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Harris v. Hurley

United States District Court, E.D. Missouri, Eastern Division

March 6, 2017

MICHAEL HARRIS, Petitioner,
v.
JAMES HURLEY, Respondent.

          MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

          SHIRLEY PADMORE MENSAH UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE

         This matter is before the Court on Petitioner Michael Harris's (“Petitioner's”) pro se petition for a writ of habeas corpus pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254. The parties have consented to the jurisdiction of the undersigned United States Magistrate Judge pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(c)(1) (Doc. 5). For the following reasons, the petition for a writ of habeas corpus will be denied.

         I. Factual and Procedural Background

         Petitioner and the victim were roommates who sometimes had a sexual relationship. Resp't Ex. B, at 6. On June 16, 2009, the victim was injured in Petitioner's bedroom. Resp't Ex. A, at 6; Resp't Ex. B, at 4. The victim woke up in Petitioner's bedroom and found Petitioner standing on the other side of the bed holding a baseball bat. Resp't Ex. A, at 6; Resp't Ex B, at 4. The victim told police officers and others that Petitioner had hit her with the baseball bat. Resp't Ex. A, at 7; Resp't Ex. D, at 5.

         Petitioner testified at trial that he had gone to bed alone on the night in question and had locked his door before going to bed. Resp't Ex. B, at 7; Resp't Ex. D, at 6. He testified that he was woken up by a noise, thought there was an intruder in his room, and started swinging his left hand. Resp't Ex. A, at 6; Resp't Ex. B, at 7; Resp't Ex. D, at 6. He testified that he struck the victim before he realized who it was. Resp't Ex. B, at 7; Resp't Ex. A, at 6. Although he acknowledged striking the victim with his hands, he denied using a bat. Resp't Ex. A, at 6.

         After a bench trial, Petitioner was found guilty of domestic assault in the first degree and armed criminal action. Resp't Ex. E, at 3. Petitioner was sentenced to twelve years for the domestic assault count and five years for the armed criminal action count, to be served concurrently. Id. at 3-4.

         In his direct appeal, Petitioner asserted a single claim: that the trial court had erred in denying his motion to suppress evidence of the baseball bat on the ground that it was the fruit of an unlawful search of his home. Resp't Ex. A, at 9. The Missouri Court of Appeals affirmed the trial court's denial of the motion to suppress, finding that Petitioner had affirmatively waived review of the issue because defense counsel had expressly stated that he had “no objection” to the admission of the bat. Resp't Ex. C, at 4-5.

         In Petitioner's amended motion for post-conviction relief, Petitioner asserted four claims of ineffective counsel, and the motion court denied each claim without an evidentiary hearing. Resp't Ex. E, at 6-9. On appeal, Petitioner presented only two of the claims: (1) ineffective assistance of trial counsel based on trial counsel's failure to show Petitioner color copies of photographs of the victim's injuries, a failure that led Petitioner to underestimate the State's case and to proceed to trial instead of accepting a plea offer; and (2) ineffective assistance of trial counsel based on trial counsel's failure to ask Petitioner on direct examination how the victim could have broken into his bedroom. Resp't Ex. D, at 13-14. The Missouri Court of Appeals affirmed the decision of the motion court on both claims. Resp't Ex. G at 3-5.

         On November 19, 2013, Petitioner filed a pro se petition in the instant action. In the Petition and accompanying brief in support, Petitioner asserts three grounds for relief: (1) that the State courts violated his rights under the Fourth Amendment by denying his motion to suppress the baseball bat and permitting the bat to be admitted into evidence; (2) that his trial counsel was ineffective because of her failure to show Petitioner color copies of photographs of the victim's injuries, a failure that led Petitioner to underestimate the State's case and proceed to trial instead of accepting a plea offer; and (3) that his trial counsel was ineffective based her failure to ask Petitioner on direct examination how the victim could have entered Petitioner's bedroom through a locked door.

         II. Legal Standard

         Federal habeas review exists only “as ‘a guard against extreme malfunctions in the state criminal justice systems, not a substitute for ordinary error correction through appeal.'” Woods v. Donald, 135 S.Ct. 1372, 1376 (2015) (per curiam) (quoting Harrington v. Richter, 562 U.S. 86, 102-03 (2011)). Accordingly, “[i]n the habeas setting, a federal court is bound by AEDPA [the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act] to exercise only limited and deferential review of underlying state court decisions.” Lomholt v. Iowa, 327 F.3d 748, 751 (8th Cir. 2003) (citing 28 U.S.C. § 2254). Under AEDPA, a federal court may not grant habeas relief to a state prisoner with respect to any claim that was adjudicated on the merits in the state court proceedings unless the state court's adjudication of a claim “(1) resulted in a decision 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) resulted in a decision 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). A state court decision is “contrary to” clearly established Supreme Court precedents “if the state court applies a rule that contradicts the governing law set forth in [the Supreme Court's] cases” or “if the state court confronts a set of facts that are materially indistinguishable from a decision of [the Supreme] Court and nevertheless arrives at a result different from [the Supreme Court's] precedent.” Williams v. Taylor, 529 U.S. 362, 405-06 (2000); see also Brown v. Payton, 544 U.S. 133, 141 (2005). A state court decision involves an “unreasonable application” of clearly established federal law if it “correctly identifies the governing legal rule but applies it unreasonably to the facts of a particular prisoner's case.” Williams, 529 U.S. at 407-08; see also Bell v. Cone, 535 U.S. 685, 694 (2002). “Finally, a state court decision involves an unreasonable determination of the facts in light of the evidence presented in the state court proceedings only if it is shown that the state court's presumptively correct factual findings do not enjoy support in the record.” Jones v. Luebbers, 359 F.3d 1005, 1011 (8th Cir. 2004) (citations and internal quotation marks omitted); see also Rice v. Collins, 546 U.S. 333, 338-39 (2006) (noting that state court factual findings are presumed correct unless the habeas petitioner rebuts them through clear and convincing evidence) (citing 28 U.S.C. § 2254(e)(1)).

         III. Discussion

         A. Ground One: Fourth Amendment Violation

         In Ground One, Petitioner asserts that the state courts violated his rights under the Fourth Amendment by denying his motion to suppress the baseball bat and permitting the bat to be admitted into evidence, because the bat was the fruit of an illegal search and seizure. Fourth Amendment claims are not cognizable in federal habeas proceedings, unless the petitioner did not have a full and fair opportunity to litigate such claims in state proceedings. Stone v. Powell,428 U.S. 465, 494 (1976); Chavez v. Weber, 497 F.3d 796, 801-02 (8th Cir. 2007). A Fourth Amendment claim is unreviewable by a federal habeas court under Stone unless either (1) “the state provided no procedure by which the prisoner could raise his Fourth Amendment claim, ” or (2) “the prisoner was foreclosed from ...


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