274 F.3d 497 (8th Cir. 2001), 01-1040, Boyd v State of Minnesota

Docket Nº:01-1040
Citation:274 F.3d 497
Case Date:December 17, 2001
Court:United States Courts of Appeals, Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit

Page 497

274 F.3d 497 (8th Cir. 2001)




No. 01-1040

United States Court of Appeals, Eighth Circuit

December 17, 2001

Submitted: October 15, 2001

Appeal from the United States District Court for the District of Minnesota.

Page 498

Before Wollman, Chief Judge, Lay and Riley, Circuit Judges.

Lay, Circuit Judge.

Patricia Boyd appeals the district court's1 denial of her petition for a writ of habeas corpus. In 1996, after the apparent drowning death of her newborn baby, Boyd was charged with murder in the

Page 499

second degree, manslaughter in the second degree, and interference with a dead body. She was tried in the district court of Mower County, Minnesota, and convicted of all three charges. Boyd dismissed her direct appeal and sought post-conviction relief in state district court. After an evidentiary hearing, the court denied her request for relief. The Minnesota Court of Appeals upheld the state district court's decision, Boyd v. State, No. C1-98-1046 (Minn. App. Apr. 6, 1999) (unpublished opinion); the Minnesota Supreme Court denied discretionary review. In her petition for federal habeas corpus relief, Boyd argues (1) there was insufficient evidence to prove her infant daughter was born alive, (2) the state trial judge impermissibly instructed the jury to presume Boyd's daughter was born alive, and (3) her trial counsel's failure to challenge the sufficiency of the evidence and his failure to object to the jury instructions amounted to ineffective assistance of counsel. We reject Boyd's claims and affirm the district court's denial of relief.


On May 24, 1995, Patricia Boyd delivered her baby into the toilet at her home. Boyd was approximately thirty-six weeks pregnant when she gave birth. She saw the infant's toes sticking out from a pool of bloody water, its head submerged. Boyd claimed the baby was not moving and she believed it to be dead. She cleaned herself up and asked her neighbor to pick her husband up from work. Steven Boyd came home, put the infant in a plastic bag, and went back to work. When he returned a few hours later, the Boyds went to the hospital.

Boyd's medical examination revealed no abnormalities. Although she told the treating nurse she had been "four to five months" pregnant and had miscarried, the medical personnel were shocked by the contents of the plastic bag. The infant appeared to the hospital personnel to be near-term. Police went to Boyd's residence around midnight to question her. She told officers she had not touched the infant after it landed in the toilet.2 The officers requested an autopsy be performed. Dr. Susan Roe, Assistant Medical Examiner for Ramsey and Washington Counties, found the amount of air in the lungs and gastrointestinal tract was inconsistent with Boyd's claim that the baby dropped immediately from the birth canal into the water in the toilet. Dr. Roe opined that, although it is never possible to make a certain diagnosis of drowning, the lack of competing causes of death in this case suggested the infant had drowned. Dr. John Plunkett, the Coroner for Dakota, Carver, Scott and Chisago Counties, testified as an expert for the defense. He generally agreed with Dr. Roe that the infant lived, breathed, swallowed air, and had no organ abnormalities, congenital defects, or trauma that could explain the infant's death. While he...

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