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Overholt v. Green

United States District Court, W.D. Kentucky, Bowling Green Division

June 15, 2018

MERLIN D. OVERHOLT PETITIONER
v.
JAMES DAVID GREEN, Warden RESPONDENT

          MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

          GREG N. STIVERS, JUDGE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT

         This matter is before the Court on Petitioner's Objection (DN 14) to the Magistrate Judge's Findings of Fact, Conclusions of Law, and Recommendation (“R. & R.”) (DN 13). For the following reasons, the R. & R. is ADOPTED, and Petitioner's Objection is OVERRULED. Petitioner's Petition for Writ of Habeas Corpus (DN 1) is DISMISSED.

         I. BACKGROUND

         The facts and procedural history of Petitioner Merlin D. Overholt's (“Petitioner” or “Overholt”) claim are not in dispute. (See R. & R. 1-4, DN 14). The Supreme Court of Kentucky summarized the relevant facts as follows:

On the evening of January 29, 2008, the parents of a four-year-old child arrived at Overholt's home and confronted him with sexual abuse allegations that the child had made against him. Earlier that day, the child had been left in the care of Overholt and his wife, who ran an informal daycare in their home. After confronting Overholt, the parents took the child to the hospital for an examination, whereupon Kentucky State Police Trooper, Brad Bowles, was called to investigate the sexual abuse complaint. Upon learning that Overholt was the alleged perpetrator, Trooper Bowles went to Overholt's home. At Trooper Bowles' request, Overholt followed him to the Logan County Sheriff's office to discuss the complaint. Trooper Bowles interviewed Overholt for a little over an hour, during which time Overholt confessed to several instances of sexual abuse of various children who had been left in his and his wife's care. Consequently, a Logan County Grand Jury issued a 149-count indictment against Overholt. The charges, which stemmed from Overholt's confession to various acts involving ten different minors, included sodomy, sexual abuse, and unlawful transaction with a minor. When the trial court denied Overholt's motion to suppress his confession, he entered a conditional plea to [one count of first-degree sodomy and six counts of first-degree sexual abuse], reserving the right to appeal the trial court's suppression ruling.

Overholt v. Commonwealth, No. 2008-SC-000906-MR, 2010 WL 2471843, at *1 (Ky. June 17, 2010). The trial court sentenced Petitioner to 35 years for the sodomy offense and five years each for the sexual abuse offenses, to run concurrently for a total of 35 years' imprisonment. Id. Overholt then appealed the trial court's suppression ruling, arguing “that his interview with Trooper Bowles constituted a custodial interrogation and that his resulting confession must be suppressed” because he was not advised of his Miranda rights and was subjected to “coercive questioning by Trooper Bowles.” Id. at *1-3. The Supreme Court of Kentucky agreed with “the trial court's conclusion that Overholt was not in custody at the time of his confession[, ]” and upheld the trial court's denial of Petitioner's motion to suppress. Id. at *3. The opinion was issued on June 17, 2010; Petitioner did not file an application for state post-conviction relief under Ky. R. Crim. P. 11.42, or other collateral review.

         On November 16, 2017, Petitioner, through counsel, filed his Petition and supporting affidavit with this Court. (Petition Writ Habeas Corpus, DN 1 [hereinafter Petition]; Pet'r's Aff., DN 1-3). Petitioner's sole ground for relief is his claim that the Kentucky Supreme Court unreasonably applied clearly established federal law in its finding that he was not in custody during the interrogation. (Pet. 6; Mem. Supp. Pet. Writ Habeas Corpus 8-14 [hereinafter Pet'r's Mem.]). Petitioner avers that his petition is timely under 28 U.S.C. § 2244(d)(1)(D) “because he is filing the instant petition within one year after Overholt discovered his federal claim” in June 2017. (Pet'r's Mem. 1; Pet'r's Aff. 1-2). In the alternative, Petitioner argues that equitable tolling should apply to allow his claim, and his claims must be addressed to prevent manifest injustice. (Pet. 13-14; Pet'r's Mem. 1, 14-21).

         II. JURISDICTION

         This Court has jurisdiction to “entertain an application for a writ of habeas corpus on behalf of a person in custody pursuant to the judgment of a State court” pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254(a).

         III. STANDARD OF REVIEW

         The Anti-Terrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act, Pub. L. No. 104-132, 110 Stat. 1214 (1996) (“AEDPA”), applies to all habeas corpus petitions filed after April 24, 1996, and requires “heightened respect” for legal and factual determinations made by state courts. See Herbert v. Billy, 160 F.3d 1131, 1134 (6th Cir. 1998). Section 2254(d), as amended by AEDPA, provides:

An application for a writ of habeas corpus on behalf of a person in custody pursuant to the judgment of a State court shall not be granted with respect to any claim that was adjudicated on the merits in State court proceedings unless the adjudication of the 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 ...

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