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Brothers v. Miles

United States District Court, D. Minnesota

April 2, 2018

Kelly Jon Brothers, Petitioner,
v.
Eddie Miles, Warden, Respondent.

          Kelly Jon Brothers, OID # 244407, Minnesota Correctional Facility-Faribault, 1101 Linden Lane, Faribault, MN, 55021, petitioner pro se

          Susan B. DeVos, Blue Earth County Attorney's Office, P.O. Box 3129, Mankato, MN 56002, counsel for respondent

          REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION

          Katherine Menendez United States Magistrate Judge

         This matter is before the Court on Petitioner Kelly Jon Brothers's Petition for a Writ of Habeas Corpus pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254. Pet., ECF No. 1. In his petition, Mr. Brothers challenges his state court conviction for first-degree criminal sexual conduct, arguing that his due process rights were violated because there was insufficient evidence that the victim did not freely consent to the sexual conduct underlying his conviction. Id. For the reasons discussed below, the Court recommends that Mr. Brothers's petition be denied.

         BACKGROUND

         The conviction underlying this petition is from a state court proceeding in Minnesota. Mr. Brothers was charged with second-degree assault with a dangerous weapon, terroristic threats, first-degree criminal sexual conduct, false imprisonment, domestic assault by strangulation, and third-degree criminal sexual conduct. State v. Brothers, A14-1771, 2015 WL 6829679, at *1 (Minn.App. Nov. 9, 2015). The jury acquitted Mr. Brothers of third-degree criminal sexual conduct and domestic assault by strangulation, but found him guilty of all remaining charges. Id., at *2. The jury also used a separate special verdict form to find that Mr. Brothers tortured the victim during the commission of the crimes, but that he did not inflict more injury than necessary to commit the crimes. Id. After concluding that Mr. Brothers committed criminal sexual conduct “by force or violence, ” the court imposed consecutive sentences for each crime for which Mr. Brothers was convicted. Id. He was sentenced to a total of 306 months in prison. Id.

         On appeal to the Minnesota Court of Appeals, Mr. Brothers argued that the state failed to prove that the victim did not freely consent to the sexual conduct. Resp.'s App. § B at 18, ECF No. 7-2. Specifically, Mr. Brothers asserted that state violated the Due Process Clause by failing to adequately prove lack of consent, an element for conviction under the relevant state statute. Id. Mr. Brothers also argued that the district court erred by allowing expert testimony on counterintuitive and submissive behaviors of sexual assault victims, and by imposing multiple sentences for crimes arising out of the same behavioral incident. Id. at 22, 30.

         The court of appeals affirmed the first-degree criminal-sexual-conduct conviction, finding sufficient evidence to support the jury's conclusion that the victim did not freely consent. Brothers, 2015 WL 6829679, at *3. In considering Mr. Brothers's challenge, the court conducted a “painstaking analysis of the record” to determine whether the evidence, when viewed in the light most favorable to the conviction, was sufficient to support the jury's verdict. Id., at *3. The court noted the victim's trial testimony that she did not want to have sex with Mr. Brothers and that she was “willing to do anything to … get out of the situation.” Id. She further stated that she did not consent to anything that happened while she was imprisoned. Id. The court acknowledged that by the time the victim initiated sexual contact, she had been held against her will and had been subjected to Mr. Brothers's “bizarre and frightening behavior” for several hours. Id. The court ultimately concluded that the issue of whether consent was freely given was a fact question for the jury. Id. Given the circumstances, there was sufficient evidence to support the jury's finding. Id.

         The court of appeals also affirmed the admission of the expert testimony on sexual assault victims' behavior, but reversed the district court's imposition of multiple sentences. Id., at *2-4. In reversing the multiple sentences imposed, the court of appeals reasoned that the record did not support the district court's finding that Mr. Brothers committed the crime of first-degree criminal sexual conduct with force or violence. Id., at 4. The case was remanded, and Mr. Brothers was resentenced to 201 months in prison. Resp.'s Mem. at 2, ECF No. 6 Mr. Brothers appealed to the Minnesota Supreme Court, but his petition for further review was denied in January 2016. Pet. at 2; Resp.'s Mem. at 2. In the instant petition, Mr. Brothers essentially raises one of the claims that he presented to the Minnesota Court of Appeals. He asserts that his criminal-sexual-conduct conviction violated the Due Process Clause because the victim initiated the sexual conduct and the state failed to present evidence that the victim withdrew that consent.[1] Pet. at 6; see also Brothers, 2015 WL 6829679, at *1.

         THE LEGAL STANDARD

         A district court may grant habeas relief to a state prisoner who is in “custody in violation of the Constitution or laws or treaties of the United States.” 28 U.S.C. § 2254(a). The Anti-Terrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act (AEDPA) limits habeas review to adjudications that:

(1) resulted in a decision that was contrary to, or involved an unreasonable application of, clearly established federal law, as determined by the Supreme Court of the United States; or
(2) resulted in a decision that was based on an unreasonable determination of the facts in light of the evidence presented in the State court proceeding.

Id. § 2254(d). A state court's decision is “contrary to” clearly established Supreme Court precedent when it “arrives at a conclusion opposite to that reached by [the Supreme Court] on a question of law or if the state court decides a case different than [the Supreme] Court has on a set of materially indistinguishable facts.” Williams v. Taylor, 529 U.S. 362, 412-13 (2000). A state court's decision constitutes an “unreasonable application” of Supreme Court precedent when it “identifies the correct ...


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