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Crump v. Halvorson

United States District Court, D. Minnesota

June 10, 2019

Lamar James Crump, Petitioner,
v.
Kathy Halvorson, Warden Faribault Correctional Facility, Respondent.

          REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION

          ELIZABETH COWAN WRIGHT UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE

         This matter is before the Court on Petitioner Lamar James Crump's petition for a writ of habeas corpus filed pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254 (Dkt. No. 1). The Petition has been referred to this Court pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636 and District of Minnesota Local Rule 72.1 for the issuance of a report and recommendation. For the reasons set forth below, the Court recommends that the Petition be denied and that no Certificate of Appealability be issued to Petitioner.

         I. FACTUAL BACKGROUND

         A. Crump is Convicted of First-Degree Assault

         The State of Minnesota charged Crump with the first-degree assault of 15-month-old R.H. See State v. Crump, No. A15-1690, 2016 WL 6826235, at *2 (Minn.Ct.App. Nov. 21, 2016). A jury trial was held on the first-degree assault charge. Id. A jury found Crump guilty, and the district court sentenced Crump to 206 months in prison. (Id.)

         B. Crump Appeals His Conviction

         Crump filed an appeal of his conviction. (A-575-607.)[1] Crump acknowledged that “[w]hile the record is clear that Crump consented to defense counsel's concession that great bodily harm occurred, there is nothing in the record that would support a finding that he acquiesced to his counsel conceding that R.H. had been assaulted.” (A-606.) According to Crump, his defense counsel repeatedly conceded throughout his closing argument that the injuries caused to R.H. were “non-accidental” and that due to the definition of assault provided to the jury, counsel's concession was the same as admitting that R.H. had been assaulted. (A-597.) Crump sought a new trial based on this ineffective assistance of counsel claim. (A-593-94, 606.)

         The Minnesota Court of Appeals upheld Crump's conviction. In this regard, the Minnesota Court of Appeals held as follows:

Crump argues he is entitled to a new trial because defense counsel conceded Crump's guilt without his consent or acquiescence. During closing argument, defense counsel repeatedly referred to R.H.'s injuries as “non-accidental.” Crump argues that by doing so, defense counsel conceded the injuries were intentional, and therefore that R.H. was assaulted-an element of the offense. We disagree for two reasons.
First, we are not persuaded that defense counsel conceded that R.H. was assaulted. When viewed in context, it appears defense counsel was merely arguing that the state had not met its burden of proof. Defense counsel argued that “[t]he [s]tate is required to prove each and every element of this offense” but that even after the state presented its case “we still don't know exactly or even close to exactly what happened to [R.H.].” Defense counsel further argued the jury was “left to guess” what “Crump supposedly did[.]” When the statements are taken together, it appears defense counsel is arguing that the state did not present sufficient evidence to meet its burden of proving the charged offense beyond a reasonable doubt.
Second, even if defense counsel implicitly conceded that R.H. was assaulted, counsel did not concede an element of the charged offense. The district court instructed the jury that the state had to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that (1) Crump assaulted R.H., (2) Crump inflicted great bodily harm upon R.H., and (3) the assault occurred on June 26, 2014, in Dakota County. Accordingly, the state was required to prove not just that R.H. was assaulted, but that Crump was the person who assaulted him. Even if defense counsel's statements were interpreted to imply that R.H. was assaulted, they do not suggest that Crump was the person who assaulted him. Indeed, defense counsel's statements are consistent with his argument to the jury that it was “equally plausible” that J.W. woke up early and “got upset enough with [R.H.] to inflict these injuries.” In sum, when the statements are viewed in the context of the totality of the circumstances, they do not amount to a concession of Crump's guilt.

Crump, 2016 WL 6826235, at *2 (footnote omitted).

         Crump filed a Petition for Review with the Minnesota Supreme Court, which was denied on February 14, 2017. (A-627-47.)

         C. Present Petition

         Crump argues that he was denied his right to effective assistance of counsel and to have every element of the charges against him be decided by a jury when trial counsel repeatedly admitted an element of the first-degree assault charges to the jury without his consent or acquiescence.[2] (Dkt. No. 1 at 4.) Specifically, Crump claims that his trial counsel admitted two of the elements of the charge against him for first-degree assault without his consent: (1) that RH's injuries constituted great bodily harm and;[3] and (2) that the injuries to R.H. were not accidentally inflicted. (Id.) According to Crump, his trial counsel told the jury at least seven times that the injuries to R.H. were not accidentally inflicted and told the jury once that the injuries constituted great bodily harm. (Id.)

         D. Facts Related to R.H.'s June 26, 2014 Injuries

         R.S. worked the nightshift at her job from 9:00 p.m. to 6:00 a.m. (A-85, 92, 152, 155.) R.S. would take her son, 15-month-old R.H., to her friend, J.W.'s, apartment, in the same apartment building as R.S., around 8:30 p.m. on the evenings she worked. (A-91, 152.) Because J.W. needed to have R.H. picked up by 5:00 a.m. so she could go to work, arrangements were made at times to have R.H. brought back to his mother's apartment, where Crump would take care of R.H. until R.S. returned home from work. (A-92-93, 155.) R.S. and Crump had been dating for approximately four months prior to R.H.'s injuries. (A-90.)

         On June 25, 2014, R.S. took R.H. to J.W.'s apartment around 8:30 p.m. and went to work. (A-96, 155.) J.W. arrived at R.S.'s apartment with R.H. a little after 5:00 a.m. (A-163.) J.W. testified R.H. was asleep and “perfectly fine” when she left him with Crump, who was on the phone with R.S. when J.W. arrived. (A-99-100, 163, 170.) According to R.S., Crump told her that R.H.'s eyes rolled back in his head when Crump placed R.H. into a car sometime after R.H. had been left with him. (A-113.) Crump carried R.H. to J.W.'s apartment and J.W.'s daughter, M.F., answered the door and instructed Crump to call 911. (A-184-86.) At this time R.H. looked “lifeless.” (A-185-86.)

         At approximately 6:20 a.m. on June 26, 2015, emergency responders were dispatched to an apartment in South St. Paul following a 911 call regarding a possible cardiac arrest of a 15-month-old child. (A-65-67, 73-75, 215.) Upon arriving at the apartment building, paramedics found R.H. laying on the living room floor unresponsive to any stimulus. (A-65-66, 75-77, 216-17.)

         The testifying medical providers, Drs. Richard Patterson, Meysam Kebriaei, and Mark Hudson, all testified regarding the serious and substantial injuries suffered to R.H.'s head, including a subdural hemorrhage (without a skull fracture), the swelling of his brain, and trauma to his abdomen (including R.H's liver), and that these injuries to R.H. were indicative of abusive trauma. (A-270-72, 291-92, 307-09, 369.) Medical providers testified that the type of accident that would be expected to cause similar injuries would be where a child is in a motor vehicle accident and flies out and hits the windshield, and that it was very unlikely that the injuries suffered by R.H. were the result of an accident (such as a fall from a chair), especially in light of the additional blunt trauma present in the abdomen and liver. (A-271, 307-09, 352-54.)

         The injuries suffered by R.H. resulted in permanent brain damage. (A-306-07.)

         E. Jury Instructions

         The following instructions were provided to the jury regarding the first-degree assault charge prior to the parties' closing arguments:

The State must convince you by evidence beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant is guilty of the crime charged. The defendant has no obligation to prove innocence. The defendant has the right not to testify. This right is guaranteed by the federal and state constitutions. You should not draw any inference from the fact that the defendant has not testified in this case.
Intentionally Defined. Intentionally means that the actor either has a purpose to do the thing or cause the results specified or believes that the act performed by the actor, if successful, will cause the result. In addition, the actor must have knowledge of those facts that are necessary to make the actor's conduct criminal and that are set forth after the word intentionally.
Assault Defined. The statutes of Minnesota provide that whoever does an act with intent to cause fear in another person of immediate bodily harm or death or intentionally inflicts or attempts to inflict ...

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