from the United States District Court for the Northern
District of Georgia D.C. Docket No. 1:12-cv-01688-AT
WILSON, JILL PRYOR, and TALLMAN, [*] Circuit Judges.
WILSON, Circuit Judge:
Abdullah Al-Amin appeals the district court's denial of
his petition for a writ of habeas corpus under 28 U.S.C.
§ 2254. Al-Amin argues that he is entitled to habeas
relief under Brecht v. Abrahamson, 507 U.S. 619
(1993), for the constitutional errors that occurred during
his state trial. After careful review and with the benefit of
oral argument, we affirm the district court's denial of
Factual and Procedural Background
evening in March 2000, Fulton County Deputies Ricky Kinchen
and Aldranon English drove to Al-Amin's home to execute a
valid arrest warrant.Believing that Al-Amin was not home, the
Deputies began to drive away. But the Deputies quickly turned
around when they spotted a black Mercedes pull in front of
Al-Amin's home. A man exited the vehicle, and the
Deputies asked the man to show his hands. The man began
firing an automatic rifle and pistol at the officers. The
Deputies, standing only a few feet away, returned fire.
During the firefight, Deputy English's pepper spray
canister exploded, temporarily blinding him. Deputies Kinchen
and English were both shot during the exchange, and both
believed they had shot the assailant in return. As the man
drove away in the black Mercedes, Deputy English radioed for
help. When help arrived, Deputy Kinchen described the
assailant as a 6'4" black male wearing a long coat
and a hat. Both Deputies were transported to a local
hospital, where Deputy Kinchen died from his injuries.
who responded to the scene found a trail of blood leading
from the crime scene to a vacant house and nearby woods. The
investigating officers believed the blood belonged to the
fleeing assailant. Neighbors also reported seeing a bleeding
and injured man in the area that night.
next day, while on morphine and other medication, Deputy
English identified Al-Amin as the assailant after examining a
photo lineup. Soon after, law enforcement received a tip that
Al-Amin was in White Hall, Alabama. Federal and local law
enforcement converged on White Hall, where, after an exchange
of gunfire with a fleeing figure matching Al-Amin's
description,  they eventually found Al-Amin unarmed and
alone near a wooded area. When officers arrested Al-Amin, he
was wearing a bulletproof vest and had the keys to his black
Mercedes. Al-Amin's medical assessment revealed no signs
that he was recently shot or wounded.
Al-Amin was arrested, law enforcement searched the
surrounding area for other evidence. The officers located a
9mm pistol and ammunition. The next day, officers recovered a
bag in the woods containing, among other things, ammunition,
a cell phone, registration documents for a Mercedes
indicating that Al-Amin was the owner, Al-Amin's
passport, and a bank statement for Al-Amin. An assault rifle
was also discovered nearby. Expert testimony at trial later
established that these weapons were those used to shoot
Deputies Kinchen and English. Experts matched, for example,
the two 9mm bullets recovered during Deputy Kinchen's
autopsy to the pistol found at White Hall. Experts also
matched the shell casings found at the scene of the Fulton
County shooting and in the area of Al-Amin's White Hall
arrest to the .223-caliber Ruger rifle recovered in the White
days after apprehending Al-Amin, law enforcement discovered
his Mercedes on his friend's private property. The car
was riddled with bullet holes. Investigators later matched
the bullets recovered from the Mercedes to the Deputies'
was charged with malice murder and various other offenses in
Georgia state court. During the jury trial, the state's
case against Al-Amin included, among other things, the
physical evidence from White Hall and in-court testimony by
Deputy English identifying Al-Amin as the assailant.
his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination, Al-Amin
did not testify. Al-Amin nonetheless presented a substantial
defense. Approximately twenty witnesses testified on his
behalf, including a neighbor and eyewitness to the shooting
who testified that he was "absolutely positive"
that Al-Amin was not the shooter. The defense showed that
although the Deputies were confident that they had shot their
assailant and there was a blood trail leading away from the
scene, Al-Amin was not injured when he was apprehended. The
defense also attempted to undermine Deputy English's
identification of Al-Amin as the shooter. The defense
emphasized that Deputy English was on morphine when he picked
Al-Amin out of a lineup, and that Deputy English had
consistently said the shooter had grey eyes, while Al-Amin
has dark brown eyes.
trial, the defense argued that law enforcement-namely, FBI
Agent Ron Campbell-planted the weapons found in the White
Hall woods, noting that law enforcement had never connected
Al-Amin's DNA or fingerprints to the
weapons.Five years before Al-Amin's arrest,
Agent Campbell was involved in a shooting of an allegedly
unarmed Muslim black man. News reports suggested that law
enforcement may have planted a weapon at the scene, but Agent
Campbell was later cleared of any wrongdoing in that
incident. The trial court refused to let the defense
cross-examine Agent Campbell about this past shooting.
closing arguments, the prosecution told the jury, "I
want to leave you with a few questions you should have for
the defendant." The prosecution then presented a visual
aid to the jury titled, "Questions for the
Defendant." This visual aid included several written
Why would the FBI care enough to frame you? How did the
murder weapons end up in White Hall? How did your Mercedes
get to White Hall? How did your Mercedes get shot up? Why did
you flee (without your family)? Where were you at 10PM on
March 16, 2000?
prosecution also posed these rhetorical questions aloud to
Why would the FBI care enough to frame you?
How did the murder weapons end up in White Hall? . . . Mr.
Defendant, how did those murder weapons get ...