Chaney v. Miles
ORDER re Report and Recommendation [ECF No. 27 ]. (1) Respondent's motion to dismiss [ECF No. 22 ] is GRANTED. (2) Petitioner's petition under 28 U.S.C. § 2254 [ECF No. 1 ] is DENIED. (3) This action is DISMISSED WITH PREJUDICE. (4) A certificate of appealability is DENIED.(Written Opinion) Signed by Judge Joan N. Ericksen on 3/8/2018. (CBC)
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
DISTRICT OF MINNESOTA
DEMARCUS NASSON CHANEY,
Case No. 16-cv-3936 (JNE/SER)
STATE OF MINNESOTA,
Petitioner Demarcus Nasson Chaney was convicted in state court of two counts of
first degree sexual assault and sentenced to 360 months in prison. Chaney’s conviction
was affirmed on direct appeal. He then brought this federal habeas action under
28 U.S.C. § 2254.
Respondent moved to dismiss Chaney’s § 2254 petition, arguing that all of his
claims are procedurally defaulted and, if they are not defaulted, that the claims should not
be granted on the merits. In a Report and Recommendation (“R&R”) dated November 22,
2017, Magistrate Judge Steven E. Rau recommended that the petition be denied. Chaney
objected, and the Court has conducted a de novo review. See Local Rule 72.2(b). Based
on that review, the Court agrees with the magistrate judge’s recommended disposition for
the reasons set forth below.
Chaney raises three main grounds for relief in his amended habeas petition:
(1) prosecutorial misconduct; (2) admission of evidence of his past burglary that unfairly
prejudiced the jury; and (3) the state’s failure to disclose the victim-witness advocate’s
notes of her communications with trial witnesses. Those claims are addressed in turn
(1) Prosecutorial Misconduct Claim
Chaney did not object to the alleged prosecutorial misconduct during trial, creating
a procedural bar to postconviction review. See Resp’t App. at 158. Crucially, this bar
remains in place despite the fact that the Minnesota Court of Appeals, at its own
discretion, analyzed the alleged misconduct claim for plain error. Clark v. Bertsch, 780
F.3d 873, 876-77 (8th Cir. 2015) (holding that “the state court's discretionary plain-error
review of [the petitioner’s] unpreserved claims cannot excuse his procedural default. . .”).
Chaney has not advanced any arguments suggesting either a cause for the default or
prejudice. See Armstrong v. Iowa, 418 F.3d 924, 926 (8th Cir. 2005). Therefore,
Chaney’s prosecutorial misconduct claim is procedurally defaulted.
(2) Other-Acts Evidence Claim
Chaney’s claim that the admission of other-acts evidence deprived him of a right
to a fair trial was not properly exhausted. To satisfy the exhaustion requirement, a federal
claim must be fairly presented to state courts reviewing the claim. Fair presentation in
this context means that the habeas petitioner must have referred to (a) “a specific federal
constitutional right, a particular constitutional provision, a federal constitutional case,” or
(b) “a state case raising a pertinent federal constitutional issue in a claim before the state
courts.” Myre v. State of Iowa, 53 F.3d 199, 200-01 (8th Cir. 1995). Chaney presented his
other-acts claim to the Minnesota Supreme Court, but did so in terms of state law. The
only federal issues raised by Chaney in his state appellate briefs were his due process and
fair trial rights, but merely referencing those rights does not satisfy the fair presentation
requirement. See Turnage v. Fabian, 606 F.3d 933, 936 (8th Cir. 2010) (“It is not
enough . . . to make a general appeal to a constitutional guarantee as broad as due
process. . . .”) (internal quotation omitted); Thomas v. Wyrick, 622 F.2d 411, 413 (8th Cir.
1980) (holding that the mere reference to a fair trial in a petitioner’s brief to the state
appellate court “was not a sufficient presentation of the federal constitutional issue.”); see
also Barrett v. Acevedo, 169 F.3d 1155, 1162 (8th Cir. 1999) (“Presenting a claim that is
merely similar to the federal habeas claim is not sufficient to satisfy the fairly presented
requirement.”). Accordingly, Chaney did not fairly present his other-acts claim to the
This claim is procedurally defaulted, however, under State v. Knaffla, 309 Minn.
246, 243 N.W.2d 737 (Minn.1976). Knaffla bars collateral review in state court either
when the issue was litigated on direct appeal, or when the issue should have been raised
on direct appeal but was not. Knaffla, 243 N.W.2d at 741. Here, Chaney knew or should
have known that there were federal issues that could have been presented to the state
courts vis-à-vis his other-acts evidence claim, but he failed to do so. Moreover, the Court
finds no evidence that either of the two Knaffla exceptions apply. And, as noted above,
Chaney has not demonstrated cause for this default. Accordingly, the other-acts claim is
(3) Victim-Witness Notes Claim
Chaney’s claim that the state improperly failed to disclose the victim-witness
advocate’s notes of her communications was also not properly exhausted. Chaney’s
presentation of this issue to both the Minnesota Court of Appeals and the Minnesota
Supreme Court was based entirely on state law. Therefore, the federal claim was not
exhausted. However, this claim is Knaffla barred for the reasons discussed above. If there
were federal issues related to the victim-witness’s notes, Chaney should have raised them
on direct appeal. He did not, and he has provided no cause for this default. As such, the
claim is procedurally defaulted. 1
Based on the foregoing, and on all of the files, records, and proceedings herein, IT
IS HEREBY ORDERED THAT:
1. Respondent's motion to dismiss [ECF No. 22] is GRANTED.
The R&R concludes that Chaney’s unexhausted claims were procedurally defaulted by
Knaffla because they were already raised on direct appeal. But Chaney did not raise the
same claims on direct appeal. He raised state claims on direct appeal, not federal claims.
Moreover, if Chaney had already raised the same claims on direct appeal and in his
federal habeas petition (as the R&R suggests), those federal claims would not be Knaffla
barred. Knaffla only forecloses federal habeas review of claims that should have been
raised on direct appeal, but were not. See, e.g., McCall v. Benson, 114 F.3d 754, 757–58
(8th Cir. 1997); Buckingham v. Symmes, 2012 WL 3611893, at *2 (D. Minn. Aug. 21,
2012). It does not bar federal habeas review of claims that were raised in state court.
Indeed, as the Supreme Court has made clear, the fact that a claim was litigated in state
court “provides strong evidence that [it] . . . is ripe for federal adjudication.” Cone v. Bell,
556 U.S. 449, 467 (2009); see also Buckingham, 2012 WL 3611893 at *2.
2. Petitioner's petition under 28 U.S.C. § 2254 [ECF No. 1] is DENIED.
3. This action is DISMISSED WITH PREJUDICE.
4. A certificate of appealability is DENIED.
LET JUDGMENT BE ENTERED ACCORDINGLY.
Dated: March 8, 2018
s/ Joan N. Ericksen
JOAN N. ERICKSEN
United States District Judge
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