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LaPointe v. Schmidt

United States District Court, D. Kansas

October 31, 2019

JACK R. LAPOINTE, Petitioner,



         This case comes before the court on Petitioner's application for a writ of habeas corpus under 28 U.S.C. § 2254. (Doc. 1.) The matter has been fully briefed and is ripe for decision. (Docs. 21, 25.) The court has reviewed those portions of the state court record which are pertinent to the issues raised in the application and finds that an evidentiary hearing is not warranted. Petitioner's application is DENIED for reasons set forth herein.

         Petitioner was convicted of aggravated robbery and aggravated assault following a jury trial in state court and sentenced to 245 months in prison. In a federal habeas proceeding, the state court's factual findings are presumed correct and petitioner bears the burden of rebutting that presumption by clear and convincing evidence. 28 U.S.C. § 2254(e)(1). Here, Petitioner does not challenge the state court's findings.[1] Accordingly, the court incorporates the Kansas Court of Appeal's version of the facts:

The Robbery
Around 8 p.m. on October 30, 2000, Carrie Wellman was checking out customers at the Payless store when a man walked in with a gun and proceeded to rob the store. Monica Ortiz was shopping in the Payless store with her three children and was completing her purchase when the robber walked in the store. The robber pointed the gun in Ortiz' face and instructed her not to look at him. The robber also pushed Ortiz' 5-year-old daughter to the ground when she tried to run to her mother. After Wellman gave the robber approximately $1, 000 in a plastic shopping bag, he ran from the store. Wellman then called the police.
Carrie Delaney and Brandy Loveall had been shopping at a store in the strip mall and were driving out of the parking lot when Loveall spotted a man carrying a gun and walking fast on the sidewalk. Loveall made eye contact with the man before he passed her and ran between two buildings. According to Loveall, Delaney was driving the car when Loveall saw the man.
When the police arrived at the scene, several officers went to a nearby apartment complex after learning that the robbery suspect had been seen there. Upon arriving at the apartment complex, Officer Eric Thompson saw a woman in the parking lot holding cash in her hand. The woman told Thompson that a Caucasian man had just run through the breezeway and had dropped the money on his way up the stairs. Thompson took the money, which was $138, from the woman and asked her to remain there. Thompson ran through the breezeway to look for the robber but was unable to find him. When Thompson returned to his patrol car, the woman was no longer there.
During their search of the apartment complex area, officers found a plaid shirt and hat in a breezeway and a pair of cloth gloves in the front of one of the buildings. In addition, a police dog that had been brought to the apartment complex to track the suspect's scent pulled a blue and white bandana from underneath a car parked at the complex.
Eyewitnesses' Description of Suspect
Detective Karen Borstelman interviewed Loveall on November 1, 2000, and completed a composite sketch of the man she saw carrying a gun on the evening of October 30, 2000. Loveall described the man as Caucasian and standing approximately 6 feet tall, wearing a blue and white bandana on his head, with blond hair sticking out from underneath the bandana. The man was wearing a blue and white flannel shirt and was carrying a double-barreled sawed-off shotgun. Loveall further described the man as being in his early 30's and having a slender build. By the time of trial, Loveall had forgotten some of the details she had given Borstelman and described the man she saw as Caucasian and wearing a bandana on his head, wearing a coat, and carrying a gun. Moreover, Loveall could not recall whether the headlights of Delaney's car were illuminating the shadowy area in which the man was walking. Nevertheless, at trial, Loveall identified LaPointe as the man she had seen on the evening of October 30, 2000.
The other witnesses' descriptions of the robber differed somewhat from Loveall's description. According to Wellman, the man was Caucasian, was in his mid- to late-20's, stood about 6 feet tall, wore a plaid jacket and a bandana over part of his face, and had blond spikey hair with dark roots. Ortiz described the robber as a Caucasian man who was in his mid-20's and of slender build. Ortiz testified that the robber was wearing a cap and had put a handkerchief over his face when he came into the store. Ortiz' 11-year-old daughter, Monserrat Santos, described the robber as a Caucasian man with blue eyes and a muscular build. According to Santos, the robber had blond spikey hair, stood about 6 feet tall, had placed a bandana over his nose and mouth shortly after he had entered the store, and had not been wearing a hat.
Delaney was also interviewed by a detective and gave a description of the man, but she was unable to make a composite sketch. Delaney described the man as Caucasian and standing 5′10″ tall, having a skinny build, wearing nothing on his head, wearing a blue flannel-type shirt, and carrying a white plastic trash bag. Delaney did not see the man carrying a weapon. According to Delaney, she was shown a photo lineup but was unable to make a positive identification. Delaney testified that she had suffered a stroke, which had affected her short-term memory, during the first part of October 2000.
During the investigation of the robbery, one of the officers had commented that an individual named Joseph Seeber seemed to match the suspect's description and lived in the apartment complex just north of the Payless store. A photo lineup was then put together with Seeber's picture.
Wellman's Eyewitness Identification
On November 9, 2000, Detective Scott Atwell showed Wellman the photo lineup. In looking at the photographs, Wellman used her hand to cover up the lower half of each of the faces. After approximately 5 minutes, Wellman identified the suspect in photograph number 1 as the robber. Nevertheless, according to Atwell, Wellman indicated that the person depicted in photograph 1 had a fatter face and longer hair than the robber. At trial, Wellman acknowledged that she was unsure of her pick in the photo lineup. Moreover, Wellman testified that she would not recognize the man who robbed her if she saw him again. The person in photograph 1 was Seeber, the target suspect in that photographic lineup.
Loveall's Failure to Identify Suspect in First Lineup
On November 15, 2000, Atwell showed the same photo lineup to Loveall. Nevertheless, Loveall immediately stated that all the individuals in the photos were “way too young.”
Atwell's Testimony Concerning Eyewitness Identifications
Despite Wellman's identification of Seeber in the photo lineup, the police did not attempt to contact Seeber to question him about the robbery. When questioned at trial about why he had not investigated Seeber further, Atwell testified that he had “absolutely no confidence in the way” Wellman picked out photograph 1. Moreover, Atwell explained that he had received a laboratory report stating that Seeber's fingerprints were not those on the latent fingerprint cards collected at the Payless store. Atwell acknowledged, however, that the latent prints did not match LaPointe's fingerprints either. Atwell further testified that he had confidence in Loveall's identification “because she had observed the suspect under no stress whatsoever” and had seen the suspect bare-faced.
Norton's Interviews With FBI Agents
During November 2000, Michael Norton was taken into FBI custody on suspicion of bank robbery. During his interview, Norton told FBI agents that he had been told by LaPointe that LaPointe had robbed the Payless store in Roeland Park. Norton stated that he believed that LaPointe had used a shotgun during the robbery and had thrown the shotgun on the roof of a nearby building after the robbery.
After Norton pled guilty to federal bank robbery charges, FBI agents interviewed Norton on January 4, 2001, regarding the Payless robbery. During that interview, Norton admitted that he had been involved with LaPointe in the Payless robbery. Norton stated that he had driven LaPointe to the Payless store and had parked at a nearby apartment complex while LaPointe went to commit the robbery using a shotgun. Norton told the FBI agents that when LaPointe had returned to the car, LaPointe said that he had thrown the shotgun onto the roof of the Fashion Bug, which was a store in the same strip mall as the Payless store.
Recovery of Sawed-off Shotgun
Based on this information, FBI Agent Jeffrey Harris contacted Atwell and then met him in the parking lot of the Fashion Bug. With the fire department's help, a 12- gauge sawed-off shotgun was recovered from the roof of the Fashion Bug.
Loveall's Identification of LaPointe in Second Photo Lineup
On January 22, 2001, Atwell showed Loveall a second photo lineup with LaPointe's picture in it. According to Atwell, as soon as the photo lineup hit Loveall's hand, she pointed to photo 4 and said “that's the guy.” LaPointe was the individual in photograph 4. The ages of the other individuals depicted in the photo lineup were 21, 21, 20, 19, and 25, while LaPointe was 31. This second photo lineup was never shown to Wellman.
LaPointe's Trial
LaPointe went to trial on charges of one count of aggravated robbery and one count of aggravated assault. The State's main evidence against LaPointe at trial was Loveall's identification of LaPointe and Norton's statements and testimony that LaPointe had committed the robbery. Although Norton implicated himself in the Payless robbery during his testimony at trial, he had been given immunity in exchange for his testimony against LaPointe. Norton had not received any reduction in his federal sentence for his cooperation in LaPointe's criminal case.
Norton's Testimony
During his testimony at trial, Norton stated that he and LaPointe had known each other since 1998. Moreover, both Norton and LaPointe had worked for Norton's father during 2000.
According to Norton, on October 30, 2000, he and LaPointe had planned to do a robbery in a low-key area that had a quick get-away to the highway. Norton testified that he was supposed to get 3/4 of the money that LaPointe got from the robbery because LaPointe owed him money. Once LaPointe decided to rob the Payless store, Norton pulled into the parking lot behind the Fashion Bug to wait for LaPointe.
Norton testified that he brought a sawed-off shotgun that he had obtained from LaPointe. Norton further testified that when LaPointe got out of the car, he took the shotgun and placed it up the sleeve of his sweater. According to Norton, LaPointe was wearing jeans, a pull-over sweater, a ball cap, and a bandana when he got out of the car.
Norton testified that LaPointe came running to the car approximately 15 to 20 minutes later without the gun. LaPointe told Norton that there was a Hispanic woman in the store that was trying to leave, but he had forced her back and told her that no one was leaving. According to Norton, he heard a thump before he saw LaPointe and assumed that LaPointe had probably thrown the gun in a dumpster or on the roof of a building. When LaPointe returned to the car, he told Norton that he had thrown the gun on the roof of the building.
According to Norton, he dropped LaPointe off at the home of LaPointe's girlfriend, Deanna Burch, about 45 minutes after the robbery. Norton testified that Burch's car was parked outside when he dropped off LaPointe. Nevertheless, Burch testified that she was working at an event at Wal-Mart on October 30, 2000, and did not get home until around 9:30 that night. According to Burch, LaPointe did not have a key to her home, and he was not there when she got home that evening. Norton testified that he later disposed of LaPointe's bandana and gloves in a dumpster at his apartment complex. Norton testified that he has been bald on top of his head since he was 20, and his hair is brown but turns semi-blond with a lot of sunlight.
During his testimony at trial, Norton admitted that he had 10 prior convictions for dishonesty or false statement. His criminal history included several convictions for armed robbery and auto theft, which dated back to when he was a juvenile.
Seeber's Testimony
The State called Seeber as a witness at trial. Seeber testified that he was not the individual who had robbed the Payless store with a sawed-off shotgun. Seeber further testified that he did not have a car and did not know Norton or LaPointe. At the time of trial, Seeber was 22 years old, 5′9″, and 170 pounds.
Loretta LaPointe's Testimony
Loretta LaPointe, who married Jack LaPointe on March 15, 2001, testified that she had seen LaPointe pull a sawed-off shotgun out of the trunk of her car around the beginning of October 2000. Loretta immediately told LaPointe that the gun was not staying there, and she never saw it again. LaPointe told Loretta that he had gotten the shotgun from one of their friends to compensate Norton for a pistol that Loretta had thrown in the river after she had found it in her car.
Forensic Evidence
Lila Thompson, a latent print examiner, testified that she was unable to develop any latent prints on the gun that was found on the roof of the Fashion Bug store. Thompson was able to find latent fingerprints on the latent print cards recovered from the Payless store. Thompson compared these latent fingerprints against Seeber's fingerprints, but they did not match. Another latent fingerprint examiner compared the fingerprints on three of the latent print cards with the fingerprints of LaPointe and Norton, but they did not match. He also tested the money recovered from the woman at the apartment complex for fingerprints, but no prints of sufficient value for comparison purposes were obtained.
Sally Lane, a forensic chemist at the Johnson County crime lab, examined the shirt, cap, gloves, and bandana recovered from the apartment complex for DNA evidence. Lane found two hairs on the bandana and additional hairs on the shirt, cap, and gloves. Lane sent the hairs to the Kansas City, Missouri, police crime lab. Lane attempted to obtain additional DNA evidence from the items submitted to her, but she was unable to obtain a sufficient DNA sample.
Robert Booth, the chief criminalist at the Kansas City, Missouri, police crime lab, examined four head hairs and microscopically compared them against LaPointe's hair. Booth compared the hairs with 34 of LaPointe's hairs, which were taken from the top, sides, and front of his head. Booth testified that none of the four head hairs matched LaPointe. According to Booth, his comparison testing did not definitively establish that the head hairs did not come from LaPointe because he had only a representative sample of LaPointe's hair or because LaPointe could have changed his hair since the hairs were deposited. Nevertheless, Booth testified that those two explanations were “rather remote in ...

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