Federal judge denies state prison inmate's petition for writ of habeas corpus

Jon Campisi Dec. 12, 2011, 9:10am

A federal judge has denied a pro se petition filed by a man serving a Pennsylvania state prison sentence for drug violations who had sought a writ of habeas corpus.

U.S. District Court Judge J. William Ditter, Jr. issued the ruling Dec. 8 against Jovan Simon, who has been incarcerated at the State Correctional Institute at Graterford, Pa. since his conviction nearly eight years ago.

Simon was found guilty of possession with intent to deliver a controlled substance after a bench trial at Philadelphia’s Common Pleas court and was subsequently sentenced to four to eight years of imprisonment on Jan. 29, 2004.

Simon had filed an immediate appeal, arguing insufficient evidence and claiming that prosecutors acted improperly by eliciting testimony from police officers regarding prior criminal conduct by Simon, according to background information on the case.

In early March 2009, a Pennsylvania appellate court affirmed Simon’s sentence, and in September 2009 the state Supreme Court denied Simon’s petition for allowance of appeal.

Simon filed his federal writ for habeas corpus in August 2010.

In his ruling, Ditter determined that Simon’s evidentiary claims had no merit.

“When viewed in its entirety, there is sufficient evidence satisfying the elements of possession with intent to deliver a controlled substance,” the judge wrote. “Under Pennsylvania law, constructive possession may be proved by circumstantial evidence.”

Police had found Simon inside a residence that he repeatedly referred to as his home, the ruling states, and what’s more is a police officer testified at trial that, based upon the quantity and manner in which the drugs were divided, they were possessed for distribution.

“It is reasonable for the trial court to find that Simon had the intent to control and distribute the drugs found in his home and to find him guilty based upon the evidence provided by the Commonwealth,” the ruling states. “Since the state courts’ findings are not contrary to the United States Supreme Court precedent nor an unreasonable determination of the facts, the state courts’ findings will not be overturned.”

Ditter also found that any alleged misconduct on the part of the prosecutor in the case “did not render Simon’s trial fundamentally unfair.”

Simon had taken issue with comments made by a prosecution witness during his trial.

“In any event,” the judge continued, “this was a bench trial. The trial court is deemed capable of sorting through the evidence and disregarding inadmissible evidence.”

The judge wrote that after a “close and objective review of the arguments and evidence,” he found Simon’s petition for writ of habeas corpus to be meritless.

The judge furthermore ordered that no certificate of appealability will be issued because Simon failed to make a substantial showing of a denial of a constitutional right.

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