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Mattox v. McKune

United States District Court, D. Kansas

June 19, 2014



SAM A. CROW, Senior District Judge.

This case comes before the Court on a petition for habeas corpus filed pursuant to 28 USC § 2254, which alleges ineffective assistance of appellate counsel. Petitioner was convicted in state court of reckless second degree murder and criminal discharge of a firearm. He was sentenced to consecutive terms of 117 months and 59 months, for a controlling prison sentence of 176 months.

I. Facts

The Court adopts the facts set forth in Petitioner's prior decisions, see State v. Mattox, 280 Kan. 473, 475-479 (2005), and shall not repeat them except as necessary to the analysis. See 28 U.S.C. § 2254(e)(1) (a court presumes that the factual findings of the state court are correct unless the petitioner rebuts that presumption by "clear and convincing evidence."); Saiz v. Ortiz, 392 F.3d 1166, 1175 (10th Cir. 2004).

John Lane was found dead in his car from two gunshot wounds to his head in October of 2001. Five days later, Petitioner was arrested on an unrelated charge, and officers found an empty magazine for a.380 caliber pistol in his pocket. The issue in this habeas petition relates to the admissibility of the statements Petitioner made soon after his arrest - statements to a corrections officer, statements subsequently videotaped by Detectives, and statements Petitioner made in writing.

Petitioner moved to suppress but the trial court found that Petitioner had waived his right to counsel so Petitioner's statements to Officer Unruh, both oral and written (with signature redacted), were admissible. But the trial court found that Petitioner had clearly reinvoked his right to counsel during his videotaped interview with the Topeka detectives, so suppressed that interview, Petitioner's signature on the handwritten statement, and the subsequently-found handgun. The State then moved for reconsideration and the trial court altered its ruling, holding that Petitioner had not clearly reinvoked his right to counsel. Thus no evidence was suppressed from the trial.

In Petitioner's direct appeal, the Kansas Court of Appeals (KCOA), reversed Petitioner's convictions, finding that he did not knowingly and voluntarily waive his rights to remain silent and to assistance of counsel during his videotaped police interrogation. State v. Mattox, 86 P.3d 1025 (Table), 2004 WL 719250 (Case No. 89, 547). But the Kansas Supreme Court found the videotaped confession to be knowing and voluntary, so reversed the KCOA's decision and reinstated Petitioner's convictions. State v. Mattox, 280 Kan. 473 (2005). It did not reach the issue of reinvocation, which is the sole issue raised in this petition, because it found that issue had been abandoned on appeal. Mattox, 280 Kan. at 492.

Petitioner thereafter filed a motion pursuant to K.S.A. § 60-1507, alleging that his appellate counsel was ineffective for having abandoned the issue of reinvocation in his direct appeal. Appellate counsel admitted error and the district court granted the motion, but the Kansas Supreme Court reversed, finding that Petitioner had suffered no prejudice from any unreasonable performance by counsel since the outcome would have been the same even had counsel successfully raised the omitted issue. Mattox, 293 Kan. 723.

II. AEDPA Standard

The habeas petition is governed by the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996 ("AEDPA"). AEDPA "erects a formidable barrier to federal habeas relief, " Burt v. Titlow, 134 S.Ct. 10, 16 (2013), and "requires federal courts to give significant deference to state court decisions" on the merits. Lockett v. Trammel, 711 F.3d 1218, 1230 (10th Cir. 2013); see also Hooks v. Workman, 689 F.3d 1148, 1162-63 (10th Cir. 2012) ("This highly deferential standard for evaluating state-court rulings demands state-court decisions be given the benefit of the doubt." (quotations omitted)).

Under AEDPA, where a state prisoner presents a claim in habeas corpus and the merits were addressed in the state courts, a federal court may grant relief only if it determines that the state court proceedings resulted in a decision (1) "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) "that was based on an unreasonable determination of the facts in light of the evidence presented in the State court proceeding." 28 U.S.C. § 2254(d). See also Harrington v. Richter, ___ U.S. ___, 131 S.Ct. 770, 783-84, 178 L.Ed.2d 624 (2011).

In reviewing state criminal convictions in federal habeas corpus proceedings, a federal court does not sit as a super-state appellate court. See Estelle v. McGuire, 502 U.S. 62, 67-68, 112 S.Ct. 475, 116 L.Ed.2d 385 (1991). "The question under AEDPA is not whether a federal court believes the state court's determination was incorrect but whether that determination was unreasonable-a substantially higher threshold." Schriro v. Landrigan, 550 U.S. 465, 473, 127 S.Ct. 1933, 167 L.Ed.2d 836 (2007). In making this assessment, the Court reviews the factual findings of the state court for clear error, reviewing only the record that was before the appellate court. Cullen v. Pinholster, ___ U.S. ___, 131 S.Ct. 1388, 1398, 179 L.Ed.2d 557 (2011).

A writ of habeas corpus may issue only when the petitioner shows "there is no possibility fairminded jurists could disagree that the state court's decision conflicts with [the Supreme] Court's precedents." Richter, 131 S.Ct. at 786 (emphasis added). "Thus, "even a strong case for relief does not mean that the state court's contrary conclusion was unreasonable." Id. "If this standard is difficult to meet'-and it is-that is because it was meant to be.'" Titlow, 134 S.Ct. ...

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