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Kindred v. Titus

United States District Court, D. Minnesota

December 27, 2017

Jacoby Kindred, Petitioner,
Jeff Titus, Warden - MCF Rush City, Respondent.

          Jacoby Kindred, pro se

          Matthew Frank, James B. Early, Peter R. Marker, for Respondent Jeff Titus



         Jacoby Kindred filed a petition for a writ of habeas corpus pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254 challenging a judgment entered against him in Minnesota state court. (Pet. Writ Habeas Corpus [Doc. No. 1].) Respondent Jeff Titus moved to dismiss the petition, asserting that Kindred's claims are procedurally defaulted because they were not fairly presented to each level of the state courts and no state court remedy remains. (Resp't's Mem. Supp. Mot. Dismiss [Doc. No. 7].) For the reasons set forth below, the Court recommends that the motion to dismiss be granted and the petition for a writ of habeas corpus be denied.

         I. Background

         On December 11, 2013, Kindred was charged with two counts of first-degree criminal sexual conduct under Minn. Stat. § 609.342, subd. 1(h)(iii). State v. Kindred, No. A14-2212, 2016 WL 22239, at *2 (Minn.Ct.App. Jan. 4, 2016). The charges alleged that Kindred engaged in numerous sexual acts with the daughters of his son's girlfriend. (Resp't's App. to Mem. Supp. at 9 [Doc. No. 8-1].) Both girls were minors. (Id.) From a young age, the victims regularly spent time with Kindred; he would babysit them while their mother was working and they occasionally stayed overnight at his house. (Id.) Further, the victims referred to Kindred as “Grandpa” even though he was not related to the children by blood, marriage or adoption. (Id.) At trial, the victims testified regarding the various sexual acts that Kindred had subjected them to over the course of the past decade as well as the circumstances under which the acts took place. (Id. at 9-11.) The State also played a video for the jurors of an interview of one of the victims conducted by a nurse at the Midwest Children's Resource Center describing in detail the sexual conduct that took place with Kindred. (Id. at 11.) Near the end of the trial and at the jurors' request, the court allowed the State to replay the video of the victim interview. (Id.) Based on victim testimony, the video of the interview, and other evidence presented at trial, the Ramsey County jury convicted Kindred of both counts first-degree criminal sexual conduct. (Id. at 5.) The court later sentenced him to a 24-year prison term which he is currently serving at the Rush City Correction Facility where Jeff Titus serves as warden. (Id. at 4; see also Resp't's Mem. Supp. Mot. Dismiss [Doc. No. 7].)

         Kindred directly appealed and argued, inter alia, that the State failed to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that he had a “significant relationship” to the victims, i.e. that he was related to or resided in the same dwelling as them. State v. Kindred, No. A14-2212, 2016 WL 22239, at *1 (Minn.Ct.App. Jan. 4, 2016). A sexual assailant who victimizes a child with whom he has a “significant relationship” in the manner described by the statute is guilty of the most serious category of sex crime and subject to the steepest penalties. Minn. Stat. § 609.342, subd. 1(h)(iii).[1] A “significant relationship” exists if the accused is related to or “jointly resides intermittently or regularly in the same dwelling” as the victimized child.” Minn. Stat. § 609.341, subd. 15.[2] Arguing before the Minnesota Court of Appeals, Kindred asserted the State was unable to show he had a significant relationship to the victims because it failed to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that he resided with them. Kindred, 2016 WL 22239, at *2. In particular, Kindred asserted the State was only able to show the victims “sometimes” stayed over at his house which, Kindred argued, was insufficient to show that the victims “reside[d] intermittently or regularly in the same dwelling” as required by the statute. Id. The Minnesota Court of Appeals disagreed and upheld the conviction. In particular, the Minnesota Court of Appeals noted that state court precedent treats discontinuous overnight stays as sufficient to meet the “resided with” requirement for a finding of a significant relationship. Id. at *3-6. Kindred appealed to the Minnesota Supreme Court, and the Court declined to review on March 15, 2016. (Resp't's Mem. Supp. Mot. Dismiss at 7 [Doc. No. 7].)

         By this petition, Kindred seeks federal habeas corpus relief pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254. (Pet. at 1.) Under that provision of the federal habeas statutes, the district court “shall entertain an application for a writ of habeas corpus in behalf of a person in custody pursuant to the judgment of a State court only on the ground that he is in custody in violation of the Constitution or laws or treaties of the United States.” 28 U.S.C. § 2254. Kindred asserts four grounds for relief.[3] In Grounds One and Two, Kindred argues that his constitutional right to due process was violated because the State failed to show he had a significant relationship with the victims, which is an essential element for conviction under Minn. Stat. § 609.342, subd. 2. (Pet. at 6-8.) In Ground Three, Kindred argues the trial court violated his right to due process when it replayed the video of a victim's interview with the Midwest Children's Resource Center. (Pet. at 9-10.) In Ground Four, Kindred asserts he was denied due process by the inadequate medical examinations of the victims. (Pet. at 11.) Lastly, in Ground Five, Kindred asserts his conviction was improper due to various evidentiary shortcomings which, if properly addressed, would have tended to prove his innocence. (Pet. at 11[4].)

         II. Discussion

         A.) Legal Standards

         A writ of habeas corpus enables a prisoner to appear before the court to challenge the legality of his confinement and, if successful, obtain his release. Preiser v. Rodriguez, 411 U.S. 475, 485 (1973) (“[T]he writ of habeas corpus [is] a remedy . . . from any confinement contrary to the Constitution or fundamental law.”). The right to petition for habeas relief is a foundational legal principal in the American system, see U.S. Const. art. 1 § 9, and has been recognized as “an integral part of our common-law heritage.” Preiser, 411 U.S. at 485. However, the right is not absolute and has been shaped by common law doctrine and federal statutes. See 28 U.S.C. §§ 2241-2255; see also, e.g., Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act, Pub. L. No. 104-132, 110 Stat. 1214 (1996).

         One limitation on the right to habeas review is the exhaustion principle. 28 U.S.C. § 2554(b). Federal courts may entertain a habeas petition brought by a state prisoner only if the prisoner has exhausted all available state court remedies relating to those claims. O'Sullivan v. Boerckel, 526 U.S. 838, 842 (1999). A claim is exhausted when the petitioner “has afforded the highest state court a fair opportunity to rule on the factual and theoretical substance of his claim.” Ashker v. Leapley, 5 F.3d 1178, 1179 (8th Cir. 1993). The highest state court is afforded that opportunity only when the petitioner invokes “a specific federal constitutional right, a particular constitutional provision, a federal constitutional case, or a state case raising a pertinent federal constitutional issue in a claim before the state courts.” McCall v. Benson, 114 F.3d 754, 757 (8th Cir. 1997) (quotation and quotation marks omitted). If unexhausted claims are presented in a habeas petition, and state court remedies remain available with respect to those claims, the federal court may either dismiss the claims without prejudice or stay the proceedings to allow for the petitioner to attempt to obtain the state court remedies. Armstrong v. Iowa, 418 F.3d 924, 926 (8th Cir. 2005).

         Another limitation on the right to habeas review is the procedural default principle. In general, federal courts may not hear habeas petitions where the claims have been procedurally defaulted. Coleman v. Thompson, 501 U.S. 722, 750 (1991). A claim is procedurally defaulted when a habeas petitioner failed to raise it before the state courts, and the state courts can no longer review it at that point because an “independent and adequate state procedural rule” precludes further litigation of the claim. Coleman v. Thompson, 501 U.S. 722, 749-50 (1991). In other words, procedural default occurs when a state petitioner raises an unexhausted claim in his federal habeas petition but, due to a procedural rule, has missed the window to go back and exhaust the claim. In that situation, the Court then must typically dismiss the defaulted claim with prejudice. Armstrong, 418 F.3d at 927 (indicating that procedural default “prevents federal habeas corpus review of the defaulted claim”).

         If a claim is procedurally defaulted on federal habeas review, a federal court may hear the petition only under two limited circumstances: (1) if the petitioner can demonstrate cause for the procedural default and actual prejudice resulting from the alleged violation of federal law; or (2) if the court's failure to consider the claim will result in a fundamental miscarriage of justice. See McCall, 114 F.3d at 758 (citing Coleman, 501 U.S. at 750). To establish cause for the default, a petitioner generally must “show that some objective factor external to the defense impeded counsel's efforts to comply with the State's procedural rule.” Murray v. Carrier, 477 U.S. 478, 488 (1986). To establish prejudice, the petitioner “must show that the errors of which he complains ‘worked to his actual and substantial disadvantage, infecting his entire trial with error of constitutional dimensions.'” Ivy v. Caspari, 173 F.3d 1136, 1141 (8th Cir. 1999) (quoting United States v. Frady, 456 U.S. 152, 170 (1982)) (emphasis in Ivy omitted). A court need not consider prejudice unless the petitioner demonstrates cause. McCall, 114 F.3d at 758. The second exception-miscarriage of justice-is available only when the petitioner establishes that a constitutional violation likely caused the conviction of an innocent person. Id. (quoting Brownlow v. Groose, 66 F.3d 997, 999 (8th Cir. 1995)). If neither exception applies, the procedural default cannot be excused, and the court should deny the petition without reaching the merits of the claims. See Carney v. Fabian, 441 F.Supp.2d 1014, 1029 (D. Minn. 2006).

         B.) Motion to Dismiss

         Applying these principles to the present case, the Court finds that each of Kindred's claims for habeas relief has been procedurally defaulted. Under Minnesota state law, an appellant in a criminal conviction has one opportunity to raise grounds for reversal on direct appeal. State v. Knaffla, 243 N.W.2d 737, 741 (Minn. 1976). If an appellant fails to raise a known ground for reversal, it “will not be considered upon a subsequent petition for postconviction relief.” Id. Additionally, when the Knaffla rule would bar an individual from raising his claims in state court because he did not raise them previously on direct appeal, those claims are procedurally defaulted in federal court. Buckingham v. Symmes, 11-cv-2489 (PJS/SER), 2012 WL 3611893, at *2 (D. Minn. Aug. 21, 2012) (citing McCall, 114 F.3d at 757-58). However, the Minnesota Supreme Court has carved out two limited exceptions to the Knaffla rule: a party may re-raise an issue on appeal if “(1) the claim is novel or (2) the interests of fairness and justice warrant relief.” Andersen v. State, 830 N.W.2d 1, 8 (Minn. 2013). Here, Kindred has procedurally defaulted on each of his claims, either by failing to raise it on direct appeal or by failing to raise it in his petition for review to the Minnesota Supreme Court.

         1. Significant Relationship by Blood, ...

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