59 F.3d 1095 (11th Cir. 1995), 93-2523, Medina v. Singletary

Docket Nº:93-2523.
Citation:59 F.3d 1095
Party Name:Pedro MEDINA, Petitioner-Appellant, v. Harry K. SINGLETARY, Florida Department of Corrections, Respondent-Appellee.
Case Date:July 17, 1995
Court:United States Courts of Appeals, Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit

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59 F.3d 1095 (11th Cir. 1995)

Pedro MEDINA, Petitioner-Appellant,


Harry K. SINGLETARY, Florida Department of Corrections,


No. 93-2523.

United States Court of Appeals, Eleventh Circuit

July 17, 1995

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Judith J. Dougherty, Assistant Capital Collateral Representative, Office of the Capital Collateral Representative, Gail E. Anderson, Tallahassee, FL, for appellant.

Margene A. Roper, Asst. Atty. Gen., Dept. of Legal Affairs, Daytona Beach, FL, for appellee.

Appeal from the United States District Court for the Middle District of Florida.

Before DUBINA, BLACK and CARNES, Circuit Judges.

BLACK, Circuit Judge:

Pedro Medina, a Florida inmate who was convicted of first-degree murder and sentenced to death, appeals the district court's denial of his petition for a writ of habeas corpus. Medina contends that his conviction and/or sentence were invalid on thirteen constitutional grounds. We affirm the district court's denial.


Medina came to the United States from Cuba in 1980 as part of the Mariel boatlift when he was nineteen years old. He was released from a Cuban mental hospital immediately before leaving Cuba. Medina lived in the Orlando area and was befriended by Dorothy James. In late 1981, Medina moved to Tampa.

James was found dead in her Orlando home on April 4, 1982. She had been gagged, stabbed multiple times, and left to die. Early in the morning of April 8, 1982, Medina was found asleep in James' automobile at a rest stop on I-10 near Lake City and was arrested for theft of the automobile. The next day, Detective Daniel Nazarchuk, a detective investigating the murder of James, interviewed Medina in the Lake City jail about the automobile and the murder. Medina was arrested and indicted for the murder of James.

Medina requested psychiatric evaluation and was examined by two psychiatrists. Each determined that Medina met the statutory criteria for competency to stand trial. A competency hearing, at which Medina testified, was held the day before trial. The court found that Medina was competent to stand trial.

Medina was tried before a jury March 15-18, 1983, and was convicted of first-degree murder and auto theft. He was sentenced to five years' imprisonment for the auto theft conviction. The jury, by a 10 to 2 vote, recommended the death penalty for the murder conviction. The trial court found two aggravating circumstances--the murder was "especially heinous, atrocious, and cruel" and was "committed for pecuniary gain"--and a single mitigating circumstance--Medina had "no significant history of prior criminal activity." See Fla.Stat. Sec. 921.141. The court found that the aggravating circumstances outweighed the mitigating circumstance and sentenced Medina to death.

Medina appealed to the Florida Supreme Court, which affirmed both the conviction and sentence. Medina v. State, 466 So.2d 1046 (Fla.1985). Medina then filed a motion for postconviction relief pursuant to Fla.R.Crim.P. 3.850. The trial court determined that twelve of his fourteen claims were or could have been raised on direct appeal and were therefore procedurally barred. The court held an evidentiary hearing on the other two claims: withholding of material, exculpatory evidence by the state in violation of Brady v. Maryland, 373 U.S. 83, 83 S.Ct. 1194, 10 L.Ed.2d 215 (1963), and ineffective assistance of counsel during the sentencing phase in that counsel failed to investigate and present compelling and available mitigation evidence. The trial court denied all relief and the Florida Supreme Court affirmed the denial. Medina v. State, 573 So.2d 293 (Fla.1990). Medina filed a state petition for a writ of habeas corpus and the Florida Supreme Court denied the petition. Medina v. Dugger, 586 So.2d 317 (Fla.1991).

Medina filed a federal petition for a writ of habeas corpus alleging numerous constitutional violations. The petition was denied by the district court and is the subject of this appeal.


On appeal, Medina raises thirteen claims, some of which consist of several separate

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issues. We find that only three of these claims merit discussion 1 and will discuss each individually.

A. The Statement Claim

1. Parties' positions.

Medina alleges that the statement given to Nazarchuk on April 9, 1982, should not have been admitted at trial because Nazarchuk violated Medina's constitutional right to remain silent when he continued the interview after Medina indicated that he did not wish to talk. Medina further alleges that the error in admitting the statement was not harmless even though the statement was exculpatory because the state offered no direct evidence of his guilt and "distracted attention from the lack of direct evidence by suggesting that Mr. Medina's statements were 'incredible.' "

The state responds that, under the circumstances of this case, Medina's invocation of his right to remain silent was ambiguous and that it was reasonable for Nazarchuk to seek to clarify Medina's response. The state further responds that admission of the statement, if error, was harmless error because the statement was exculpatory, because Medina testified at trial, and because Medina was not put on the witness stand merely to counteract the April 9 statement but to explain "just why he was found in the victim's car with a knife that could have killed her."

2. Legal standard.

If, during custodial interrogation, a suspect "indicates in any manner, at any time prior to or during questioning, that he wishes to remain silent, the interrogation must cease." Miranda v. Arizona, 384 U.S. 436, 473-74, 86 S.Ct. 1602, 1627, 16 L.Ed.2d 694 (1966).

Through the exercise of his option to terminate questioning [a suspect] can control the time at which questioning occurs, the subjects discussed, and the duration of the interrogation. The requirement that law enforcement authorities must respect a person's exercise of that option counteracts the coercive pressures of the custodial setting.... [T]he admissibility of statements obtained after the person in custody has decided to remain silent depends under Miranda on whether his "right to cut off questioning" was "scrupulously honored."

Michigan v. Mosley, 423 U.S. 96, 103-04, 96 S.Ct. 321, 326, 46 L.Ed.2d 313 (1975).

Law enforcement officers are not required to terminate an interrogation unless the invocation of the right to remain silent is unambiguous. Davis v. United States, --- U.S. ----, ----, 114 S.Ct. 2350, 2355, 129

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L.Ed.2d 362 (1994). 2 "[A]n accused's postrequest responses to further interrogation may not be used to cast retrospective doubt on the clarity of the initial request itself." Smith v. Illinois, 469 U.S. 91, 100, 105 S.Ct. 490, 495, 83 L.Ed.2d 488 (1984) (emphasis in original). The Supreme Court has suggested, however, that "an accused's request ... may be characterized as ambiguous or equivocal as a result of events preceding the request or of nuances inherent in the request itself." Id. The inquiry as to whether a suspect's invocation of his right to remain silent was ambiguous or equivocal is an objective one. Davis, --- U.S. at ----, 114 S.Ct. at 2355. "A suspect must articulate his desire to cut off questioning with sufficient clarity that a reasonable police officer in the circumstances would understand the statement to be an assertion of the right to remain silent." Coleman v. Singletary, 30 F.3d 1420, 1424 (11th Cir.1994), cert. denied, --- U.S. ----, 115 S.Ct. 1801, 131 L.Ed.2d 727 (1995). See also Davis, --- U.S. at ----, 114 S.Ct. at 2355. Thus, "[t]he determination of whether a suspect's right to cut off questioning was scrupulously honored requires a case-by-case analysis." Christopher v. Florida, 824 F.2d 836, 840 (11th Cir.1987).

Although "the ultimate issue of voluntariness is a legal question requiring independent federal determination," "[w]e normally give great deference to the factual findings of the state court." Arizona v. Fulminante, 499 U.S. 279, 287, 111 S.Ct. 1246, 1252, 113 L.Ed.2d 302 (1991) (quotations omitted). If the state court held a full and fair hearing on the issue raised by the habeas petition, and the record fairly supports the factual findings of the state court, the federal courts presume the factual findings to be correct. 28 U.S.C.A. Sec. 2254(d) (West 1994); Weeks v. Jones, 26 F.3d 1030, 1034 (11th Cir.1994), cert. denied, --- U.S. ----, 115 S.Ct. 1258, 131 L.Ed.2d 137 (1995); Cave v. Singletary, 971 F.2d 1513, 1516 (11th Cir.1992).

We review the district court's findings of historical fact for clear error, even when the district court's findings are drawn solely from documents, records, or inferences from other facts. Spaziano v. Singletary, 36 F.3d 1028, 1032 (11th Cir.1994), cert. denied, --- U.S. ----, 115 S.Ct. 911, 130 L.Ed.2d 793 (1995). "If the district court's account of the evidence is plausible in light of the record viewed in its entirety, the court of appeals may not reverse it." Id. (quoting Anderson v. City of Bessemer City, N.C., 470 U.S. 564, 573-74, 105 S.Ct. 1504, 1511, 84 L.Ed.2d 518 (1985)).

3. Factual and procedural background.

On April 9, 1982, Medina was interviewed at the Lake City jail by Detective Daniel Nazarchuk, the Orange County deputy sheriff in charge of the investigation of Dorothy James' murder. Detective Diane Payne, also from Orange County, was with Nazarchuk but did not actively participate in the interview. As was the normal practice, the interview with Medina consisted of two parts: (1) an initial, unrecorded interview to get everything in perspective so...

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