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Champs v. Roy

United States District Court, D. Minnesota

January 27, 2015

Marcus Champs, Petitioner,
v.
Tom Roy, Minnesota Department of Corrections Commissioner, Respondent.

REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION

LEO I. BRISBOIS, Magistrate Judge.

This matter comes before the undersigned United States Magistrate Judge upon Petitioner Marcus Champs' Petition for a writ of habeas corpus pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254, [Docket No. 1]. This case has been referred to the undersigned Magistrate Judge for report and recommendation pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636 and Local Rule 72.1.

For reasons discussed herein, the Court recommends that the Petition for writ of habeas corpus, [Docket No. 1], be DENIED and this action be DISMISSED with prejudice.

I. BACKGROUND AND STATEMENT OF FACTS

On or about October 7, 2013, Petitioner Marcus Champs ("Petitioner"), a state prison inmate, filed a timely pro se Petition for a writ of habeas corpus with the Court challenging his Minnesota state court conviction for second degree murder. (Petition [Docket No. 1]).[1]

In the relevant underlying state court proceedings, Petitioner was charged with both first degree murder, in violation of Minn. Stat. § 609.185, and second degree murder, in violation of Minn. Stat. § 609.19. State v. Champs, No. A08-1140, 2010 WL 606192, at *1 (Minn.App. Feb. 23, 2010). Because Petitioner was then seventeen years old, the trial court, the District Court of Hennepin County in the Fourth District of the State of Minnesota, had original exclusive jurisdiction over the proceedings pursuant to Minn. Stat. §§ 260B.007, Sub. 6(b), and 260B.101, Subd. 2 (2004) (the "automatic certification statute").[2] A jury acquitted Petitioner of first degree murder but found Petitioner guilty of second degree murder. Id . The trial court ultimately sentenced Petitioner to 325 months of incarceration on the conviction for second degree murder. Id . Petitioner filed a post-conviction motion for a new trial that the trial court denied. Id.

On direct appeal, Petitioner, represented by counsel, challenged: (a) the constitutionality of the Minnesota automatic certification statute; (b) the district court's grant of the state's challenge for cause to two prospective jurors; (c) the district court's determination that Petitioner had failed to make a prima facie showing of racial discrimination as part of his Batson challenge to the state's peremptory strike of an African American prospective juror; (d) the district court's decision to submit to the jury the determination of whether one of the state's witnesses had been an accomplice rather than instructing the jury that the witness had been an accomplice; (e) the fairness of the trial due to alleged prosecutorial misconduct in misstating the burden of proof; and (f) the district court's denial without a hearing of Petitioner's post-conviction motion for a new trial. Id.

The Minnesota Court of Appeals concluded that: (a) Petitioner had waived his challenge to the constitutionality of Minnesota's automatic certification statute by failing to raise the issue at trial, Id. at 2; (b) the district court's grant of the state's challenges to the prospective jurors had been proper, Id. at 4; (c) the district court had not clearly erred in finding that Petitioner had failed to make a prima facie showing of racial discrimination in his Batson challenge, Id. at 4-5; (d) that the district court had not abused its discretion in submitting the issue to the jury of whether or not one of the testifying witness had been an accomplice, Id. at 6; (e) that the prosecutor's statements regarding the burden of proof had not been misconduct under Minnesota case law, Id. at 7-8; and, (f) the trial court had not abused its discretion in denying the motion for a new trial. Id. at 10. On February 23, 2010, the Minnesota Court of Appeals affirmed Petitioner's conviction. Id. at 10.

Petitioner next sought relief by petitioning the Minnesota Supreme Court to exercise discretionary review of the February 23, 2010, Minnesota Court of Appeals' decision, raising as issues the constitutionality of the Minnesota automatic certification statute, the district court's grant of the state's for cause challenge to two prospective jurors, and the sufficiency of Petitioner's showing of a prima facie case of racial discrimination as part of his Batson challenge. (Petition [Docket No. 1], 2). The Minnesota Supreme Court denied the petition for discretionary review on March 18, 2011. Id.

Petitioner thereafter filed a petition for post-conviction relief in the state district trial court. Id . As grounds for relief, Petitioner asserted that his trial counsel had provided ineffective assistance by failing to: 1) challenge the constitutionality of the Minnesota automatic certification statute; 2) object to the district court's submission of an accomplice liability instruction to the jury at trial; and, 3) object to improper remarks made by the prosecutor during closing arguments. Champs v. State, No. A11-2110, 2012 WL 2874027 * 2 (Minn.App. July 16, 2012). Petitioner also asserted that his appellate counsel had been ineffective by failing to: 1) cite federal constitutional law in support of his prosecutorial misconduct claim on direct appeal; 2) raise the issue of prosecutorial misconduct in Petitioner's petition for discretionary review to the Minnesota Supreme Court; 3) challenge the district court's ruling regarding the admissibility of autopsy photographs on direct appeal; and, 4) challenge the constitutionality of the automatic certification statute in his motion for a new trial. Id. at 3. The district court summarily denied Petitioner's petition for post-conviction relief. Id. at 1.

Petitioner appealed the denial of his petition for post-conviction relief, in the process raising an additional claim that his appellate counsel had been ineffective by failing to raise a claim of ineffective assistance of trial counsel regarding the accomplice-liability jury instruction. Id. at 1, 3. The Minnesota Court of Appeals concluded that Petitioner could not raise that issue for the first time on appeal from denial of his petition for post-conviction relief. Id . The Court of Appeals also held that Petitioner had procedurally defaulted his claims of ineffective assistance of trial counsel, reasoning that, under State v. Knaffla, 243 N.W.2d 737 (Minn. 1976), and Leake v. State, 737 N.W. 531, 535 (Minn. 2007), Petitioner had been required to bring his claims of ineffective assistance of trial counsel in his original direct appeal. Champs, 2012 WL 2874027 *1-2. In addition, the Court of Appeals affirmed the district court's denial of Petitioner's claims of ineffective assistance of appellate counsel, reasoning: 1) Petitioner had failed to show that the result of his direct appeal would have been different had his appellate counsel argued federal constitutional law, Id. at 4; 2) not raising the issue of prosecutorial misconduct in the petition for Supreme Court discretionary review had been a reasonable strategic decision by Petitioner's appellate counsel, Id .; 3) Petitioner had asserted only a legal conclusion unsupported by specific facts regarding the alleged failure to challenge the district court's ruling on the admissibility of autopsy photos, Id. at 5; and, 4) Petitioner's appellate counsel had not provided ineffective assistance by not challenging the automatic certification statute, which had already been previously held constitutional by the Minnesota Supreme Court. Id. at 3-4. Ultimately, the Minnesota Court of Appeals affirmed the district court's summary denial of Petitioner's petition for post-conviction relief. Id. at 5.

Petitioner lastly filed a petition to the Minnesota Supreme Court for discretionary review of the Minnesota Court of Appeals' decision affirming the denial of post-conviction relief. (Petition [Docket No. 1]). The Minnesota Supreme Court denied the petition for discretionary review on October 16, 2012. ( Id., Attachment 1).

Petitioner filed the present Petition for writ of habeas corpus on October 7, 2013. (Petition [Docket No. 1]), and it was transferred to this Court on April 7, 2014. [Docket No. 14].

III. PETITIONER CHAMPS' PETITION FOR WRIT OF HABEAS CORPUS, [DOCKET NO. 1]

Petitioner currently alleges five (5) claims, including: (1) ineffective assistance of trial counsel for failing to challenge the constitutionality of the Minnesota automatic certification statute; (2) ineffective assistance of trial counsel for failing to object to the district court's accomplice liability jury instructions; (3) ineffective assistance of appellate counsel for failing to challenge the district court's admission of autopsy photographs; (4) ineffective assistance of appellate counsel for failing to raise a claim of prosecutorial misconduct in Petitioner's petition to the Minnesota Supreme Court for review of the February 23, 2010, decision of the Minnesota Court of Appeals; ...


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