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Prewitt v. Reiser

United States District Court, D. Minnesota

October 20, 2014

FREDDIE JAMES PREWITT, Petitioner,
v.
BRUCE REISER, Warden, D.O.C. Minnesota, Respondent.

Freddie James Prewitt, MCF-Faribault, Faribault, MN, pro se.

Jean E. Burdorf, Assistant Hennepin County Attorney, HENNEPIN COUNTY ATTORNEY'S OFFICE, Minneapolis, MN, for respondent.

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

JOHN R. TUNHEIM, District Judge.

On October 18, 2013, Freddie James Prewitt, a prisoner of the State of Minnesota, filed a petition for a writ of habeas corpus pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254, alleging that his state conviction for third-degree criminal sexual conduct was in violation of his federal constitutional rights. This matter is before the Court on Prewitt's appeal from orders issued by United States Magistrate Judge Leo I. Brisbois denying his motions for appointment of counsel, leave to amend his petition, and leave to supplement the record. Prewitt has also filed objections to a Report and Recommendation ("R&R") issued by the Magistrate Judge recommending that the Court dismiss Prewitt's petition with prejudice. Because the Magistrate Judge's orders are neither clearly erroneous nor contrary to law, the Court will overrule Prewitt's objections and affirm those orders. With respect to Prewitt's habeas petition, the Court concludes that the petition fails to allege a basis for habeas relief, and the Court will therefore overrule Prewitt's objections and adopt the R&R in its entirety, dismissing Prewitt's habeas petition with prejudice.

BACKGROUND

I. UNDERLYING CONVICTION AND APPEAL

The State of Minnesota charged Prewitt with third-degree criminal sexual conduct for having sex with a helpless victim in violation of Minn. Stat. § 609.344, subd. 1(d), in connection with a May 2011 incident when Prewitt allegedly had vaginal and anal sex with a woman who was unconscious as a resulting of taking heroin. State v. Prewitt, No. A12-1456, 2013 WL 3491078, at *1 (Minn.Ct.App. July 15, 2013). On April 9, 2012, a jury found Prewitt guilty of this crime, and Prewitt was sentenced to 153 months imprisonment. (Pet. for Writ of Habeas Corpus ("Pet.") at 1, Oct. 18, 2013, Docket No. 1.); see also Prewitt, 2013 WL 3491078 at *1.

Prewitt appealed his conviction and the Minnesota Court of Appeals affirmed. Prewitt, 2013 WL 3491078 at *1. On appeal, Prewitt raised three primary grounds for reversal; each was rejected by the court. First, Prewitt argued that the trial court had erred in allowing him to proceed to trial pro se, because he had not knowingly waived his right to counsel. Id. at *4. The court found, however, that Prewitt's waiver of his right to counsel was valid because Prewitt had chosen to proceed pro se even after the trial court had outlined the elements of Prewitt's offense, told him the presumptive sentence, discussed defense-strategy options with Prewitt, and "repeatedly warned Prewitt about the dangers of proceeding pro se, emphasizing that he would be held to the same standards as an attorney and highlighting the difficulties of challenging certain evidence without expert legal and scientific assistance." Id. at *5. Second, Prewitt argued that the prosecutor committed misconduct in her closing argument when she told the jury that the victim had been forced "to face her rapist' in trial, " and thereby suggested that the jury should punish Prewitt for exercising his right to go to trial. Id. at *5-6. Applying a plain error standard of review because Prewitt had failed to object to these comments at trial, the court concluded that the prosecutor's statements were properly made in the context of demonstrating the credibility of the victim's testimony. Id. at *6. Third, "Prewitt assert[ed] that the district court departed from its constitutionally required impartiality by giving him legal advice, threatening to hold him in contempt, and questioning a witness." Id. at *6. Although the court found that the trial court had exceeded its role as a neutral arbiter when it questioned one of the state's witnesses "effectively helping a witness for the state to clarify her testimony in a manner that ordinarily would be left for the prosecutor to do, " it concluded that this did not constitute clear error, and therefore reversal was not warranted. Id. at *7-8. Finally, the court reviewed "a host of additional evidentiary issues" raised in Prewitt's pro se brief, and concluded "that none of them warrants detailed discussion or supports reversal." Id. at *8. After his conviction was affirmed, Prewitt filed a petition for review, which the Minnesota Supreme Court denied. (Pet. at 2.)

II. HABEAS PETITION

On October 18, 2013, Prewitt filed a petition for a writ of habeas corpus. In his petition Prewitt raised ten grounds for relief: (1) failure to obtain a valid wavier of Prewitt's right to counsel; (2) prosecutorial misconduct in closing arguments; (3) deprivation of his constitutional right to an impartial trial judge; (4a) failure to appoint advisory counsel; (4b) failure to provide discovery; (4c) admission of inadmissible hearsay; (4d) insufficiency of the evidence; (4e) deletions from the official trial transcript; (4f) improper charge to the jury; and (4g) failure to provide a jury of his peers. (Pet. at 5-10.)

III. MOTION FOR APPOINTMENT OF COUNSEL

On the same day that he filed his habeas petition, Prewitt filed a motion to appoint counsel. (Mot. to Appoint Counsel, Oct. 18, 2013, Docket No. 3.) The Magistrate Judge denied the motion, finding "that neither the facts nor the legal issues raised in the petition are so complex as to warrant appointment of counsel, " and that "it appears that [Prewitt] has the threshold ability to articulate his claims, to argue his positions, and to communicate effectively with the Court." (Order at 2, Oct. 21, 2013, Docket No. 5.)

Prewitt then filed a motion for reconsideration asking the Magistrate Judge to reconsider his denial of Prewitt's motion because Prewitt reads at a sixth-grade level and "suffers major depression and bipolar disorder." (Mot. for Reconsideration at 1, Nov. 5, 2013, Docket No. 7; see also Exhibit at 1, Nov. 5, 2013, Docket No. 8; Notice for Aff. of Facts, Nov. 5, 2013, Docket No. 9.) The Magistrate Judge denied this motion, noting that the proper way to seek review of the denial of the motion to appoint counsel was "by seeking review by the District Court." (Order at 2, Dec. 6, 2013, Docket No. 17.) The Magistrate Judge further noted that the documentation of Prewitt's "low educational achievement" did not demonstrate that Prewitt would be unable "to articulate his claims, to argue his positions, and to communicate effectively with the Court, " and therefore did not warrant the appointment of counsel. ( Id. at 3.) Prewitt filed two appeals to this Court from this order, as well as an affidavit of facts, arguing that the Court should appoint counsel. (Appeal, Dec. 18, 2013, Docket No. 24; Appeal, Jan. 13, 2014, Docket No. 28; Aff. of Facts Regarding Pending Appeal, July 11, 2014, Docket No. 38.)[1]

IV. MOTION TO AMEND AND SUPPLEMENT RECORD

On January 13, 2014, Prewitt brought a motion to amend his habeas petition, (Mot. to Amend, Jan. 13, 2014, Docket No. 27), and also brought a motion which requested, among other relief, the right to supplement the record (Appeal, Jan. 13, 2014, Docket No. 28). The Magistrate Judge construed Prewitt's motion to amend as "seeking to supplement his Reply memorandum with material relating to his objections at trial to the use of out-of-court statements, " and allowed him to supplement the record with the portions of the transcript identified in the motion. (Order at 3, Feb. 4, 2014, Docket No. 29 (emphasis omitted).) The Magistrate Judge also granted Prewitt's motion to supplement the record, allowing him to supplement his argument with regard to his claim regarding waiver of the right to counsel at trial. ( Id. at 3-4.)

Thereafter, Prewitt filed another motion to amend his petition, (Am. Pet., Feb. 11, 2014, Docket No. 30), and another motion to supplement his reply and the record, (Aff. of Freddie James Prewitt-Bey, Feb. 14, 2014, Docket No. 31). The Magistrate Judge denied both of these motions. (Order, Feb. 19, 2014, Docket No. 32.) The Magistrate Judge denied the motion to amend on both procedural and substantive grounds. ( Id. at 6.) First, the Magistrate Judge concluded that Prewitt's filing failed to comply with the Local Rules in that he had not provided the Court with an explanation of how his amended pleading differed from his original petition. ( Id. at 6-7.) The Court also concluded that amendment would be futile, would prejudice the state, and would cause undue delay. ( Id. at 7-11.) Specifically, the Magistrate Judge noted that Prewitt's motion to amend appeared to add "one entirely new theory for granting habeas relief that was not asserted in his original habeas petition: that the state statute that he was charge[d] with was unconstitutional'" and also reasserted some of the claims already made in the original petition. ( Id. at 7 (alteration in original) (quoting Am. Pet. at 1, Feb. 11, 2014, Docket No. 30).) The Magistrate Judge explained that amendment to include the new claim would be futile because it was a claim that had not been exhausted in Minnesota state courts and therefore was procedurally defaulted. ( Id. at 8-9.) The Magistrate Judge also concluded that amendment would cause undue delay and prejudice the state, as the merits of Prewitt's habeas petition had already been fully briefed by the state. ( Id. at 10-11.)

With respect to the second motion to supplement the reply and the record, the Magistrate Judge concluded that Prewitt was merely attempting, again, to supplement the record in support of his existing arguments, had already "been given multiple opportunities to present to the Court his arguments and an evidentiary record to support his arguments, " and had offered "no explanation as to why the Court should consider accepting these late materials, which were filed approximately two months after he filed his Reply." ( Id. at 12-13 (emphasis in original).) Accordingly, the Magistrate Judge denied the motion. ( Id. at 13.) Prewitt filed an appeal from this Order. (Aff. of Facts, Mar. 31, 2014, Docket No. 35.)

V. R&R

On February 19, 2014, the Magistrate Judge issued an R&R recommending that the Court deny a request for discovery that Prewitt had raised in his reply to the state's response to his petition and dismiss Prewitt's ...


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