downward." In her opinion,
"the presence of soot in the bony skull, close to the
entrance ... [and] the extensive fragmentation of the skull
bones [was] consistent with a contact wound."
The defense stipulated that [Tiggs] did not have a permit to
carry a handgun. [Tiggs] did not testify or present any
State v. Tiggs, No. A-2440-07T4, 2010 WL 2795363, at
* 1-3 ( N.J.Super.Ct.App.Div. July 13, 2010).
18, 2007, a jury found Mr. Tiggs guilty oft (i) first-degree
murder. N.J. Stat. Ann. § 2C:1 l-3(a)(1)-(2); (ii)
third-degree unlawful possession of a handgun. N.J. Stat.
Ann. § 2C:39-5b; and (iii) second-degree possession of a
firearm for an unlawful purpose. N.J. Stat. Ann. §
2C:39-4a. See Id. at *1. On August 17, 2007. the
trial court "merged [Mr. Tiggs's] convictions for
murder and possession of a firearm with an unlawful purpose
.. . and sentenced [Tiggs] as follows: for first-degree
murder, to a term of incarceration for life that is subject
to the [provisions of] the No. Early Release Act, [N.J. Stat.
Ann. §] 2C:43-7.2; for unlawful possession of a handgun,
to a five-year term of incarceration that is concurrent with
his sentence for murder." Id. (See also Aug.
17, 2007 Sentencing Hr'g Tr., DE 9-35.)
13, 2010, the Appellate Division affirmed Mr. Tiggs's
conviction and sentence for first-degree murder. That court
also '"reverse[d] and vacate[d] his conviction for
unlawful possession of a handgun because the judge instructed
the jury on the element of a different weapons offense not
charged in the indictment." Id. The New
Jersey Supreme Court denied certification of Tiggs's
direct appeal on November 10, 2010. State v. Tiggs,
12 A.3d 209 (N.J. 2010) (table).
December 17, 2010. Mr. Tiggs filed a petition for
post-conviction relief 0;PCR") in state court
(the "PCR court"'). See Stale v.
Tiggs, No. A-1041-12T2.2014 WL 2765611, at * 1 (
N.J.Super.Ct.App.Div. June 19, 2014). The PCR court held a
hearing on Tiggs's PCR application on June 1.2012. (PCR
Hr'g Tr.. DE 9-36.) On that date, the PCR court issued an
order denying Tiggs's PCR petition "for the reasons
expressed in [its accompanying opinion]." (DE 9-19 and
DE 9-18, respectively.) The Appellate Division affirmed the
denial of Tiggs's PCR petition on June 19, 2014.
Tiggs. 2014 WL 2765611. at *4. The New Jersey
Supreme Court denied certification of Tiggs's PCR appeal
on December 5. 2014. State v. Tiggs, 103 A.3d 267
(N.J. 2014) (table).
Tiggs filed his § 2254 petition on December 3.
1.) Respondents filed their answer on March 18. 2016. (DE 9.)
Tiggs acknowledged receipt of Respondents' answer in his
May 5, 2016 motion requesting an extension of time to submit
a reply. (See DE 16-1 at ¶ 5.) In spite of
receiving said filing extension (see DE 17). Tiggs
has not filed a formal reply in response.
STANDARD OF REVIEW
application for a writ of habeas corpus by a person in
custody under judgment of a state court can be granted only
for violations of the Constitution, laws, or treaties of the
United States. See Engle v. Isaac, 456 U.S. 107, 119
(1982); see also Mason v. Myers, 208 F.3d 414, 415
n.1 (3d Cir. 2000) (citing 28 U.S.C. § 2254). Tiggs
filed this petition for writ of habeas corpus after April 24,
1996, thus, the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act
of 1996 (''AEDPA"). Pub. L. 104-132. 110 Stat.
1214 (Apr. 24, 1996). applies. See Lindh v. Murphy,
521 U.S. 320. 326 (1997). Under AEDPA. federal habeas corpus
relief is not available for any claim decided on the merits
in state court proceedings unless the state court's
adjudication of the claim: (1) 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 (2) resulted in a decision
that was based on an unreasonable determination of the facts
in light of the evidence presented in state court.
See 28 U.S.C. § 2254(d), As a threshold matter,
a court must "first decide what constitutes 'clearly
established Federal law, as determined by the Supreme Court
of the United States."' Lockyer v. Andrade,
538 U.S. 63, 71 (2003) (quoting 28 U.S.C. §
2254(d)(1)).'''[C]learly established federal
law' under § 2254(d)(1) is the governing legal
principle set forth by the Supreme Court at the time the
state court renders its decision." Id.
(citations omitted). A federal habeas court making an
unreasonable-application inquiry should ask whether the state
court's application of clearly established federal law
was "objectively unreasonable." See Williams v.
Taylor, 529 U.S. 362, 409 (2000). Thus, "a federal
court may not issue a writ simply because the court concludes
in its independent judgment that the relevant state court
decision applied clearly established federal law erroneously
or incorrectly. Rather, that application must also be
unreasonable." Id. at 411. The AEDPA standard
under § 2254(d) is a "difficult" test to meet
and is a "highly deferential standard for evaluating
state-court rulings, which demands that state-court decisions
be given the benefit of the doubt." Callen v.
Pinholster, 563 U.S. 170, 181 (2011). The petitioner has
the burden of proof and, with respect to § 2254(d)(1),
review "is limited to the record that was before the
state court that adjudicated the claim on the merits."
applying AEDPA's standards, the relevant state court
decision that is appropriate for federal habeas corpus review
is the last reasoned state court decision. See Bond v.
Beard, 539 F.3d 256. 289-90 (3d Cir. 2008). Furthermore,
the court will assume that, "[w]here there has been one
reasoned state judgment rejecting a federal claim, later
unexplained orders upholding that judgment or rejecting the
same claim rest upon the same ground." Ylst v.
Nunnemaker, 501 U.S. 797, 803 (1991); see also
Wilson v. Sellers, 138 S.Ct. 1188.1194 (2018).
Additionally. AEDPA deference is not excused when state
courts issue summary rulings. For example, "[w]hen a
federal claim has been presented to a state court and the
state court has denied relief, it may be presumed that the
state court adjudicated the claim on the merits in the
absence of any indication or state-law procedural principles
to the contrary.'' Harrington v. Richer, 62
U.S. 86. 99 (2011) (citing Harris v. Reed, 489 U.S.
255, 265 (1989)).
addition to the above requirements, a federal court may not
grant a writ of habeas corpus under § 2254 unless the
petitioner has "exhausted the remedies available in the
courts of the State." 28 U.S.C. § 2254(b)(1)(A). To
do so. a petitioner must -"fairly present" all
federal claims to the highest state court before bringing
them in federal court."' Leyva v. Williams,
504 F.3d 357, 365 (3d Cir. 2007) (citation omitted). This
requirement ensures that state courts
"have:an initial opportunity to pass upon and
correct alleged violations of prisoners' federal
rights.'" Id. (citations omitted). To the
extent that a petitioner's constitutional claims are
unexhausted, a court can nevertheless deny them on the merits
under 28 U.S.C. § 2254(b)(2). See Taylor v.
Horn, 504 F.3d 416, 427 (3d Cir. 2007): Bronshtein
v. Horn, 404 F.3d 700. 728 (3d Cir. 2005).
Tiggs raises the following points for this Court's
Ground One: [Tiggs] was denied his right to a fair trial when
the court erroneously advised the jury that four witnesses
had all identified [Tiggs] as "the person who committed
the murder." Ground Two: [Tiggs] was denied his right to
a fair trial as the jury was not properly instructed as to
the charge of unlawful possession of a weapon, that
conviction must be vacated.
Ground Three: [Tiggs's] right against cruel and unusual
punishment was violated when the trial court sentenced him to
a term of seventy-five years.
Ground Four: [Tiggs] was denied his right to a fair trial
when the court erroneously advised the jury that four of the
witnesses had all identified [Tiggs] as "the person who
committed the murder."
Ground Five: Counsel failed to investigate and prepare
pretrial; counsel failed to object on numerous occasions
throughout trial; counsel failed to properly raise an
intoxication defense or hire an expert in that regard;
counsel failed to properly inform [Tiggs] of the plea offer
and its terms; counsel allowed prosecutor to commit
misconduct during varying points of the trial; appellate
counsel was also ineffective for failing to raise many of
these same issues at the appellate level.
Ground Six: The trial court erred in denying [Tiggs's PCR
petition] without affording him an evidentiary hearing to
fully address his contention that he failed to receive
adequate legal representation at the trial level.
(A) Trial counsel did not adequately represent [Tiggs] as a
result of his failure to assert and pursue an intoxication
defense rather than a defense of mistaken identification.
(B) Trial counsel did not adequately represent [Tiggs] as a
result of his failure to object to certain aspects of the
prosecutor's summation which exceeded the bounds of
Ground Seven: The trial court erred in denying [Tiggs's
PCR petition] without affording him an evidentiary hearing to
fully address his contention that he failed to receive
adequate legal representation at the trial level.
Ground Eight: Because [Tiggs] established prima
facie case of ineffective assistance of counsel, the PCR
[c]ourt should have granted [an] evidentiary hearing in order
to receive evidence and take testimony to ascertain trial
counsel's reason for the alleged failures.
(DE l-l at 1-16; DE 1 at 13 (capitalization in original
Grounds One, Two, and Four: Jury
Tiggs asserts that because "the jury was not properly
instructed as to the charge of [third-degree] unlawful
possession of a [firearm without a permit. N.J. Stat. Ann.
§ 2C:39-5b], that conviction must be vacated." (DE
1-1 at 2-3.)
Tiggs raised this issue on direct appeal, the State conceded
(DE 9-9 at 31). and the Appellate Division agreed.
Tiggs's "conviction for unlawful possession of a
weapon [was accordingly] vacated" by the appellate
court. Tiggs, 2010 WL 2795363. at *4. Nothing in the
record before this court suggests that Tiggs was ever
thereafter retried or resentenced on this charge. Based on
everything before me, the weapons possession conviction was
vacated, and remains so. Mr. Tiggs's Ground Two is
therefore denied as moot, because he has already obtained the
relief he seeks on direct appeal.
Grounds One and Four
claims that he was denied his right to a fair trial because
the trial court's jury charge erroneously advised the
jurors that four witnesses had identified Tiggs as "the
person who committed the murder." (DE 1-1 at 1-2, 6.)
Here, Tiggs refers to the following portion of the trial
court's charge to the jury:
Here the State has presented the testimony of Hodge Sears.
Sean Williams, Cynthia Boggs. and [El Raqib] Poole. If
you'll recall that these witnesses identified [Tiggs] in
court as the person who committed the murder.
The State also presented testimony that on a prior occasion
before this trial, these witnesses identified [Tiggs] as the
person who committed these offenses.
(DE 1-1 at 1.) This statement, says Tiggs. "was not only
completely inaccurate, but overwhelmingly prejudicial to
[Tiggs's] constitutional right to a fair trial."
(Id.) He adds that the "statement was clearly
misleading ... [and] led the jury to an unjust verdict."
(Id. at 6.)
error in the instructions to the jury" may support
habeas relief if it rises to the level of a denial of due
process. Henderson v. Kibbe, 431 U.S. 145, 154
(1977). "The question [during habeas review] is whether
the ailing instruction by itself so infected the entire trial
that the resulting conviction violate[d] due process."
Id. (citation and internal quotation marks omitted);
accord Waddington v. Saransad, 555 U.S. 179, 191
(2009). The challenged instruction "may not be judged in
artificial isolation." but must be viewed in the context
of the overall charge and the trial record. Cupp v.
Naughton, 414 U.S. 141, 146 (1973). It is the rare case
in which;-an erroneous instruction was so
prejudicial that it will support a collateral attack on the
constitutional validity of a state court's
judgment." Henderson. 431 U.S. at 154;
accord Middleton v. McNeil 541 U.S. 433,
437 (2004) ("not every ambiguity, inconsistency, or
deficiency in a jury instruction rises to the level of a due
order to obtain habeas relief, a petitioner must establish
that the instructional error "had [a] substantial and
injurious effect or influence in determining the jury's
verdict." Brecht v. Abrahamson,507 U.S. 619.
637 (1993). For example, due process is violated where
'"the erroneous instructions have operated to lift
the burden of proof on an essential element of an offense as
defined by state law." Smith v. Horn, 120 F.3d
400, 416 (3d Cir. 1997); see also Williams v. Beard,637 F.3d 195, 223 (3d Cir. 2011) (noting that due process is
violated when "the instruction contained some ambiguity,
inconsistency, or deficiency," and "there was a
reasonable likelihood that the jury applied the instruction