United States District Court, D. New Jersey
LINARES, CHIEF DISTRICT JUDGE
before the Court is the petition for a writ of habeas corpus
of Shawn Southerland ("Petitioner") brought
pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254 challenging his state court
murder conviction. (ECF No. 1). Respondents filed a response
to the petition, (ECF No. 30), to which Petitioner replied.
(ECF No. 33). Petitioner has also filed a request for an
evidentiary hearing, as well as a second motion for partial
summary judgment. (ECF Nos. 34, 36). For the following
reasons, the Court will deny the petition, as well as
Petitioner's request for an evidentiary hearing and
second motion for partial summary judgment. Petitioner is
also denied a certificate of appealability.
was indicted on three counts in Hudson County for
first-degree murder in violation of N.J.S.A. 2C:1 l-3(a)(1)
or (2), third-degree hindering apprehension or prosecution by
way of concealment or destruction in violation of N.J.S.A.
2C:1 l-3(a)(1), and third-degree hindering apprehension or
prosecution by giving false information to a law enforcement
officer in violation of N.J.S.A. 2C:29-3(b)(4). (ECF No. 1 at
40). At his trial, petitioner waived his right to an attorney
and decided to represent himself. (ECF No. 1 at 40). The
trial court appointed Petitioner's public defender as
standby counsel and thereafter denied Petitioner's
motions to appoint new standby counsel. (ECF No. 1 at 40).
the course of pre-trial proceedings, Petitioner filed several
motions to suppress evidence, which the trial court denied.
(ECF No. 1 at 40). The trial court also denied
Petitioner's motions to dismiss the indictment. (ECF No.
1 at 40). However, on November 10, 2011, Petitioner filed a
motion to dismiss the third count of the indictment, which
the trial court granted. (ECF No. 1 at 40). Then, the trial
court granted Petitioner's motion to waive his right to a
jury trial. (ECF No. 1 at 40).
Francis B. Schultz oversaw the nine-day bench trial. (ECF No.
1 at 40). On February 1, 2012, the judge issued a
"comprehensive oral decision finding" Petitioner
guilty on counts one and two. (ECF No. 1 at 41). Judge
Schultz then denied Petitioner's motion for acquittal and
a new trial and sentenced Petitioner to thirty years in
prison on count one on March 16, 2012. (ECF No. 1 at 41).
Petitioner's sentence included a thirty-year period of
parole ineligibility on count one and a concurrent five-year
sentence on count two. (ECF No. 1 at 41). Judge Shultz also
ordered that Petitioner serve a five-year term of parole
supervision upon his release. (ECF No. 1 at 41).
trial, the State established the following. The victim lived
in Bayonne with her fourteen-year old son. (ECF No. 1 at 44).
Petitioner and the victim met while they were in law school
together in 2002. (ECF No. 1 at 44). Petitioner then moved
into the victim's apartment in December 2005. (ECF No. 1
at 44). The victim's son described a tumultuous
relationship between Petitioner and the victim, in which they
fought "every day." (ECF No. 1 at 44). Petitioner
moved to Texas in January 2007, but subsequently returned to
the apartment in March 2007. (ECF No. 1 at 44).
victim usually woke her son up for school, but on the morning
of April 4, 2007, she did not. (ECF No. 1 at 44). Instead,
her son got himself dressed and went to the bedroom to say
goodbye to his mother. (ECF No. 1 at 44). The victim's
son testified that the door was closed and Petitioner stepped
in front of the door to keep him from going inside the
bedroom. (ECF No. 1 at 44). The victim's son then left
the apartment. (ECF No. 1 at 44-45). He stated that he did
not hear any sounds come from the bedroom that morning or
hear anything unusual the night before. (ECF No. 1 at 45).
The victim's son usually stayed up in his room playing
videogames and watching TV. (ECF No. 1 at 45).
victim's son returned home from school around 4:00 p.m.
(ECF No. 1 at 45). Petitioner was in the apartment, but the
victim was not. (ECF No. 1 at 45). When the victim's son
asked Petitioner about his mother, Petitioner told the son
that he had not seen her. (ECF No. 1 at 45). The son saw that
a white blanket and some of his mother's "personal
accessories" were missing from her bedroom. (ECF No. 1
victim's son testified that Petitioner gave him money to
buy food at a take-out restaurant and then followed him there
on a bicycle. (ECF No. 1 at 45). They returned to the
victim's apartment, at which point Petitioner told the
victim's son that he had to go see his sick aunt in the
hospital. (ECF No. 1 at 45). When he left, Petitioner took
all his belongings with him. (ECF No. 1 at 45). The
victim's son testified that Petitioner would borrow a
silver Kia from someone he called "his aunt," but
that after Petitioner left that night he never saw Petitioner
or the car again. (ECF No. 1 at 45).
the Kia, Petitioner's friend testified that Petitioner
borrowed her 2001 Kia on April 3, 2007 and returned it early
in the evening on April 5, 2007 with two flat tires. (ECF No.
1 at 45). Petitioner then stayed at his friend's home
until April 9, 2007, when she drove him to a train station.
(ECF No. 1 at 46).
victim's son informed his school that his mother had
disappeared, and two or three days later he went to his
grandmother's house in New York City, where he informed
her that his mother was missing. (ECF No. 1 at 46).
morning of April 7, 2007, a New York City Department of
Transportation employee found a black duffel bag along the
Henry Hudson Parkway in New York, roughly twenty-five miles
from Bayonne. (ECF No. 1 at 46). Inside the bag was the body
of a woman. (ECF No. 1 at 46). The employee who found the bag
testified that he had not seen the bag when he cleaned that
area the day before. (ECF No. 1 at 46). New York City police
officers picked the body up and began their investigation.
(ECF No. 1 at 46).
York City medical examiner performed an autopsy on the body
on April 8, 2007. (ECF No. 1 at 46). The medical examiner
testified that the police found the body in a large,
expandable, black bag with the brand name "G&S"
on it. (ECF No. 1 at 46). The body was fully clothed and
wrapped in a "white bed sheet" and black plastic.
(ECF No. 1 at 46). There were also two rings and a bracelet
on the body. (ECF No. 1 at 46).
autopsy revealed "multiple blunt-impact injuries on the
body, including abrasions and contusions of the neck, torso,
and extremities." (ECF No. 1 at 46). The medical
examiner believed that the cause of death was homicide by
"compression of the neck," and placed the date of
death on or before April 4, 2007. (ECF No. 1 at 46-17).
friend of the victim testified that she recognized the
victim's jewelry when she saw it on a television report
on April 9 about a "woman found on the Henry
Hudson." (ECF No. 1 at 47). The friend then contacted
the victim's family. (ECF No. 1 at 47). After 5:00 p.m.
on April 9, Bayonne Police Officer Ponik went to the
victim's apartment as part of his investigation arising
out of a missing persons report. (ECF No. 1 at 47). Officer
Ponik met with the victim's son, as well as her parents,
brother, and various other family and friends. (ECF No. 1 at
47). The officer was at the apartment for about six hours,
collecting information from the group there. (ECF No. 1 at
47). Officer Ponik also contacted other agencies for
information, including the Division of Youth and Family
Services regarding custody of the victim's son. (ECF No.
1 at 47).
Officer Ponik was at the apartment, the victim's brother
tried calling the victim's cell phone several times. (ECF
No. 1 at 47). Around 11:00 p.m., roughly five minutes after
the brother's last call attempt, Petitioner called the
brother back. (ECF No. 1 at 47). Officer Ponik asked the
victim's brother to place the call on speakerphone, and
the brother obliged. (ECF No. 47-48). Petitioner initially
denied knowing where the victim was. (ECF No. 1 at 48). He
later admitted seeing her on April 2, 2007. (ECF No. 1 at
48). "Then, 'out of nowhere, '" petitioner
told the victim's brother that the victim "went on
vacation," for which he bought her a "black folding
type suitcase." (ECF No. 1 at 48). Petitioner told the
victim's brother he was in Rockland County, New York
visiting a sick aunt. (ECF No. 1 at 48). He did not give the
victim's brother any contact information and then hung
up. (ECF No. 1 at 48).
called the victim's brother back five or ten minutes
later. (ECF No. 1 at 48). He mentioned he would return to
Bayonne the next day and admitted he had the victim's
cell phone. (ECF No. 1 at 48). The victim's brother asked
Petitioner to help the family locate the victim, but
Petitioner was uncooperative and hung up. (ECF No. 1 at ...