DeBruin v. State of Iowa
ORDER re 1 Petition for Writ of Habeas Corpus filed by Douglas D DeBruin. The petitioner's application for a writ of habeas corpus is denied. A certificate of appealability is denied. Signed by Chief Judge Linda R Reade on 2/14/2012. (pac)
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE NORTHERN DISTRICT OF IOWA
DOUGLAS D. DEBRUIN,
JOHN AULT, II,
This matter appears before the court on the petitioner’s application for a writ of
habeas corpus pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254 (docket no. 1). On May 10, 2010, the
petitioner filed an application for a writ of habeas corpus. On August 6, 2010, the
respondent filed a “Motion to Dismiss” (docket no. 7), seeking to dismiss “all claims and
issues raised in the Petition.” Motion to Dismiss at 1. On March 1, 2011, the court
entered an Order (docket no. 13) dismissing two of the petitioner’s claims and directing
the respondent to file an appendix and the parties to brief all of the remaining claims. On
March 11, 2011, the respondent filed an appendix.1 See (docket nos. 15-16). On April
14, 2011, the petitioner filed a brief (docket no. 19). On May 5, 2011, the respondent
filed a responsive brief (docket no. 20). On May 13, 2011, the petitioner filed a reply
brief (docket no. 21). The court now turns to consider the petitioner’s application for a
writ of habeas corpus.
Although the petitioner does not request an evidentiary hearing on this matter, the
court will first consider whether an evidentiary hearing is warranted. The relevant statute,
28 U.S.C. § 2254(e), provides:
Prior to filing the Appendix, the respondent submitted relevant state court
documents. Because they are part of the record, the court will rely on them to the extent
that they are needed to resolve the petitioner’s claims.
(2) If the applicant has failed to develop the factual basis of a
claim in State court proceedings, the court shall not hold an
evidentiary hearing on the claim unless the applicant shows
(A) the claim relies on—
(i) a new rule of constitutional law, made
retroactive to cases on collateral review by the
Supreme Court, that was previously unavailable;
(ii) a factual predicate that could not have been
previously discovered through the exercise of
due diligence; and
(B) the facts underlying the claim would be sufficient to
establish by clear and convincing evidence that but for
constitutional error, no reasonable factfinder would
have found the applicant guilty of the underlying
Id. § 2254(e)(2). Due to the limits set forth in 28 U.S.C. § 2254(e)(2), the court concludes
that an evidentiary hearing is not warranted. See Smith v. Bowersox, 311 F.3d 915, 921
(8th Cir. 2002) (discussing constraints on district court’s discretion to hold an evidentiary
hearing); Hall v. Luebbers, 296 F.3d 685, 700 (8th Cir. 2002) (discussing standard for
conducting an evidentiary hearing under 28 U.S.C. § 2254(e)(2)); Kinder v. Bowersox,
272 F.3d 532, 542 (8th Cir. 2001) (finding it was proper for district court not to hold an
evidentiary hearing because the petitioner did not meet the requirements of 28 U.S.C. §
2254(e)(2)); Parker v. Kemna, 260 F.3d 852, 854 (8th Cir. 2001) (same); Hatcher v.
Hopkins, 256 F.3d 761, 764 (8th Cir. 2001) (same); cf. Johnston v. Luebbers, 288 F.3d
1048, 1058-60 (8th Cir. 2002) (assuming that 28 U.S.C. § 2254(e)(2) did not bar the
district court from granting an evidentiary hearing and denying the petitioner an
evidentiary hearing because such a hearing would not assist in the resolution of his claim).
With respect to petitioner’s claims, the court deems it appropriate to deny the
application for a writ of habeas corpus for the reasons stated in the respondent’s responsive
brief. Specifically, the respondent correctly points out that, although the petitioner did
exhaust a sufficiency of the evidence claim in state court, the petitioner did not explicitly
raise a sufficiency of the evidence claim in his application for a writ of habeas corpus. See
Frey v. Schuetzle, 78 F.3d 359, 360-61 (8th Cir. 1996) (“District courts must be careful
to adjudicate only those claims upon which the habeas petitioner seeks relief and take care
not to decide claims upon which the petitioner never intended to seek relief.”).
Furthermore, the respondent correctly concludes that the petitioner’s sufficiency of the
evidence claim fails because the Iowa courts’ adjudication of the matter did not “result
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)(2). Additionally,
the petitioner’s challenge to the sufficiency of the evidence to support his state court
conviction is without merit because, “viewing the evidence in the light most favorable to
the prosecution, any rational trier of fact could have found the essential elements of the
offense beyond a reasonable doubt.” Neal v. Acevedo, 114 F.3d 803, 807 (8th Cir. 1997)
(internal quotation mark omitted) (quoting Jackson v. Virginia, 443 U.S. 307, 319 (1979)).
The respondent also correctly asserts that the petitioner is not entitled to habeas
relief for ineffective assistance of counsel because such a claim is procedurally barred
and/or without merit, and the court concludes that the Iowa courts’ analysis of the
petitioner’s ineffective assistance of counsel claim is not an objectively unreasonable
application of clearly established federal law. See 28 U.S.C. § 2254(d)(1); Christian v.
Dingle, 577 F.3d 907, 911 (8th Cir. 2009) (quoting Lockyer v. Andrade, 538 U.S. 63, 75
(2003)); see also Newman v. Hopkins, 247 F.3d 848, 850-52 (8th Cir. 2001) (discussing
effect of Williams v. Taylor, 529 U.S. 362 (2000)).
Additionally, after reviewing the
record de novo, see Rompilla v. Beard, 545 U.S. 374 (2005), the court concludes that the
conduct of counsel fell within a wide range of reasonable professional assistance,
Strickland v. Washington, 466 U.S. 668, 689 (1984), and counsel’s performance did not
prejudice the petitioner’s defense, id. at 692-94. Considering all of the circumstances and
refraining from engaging in hindsight or second-guessing counsel’s strategic decisions, the
court finds that no violation of the petitioner’s constitutional right to counsel occurred.
The respondent also correctly argues that the petitioner is not entitled to habeas
relief on his due process claims. The petitioner maintains that the Iowa Court of Appeals
addressed his claim on direct appeal that he was denied access to the courts and, therefore,
the court should review the claim under 28 U.S.C. § 2254(d). The petitioner argues that
the remaining due process claims that he asserted in his application for postconviction
relief were not adjudicated on the merits and should be reviewed by this court de novo.
However, the court disagrees. First, the petitioner failed to raise his access to the courts
claim in his application for further review on direct appeal and, consequently, his claim
is procedurally defaulted. See App’x at 1429-59; Welch v. Lund, 616 F.3d 756, 758 (8th
Cir. 2010) (noting that a petitioner’s failure to seek discretionary review constitutes a
failure to exhaust remedies and, therefore, constitutes a procedural default of the
petitioner’s habeas claims).
Second, the Iowa Court of Appeals addressed the due process claims that the
petitioner raised in his appeal from the district court’s denial of his application for
postconviction relief. The Iowa Court of Appeals affirmed the district court’s grant of the
state’s motion for summary disposition on the petitioner’s due process claims and held that
the petitioner’s remaining pro se claims were either not preserved for review, subsumed
in the issues raised by his counsel or otherwise without merit. See DeBruin v. State, No.
08-1993, 779 N.W.2d 494, at *2 (Iowa Ct. App. Jan. 22, 2010) (Table); see also
Harrington v. Richter, ___ U.S. ___, ___, 131 S. Ct. 770, 785 (2011) (“[28 U.S.C.
§ 2254(d)] does not require a state court to give reasons before its decision can be deemed
to have been ‘adjudicated on the merits.’”). Furthermore, the respondent correctly argues
that the petitioner failed to properly raise his due process claims in his application for
further review in the postconviction action. Thus, the court finds that the due process
claims that the petitioner raises in his application for a writ of habeas corpus are either
procedurally defaulted or subject to discretionary review under 28 U.S.C. § 2254(d)(1).
To the extent that the petitioner has preserved his due process claims, the court finds that
the Iowa courts’ adjudication of the petitioner’s due process claims neither resulted in a
decision contrary to clearly established federal law nor involved an unreasonable
application of clearly established federal law. See 28 U.S.C. § 2254(d)(1). Furthermore,
as the respondent correctly states in its responsive brief, the petitioner’s due process claims
are without merit. The court has thoroughly reviewed the record and finds that habeas
relief is not available because no violation of petitioner’s constitutional rights occurred.
Accordingly, the petitioner’s application for a writ of habeas corpus shall be denied.
“In a habeas corpus proceeding . . . before a district judge, the final order shall be
subject to review, on appeal, by the court of appeals for the circuit in which the proceeding
is held.” 28 U.S.C. § 2253(a). “Unless a circuit justice or judge issues a certificate of
appealability, an appeal may not be taken to the court of appeals . . . .” Id. § 2253(c)(1).
A district court possesses the authority to issue certificates of appealability under 28
U.S.C. § 2253(c) and Federal Rule of Criminal Procedure 22(b). See Tiedeman v.
Benson, 122 F.3d 518, 522 (8th Cir. 1997). Under 28 U.S.C. § 2253(c)(2), a certificate
of appealability may only issue if a petitioner “has made a substantial showing of the denial
of a constitutional right.” See Miller-El v. Cockrell, 537 U.S. 322, 335-36 (2003); Garrett
v. United States, 211 F.3d 1075, 1076-77 (8th Cir. 2000); Carter v. Hopkins, 151 F.3d
872, 873-74 (8th Cir. 1998); Cox v. Norris, 133 F.3d 565, 569 (8th Cir. 1997); Tiedeman,
122 F.3d at 522. To make such a showing, the issues must be debatable among reasonable
jurists, a court could resolve the issues differently, or the issues deserve further
proceedings. Cox, 133 F.3d at 569 (citing Flieger v. Delo, 16 F.3d 878, 882-83 (8th Cir.
1994)); see also Miller-El, 537 U.S. at 335-36 (reiterating standard).
Courts reject constitutional claims either on the merits or on procedural grounds.
“‘[W]here a district court has rejected the constitutional claims on the merits, the showing
required to satisfy [28 U.S.C.] § 2253(c) is straightforward: The petitioner must
demonstrate that reasonable jurists would find the district court’s assessment of the
constitutional claims debatable or wrong.’” Miller-El, 537 U.S. at 338 (quoting Slack v.
McDaniel, 529 U.S. 473, 484 (2000)). When a federal habeas petition is dismissed on
procedural grounds without reaching the underlying constitutional claim, “the [petitioner
must show], at least, that jurists of reason would find it debatable whether the petition
states a valid claim of the denial of a constitutional right and that jurists of reason would
find it debatable whether the district court was correct in its procedural ruling.” Slack,
529 U.S. at 484.
Having thoroughly reviewed the record in this case, the court finds that the
petitioner failed to make the requisite “substantial showing” with respect to the claims that
he raised in his application for a writ of habeas corpus. See 28 U.S.C. § 2253(c)(2); Fed.
R. App. P. 22(b). Because there is no debatable question as to the resolution of this case,
an appeal is not warranted.
Accordingly, the court shall not issue a certificate of
appealability pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2253.
If the petitioner desires further review of his claims, he may request issuance of the
certificate of appealability by a circuit judge of the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals in
accordance with Tiedeman, 122 F.3d at 520-22.
IT IS THEREFORE ORDERED:
(1) The petitioner’s application for a writ of habeas corpus (docket no. 1) is denied.
(2) A certificate of appealability is denied.
DATED this 14th day of February, 2012.
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