265 F.3d 1 (1st Cir. 2001), 01-1008, Sanna v. DiPaolo

Docket Nº:01-1008
Citation:265 F.3d 1
Party Name:MICHAEL J.F. SANNA, Petitioner, Appellant, v. PAUL DIPAOLO, Respondent, Appellee.
Case Date:September 10, 2001
Court:United States Courts of Appeals, Court of Appeals for the First Circuit

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265 F.3d 1 (1st Cir. 2001)

MICHAEL J.F. SANNA, Petitioner, Appellant,


PAUL DIPAOLO, Respondent, Appellee.

No. 01-1008

United States Court of Appeals, First Circuit

September 10, 2001

Heard Aug 1, 2001


[Hon. Rya W. Zobel, U.S. District Judge]

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Donald A. Harwood for appellant.

William J. Meade, Assistant Attorney General, Commonwealth of Massachusetts, with whom Thomas F. Reilly, Attorney General, was on brief, for appellee.

Before Boudin, Chief Judge, Torruella and Selya, Circuit Judges.

SELYA, Circuit Judge.

Petitioner-appellant Michael J.F. Sanna, a state prisoner, appeals from the denial of his application for habeas corpus. His arguments here mirror those that he unsuccessfully made below: that the Commonwealth failed to provide him a full and fair opportunity to litigate his Fourth Amendment claim, that the police violated his Miranda rights, and that the state trial court's failure properly to instruct the jury as to the effect of his possible intoxication deprived him of due process. In light of the special rules that the Supreme Court has established for collaterally reviewing claims of error involving the Fourth Amendment and the exclusionary rule, see Stone v. Powell, 428 U.S. 465, 481-82 (1976), and the strictures of the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996 (AEDPA), Pub. L. No. 104-132, 110 Stat. 1214, we find the petitioner's plaints unpersuasive. Accordingly, we affirm the district court's denial of the writ.


The facts underlying the petitioner's conviction for first-degree murder are extensively chronicled in the opinion of the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court (SJC), see Commonwealth v. Sanna, 674 N.E.2d 1067, 1070-71 (Mass. 1997), and we refer the reader who hungers for exegetic detail to that opinion. For present purposes, it suffices to sketch the events leading to the petitioner's arrest and conviction (resolving conflicts in the evidence favorably to the state courts' findings), and thereafter limn the travel of the case.

A. The Facts.

On October 12, 1991, Abington police officers entered the apartment of the petitioner's seventy-four year old great uncle, Mario diCicco, and found his body lying in a pool of blood. An autopsy revealed that diCicco had been stabbed thirty-four times and bludgeoned repeatedly with a blunt instrument. The police matched fingerprints found at the crime scene with those of the petitioner.

Two officers thereupon visited the residence of the petitioner's parents, not pausing to procure a warrant. When they arrived, the petitioner's father approached them, engaged in a brief interchange, and invited them into the house. Once inside, the officers spied the petitioner lying on a couch, covered by a blanket. One of the policemen removed the blanket and asked the petitioner to stand. After noticing cuts and scratches, the officers arrested the petitioner and read him his Miranda rights. See Miranda v. Arizona, 384 U.S. 436, 444-45 (1966). The petitioner vouchsafed his understanding of those rights.

The officers then transported the petitioner to the Abington police station. They again explained his Miranda rights and inquired whether he wished to make a call. The petitioner demurred. Interrogation ensued and, within the next few hours, the petitioner admitted that he had killed diCicco. After recounting the details of the slaying, he told the officers for

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the first time that he had an attorney.1 They immediately offered to contact the lawyer, but the petitioner refused the offer. The police then secured a warrant to search the petitioner's home and automobile. The search revealed additional inculpatory evidence.

B. The Travel of the Case.

Following his indictment, the petitioner filed motions to suppress both his incriminating statements and the physical evidence garnered as a result of the searches. A four-day evidentiary hearing ensued. Several months later, the state court judge handed down a closely reasoned rescript denying the motions to suppress.

The petitioner's trial took place late in 1993. Under Massachusetts law, "[m]urder committed with deliberately premeditated malice aforethought, or with extreme atrocity or cruelty, or in the commission or attempted commission of a crime punishable with death or imprisonment for life" can comprise first-degree murder. Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 265, § 1. The jury found the petitioner guilty of first-degree murder by reason of extreme atrocity and cruelty. The trial court sentenced him to life imprisonment. On direct review, the SJC affirmed. Sanna, 674 N.E.2d at 1071-74.

On January 9, 1998, the petitioner filed an application for a writ of habeas corpus under 28 U.S.C. § 2254. The respondent, a state correctional official, moved to dismiss on the ground, inter alia, that the application failed to limn a cognizable claim for federal habeas relief. On December 14, 2000, the district court, adopting a magistrate judge's report and recommendation, granted the motion to dismiss. The court thereafter issued a certificate of appealability covering the three issues to which we have alluded. See 28 U.S.C. § 2253(c)(1). This proceeding followed.


In 1867, Congress authorized the federal courts to grant writs of habeas corpus at the behest of state prisoners held in violation of either the United States Constitution or federal law. While the procedural framework for federal habeas relief has changed over time, the scope of the federal courts' jurisdiction has remained intact. Williams v. Taylor, 529 U.S. 362, 374-75 (2000). Recently, however, the Supreme Court has clarified that the incidence of constitutional error in a state criminal trial does not, in itself, justify federal habeas relief. See id. The AEDPA amendments, which took effect on April 24, 1996, elevated the importance of this principle and widened the area within which federal habeas courts must defer to state court decisions (whether or not erroneous). See O'brien v. DuBois, 145 F.3d 16, 20 (1st Cir. 1998).

Two of the situations in which the AEDPA authorizes a federal court to grant habeas redress are pertinent here. One such situation arises when the underlying state court adjudication "resulted in a decision that was contrary to, or involved an unreasonable application of, clearly established Federal law, as determined by the Supreme Court of the United States." 28 U.S.C. § 2254(d)(1). This, in turn, provides two possible pathways to habeas relief. A federal court may ask whether

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there was an established Supreme Court precedent and grant relief if it determines that the state court's decision contravened that precedent. Williams v. Taylor, 529 U.S. at 376-78; Williams v. Matesanz, 230 F.3d 421, 424-25 (1st Cir. 2000); O'Brien, 145 F.3d at 24. If there is no Supreme Court case on point or if there is one and the state court correctly characterized it, the federal court nonetheless may grant the writ based upon a determination that the state tribunal applied the Supreme Court precedent in an unreasonable manner. Taylor, 529 U.S. at 376-78; Matesanz, 230 F.3d at 424-25; O'Brien, 145 F.3d at 24.

The AEDPA also allows collateral relief in a quite different situation: when a federal habeas court determines that a state court adjudication "resulted 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). It is worth noting, however, that these words cannot be read in a vacuum; they must be interpreted in conjunction with a companion subsection specifying that "a determination of a factual issue made by a State court shall be presumed to be correct," and that "[t]he applicant shall have the burden of rebutting the presumption of correctness by clear and convincing evidence." Id. § 2254(e)(1); see also Coombs v. Maine, 202 F.3d 14, 18 (1st Cir. 2000) (discussing and applying these provisions). For this purpose, "facts" are defined as "basic, primary, or historical facts: facts in the sense of a recital of external events and the credibility of their narrators." Bryson v. Ward, 187 F.3d 1193, 1211 (10th Cir. 1999) (citation and internal quotation marks omitted).


The petitioner contends that his conviction is thrice tainted by constitutional error because (i) his warrantless arrest was unconstitutional, (ii) his Miranda rights were transgressed, and (iii) his due process rights were offended by the jury instructions on malice.2 We address each of these contentions in turn.

A. The Fourth Amendment Claim.

The petitioner's first argument -- that the state court should have excluded the evidence (including his confession and the fruit of the subsequent searches of his home and car) that resulted from his warrantless arrest -- falls into a special category. Federal habeas jurisdiction has distinct characteristics, and principles of finality, federalism, and comity inform its scope. See Brecht v. Abrahamson, 507 U.S. 619, 633-35 (1993); Teague v. Lane, 489 U.S. 288, 308-10 (1989). In constructing this balance in respect to claims premised on violations of the Fourth Amendment, the Supreme Court has recognized that the prophylactic remedy for such violations typically available on direct review -- the exclusion of the evidence derived, directly or indirectly, from the violation -- is designed to deter law enforcement personnel from disregarding constitutional mandates. See Mapp v. Ohio, 367 U.S. 643, 658-59 (1961). The exclusionary rule is not without its vices, however; most notably, it

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too often results in keeping relevant, reliable information from the fact finder. Stone v. Powell, 428 U.S. 465,...

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