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Caldwell v. Miles

United States District Court, D. Minnesota

February 5, 2019

Lincoln Lamar Caldwell, Petitioner,
v.
Eddie Miles, Warden Stillwater Correctional Facility, Minnesota, Respondent.

          Zachary A. Longsdorf, Longsdorf Law Firm, PLC, for Petitioner.

          Linda K. Jenny, Assistant County Attorney, for Respondent.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

          SUSAN RICHARD NELSON, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         I. INTRODUCTION

         This matter is before the Court on Petitioner Lincoln Lamar Caldwell's Objections [Doc. No. 17] to United States Magistrate Judge Tony N. Leung's April 8, 2018 Report and Recommendation [Doc. No. 16] (“R&R”). The magistrate judge recommended that Petitioner's 28 U.S.C. § 2254 Petition for Writ of Habeas Corpus by a Person in State Custody [Doc. No. 1] (“Petition”) be denied, the action be dismissed with prejudice, and a Certificate of Appealability be denied. (R&R at 6.). For the reasons set forth below, Petitioner's objections are overruled, the Court adopts the R&R in its entirety, denies a Certificate of Appealability, and dismisses this matter with prejudice.

         II. BACKGROUND

         The factual and procedural background of this matter is well documented in the R&R and is incorporated herein by reference. This Court will recite background facts only to the extent necessary to rule on Petitioner's objections.

         A. State Court Proceedings

         In 2008, Petitioner was convicted in Hennepin County District Court on six counts of murder.[1] (See Pet. at 1; State v. Caldwell, 803 N.W.2d 373');">803 N.W.2d 373, 379, 381 (Minn. 2011) (“Caldwell I”). Caldwell was the driver of an SUV involved in a drive-by shooting that killed Brian Cole. State v. Caldwell, 853 N.W.2d 766, 768 (Minn. 2014) (“Caldwell II”). Both Caldwell and one of his passengers, the shooter, Kirk Harrison, were members of the LL gang, rivals of the One-Nine gang. Id. Although Cole was not a member of either gang, he was standing near members of the One-Nine gang when Harrison shot him. Id.

         At Petitioner's jury trial, the prosecution presented evidence regarding the LL gang, including evidence about hand signs, drug activities, and the rivalry with the One-Nine gang. Caldwell I, 803 N.W2d at 379-81. A witness confirmed that a photograph of Caldwell showed him displaying the LL gang sign. Id. at 380. The prosecution called numerous trial witnesses, some of whom were in Caldwell's SUV at the time of the shooting, including Carnell Harrison[2] and William Brooks, and some of whom were not present at the shooting, but discussed the shooting with Caldwell afterwards, including Shawntis Turnage. Id.

         Turnage testified that at a party shortly after the shooting, he encountered Caldwell, who recounted “g[etting] down” with the One-Nines, which Turnage understood to mean “fighting or shooting or [a] brawl or something.” Caldwell II, 853 N.W.2d at 768. Turnage also testified that Caldwell had explained that a One-Nine gang leader known as “Ill Will” had been the intended target of the shooting, and Caldwell had described the gun used in the shooting as a “grey and black Smith & Wesson” 9 mm semiautomatic pistol that Turnage knew Caldwell possessed. Id.

         Caldwell was represented by counsel during his jury trial. Prospective jurors completed a 91-question questionnaire, and during voir dire, defense counsel demonstrated his familiarity with the completed questionnaires by asking some particularized questions of the venire. Caldwell I, 803 N.W.2d at 386-87. Defense counsel also prepared a list of a number of prospective jurors whom he planned to strike, and moved to strike several jurors for cause, with some success. Id. at 387.

         Also, during trial, Caldwell's mother disrupted the proceedings on a number of occasions, for which she was initially temporarily barred from the courtroom, and later banned from the courtroom for the duration of the trial. (See R&R at 42-47.) Prior to delivering the final jury instructions, the district judge permitted members of the public an opportunity to leave the courtroom, but then locked the doors of the courtroom during the final jury instructions. (Id. at 48.)

         As noted, the jury ultimately convicted Caldwell on all six counts and the district court sentenced him to life in prison without the possibility of parole. Caldwell I, 803 N.W.2d at 381.

         In addition to the charges brought against Caldwell, the shooter, Kirk Harrison, was also prosecuted for Cole's murder. Id. at 387. Kirk Harrison proceeded to a bench trial in Hennepin County District Court, where he was convicted of unintentional murder in the second degree for causing death while committing the felony of drive-by murder. Id. at 381. The court found that the prosecution had failed to prove that Kirk Harrison had the intent to cause the death of another, or that the LLs met the statutory definition of a gang. Id.

         Caldwell filed a direct appeal, which was later stayed so that he could file a postconviction motion. Id. In Caldwell's first postconviction motion, he argued, as relevant here, that: (1) the doctrine of non-mutual collateral estoppel barred his conviction; (2) he received ineffective assistance of counsel; and (3) he was denied his Sixth Amendment right to a public trial. Id. at 382, 390. The postconviction court denied Caldwell's petition, which he then appealed. Id. at 381. That appeal was also stayed so that Caldwell could file a second postconviction petition. Id.

         In Caldwell's second postconviction petition, he argued that he was entitled to an evidentiary hearing on the basis of newly discovered evidence. Id. The postconviction court denied Caldwell's second postconviction petition, which he appealed. The Minnesota Supreme Court consolidated Caldwell's appeals and denied relief. Id. at 389; 391.

         Subsequently, Caldwell filed a third petition for postconviction relief, alleging that three witnesses had presented false testimony in his trial. Caldwell II, 853 N.W.2d at 768. He requested an evidentiary hearing. Id. In support of his petition, Caldwell submitted a notarized affidavit from an investigator who interviewed certain witnesses, including Turnage, and obtained statements in which they recanted their trial testimony. Id. at 769. After the postconviction court summarily denied Caldwell's request for an evidentiary hearing, he appealed the denial of the hearing. Id. at 769-70. The Minnesota Supreme Court found that the postconviction court had denied the motion prematurely and remanded the matter for an evidentiary hearing. Id. at 778.

         The postconviction court held the evidentiary hearing in June 2015. Caldwell v. State, 886 N.W.2d 491, 498 (Minn. 2016) (“Caldwell III”). Carnell Harrison recanted his trial testimony, and Brooks could not be located. Id. After Turnage was sworn as a witness, the court informed him of the right against self-incrimination and that the prosecution might consider perjury charges. Id. at 495. Turnage indicated that he understood his rights and declined the offer to talk to an attorney. Id. On direct examination, Turnage testified that he had never seen Caldwell with a gun, nor had Caldwell told him that he “got down with the One-Nines.” Id. at 495-99. He explained that his testimony was different in 2008 because he was young at the time and had felt intimidated. Id. at 495. On cross examination, the prosecutor referred to possible perjury charges against Turnage, as well as charges related to aiding and abetting an offender after-the-fact, and possible sentences for an aiding and abetting offense. Id. In light of Turnage's apparent confusion about his Fifth Amendment rights, the court recessed Turnage's testimony to allow him to seek counsel. Id. at 497. Thereafter, Turnage obtained counsel and the hearing resumed three months later. Id. At the reconvened hearing, Turnage invoked his Fifth Amendment rights and refused to answer further questions. Id.

         The postconviction court then struck Turnage's testimony from the earlier evidentiary hearing, finding that Turnage's Fifth Amendment waiver had not been complete, knowing, and voluntary. Id. The postconviction court also concluded that Carnell Harrison's new testimony was not credible and even if Turnage had not testified at trial, it was unlikely that the jury would have reached a different verdict. Id. at 501. The postconviction court therefore denied Caldwell's third motion for postconviction relief. Id.

         Caldwell appealed to the Minnesota Supreme Court, arguing that the postconviction court and the prosecutor had interfered with Turnage's decision to testify at the postconviction hearing, thereby violating Caldwell's Fourteenth Amendment right to due process. Id. In addition, he argued that the postconviction court erred by striking Turnage's testimony, and the remedy for the constitutional violation was the dismissal of the indictment. Id. at 498.

         In Caldwell III, the Minnesota Supreme Court disagreed, finding no violation of Caldwell's constitutional rights. Id. at 500-03. While it acknowledged that the invocation of perjury charges can sometimes lead to the intimidation of a witness, it relied heavily on the postconviction court's first-hand observation of the tone and nature of questioning and found that the prosecution had not intimidated Turnage. Id. Nor did the Minnesota Supreme find any error on the part of the postconviction court in striking Turnage's earlier testimony. Id. Accordingly, it affirmed the postconviction court's denial of relief.

         B. Habeas Petition

         In June 2017, Caldwell filed the instant Petition in this Court pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254. He identifies the following bases for his claim that he is being held in violation of U.S. law:

Ground One: Ineffective Assistance of Counsel, in violation of the Sixth Amendment, based on: (1) counsel's alleged inattentiveness or indifference during jury selection; and (2) counsel's limited interaction with Caldwell prior to trial.
Ground Two: Due process violation resulting from his conviction of committing a crime for the benefit of a gang despite insufficient evidence to satisfy all the elements of that crime. Namely, he contends that: (1) there was no evidence presented to show that he or his alleged gang existed for the purpose of engaging in illegal activity nor did any evidence show a pattern of crime committed by the alleged gang; (2) the principal in the crime for which Caldwell was charged with aiding and abetting was acquitted of committing the crime for the benefit of a gang; and (3) the amount of gang-related testimony prejudiced Caldwell's right to a fair trial.
Ground Three: Due process violation based on Caldwell's conviction for intentional and premeditated murder despite insufficient evidence to satisfy all the elements of the crime. Specifically, he contends that the prosecution failed to present evidence of the principal's premeditation or intent and the principal was acquitted of premeditation and intentional murder counts after a bench trial.
Ground Four: Due process violation based on Caldwell's conviction for aiding and abetting Kirk Harrison, the principal, for a crime for which Harrison had been acquitted after the prosecution had a full and fair opportunity to litigate the issues of Harrison's intent and premeditation.
Ground Five: Due process violation arising from a postconviction hearing, in which a witness who was in the process of giving testimony favorable to Petitioner, asserted his right against self-incrimination after being threatened with perjury charges and a sentence of up to “half a life sentence” for “aiding an offender, ...

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