United States District Court, D. Minnesota
Joel Marvin Munt, MCF Oak Park Heights, Osgood Ave. N., Stillwater, MN, pro se.
Patrick Raymond McDermott and Susan B. DeVos, Blue Earth County Attorney's Office, Mankato, MN and Matthew Frank and James B. Early, Minnesota Attorney General's Office, Minnesota Street, St. Paul, MN, on behalf of Respondent.
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
SUSAN RICHARD NELSON, District Judge.
This matter is before the undersigned United States District Judge for consideration of Petitioner Joel Marvin Munt's Objections [Doc. No. 28] to United States Magistrate Judge Steven E. Rau's November 4, 2014, Report and Recommendation ("R & R") [Doc. No. 24]. The Magistrate Judge recommended that Petitioner's Amended Petition Under 28 U.S.C. § 2254 for Writ of Habeas Corpus by a Person in State Custody [Doc. No. 11] be denied, the action be dismissed with prejudice, and a Certificate of Appealability not be granted. For the reasons set forth below, the Court adopts nearly all of the Magistrate Judge's recommendations in the R & R, with the exception of his denial of a Certificate of Appealability as to Petitioner's Sixth Amendment claim for the right to an impartial jury, to the extent that the claim relates to the state trial court's failure to remove juror B.S. Petitioner's objections are, therefore, overruled except as to the limited issue of the Certificate of Appealability as set forth below.
The factual and procedural background of Petitioner's case is well documented in the Magistrate Judge's R & R and is incorporated herein by reference. It was also summarized succinctly by the Minnesota Supreme Court:
[Petitioner] was indicted by a Blue Earth County grand jury of four counts of first-degree murder, one count of second-degree murder, two counts of firstdegree aggravated robbery, three counts of second-degree assault, three counts of kidnapping, and three counts of criminal vehicular operation causing injury, arising out of the shooting death of his ex-wife Svetlana and the kidnapping of their three children. Because [Petitioner] pleaded not guilty and not guilty by reason of mental illness, the district court bifurcated the trial. The jury found [Petitioner] guilty of all counts and rejected his notguilty-by-reason-of-mental-illness defense. On direct appeal, [Petitioner] argue[d] that the district court erred by: (1) declining to remove a prospective juror for cause; (2) making allegedly improper comments to the jury; (3) denying his request to testify on surrebuttal; (4) determining that his 9year-old daughter was incompetent to testify; and (5) failing to inquire into the nature of his pretrial complaints about counsel appointed to represent him. [Petitioner] also raise[d] various pro se claims....
Minnesota v. Munt, 831 N.W.2d 569, 574 (Minn. 2013). The pro se claims included prosecutorial misconduct, violation of the right to an impartial jury, and ineffective assistance of counsel, among others. See id. at 587-88. The Minnesota Supreme Court rejected Petitioner's arguments and affirmed his conviction. See id. at 574.
On March 13, 2014, Petitioner filed his Amended Petition Under 28 U.S.C. § 2254 for Writ of Habeas Corpus by a Person in State Custody [Doc. No. 11]) ("Amended Habeas Petition"), along with a supporting memorandum [Doc. No. 12], in this Court. The Amended Habeas Petition includes four grounds for relief: (1) Petitioner's right to trial by an impartial jury was violated; (2) Petitioner was denied a fair trial because of prosecutorial misconduct; (3) there was insufficient evidence to support Petitioner's conviction for premeditated murder; and (4) Petitioner received ineffective assistance of counsel during his trial. (Am. Pet. Under 28 U.S.C. § 2254 for Writ of Habeas Corpus by a Person in State Custody [Doc. No. 11] ("Am. Pet.") at 8-11.) Respondent filed an Answer [Doc. No. 14], a memorandum [Doc. No. 15], and an appendix [Doc. No. 16] on June 18, 2014, opposing the Amended Habeas Petition. Petitioner's reply [Doc. No. 20] was filed on July 14.
On November 4, the Magistrate Judge issued his R & R, recommending that Petitioner's Amended Habeas Petition be denied, the action be dismissed with prejudice, and a Certificate of Appealability not be granted. (R & R [Doc. No. 24] at 19.) Petitioner's Objections were filed on November 20. He objects to the Magistrate Judge's conclusion on each ground for relief and requests a Certificate of Appealability. Respondent neither objected to the R & R nor responded to Petitioner's objections.
The district court reviews de novo those portions of the R & R to which a specific objection is made and "may accept, reject, or modify, in whole or in part, the findings or recommendations made by the magistrate judge." 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(C); accord D. Minn. LR 72.2(b). As for Petitioner's underlying claims, the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act ("AEDPA"), 28 U.S.C. § 2254(d), describes the standard for granting writs of habeas corpus made by persons in state custody:
(d) 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 ...