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Joeckel v. Cline

United States District Court, D. Kansas

May 10, 2018

ERIC P. JOECKEL, Petitioner,
SAM CLINE, Respondent.



         This matter comes before the court on Eric P. Joeckel's pro se[1] Petition for Writ of Habeas Relief (Doc. 1), respondent Sam Cline's Answer and Return (Doc. 10), and petitioner's Reply (Doc. 12). Petitioner attacks his state-court conviction on four grounds. Those grounds include a claim of ineffective assistance of counsel, two claims of trial court error, and a claim of prosecutorial misconduct. For reasons explained below, the court denies Mr. Joeckel's Petition.

         I. Background

         The Kansas Court of Appeals summarized the facts of petitioner's state-court case in this fashion:

On November 7, 2009, [petitioner] went to The Flood Zone Bar and Grill (Flood Zone) in Osawatomie, Kansas, with a friend. After [petitioner] and his friend had a “couple of drinks, ” they left the Flood Zone and went to Spring Hill to visit with friends. [Petitioner] and his friend returned to the Flood Zone in the early morning hours of November 8, 2009, to pick up [petitioner]'s girlfriend. After arriving back at the Flood Zone, [petitioner] met a man, later identified as Nathan Lucas, in the Flood Zone parking lot. [Petitioner] and Lucas had a physical altercation which left Lucas injured. At trial, both men testified and gave conflicting testimony about the events that occurred on the morning in question.
[Petitioner] testified that he met Lucas for the first time in the Flood Zone parking lot. [Petitioner] asked Lucas if he had a good night. Lucas responded, “No, ” because his girlfriend was going home with another man. [Petitioner] then told Lucas not to worry about it because “they come a dime a dozen.” Lucas responded to [petitioner]'s remark by stating, “Well, fuck that and fuck you, too.” [Petitioner] asked Lucas what he meant by his comments. [Petitioner] and Lucas then began to argue until [petitioner] said, “You know what, I ain't going to waste my time on you.” When [petitioner] turned to walk away, Lucas punched him in the mouth.
[Petitioner] punched Lucas back, and Lucas fell to the ground. After Lucas fell to the ground, [petitioner] squatted over him. [Petitioner] testified that his “intention was to get-jump on him, you know, like you would in a regular fight, jump on an individual.” [Petitioner] testified that he was unable to throw another punch at Lucas because his girlfriend, Melanie Burson, yelled at him to stop and pulled him by his shirt to get him off of Lucas.
On the other hand, Lucas described the events on the morning in question differently. Lucas testified that he went to the Flood Zone with his friend, Charlie Howard. When Lucas and Howard were about to leave, Lucas went outside to smoke a cigarette while Howard attempted to get someone's phone number. Lucas went outside and walked towards Howard's car. As Lucas walked to the car, he passed by [petitioner]. When Lucas had almost reached Howard's car, [petitioner] yelled out “hey” to him. Lucas turned around and walked towards [petitioner] so that he could “see what [petitioner] wanted.” When Lucas reached [petitioner], [petitioner] told Lucas that he had bumped into him. Lucas did not think that he bumped into [petitioner] but stated that “if [he] did bump into him, [he was] sorry.” After the apology, Lucas and [petitioner] shook hands. Following the handshake [petitioner] told Lucas that he would “beat [his] ass.” The next thing Lucas remembered was that he was lying face down on the ground and being punched in the back of the head. Lucas then testified that Howard came and pulled [petitioner] off of him.
There were several witnesses to [petitioner] and Lucas' altercation. The witnesses' testimony also differs from [petitioner]'s and Lucas' testimony. At trial, Kacy Hayes testified that she saw [petitioner] “walk up behind [Lucas] and punch him in the back of the head.” After the punch, Lucas fell to the ground. Once Lucas was on the ground, Hayes testified that [petitioner] stood over Lucas and punched him repeatedly.
Other witnesses corroborated Hayes testimony that [petitioner] stood over Lucas and punched him repeatedly. On the other hand, Burson's testimony corroborated [petitioner]'s version of events. Regardless of whose version of events was more accurate, [petitioner] did not dispute that he punched Lucas in the face at least once. Because of the punch, or punches, Lucas went to the emergency room to have his injuries treated.
After Lucas arrived at the hospital, he was examined by an emergency room doctor. The doctor conducted a CAT scan of Lucas' brain and facial bones. Based on the results of the CAT scan, the doctor concluded that Lucas had suffered multiple fractures to his face. Therefore, the doctor referred Lucas to a specialist to have his injuries surgically repaired.
The State charged [petitioner] with one count of aggravated battery. At trial, [petitioner] admitted to punching Lucas once, but he argued that he punched him in self-defense. To support his argument, [petitioner] contended that he had suffered injury to his lip from Lucas' punch. To rebut [petitioner]'s self-defense allegation, the State sought to introduce into evidence booking photographs from the day after [petitioner]'s arrest and booking photographs from a separate arrest a month earlier. [Petitioner]'s defense counsel objected, arguing that the jury would be able to infer from the booking photographs that [petitioner] was in custody a month before his arrest in this case. The trial court disagreed and admitted both sets of photographs.
During its closing argument, the State argued that the jury should not believe [petitioner]'s version of events. The State declared that “[b]y [petitioner]'s own testimony, I clocked him once, my right hand, and the left jaw, he went down, and I started down, and that's when my girlfriend grabbed me. I think that's probably where the accuracy ends.” Later, the jury found [petitioner] guilty of aggravated battery.

Kansas v. Joeckel, 268 P.3d 12, No. 105, 117, 2012 WL 307661, at *1-2 (Kan.Ct.App. Jan. 27, 2012) [hereinafter Joeckel I].

         Petitioner timely appealed his conviction to the Kansas Court of Appeals. In his direct appeal, petitioner raised four issues: (1) whether the trial court had erred by sustaining the State's objection to defense counsel's argument that the State had to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that petitioner did not act in self-defense; (2) whether the trial court had erred by admitting petitioner's prior booking photograph; (3) whether the prosecutor had engaged in prosecutorial misconduct by telling the jury he did not believe petitioner's testimony; and (4) whether the cumulative effect of the individual errors substantially prejudiced petitioner and denied him a fair trial. Br. of Appellant at 1, Kansas v. Joeckel, 268 P.3d 12 (Kan.Ct.App. 2012) (No.105, 117) [hereinafter Direct Appeal Brief]; Joeckel I, 2012 WL 307661, at *1. The Kansas Court of Appeals affirmed his conviction. Joeckel I, 2012 WL 307661, at *1.

         Petitioner then sought review on all four of those issues from the Kansas Supreme Court. Appellant's Pet. for Review at 1 [hereinafter Direct Appeal Pet. for Review]. The Kansas Supreme Court declined to review the case. Joeckel I, 2012 WL 307661, at *1, review denied (Feb. 4, 2013).

         On June 20, 2013, petitioner filed a pro se motion for post-conviction relief under Kan. Stat. Ann. § 60-1507 (“60-1507 motion”). Joeckel v. Kansas, 366 P.3d 667, No. 114, 152, 2016 WL 758749, at *1 (Kan.Ct.App. Feb. 26, 2016) [hereinafter Joeckel II]. On April 24, 2015, petitioner filed an amended motion with the assistance of counsel. Id. In the amended motion, petitioner raised one issue: whether petitioner's trial defense counsel was ineffective by failing to raise objections about the responses of two venirepersons during the motion for new trial. Id.

The Kansas Court of Appeals describes the voir dire responses at issue:
The first colloquy occurred between the State and venireperson L.M.:
Q. [State:] Do you know Kacy Hays?
A. [L.M.:] She used to be an employee of mine.
Q. Where was that at?
A. Miami County Medical Center.
Q. What was your relationship with her, would you say it was good?
A. I was her boss.
Q. Would you say you had a good relationship?
A. Pretty much so.
Q. When she left, did she leave on good terms?
A. Yes.
Q. Have any reason to give any more or less weight to her testimony than anyone else's?
A. No.
Q. Anything about knowing her think would prevent you from being a fair and impartial juror?
A. No.
The second exchange occurred between the State and venireperson B.C.:
Q. [State:] [B.C.], I understand that Miss Hays is your granddaughter.
A. [B.C.:] Yeah.
Q. I assume you're probably going to give her a lot of weight and credibility when she testifies because she's your granddaughter; correct?
A. Depends on what she testifies about.
Q. But as a general rule, you believe her to be- A. I believe her to be truthful, yes.
Q. And I guess our concern is, is that going to tend to make you lean one way or another if she testifies? In other words, do you think you can still be fair and impartial if she testifies?
A. Well, I would try to be. But like I said, I don't know what she's going to say.
Q. But you don't think merely the fact that she's your granddaughter is going to make you vote or render a verdict in favor of the ...

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