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Chum v. Wall

United States District Court, D. Rhode Island

October 1, 2018

YARA CHUM, Petitioner,
v.
ASHBEL T. WALL, et al. Respondent.

          ORDER

          John J. McConnell, Jr., United States District Judge

         Yara Chum is serving a state prison sentence after a Rhode Island Superior Court jury convicted him in 2012 of two counts of felony assault and one count of using a firearm when committing a crime of violence. He is here seeking habeas relief under 28 U.S.C. § 2254, contending that his constitutional rights were violated; specifically, that he received ineffective assistance of counsel in violation of Sixth Amendment. For the reasons below, the Court DENIES habeas relief.

         I. FACTS AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

         Three men watched from the front porch of a house in Providence while two cars slowly drove by.[1] Emerging from one of the cars, Mr. Chum along with some associates approached the house looking for retribution because a resident of that address had thrown a brick and a tire iron through one of the associate's windows after an attempted drug transaction. Mr. Chum told the associate to shoot the men on the porch. The associate fired one shot, which hit the porch railing, and he and Mr. Chum fled.

         Providence Police detectives arrested Mr. Chum, and read him his Miranda rights. Mr. Chum agreed to talk to the police and admitted his role in the shooting.[2] The State charged him with two counts of felony assault with a dangerous weapon, one count of conspiracy to commit assault with a dangerous weapon, one count of carrying a firearm while committing a crime of violence, and one count of discharging a firearm while committing a crime of violence.

         Mr. Chum's case went to trial. Before opening statements, the court instructed the jury, "statements of lawyers are not evidence. The only evidence you consider is that which comes in from the witness stand or any exhibits that may be marked as full exhibits." ECF No. 8-3 at 196. During his opening statement, the prosecutor told the jury that he would prove the State's case

with the defendant's words himself, because, when the detectives came to the Cranston Police Department, they read him his rights and sat down and talked to him. And the defendant told him that he was contacted by [an associate] and told that she needed him to take care of something; that she wanted them to take care of some kid * * * for smashing her windows! that he drove down to [ ] Avenue with [two associates] so that they could point out the house; that he approached the house with a friend, * * *; that he approached some guys on the porch; that he ordered [an associate] to shoot the guys; that [three other associates] were in a different car waiting around the corner; and that he and [the other associate] fled in separate cars, one red, and one white. You'll hear that. You'll hear about the defendant giving that statement to the Providence Police.

Id. at 204-205; see also Chum v. State, No. PM131919, 2014 WL 6855341, at *2 (R.I. Super. Dec. 1, 2014).

         The case proceeded through trial and the prosecutor rested without producing any evidence of the confession he promised in his opening statement. The trial court instructed the jury three additional times during the trial that the lawyer's statements and arguments are not evidence. The court entered judgment of acquittal on the conspiracy count and the State dismissed the charge of carrying a firearm while committing a crime of violence. The jury convicted Mr. Chum on the three remaining counts.

         After the Rhode Island Supreme Court affirmed Mr. Chum's conviction, he filed for post-conviction relief in the Rhode Island Superior Court for ineffective assistance of counsel because his lawyer did not move for a mistrial at the close of the State's case when the State failed to produce evidence of his confession. The trial court rejected his arguments in Chum v. State, No. PM131919, 2014 WL 6855341, which the Rhode Island Supreme Court affirmed. Chum v. State, 160 A.3d 295, 299-300 (R.I. 2017). Mr. Chum then filed the instant Petition for a Writ of Habeas Corpus setting forth a single claim of ineffective assistance of counsel under 28 U.S.C. § 2254. ECF No. 1. The State moved to dismiss the Petition, which the Court denied. See Text Order, Apr. 2, 2018. The parties later submitted the trial transcript and further briefing, making the Petition ready for this Court's consideration.

         II. STANDARD OF REVIEW

         This Court knows that its review of Mr. Chum's case is limited. Both United States Supreme Court precedent, see e.g., Cavazos v. Smith, 565 U.S. 1 (2011), and the Congressional mandate in the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996 ("AEDPA"), Pub. L. No. 104-132, 110 Stat. 1214, restrict federal court review of state court convictions and sentences. The AEDPA "reflects the view that habeas corpus is a 'guard against extreme malfunctions in the state criminal justice systems,' not a substitute for ordinary error correction through appeal." Harrington v. Richter, 562 U.S. 86 (2011) (quoting Jackson v. Virginia, 443 U.S. 307, 332 n.5 (1979) (Stevens, J., concurring in judgment)).

         Under the AEDPA, a state prisoner is entitled to relief where a state court adjudication

(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 ...

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