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Qualls v. Smith

United States District Court, W.D. Kentucky, Louisville Division

July 23, 2018

TORIES DEWAYNE QUALLS PETITIONER
v.
AARON SMITH, Warden RESPONDENT

          MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

         This matter is before the Court on Petitioner's Objection to the Magistrate Judge's Findings of Fact, Conclusions of Law, and Recommendation (DN 19) regarding his Petition for a Writ of Habeas Corpus (DN 1). For the following reasons, the Court OVERRULES Petitioner's Objection (DN 19), ADOPTS the Magistrate Judge's Findings of Fact, Conclusions of Law, and Recommendation (DN 18), and DENIES the Petition for Habeas Relief (DN 1).

         I. BACKGROUND

         The facts of this case are discussed at length in the Magistrate Judge's Findings of Fact, Conclusions of Law, and Recommendation (“R. & R.”). For purposes of brevity, the Court will only set forth facts relevant to Petitioner's objections.

         A. Factual Background

         The Commonwealth of Kentucky charged Petitioner with the rape of E.J.-who was twelve years old at the time. (R. & R. 1-2, DN 18). Prior to trial, detectives subjected Petitioner to a recorded interview, during which “the detectives insinuated that if [Petitioner] would admit that he had engaged in consensual intercourse with [E.J.], he would receive a light sentence-possibly parole.” Qualls v. Commonwealth, No. 2009-CA-000957-MR, 2011 WL 5105150, at *1 (Ky. App. Oct. 28, 2011). Further, “[t]he detectives feigned a sympathetic attitude toward [Petitioner], suggesting that perhaps [E.J.] had ‘seduced' him.” Id. As a result, Petitioner confessed to having sex with E.J. (R. & R. 1-2). PETITIONER later retracted his confession, told the detectives that he had only digitally penetrated E.J., and submitted his case to a jury. (R. & R. 1-2). During trial, the Commonwealth played excerpts from the recorded interview, including Petitioner's confession. (R. & R. 10). The Commonwealth also presented circumstantial evidence of Petitioner's guilt, such as the fact that E.J. had the same sexually transmitted disease that one of Petitioner's sexual partners had been diagnosed with just weeks before the rape. (R. & R. 10). As part of his case-in-chief, Petitioner attempted to play the entire recorded interview or recite the omitted portions of the interview verbatim in order to cast doubt on the credibility of his confession.[1] (R. & R. 10). The trial judge, however, refused to permit Petitioner to produce the omitted portions of the interview, citing the rule against hearsay and Kentucky's rape shield law as bars to admissibility. (R. & R. 8-9). Nonetheless, the judge permitted Petitioner to explain to the jury that the detective pressured him to confess. See Qualls, 2011 WL 5105150, at *2.

         The jury ultimately found Petitioner guilty of first-degree rape. (R. & R. 1-2). He was sentenced to thirteen years' incarceration. (R. & R. 1-2).

         B. Procedural History

         Petitioner appealed his conviction. On direct appeal, Petitioner argued that the trial court deprived him of his Sixth and Fourteenth Amendment right to present a complete defense when it refused to permit him to play the entirety of the recorded interview to the jury so as to cast doubt on the credibility of his confession. (R. & R. 8). In support of his position, Petitioner cited Crane v. Kentucky, 476 U.S. 683 (1986)-a case in which the Supreme Court found that a state trial court committed constitutional error when it declined to allow a criminal defendant to challenge the credibility of his confession. (See Resp't's Ans. App., at Page ID# 13-15, DN 12-2). The Kentucky Court of Appeals, however, found that-unlike the defendant in Crane-Petitioner was permitted to challenge the credibility of his confession. See Qualls, 2011 WL 5105150, at *2. Specifically, the court noted that the trial record demonstrated that: (1) “the trial court asked [Petitioner] if there were portions of the recording that he would like to present to the jury that would clarify the confession”; (2) Petitioner “was allowed to explain to the jury that he felt pressured to confess because he believed that he was saying what the officers wanted to hear”; and (3) Petitioner “told the jury that he confessed because he felt threatened.” See Id. Accordingly, the Kentucky Court of Appeals rejected Petitioner's arguments and affirmed his conviction.

         Thereafter, Petitioner sought post-conviction relief pursuant to Kentucky Rule of Criminal Procedure 11.42. In his post-conviction motion, Petitioner raised a No. of arguments regarding the ineffectiveness of his trial and appellate counsel. (R. & R. 2). For instance, he asserted that trial counsel provided ineffective assistance when he failed to move to suppress the entire recorded interview. (R. & R. 2). As with his direct appeal, the Kentucky Court of Appeals rejected Petitioner's claims for post-conviction relief, concluding that he failed to show that counsels' failures prejudiced him at trial or on appeal. (R. & R. 2, 14-22).

         Once Petitioner exhausted his avenues for relief in state-court, he filed a petition for habeas corpus. In his petition, Petitioner claimed that he was entitled to habeas relief because the trial court deprived him of his Sixth and Fourteenth Amendment rights to present a complete defense when it refused to permit him to play the entirety of the recorded interview to the jury. (Pet. Writ Habeas Corpus 5, DN 1 [hereinafter Pet.]). He further asserted that trial counsel provided ineffective assistance when he failed to: (1) move to suppress the recorded interview, and (2) obtain “an expert witness and impeach Commonwealth's witness . . . .” (Pet. 8). He also claimed that appellate counsel provided ineffective assistance when he failed to argue that trial counsel's failure to move to suppress the interview constituted ineffective assistance. (Pet. 8).

         The Magistrate Judge reviewed Petitioner's habeas petition and found each of his grounds for relief meritless. In the R. & R., the Magistrate Judge found that the Kentucky Court of Appeals did not err in concluding that Petitioner was not deprived of his right to present a complete defense. (R. & R. 9-13). Specifically, the Magistrate Judge reasoned that the Kentucky Court of Appeals identified the Supreme Court precedent applicable to Petitioner's claim-Crane-and correctly applied the holding of that case. (R. & R. 9-13). In addition, the Magistrate Judge concluded that the Kentucky Court of Appeals did not err when it rejected Petitioner's ineffective assistance claims because Petitioner failed to present any evidence demonstrating how counsels' purported failures prejudiced him. (R. & R. 14-22). Accordingly, the Magistrate Judge recommended that this Court deny Petitioner's request for habeas relief.

         Petitioner has since filed three objections to the Magistrate Judge's recommendation. (See Pet'r's Obj. Magistrate Judge's R. & R., DN 19 [hereinafter Pet'r's Obj.]). Petitioner's objections are ripe for adjudication and are addressed below.

         II. JURISDICTION

         This Court has jurisdiction to review “an application for a writ of habeas corpus in behalf of a person in custody pursuant to the judgment of a State ...


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