United States District Court, D. Minnesota
J. Jackson, III, pro se plaintiff.
F. Ryan, OFFICE OF THE CROW WING COUNTY ATTORNEY, and Edwin
W. Stockmeyer, III, and Matthew Frank, OFFICE OF THE
MINNESOTA ATTORNEY GENERAL, for defendant.
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER ADOPTING REPORT AND
R. TUNHEIM CHIEF JUDGE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT.
Ronnie Jackson brought this petition under 28 U.S.C. §
2254 for a writ of habeas corpus by a person in state
custody. Jackson is serving time for a conviction of
first-degree arson in Minnesota state court. In support of
his petition, Jackson states four grounds: (1) the state
denied him due process by committing a Brady
violation; (2) the state denied him due process by using
factually inconsistent theories to obtain a guilty verdict;
(3) ineffective assistance of trial counsel; and (4)
ineffective assistance of appellate counsel. Jackson has also
filed a Renewed Motion for Discovery and a request for a
Certificate of Appealability (“COA”). The
Magistrate Judge issued a Report and Recommendation
(“R&R”) recommending that the Court deny
Jackson's petition, motion, and request. Because the
Court will find that Jackson's due process claims are
procedurally defaulted and his ineffective assistance of
appellate counsel claim was not exhausted at the state level,
the Court will overrule Jackson's objections and adopt
the Magistrate Judge's R&R. The Court will thus deny
Jackson's Petition, his Renewed Motion for Discovery, and
his request for a COA.
is a prisoner detained at Minnesota Correctional Facility -
Oak Park Heights. (Pet. at 1, June 29, 2017, Docket No. 1.)
He was convicted of first-degree arson on November 29, 2012,
in Minnesota state court and sentenced to 115 months.
(Id.) See also State v. Jackson
(“Direct Appeal”), 2014 WL 902667, at *2
(Minn.Ct.App. Mar. 10, 2014).
FACTS PRESENTED AT TRIAL
early hours of June 21, 2011, police officers responded to a
call about a fire at a house in Brainerd where Jackson's
girlfriend, J.S., lived. Id. at *1. The house was
owned by J.S.'s mother, and Jackson had been staying
there off and on since he and J.S. began their relationship.
night before, Jackson had gotten into an argument with J.S.
while at her mother's other house in Barrows.
Id. After the argument, Jackson went to the Brainerd
house and packed some of his belongings. Id. He then
returned to the Barrows house where he woke J.S. up by
punching her in the face. Id. When J.S.'s mother
called 911, he said, “I can burn both your houses
down.” Id. He also told a friend that if he
really wanted to he could burn both the houses down.
police sergeant responded to J.S.'s mother's 911 call
at the Barrows house and directed officers to begin looking
for Jackson. Id. One officer noticed Jackson's
car outside a trailer at the Lazy Acres trailer park and
spoke to a woman, D.P., at the trailer. Id. She told
the officer that Jackson was not there, but her gray Hyundai
Sonata was missing. Id. At that moment, the officer
received a call about the fire at the Brainerd house and
responded. Id. After responding to the fire, he
returned to D.P.'s trailer because she wanted to report
that her car was stolen. Id. D.P. told the officer
that Jackson and her daughter, Nancy Portz, had arrived at
her house just after the officer left to respond to the fire
call. Id. Portz was driving D.P.'s car when they
arrived, but a few minutes later Portz and Jackson left in
Jackson's car. Id.
investigating the fire spoke with an employee at a gas
station who said that a customer matching Jackson's
description bought a gasoline can, a lighter, and five
dollars' worth of gasoline earlier that morning.
Id. at *2. The employee described the car that
Jackson had gotten out of, and the description matched
D.P.'s car. Id. That same morning, officers
stopped Jackson driving his car. Id. Portz was with
him. Id. They found a lighter and J.S.'s purse
in the car, as well as a Visa gift card whose numbers matched
the Visa card used to buy the items at the gas station.
Id. Officers also found a gas can along the route
between the Brainerd home and D.P.'s trailer.
Jackson first denied knowing anything about the fire, he gave
a statement the next day that admitted his participation.
Id. He said that he and Portz bought the gasoline,
that he handed the can to Portz, that he told Portz where
J.S. lived, and that Portz put gloves on and ran to the house
while Jackson waited in the car. Id. He said:
“When I . . . next time I look up, dude, it was
whoosh.” Id. He said that he did not know
where Portz poured the gas, but “[s]omewhere along the
porch it was set.” Id. While Jackson claimed
that he did not think Portz would “do it, ” he
admitted to “egging her on.” Id. Two
people were in the house when it was set on fire, including
Jackson's roommate, and Jackson admitted that he knew one
of them was there. Id.
and Portz were both charged with first-degree arson in
violation of Minn. Stat. § 609.561, subd. 1. (March 18,
2016 Order Denying Postconviction Relief (“State Ct.
Postconviction”) at 2, Aug. 12, 2017, Docket No.
11-13.) Portz ultimately entered an Alford plea to a
lesser felony charge of providing after-the-fact aid to an
offender who committed arson under Minn. Stat. §
609.495, subd. 3. (Id.) Portz agreed that the state
had evidence indicating that Jackson had started the fire.
(Id.) Jackson maintained his not guilty plea, and
the state provided notice that it would seek an aggravated
sentence on the grounds that the victims of the arson were
“particularly vulnerable” because they were
asleep inside the house when the fire was started.
(Id. at 3.) The state also filed an amended
complaint in Jackson's case; while the initial complaint
only charged him as a direct actor under Minn. Stat. §
609.561, subd. 1, the amended complaint added an alternative
charge as a person criminally liable for the act of another
under Minn. Stat. § 609.05, subds. 1-2. (Id.)
Jackson's attorney might not have actually advised him
that the amended complaint had been filed, but he advised him
on numerous occasions that the state could ask the jury to
convict him of arson on a theory of aiding and abetting
Portz. (Id.) He also discussed a plea agreement
offered to Jackson and the possibility that the state would
seek an aggravated sentence. (Id. at 4) Jackson was
insistent that he would not accept any offer that required
him to serve prison time. (Id.)
case proceeded to a jury trial, and the jury found Jackson
guilty of first-degree arson. (Id.) Portz did not
testify at his trial. (Id. at 11.) Jackson did not
testify and did not call any witnesses. Direct
Appeal, 2014 WL 902667, at *2. However, his statement to
investigators in which he acknowledged participation in the
crime with Portz was admitted. Jackson v. State
(“Postconviction Appeal”), 2017 WL
1164503, *1 (Minn.Ct.App. Mar. 27, 2017), review
denied (June 20, 2017).
STATE COURT DIRECT APPEAL
appealed his conviction in state court on the following
grounds: (1) the evidence was insufficient to convict him;
(2) the district court erred by failing to properly instruct
the jury on accomplice liability; (3) the district court
erred in permitting the state to reopen its case-in-chief;
(4) the facts found by the jury were insufficient to prove
that Jackson's sleeping roommate was a
“particularly vulnerable” victim; and (5) the
district court erred in failing to properly instruct the
sentencing jury. Direct Appeal, 2014 WL 902667, at
*1. The Minnesota Court of Appeals affirmed Jackson's
conviction, holding that the evidence was sufficient to
convict him and that no reversible error occurred.
Id. The Minnesota Supreme Court denied review. (Apr.
29, 2014 Order Denying Review, Aug. 12, 2017, Docket. No.
STATE COURT PETITION FOR POSTCONVICTION RELIEF
also sought postconviction relief in state court. (State Ct.
Postconviction at 1.) He alleged that the state failed to
disclose exculpatory evidence, improperly presented
inconsistent theories of liability at trial, and presented
false evidence. (Id. at 5-8.) He also alleged
ineffective assistance of both trial and appellate counsel.
(Id. at 8-17.) The court denied his petition,
finding that the majority of Jackson's claims were barred
by State v. Knaffla, 243 N.W.2d 737, 741 (Minn.
1976), which limits the claims that can be considered for
postconviction relief. (Id. at 5-6, 8, 12, 15, 17.) The
court also found that Jackson's trial and appellate
counsels' representations did not fall below an objective
standard of reasonableness. (Id. at 16.) The
Minnesota Court of Appeals affirmed, and the Minnesota
Supreme Court denied review. Postconviction Appeal,
2017 WL 1164503, at *1.
PETITION FOR RELIEF UNDER 28 U.S.C. § 2254
filed the present petition under 28 U.S.C. § 2254 on
June 29, 2017. (Pet. at 1.) He seeks relief on four grounds:
(1) the state violated due process under Brady v.
Maryland, 373 U.S. 83 (1963), by withholding the factual
basis of his codefendant's plea; (2) the state violated
due process by using factually inconsistent theories to
obtain a guilty verdict; (3) trial counsel was ineffective
because he did not advise Jackson to accept the state's
plea offer; and (4) appellate counsel was ineffective because
he lacked the necessary information to provide Jackson with a
meaningful review and/or failed to provide Jackson with the
necessary documents ...