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Stanfill v. Bottom

United States District Court, W.D. Kentucky, Paducah

November 26, 2018




         This matter is before the Court on Petitioner Charles Stanfill's Petition for Writ of Habeas Corpus pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254, [R. 1]. The Magistrate Judge filed a Findings of Fact and Conclusions of Law and Recommendation. [R. 19.] Stanfill filed objections thereto. [R. 21.] Having conducted a de novo review of the portions of the Magistrate Judge's report to which Stanfill objected, [1] the Court ADOPTS the Findings of Fact and Conclusions of Law as set forth in the report submitted by the Magistrate Judge, [R. 19]. For the reasons stated herein, England's objections, [R. 21], are DENIED. The Court will enter a separate Order and Judgment consistent with this Memorandum Opinion.


         Petitioner Charles Stanfill was indicted in September of 2007 for manufacturing methamphetamine, possession of anhydrous ammonia in an unapproved container with intent to manufacture methamphetamine, possession of drug paraphernalia, and possession of a controlled substance in the first degree. [R. 21 at 2 (Stanfill Objection).] Stanfill recalls that on December 10, 2007, he appeared before the trial court with several complaints about his appointed attorney, Bryan Ernstberger. [R. 1 at 4 (Petition).] Allegedly, Stanfill stated that he did not wish to represent himself, but the court dismissed Ernstberger without appointing new counsel. [Id.] Stanfill states that Ernstberger was reappointed as counsel when he appeared before the court on January 14, 2008. [Id.] However, Stanfill claims that when he explained that he did not wish to have Mr. Ernstberger as his counsel, the court once again dismissed Ernstberger and required Stanfill to represent himself pro se. [Id. at 5.] Stanfill states that Ernstberger began representing him again on May 2, 2008, and on May 20, 2008, the date of trial, Ernstberger made a “hybrid representation motion so Stanfill could give his own opening statement.” [Id.] This motion was granted. [Id.]

         After a Calloway County Circuit Court jury convicted Stanfill of possession of anhydrous ammonia with intent to manufacture methamphetamine, manufacture of methamphetamine, and use of drug paraphernalia, Stanfill appealed the conviction to the Kentucky Court of Appeals. [R. 19 at 1 (Magistrate Recommendation).] The Kentucky Court of Appeals affirmed, and Stanfill then filed a motion to alter, amend or vacate conviction and sentence pursuant to Kentucky Rule of Criminal Procedure (RCr) 11.42. [Id. (citing Stanfill v. Commonwealth, No. 2008-CA-001718-MR, 2010 WL 1253223 (Ky. App. April 2, 2010)).] The trial court denied the motion and the Kentucky Court of Appeals remanded for further proceedings and later affirmed. See Stanfill v. Commonwealth, No. 2013-CA-000721-MR, 2015 WL 1778065, at n.1 (Ky. App. April 17, 2015); Stanfill v. Commonwealth, 515 S.W.3d 193, 199 (Ky. App. 2016).

         Subsequently, Stanfill filed a Petition for a Writ of Habeas Corpus. [R. 1.] Thereafter, the Magistrate Judge issued a Findings, Conclusions, and Recommendation, which recommended denying the petition and denying a certificate of appealability. [R. 19.]


         “Under the 1996 Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act (AEDPA), 28 U.S.C. § 2254(d), federal habeas relief may not be granted unless the state court decision at issue: (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.” Coleman v. Bergh, 804 F.3d 816, 819 n. 1 (6th Cir. 2015).

         However, “[p]rocedural default is a threshold rule that a court generally considers before reviewing the applicable law and available remedies in a habeas petition. The procedural default rule is related to the statutory requirement that a habeas petitioner must exhaust any available state-court remedies before bringing a federal petition. Both rules have the purpose of allowing state courts the opportunity to address federal constitutional claims ‘in the first instance' before the claims are raised in federal habeas proceedings.” Lovins v. Parker, 712 F.3d 283, 294 (6th Cir. 2013) (internal citations omitted). A federal claim brought by a state prisoner in a habeas action may become procedurally defaulted in state court in two different ways. See Williams v. Anderson, 460 F.3d 789, 806 (6th Cir. 2006). A prisoner first may procedurally default a given claim by failing to comply with an established state procedural rule when presenting his claim at trial or on appeal in the state courts. Id.; Wainwright v. Sykes, 433 U.S. 72, 87 (1977). Additionally, procedural default can occur when a petitioner completely “fail[s] to raise a claim in state court, and pursue that claim through the state's ordinary appellate review procedures.” Carter v. Mitchell, 693 F.3d 555, 563 (6th Cir. 2012) (quoting Williams, 460 F.3d at 806; O'Sullivan v. Boerckel, 526 U.S. 838, 848 (1999)). “When a state prisoner ‘procedurally defaults' a claim for habeas relief, meaning the prisoner lost the claim in state court by failing to raise it at the correct time, we defer to the state's procedural ruling and refuse to consider the claim on the merits.” Peoples v. Lafler, 734 F.3d 503, 510 (6th Cir. 2013) (citing Wainwright, 433 U.S. at 86-87).


         In the Findings, Conclusions, and Recommendation, the Magistrate Judge recommended that the Court deny Stanfill's petition. [R. 19 at 2.] Stanfill filed an Objection, in which he argued against the Magistrate Judge's findings for several different reasons. [See generally R. 21.] The Court will address the Magistrate Judge's findings and Stanfill's objections in turn.

         A. Trial Error/Faretta Claim

         In the Petition for a Writ of Habeas Corpus, Stanfill argued that his Sixth Amendment rights were violated when he was denied counsel at a critical stage in the proceedings without a Faretta hearing. [R. 1 at 19.] The Magistrate Judge held that this claim is procedurally defaulted because the Kentucky Court of Appeals held, as a matter of state procedural law, that Stanfill failed to present this claim upon direct appeal. [R. 19 at 4.] In his Objection, Stanfill appears to agree, stating: “This pretrial record of denial of counsel is undoubtedly a trial error, and that it should have been raised on direct appeal is beyond contention.” [R. 21 at 9.] Following this statement, Stanfill solely argues against the Magistrate Judge's findings as they related to his claim of ineffective assistance of counsel. Therefore, as the parties appear to agree that it is “beyond ...

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