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Barnett v. State

United States District Court, D. Nevada

July 17, 2017

DUSTIN BARNETT, Petitioner,
v.
STATE OF NEVADA, et al., Respondents.

          ORDER

          MIRANDA M. DU, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         This habeas matter comes before the Court for a final decision on the merits.

         I. BACKGROUND

         Petitioner Dustin Barnett challenges his 2012 Nevada state conviction, pursuant to a jury verdict, of first degree murder with the use of a deadly weapon, robbery with the use of a deadly weapon, and possession of a controlled substance. He was sentenced to, inter alia, life with the possibility of parole after 20 years on the murder charge and a consecutive sentence of 32 to 192 months on the weapon enhancement on that charge.

         Petitioner challenged his conviction on the murder and robbery charges on direct appeal. He did not pursue state post-conviction review prior to seeking federal habeas relief herein.

         II. GOVERNING STANDARD OF REVIEW

         The Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act (AEDPA) imposes a "highly deferential" standard for evaluating state-court rulings that is "difficult to meet" and "which demands that state-court decisions be given the benefit of the doubt." Cullen v Pinholster, 563 U.S. 170 (2011). Under this highly deferential standard of review, a federal court may not grant habeas relief merely because it might conclude that the state court decision was incorrect. 563 U.S. at 202. Instead, under 28 U.S.C. § 2254(d), the court may grant relief only if the state court decision: (1) was either contrary to or involved an unreasonable application of clearly established federal law as determined by the United States Supreme Court; or (2) was based on an unreasonable determination of the facts in light of the evidence presented at the state court proceeding. 563 U.S. at 181-88.

         A state court decision is "contrary to" law clearly established by the Supreme Court only if it applies a rule that contradicts the governing law set forth in Supreme Court case law or if the decision confronts a set of facts that are materially indistinguishable from a Supreme Court decision and nevertheless arrives at a different result. E.g., Mitchell v. Esparza, 540 U.S. 12, 15-16 (2003). A state court decision is not contrary to established federal law merely because it does not cite the Supreme Court's opinions. Id. Indeed, the Supreme Court has held that a state court need not even be aware of its precedents, so long as neither the reasoning nor the result of its decision contradicts them. Id. Moreover, "[a] federal court may not overrule a state court for simply holding a view different from its own, when the precedent from [the Supreme] Court is at best, ambiguous." 540 U.S. at 16. For at bottom, a decision that does not conflict with the reasoning or holdings of Supreme Court precedent is not contrary to clearly established federal law.

         A state court decision constitutes an "unreasonable application" of clearly established federal law only if it is demonstrated that the state court's application of Supreme Court precedent to the facts of the case was not only incorrect but "objectively unreasonable." E.g., Mitchell, 540 U.S. at 18; Davis v. Woodford, 384 F.3d 628, 638 (9th Cir. 2004).

         To the extent that the state court's factual findings are challenged, the "unreasonable determination of fact" clause of Section 2254(d)(2) controls on federal habeas review. E.g., Lambert v. Blodgett, 393 F.3d 943, 972 (9th Cir. 2004). This clause requires that the federal courts "must be particularly deferential" to state court factual determinations. Id. The governing standard is not satisfied by a showing merely that the state court finding was "clearly erroneous." 393 F.3d at 973. Rather, AEDPA requires substantially more deference:

. . . . [I]n concluding that a state-court finding is unsupported by substantial evidence in the state-court record, it is not enough that we would reverse in similar circumstances if this were an appeal from a district court decision. Rather, we must be convinced that an appellate panel, applying the normal standards of appellate review, could not reasonably conclude that the finding is supported by the record.

Taylor v. Maddox, 366 F.3d 992, 1000 (9th Cir. 2004); see also Lambert, 393 F.3d at 972.

         Under 28 U.S.C. § 2254(e)(1), state court factual findings are presumed to be correct unless rebutted by clear and convincing evidence.

         The petitioner bears the burden of proving by a preponderance of the evidence that he is entitled to habeas relief. Pinholster, 563 U.S. at 569.

         III. DISCUSSION

         A. Ground 1

         In Ground 1, petitioner alleges that he was denied rights to due process of law, freedom from self-incrimination, and a fair trial in violation of the Fifth, Sixth and Fourteenth Amendments when the trial court admitted into evidence statements made by petitioner to a law enforcement officer after he had invoked his right to remain silent.

         The Supreme Court of Nevada denied the claim presented to that court on the following basis:

Motion to suppress
Barnett moved to suppress his statements made to Detective Curtis Lampert before and after he was Mirandized because he alleges Detective Lampert did not honor his right to remain silent. The district court denied the motion because it found that Detective Lampert “scrupulously honored Barnett's right to remain silent when it was invoked.”
It is well established that both custody and interrogation must be present in order for a defendant to effectively invoke the Fifth Amendment rights protected by Miranda v. Arizona, 384 U.S. 436, 86 S.Ct. 1602, 16 L.Ed.2d 694 (1966). See McNeil v. Wisconsin, 501 U.S. 171, 182 n. 3, 111 S.Ct. 2204, 115 L.Ed.2d 158 (1991) (stating that the Supreme Court has “never held that a person can invoke his Miranda rights anticipatorily, in a context other than ‘custodial interrogation.'”). An interrogation invokes Miranda protections when it includes “‘express questioning [or] any words or actions on the part of the police . . . that the police should know are reasonably likely to elicit an incriminating response from the suspect.'” Archanian v. State, 122 Nev. 1019, 1038, 145 P.3d 1008, 1022 (2006) (quoting Rhode Island v. Innis, 446 U.S. 291, 301, 100 S.Ct. 1682, 64 L.Ed.2d 297 (1980)). An officer's request to search a defendant's home generally does not qualify as an interrogation as contemplated in Miranda because a consent to search is typically not testimonial. See United States v. Knope, 655 F.3d 647, 654 (7th Cir.2011); People v. Brewer, 81 Cal.App.4th 442, 96 Cal.Rptr.2d 786, 798 (Ct.App.2000).
Here, while at the police station, Detective Lampert initially informed Barnett that he did not have to talk to the police and that he was free to leave. Barnett said that he wanted to leave and did not want to talk. At this point, Barnett was not in custody, so his decision to remain silent was not yet Miranda protected. Detective Lampert left the room, returned a few minutes later, and informed Barnett that he was no longer free to leave. At this point, Barnett was now in custody, such that Miranda would have protected him had there been an interrogation. Detective Lampert then left again, returned approximately 20 minutes later, and simply asked Barnett for consent to search his apartment. Barnett gave his consent and Detective Lampert departed. Detective Lampert returned almost two hours later and read Barnett his Miranda rights. Thereafter, Barnett voluntarily made a number of incriminating statements.
Barnett's rights were not violated for two reasons: (1) Barnett's initial invocation of his right to remain silent occurred before Miranda circumstances even existed, and (2) Detective Lampert's request for consent to search Barnett's apartment did not violate Miranda. Detective Lampert properly Mirandized Barnett before he incriminated himself; therefore, the district court did not err when it denied Barnett's motion to suppress.

(ECF No. 14-36 at 3-4.)[1]

         Petitioner filed only a conclusory petition and a cursory one-page letter in lieu of a reply. Petitioner, who has the burden of proof on federal habeas review, has not identified therein how the state supreme court's decision was either contrary to or involved an unreasonable application of clearly established federal law as determined by the United States Supreme Court or was based on an unreasonable determination of the facts in light of the evidence presented at the state court proceeding.

         From this Court's independent review of the record, it appears that the factual statements made by the state supreme court in rejecting this claim constituted a reasonable determination of the facts in the light of the evidence presented in the state courts. The trial court admitted only those custodial statements made by Barnett after he was given Miranda warnings by Detective Lampert. (ECF No. 12-21 at 25.)[2] In his appeal argument, Barnett referred to circumstances occurring prior to that point as bearing on the question of whether these statements to Detective Lampert should have been suppressed. These circumstances covered the time period from when Barnett initially was placed in handcuffs while officers conducted their preliminary investigation at the scene through to the time that Detective Lampert interacted with Barnett at the station after Barnett initially had agreed to be transported to the station for a consensual interview. The state supreme court's factual recital as to the interaction specifically between Barnett and Detective Lampert is adequately supported by the state court record, with Lampert's testimony being corroborated by transcripts and contemporaneous videos of every interaction he had with Barnett except for one. (See, e.g., ECF No. 12-17 at 75-95; see also ECF No. 12-21 at 4-9 ...


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