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Milsap v. Beckstrom

United States District Court, Sixth Circuit

November 27, 2013

DONNELL MILSAP, Petitioner,
v.
GARY BECKSTROM, WARDEN, Respondent.

MEMORANDUM OPINION

CHARLES R. SIMPSON III, Senior District Judge.

This matter is before the Court on a petition for a writ of habeas corpus pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254 (DN 1) filed pro se by Petitioner Donnell Milsap ("Petitioner"). In accordance with 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(B), the Court referred the matter to United States Magistrate Judge James D. Moyer for proposed findings of facts and recommendations. In his Report and Recommendation (the "Report"), Judge Moyer recommends that the petition should be denied on the ground that Petitioner has failed to establish that his conviction resulted from a violation of the federal constitution or other federal law. For the reasons set forth below, the Court agrees with the Judge Moyer's Report and will therefore deny the petition.

BACKGROUND

On January 24, 2008, following a jury trial in Jefferson County Circuit Court, Petitioner was convicted of: 1) possession of a controlled substance in the first degree; and 2) persistent felony offender in the first degree. After waiving his right to sentencing by a jury, Petitioner was sentenced to serve a thirteen year term of imprisonment. On direct appeal, Petitioner argued that his conviction should be reversed because: 1) the trial court erred in denying his motion to suppress evidence; 2) the trial court erred in refusing to grant his motion for a directed verdict on the controlled substance charge on account of an alleged break in the chain of custody; and 3) the arresting officers failed to advise him of his Miranda rights prior to subjecting him to a custodial interrogation. Milsap v. Commonwealth, No. 2008-CA-000388-MR, 2009 WL 3321016 (Ky. Ct. App. October 16, 2009). On October 16, 2009, the Kentucky Court of Appeals rejected these arguments and affirmed Petitioner's conviction. Id. at 2-5.

On April 5, 2011, Petitioner filed the present petition for a writ of habeas corpus pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254, arguing that his conviction must be set aside on the basis of several alleged constitutional violations. Specifically, Petitioner's § 2254 petition asserts that: 1) illegally seized evidence was admitted against him at trial in violation of the exclusionary rule; 2) his Miranda rights were violated by the introduction of an unwarned statement made by him during the course of a custodial interrogation; and 3) the prosecution failed to establish a proper chain of custody for certain evidence admitted against him at trial. In accordance with 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(B), the Court referred the matter to United States Magistrate Judge James D. Moyer for proposed findings of facts and recommendations. In his Report and Recommendation (the "Report"), Judge Moyer recommends that the Court deny Petitioner's § 2254 petition on the ground that he has failed to establish that his conviction resulted from a violation of the federal constitutional violation or other federal law.

The Report first addresses Petitioner's claim that the trial court erred in denying his motion to suppress. According to Petitioner, certain evidence that was introduced at trial should have been suppressed because it was discovered during the course of a warrantless seizure unsupported by probable cause or reasonable suspicion. Ultimately, the Report concludes that this argument is not reviewable as part of Petitioner's habeas petitioner under the doctrine of Stone v. Powell, 428 U.S. 465 (1976). As stated in the Report,

any challenge to the state court's rulings that the officers acted with reasonable suspicion and conducted a valid, brief investigatory stop is not a reviewable Fourth Amendment claim in habeas proceedings under the doctrine of Stone v. Powell . This doctrine precludes habeas review of claims arising under the exclusionary rule when the state courts have given the matter full consideration. Withrow v. Williams, 507 U.S. 680, 686 (1993). Because the petitioner received thorough state review at trial and on appeal of the validity of the investigatory stop, the magistrate judge concludes the Stone v. Powell doctrine precludes federal habeas review of this Fourth Amendment claim.

(Report and Recommendation, DN 24, at 3-4). Accordingly, the Report recommends that the Court deny Petitioner's claim based on the alleged introduction of unlawfully obtained evidence.

The Report next addresses Petitioner's claim that his statement to arresting officers that he was carrying drugs and a knife in his pocket constituted an unwarned statement in violation of Miranda v. Arizona, 384 U.S. 436 (1966), and therefore should not have been introduced at trial. According to Petitioner, the arresting officers subjected him to a custodial interrogation by requesting that he dismount his bicycle and proceeding to ask him investigative questions. However, after reviewing the merits of Petitioner's claim, the Report concludes that the state appellate court did not unreasonably apply federal law in denying his claim on appeal. As the Report observes:

the state court concluded that the petitioner was not subjected to custodial interrogation when, during the initial moments of an investigatory stop, the petitioner stated that he had "dope" in his pockets. The state court found the "officers merely ordered [the petitioner] to get off his [bicycle] in an attempt to control the investigative stop by being on equal footing with him.... Even after [the petitioner] was ordered to dismount his bicycle, he was not placed into custody until after he had voluntarily disclosed the contents of his pocket which included "dope, " Viagra, and a knife."

(Report and Recommendation, DN 24, at 5). Based on these excerpts from the state court's decision, the Report concludes that "the state court's determination of the facts and application of Miranda 's in-custody requirement was both correct and reasonable in light of the evidence before it." Accordingly, the Report recommends that Petitioner's Miranda claim should be denied.

The Report last addresses Petitioner's claim that his federal due process rights were violated by the introduction of evidence for which Petitioner claims the prosecutor failed to establish a proper chain of custody. According to Petitioner, the prosecution failed to establish a proper chain of custody for three bags of cocaine because the arresting officers were allegedly confused about which officer ultimately stored the evidence in the property room. Because the failure to establish a proper chain of custody allegedly violated both state evidentiary rules and Petitioner's federal due process rights, Petitioner claims that the evidence should not have been admitted at trial. Ultimately, however, the Report concludes that this claim lacks merit because: 1) state evidentiary rules are irrelevant in a habeas petition given that "[i]n conducting habeas review, a federal court is limited to deciding whether a conviction violated the Constitution, laws, or treaties of the United States;" and 2) "admitting evidence based on the testimony of the officer who initiated the investigatory stop, questioned the petitioner, and seized the evidence... does not violate notions of fundamental fairness nor warrant habeas relief." (Report and Recommendation, DN 24, at 7). Accordingly, the Report recommends that Petitioner's due process claim should be denied.

Pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(C), Petitioner has raised several objections to the Report, with respect to which this Court must now make a de novo determination. For the reasons set forth below, the Court finds Petitioner's ...


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