United States District Court, D. Minnesota
N. ERICKSEN UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
Demarcus Nasson Chaney was convicted in state court of two
counts of first degree sexual assault and sentenced to 360
months in prison. Chaney's conviction was affirmed on
direct appeal. He then brought this federal habeas action
under 28 U.S.C. § 2254.
moved to dismiss Chaney's § 2254 petition, arguing
that all of his claims are procedurally defaulted and, if
they are not defaulted, that the claims should not be granted
on the merits. In a Report and Recommendation
(“R&R”) dated November 22, 2017, Magistrate
Judge Steven E. Rau recommended that the petition be denied.
Chaney objected, and the Court has conducted a de
novo review. See Local Rule 72.2(b). Based on
that review, the Court agrees with the magistrate judge's
recommended disposition for the reasons set forth below.
raises three main grounds for relief in his amended habeas
petition: (1) prosecutorial misconduct; (2) admission of
evidence of his past burglary that unfairly prejudiced the
jury; and (3) the state's failure to disclose the
victim-witness advocate's notes of her communications
with trial witnesses. Those claims are addressed in turn
Prosecutorial Misconduct Claim
did not object to the alleged prosecutorial misconduct during
trial, creating a procedural bar to postconviction review.
See Resp't App. at 158. Crucially, this bar
remains in place despite the fact that the Minnesota Court of
Appeals, at its own discretion, analyzed the alleged
misconduct claim for plain error. Clark v. Bertsch,
780 F.3d 873, 876-77 (8th Cir. 2015) (holding that “the
state court's discretionary plain-error review of [the
petitioner's] unpreserved claims cannot excuse his
procedural default. . .”). Chaney has not advanced any
arguments suggesting either a cause for the default or
prejudice. See Armstrong v. Iowa, 418 F.3d 924, 926
(8th Cir. 2005). Therefore, Chaney's prosecutorial
misconduct claim is procedurally defaulted.
Other-Acts Evidence Claim
claim that the admission of other-acts evidence deprived him
of a right to a fair trial was not properly exhausted. To
satisfy the exhaustion requirement, a federal claim must be
fairly presented to state courts reviewing the claim. Fair
presentation in this context means that the habeas petitioner
must have referred to (a) “a specific federal
constitutional right, a particular constitutional provision,
a federal constitutional case, ” or (b) “a state
case raising a pertinent federal constitutional issue in a
claim before the state courts.” Myre v. State of
Iowa, 53 F.3d 199, 200-01 (8th Cir. 1995). Chaney
presented his other-acts claim to the Minnesota Supreme
Court, but did so in terms of state law. The only federal
issues raised by Chaney in his state appellate briefs were
his due process and fair trial rights, but merely referencing
those rights does not satisfy the fair presentation
requirement. See Turnage v. Fabian, 606 F.3d 933,
936 (8th Cir. 2010) (“It is not enough . . . to make a
general appeal to a constitutional guarantee as broad as due
process. . . .”) (internal quotation omitted);
Thomas v. Wyrick, 622 F.2d 411, 413 (8th Cir. 1980)
(holding that the mere reference to a fair trial in a
petitioner's brief to the state appellate court
“was not a sufficient presentation of the federal
constitutional issue.”); see also Barrett v.
Acevedo, 169 F.3d 1155, 1162 (8th Cir. 1999)
(“Presenting a claim that is merely similar to the
federal habeas claim is not sufficient to satisfy the fairly
presented requirement.”). Accordingly, Chaney did not
fairly present his other-acts claim to the state courts.
claim is procedurally defaulted, however, under State v.
Knaffla, 309 Minn. 246, 243 N.W.2d 737 (Minn.1976).
Knaffla bars collateral review in state court either
when the issue was litigated on direct appeal, or when the
issue should have been raised on direct appeal but was not.
Knaffla, 243 N.W.2d at 741. Here, Chaney knew or
should have known that there were federal issues that could
have been presented to the state courts vis-à-vis his
other-acts evidence claim, but he failed to do so. Moreover,
the Court finds no evidence that either of the two
Knaffla exceptions apply. And, as noted above,
Chaney has not demonstrated cause for this default.
Accordingly, the other-acts claim is procedurally defaulted.
Victim-Witness Notes Claim
claim that the state improperly failed to disclose the
victim-witness advocate's notes of her communications was
also not properly exhausted. Chaney's presentation of
this issue to both the Minnesota Court of Appeals and the
Minnesota Supreme Court was based entirely on state law.
Therefore, the federal claim was not exhausted. However, this
claim is Knaffla barred for the reasons discussed
above. If there were federal issues related to the
victim-witness's notes, Chaney should have raised them on
direct appeal. He did not, and he has provided no cause for
this default. As such, the claim is procedurally
on the foregoing, and on all of the files, records, and