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John v. Rish

United States District Court, D. Minnesota

November 14, 2019

Peter Louis John, Petitioner,
v.
Kris Rish, Respondent.

          ORDER ADOPTING REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION

          Wilhelmina M. Wright United States District Judge

         This matter is before the Court on the June 7, 2019 Report and Recommendation (R&R) of United States Magistrate Judge Leo I. Brisbois. (Dkt. 17.) The R&R recommends denying Petitioner Peter Louis John's petition for a writ of habeas corpus and dismissing the matter without prejudice. John and Respondent Kris Rish filed timely objections to the R&R. For the reasons addressed below, the Court overrules both parties' objections, adopts the R&R, and dismisses this case without prejudice.

         BACKGROUND

         On September 23, 2014, John was convicted in Ramsey County District Court of aiding and abetting second-degree murder. John appealed his conviction to the Minnesota Court of Appeals, which affirmed the conviction in all respects. See State v. John, No. A15-0303, 2016 WL 1288370 (Minn.Ct.App. Apr. 4, 2016). The Minnesota Supreme Court denied John's petition for further review.

         John subsequently filed a petition for post-conviction relief in Ramsey County District Court. The district court denied the petition on the ground that John's claims were procedurally barred because he failed to raise them on direct appeal. The Minnesota Court of Appeals affirmed, see John v. State, No. A17-1098, 2018 WL 700258 (Minn.Ct.App. Feb. 5, 2018), and the Minnesota Supreme Court denied John's petition for further review.

         On July 20, 2018, John filed the instant habeas corpus petition. See 28 U.S.C. § 2254. He asserts five claims in support of granting habeas relief: the Minnesota courts erred in applying the Knaffla rule[1] as a ground for denying John's post-conviction petition in the state-court proceedings, and the trial court erroneously admitted John's pre-Miranda statements to the police, excluded evidence of a potential alternative perpetrator's other criminal activity, [2] precluded John from cross-examining a police officer about the officer's prior act of dishonesty, and failed to instruct the jury that other individuals were accomplices.

         The R&R concludes that John did not raise in the state courts two of the habeas claims that he raises here. According to the R&R, although John referred to reverse-Spreigl evidence in his Minnesota Supreme Court petition for further review, John did not identify any federal constitutional right, statutory provision, or case law on which his claim for relief was based. In addition, the R&R observes that John's petition for further review did not refer to any violation of the federal Confrontation Clause based on his inability to cross-examine a police officer about the officer's prior act of dishonesty. Thus, the R&R concludes that these claims are unexhausted.

         Because John's petition contains both exhausted and unexhausted claims, the R&R recommends dismissing the habeas petition for failure to exhaust. The R&R identifies two options for the petitioner: either abandon the unexhausted claims and file an amended petition before the deadline for objections or seek dismissal without prejudice and exhaust the unexhausted claims in state-court proceedings. Both John and Rish filed timely objections to the R&R.

         ANALYSIS

         When a party files and serves specific written objections to a magistrate judge's R&R, the district court reviews de novo those portions of the R&R to which an objection is made. 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(C); Fed.R.Civ.P. 72(b)(3); LR 72.2(b)(3). In doing so, the district court “may accept, reject, or modify, in whole or in part, the findings or recommendations made by the magistrate judge.” 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(C); accord Fed. R. Civ. P. 72(b)(3); LR 72.2(b)(3). Because John is proceeding pro se, the Court liberally construes his petition and objections. See Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 94 (2007) (per curiam).

         I. John's First Objection to the R&R

         John first objects to the R&R's conclusion that he failed to refer to a specific federal constitutional right, statutory provision, or case law when he presented his reverse-Spreigl claim to the Minnesota Supreme Court.

         A habeas petitioner in state custody is required to exhaust all available state-court remedies before bringing any claim in federal court. 28 U.S.C. § 2254(b)(1). To exhaust state-court remedies as to a federal habeas claim, the petitioner must have “fairly presented” the “substance” of that federal claim in state courts. Jones v. Jerrison, 20 F.3d 849, 854 (8th Cir. 1994) (internal quotation marks omitted). In doing so, the petitioner must have presented to the state courts “the same facts and legal theories” that are later presented to a federal court. Id. The claim also must refer to a “specific federal constitutional guarantee, as well as a statement of the facts that entitle the petitioner to relief.” Gray v. Netherland, 518 U.S. 152, 162-63 (1996). Without more, “a general appeal to a constitutional guarantee as broad as due process [fails] to present the ‘substance' of such a claim to a state court.” Id. at 163.

         John's petition alleges that the state trial court erroneously excluded reverse-Spreigl evidence of a potential alternative perpetrator. John presented this claim to both the Minnesota Court of Appeals and the Minnesota Supreme Court in his respective appeal and petition for further review. But John did ...


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