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Washington v. Smith

United States District Court, D. Minnesota

June 29, 2018

Keith Eugene Washington, Petitioner,
v.
Michelle Smith, Respondent.

          REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION

          STEVEN E. RAU, UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE

         The above-captioned case comes before the Court on Keith Eugene Washington's (“Washington”) Petition Under 28 U.S.C. § 2254 for Writ of Habeas Corpus by a Person in State Custody (“Petition”) [Doc. No. 1]. This matter is before the undersigned pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636 and District of Minnesota Local Rule 72.1. For the reasons stated below, the Court recommends denying Washington's Petition.

         I. BACKGROUND

         Washington was convicted of both first- and second-degree sexual misconduct, first-degree aggravated robbery, and first-degree assault. See (Pet. at 1);[1] (State's Mem.) [Doc. No. 13 at 1]; see also State v. Washington, No. A16-1192, 2017 WL 1842830, at *1 (Minn.Ct.App. May 8, 2017). Washington appealed his conviction to the Minnesota Court of Appeals, where his appointed counsel challenged Washington's conviction and sentence in light of the following: (1) the search of Washington's grocery bag without a warrant; (2) the swabbing of Washington's hands that went beyond the scope of an issued warrant; (3) the admission of Washington's past acts of sexual misconduct; (4) Washington's eligibility to receive a life sentence; and (5) the trial court's enhancement of Washington's sentence beyond the statutory maximum. (App.) [Doc. No. 14 at 132-33].[2] Washington also submitted a pro se brief and raised additional issues related to the alleged: (1) empaneling of biased jurors; (2) prosecutorial misconduct; (3) violation of his speedy trial rights; and (4) cumulative errors that warranted reversal. (App. at 109-121); see also Washington, 2017 WL 1842830, at *5.

         The Minnesota Court of Appeals found Washington's arguments regarding the suppression of evidence unavailing.[3] See Washington, 2017 WL 1842830, at *2. As it relates to the search of Washington's grocery bag, the court of appeals stated:

Here, witnesses reported that Washington might be carrying a weapon. Police therefore had two reasons to seize the grocery bag before conducting Washington's Terry [v. Ohio, 392 U.S. 1 (1968)] frisk: a grocery bag could offer Washington immediate access to a weapon and his possession of the bag would physically hamper the police in conducting the frisk. Thus . . . we hold that the officers' seizure of Washington's bag was within the scope of a Terry frisk.

Id. Furthermore, the Minnesota Court of Appeals concluded that contents of the bag would have been inevitably discovered because “after police identified Washington, they searched his name and discovered an outstanding warrant for his arrest.” See Id. at *2-3. With respect to the swabbing of Washington's hands, the Minnesota Court of Appeals was “troubled by the fact that a warrantless search of Washington's hands took place, even though officers had sufficient time to obtain a warrant to collect DNA from other parts of Washington's body.” Id. at *3. Nevertheless, the court found that this was harmless error because it determined that this DNA evidence was unattributable to the jury verdict. See Id. Specifically, the Minnesota Court of Appeals concluded:

Other than the disputed DNA evidence, the evidence of Washington's guilt included his proximity to the crime within minutes after its occurrence, his likeness to the victim's description of the perpetrator, other properly admitted DNA evidence taken from the victim's clothing and Washington's body that linked Washington to the victim, the victim's recognition of Washington's voice at trial, and Washington's possession of the victim's missing phone. The disputed DNA evidence was offered by the state among other DNA evidence properly admitted at trial and was not emphasized. At closing, the state summarized all of the DNA evidence and explained that the DNA on Washington's finger confirmed that he had contact with the victim's body. On this record, we conclude that the jury's guilty verdict is surely unattributable to the challenged DNA evidence.

Id.

         Washington petitioned the Minnesota Supreme Court for review, raising the following issues: (1) was the search of Washington's grocery bag a violation of Terry; (2) did the Minnesota Court of Appeals err when it considered certain inevitable discovery arguments for the first time on appeal; (3) did the Minnesota Court of Appeals “err by upholding the search of [Washington's] bag”; (4) did the Minnesota Court of Appeals err by determining that the contents of Washington's grocery bag would be inevitably discovered on the basis of Washington's outstanding warrant for his arrest; and (5) did the Minnesota Court of Appeals err when it held the swabbing of Washington's fingernails was valid as a search incident to arrest. (App. at 14-15, 19-24). Washington did not submit a pro se brief to the Minnesota Supreme Court. See generally (App.). The Minnesota Supreme Court denied review on July 8, 2017. (Id. at 11).

         Washington's instant Petition raises seven grounds: (1) cumulative errors at trial; (2) empaneling of biased jury members; (3) failure to suppress the results of the search of his grocery bag; (4) failure to suppress the DNA test that allegedly exceeded the scope of the search warrant; (5) ineffective assistance of trial counsel; (6) a biased trial judge; and (7) violations of his speedy trial rights. See (Pet. at 5-13).

         First, Respondent argues that grounds one, two, five, six, and seven of Washington's Petition are procedurally defaulted. See (State's Mem. at 3, 5-6). Respondent next argues that the Minnesota Court of Appeals decision regarding Washington's exhausted grounds were not “contrary to or involve an unreasonable application of clearly established federal law.” (Id. at 3); see also (id. at 7-14) (arguments related Washington's exhausted grounds). Consequently, Respondent asks that Washington's Petition be denied. See (id. at 3, 14).

         II. DISCUSSION

         Washington asserts both exhausted and procedural defaulted claims. Washington's procedurally defaulted claims cannot support his Petition for habeas relief. Also, his exhausted claims concern suppression issues under the Fourth Amendment that are not reviewable in federal court. Consequently, this Court recommends that Washington's entire Petition be denied. The Court first begins with a discussion of Washington's procedurally defaulted grounds and then addresses the remaining two exhausted grounds.

         A. ...


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