United States District Court, D. Minnesota
Deborah K. Ellis, for plaintiff.
R. Marker, RAMSEY COUNTY ATTORNEY'S OFFICE, for
Patrick J. Schiltz United States District Judge
Heather Leann Horst was convicted of first-degree
premeditated murder after a jury found that she had aided and
abetted the killing of her husband. The Minnesota Supreme
Court unanimously affirmed her conviction. See State v.
Horst, 880 N.W.2d 24 (Minn. 2016). Horst then filed a
petition for writ of habeas corpus under 28 U.S.C. §
2254. ECF No. 1. In a report and recommendation
(“R&R”), Magistrate Judge Steven E. Rau
recommended denying Horst's petition. ECF No. 14.
matter is before the Court on Horst's objection to the
R&R. The Court has conducted a de novo review.
See 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1); Fed.R.Civ.P. 72(b).
Based on that review, the Court overrules Horst's
objection and adopts the R&R.
turning to Horst's objection,  the Court emphasizes the
“high standard [that must] be met before a federal
court may issue a writ of habeas corpus to set aside
state-court rulings.” Uttecht v. Brown, 551
U.S. 1, 10 (2007). This Court may grant habeas relief to
Horst only if the Minnesota Supreme Court's adjudication
of any of her federal claims:
(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;
(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.
28 U.S.C. § 2254(d).
established Federal law” means “the holdings, as
opposed to the dicta, of [the Supreme] Court's decisions
as of the time of the relevant state-court decision.”
Williams v. Taylor, 529 U.S. 362, 412 (2000). To act
“contrary to” clearly established federal law,
the state court must have either (1) arrived at a conclusion
opposite to that reached by the Supreme Court on a question
of law or (2) decided a case differently than the Supreme
Court on a set of materially indistinguishable facts.
Id. at 412-13. Under the “unreasonable
application” clause, federal habeas relief is warranted
if the state court identified the correct governing legal
principle, but unreasonably applied that principle to the
facts of the case. Id. at 413. It is not enough,
under the “unreasonable application” clause, that
the state court's decision was wrong, or even that it was
“clear error”; the decision must be
“objectively unreasonable.” Lockyer v.
Andrade, 538 U.S. 63, 75-76 (2003). Finally, on habeas
review, “a determination of a factual issue made by a
State court shall be presumed to be correct. The applicant
shall have the burden of rebutting the presumption of
correctness by clear and convincing evidence.” 28
U.S.C. § 2254(e)(1).
objects to two aspects of the R&R:
first disagrees with Judge Rau's determination that there
was nothing objectively unreasonable about the Minnesota
Supreme Court's decision that Horst was not in custody
(and thus not entitled to a Miranda warning) when
she was questioned at length by Sergeant Jake Peterson of the
St. Paul Police Department. Horst argues that she was in
custody during that interrogation and that, because she was
not provided with a Miranda warning, the statements
that she made to Sergeant Peterson should have been
suppressed. Horst further argues that the contents of her
cell phone should have been suppressed, as they were the
fruit of this poisonous tree.
support of her argument, Horst does not contend that the
Minnesota Supreme Court's decision was contrary to
clearly established federal law. In other words, Horst does
not argue that the Minnesota Supreme Court decided a legal
question that directly conflicted with a Supreme Court
decision regarding the same legal question, nor does she
claim that the Minnesota Supreme Court's decision
conflicts with a Supreme Court decision that addressed
materially indistinguishable facts. Rather, Horst argues that
the Minnesota Supreme Court's decision represented an
unreasonable application of clearly established federal law.
support of her argument, Horst emphasizes facts that the
Minnesota Supreme Court did not explicitly discuss (or, in
her view, afforded insufficient weight), and she ignores or
downplays facts that the court did explicitly discuss (and,
in her view, afforded excessive weight). If this Court were
determining the issue as an original matter, the Court might
well agree with Horst that she was in custody. The question
for this Court is not, however, whether the decision of the
Minnesota Supreme Court was correct as an original matter,
but whether that decision was “objectively
unreasonable.” Lockyer, 538 U.S. at 76;
see also Yarborough v. Alvarado, 541 U.S. 652, 665
(2004) (“We cannot grant relief under AEDPA by
conducting our own independent inquiry into whether the state
court was correct as a de novo matter.”).
“A decision is not objectively unreasonable if
‘fairminded jurists could disagree' as to its
correctness.” Bahtuoh v. Smith, 855 F.3d 868,
871 (8th Cir. 2017) (quoting Harrington v. Richter,
562 U.S. 86, 102 (2011)).
Court cannot find that the unanimous decision of the
Minnesota Supreme Court that Horst was not in custody was a
decision with which no “fairminded jurist” could
agree. The court correctly identified the guiding legal
principles, independently reviewed the evidence in the record
(discovering at least one factual error made by the trial
court), identified several factors that
militated toward a finding that Horst was not in custody,
acknowledged that “some of the [other] facts are
suggestive of a custodial setting” (and identified some
of those other facts), and concluded-based on “the
totality of the circumstances”-that “Horst was
not in custody when she made the statements that were the
subject of her pretrial suppression motion.”
Horst, 880 N.W.2d at 31-33. It is possible that the
Minnesota Supreme Court was incorrect, but its decision was
not an “unreasonable application of clearly
established Federal law, as determined by the Supreme Court
of the United States.” § 2254(d).
second complaint about the R&R relates to the State's
use of her medical records. The evidence showed that Horst
had told a number of friends that her husband had physically
abused her and, as a result, caused multiple miscarriages.
Indeed, the evidence showed that the man who killed
Horst's husband at her request (Aaron Allen, the
fiancé of the husband's stepsister) was motivated
in part by Horst's complaint ...