698 Fed.Appx. 807 (6th Cir. 2017), 15-5609, Shields v. United States

Docket Nº:15-5609
Citation:698 Fed.Appx. 807
Opinion Judge:BOGGS, Circuit Judge.
Party Name:Shannon SHIELDS, Petitioner-Appellant, v. UNITED STATES of America, Respondent-Appellee.
Attorney:Shannon Shields, U.S.P. Lee, Jonesville, VA, pro se Jason Todd Burnette, Jones Day, Atlanta, GA, for Petitioner-Appellant. Tony R. Arvin, Office of the U.S. Attorney, Memphis, TN, for Respondent-Appellee.
Judge Panel:Before: BOGGS, BATCHELDER, and WHITE, Circuit Judges. HELENE N. WHITE, Circuit Judge, concurring in the result.
Case Date:June 26, 2017
Court:United States Courts of Appeals, Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit

Page 807

698 Fed.Appx. 807 (6th Cir. 2017)

Shannon SHIELDS, Petitioner-Appellant,


UNITED STATES of America, Respondent-Appellee.

No. 15-5609

United States Court of Appeals, Sixth Circuit

June 26, 2017


Editorial Note:

Please Refer Federal Rule of Appellate Procedure Rule 32.1. See also U.S.Ct. of App. 6th Cir. Rule 32.1.

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Shannon Shields, U.S.P. Lee, Jonesville, VA, pro se

Jason Todd Burnette, Jones Day, Atlanta, GA, for Petitioner-Appellant.

Tony R. Arvin, Office of the U.S. Attorney, Memphis, TN, for Respondent-Appellee.

Before: BOGGS, BATCHELDER, and WHITE, Circuit Judges.


BOGGS, Circuit Judge.

Following a jury trial, Petitioner Shannon Shields was convicted of (1) kidnapping resulting in the death of the victim, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1201(a); (2) carrying and using a firearm during and in

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relation to kidnapping, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 924(c); and (3) attempted escape, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 751(a). The district court determined that Shields was mentally retarded and thus ineligible for the death penalty under 18 U.S.C. § 3596. Shields was sentenced to consecutive terms of life, ten years, and five years in prison, respectively. Pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2255, Shields now asserts that even though trial counsel argued that Shields’s confession " was not voluntary" and that " coercive police activity overbore [his] will," trial counsel provided constitutionally ineffective assistance by failing to argue in addition— before the very same trial judge— that Shields’s mental retardation prevented his waiver of his Miranda rights from being " knowing and intelligent."

A waiver of Miranda rights must be made " voluntarily, knowingly, and intelligently." Miranda v. Arizona, 384 U.S. 436, 444, 86 S.Ct. 1602, 16 L.Ed.2d 694 (1966). Mental retardation alone, however, does not prevent a defendant from making a valid waiver of Miranda in order to confess to a crime. And even if Shields’s trial counsel had argued that it did, Shields cannot show a reasonable likelihood that the district court would have granted Shields’s motion to suppress. We therefore affirm the denial of Shields’s motion for post-conviction relief.


The Kidnapping

According to eyewitness testimony at trial, at approximately 10:20 p.m. on May 19, 2004, Shields and his cousin Sonny approached a man named Jerrell Lott as he exited a grocery store in Memphis and got into his car. Either Shields or Sonny pointed a gun at Lott while the other demanded that Lott unlock his car and let them inside. Lott complied. The gunman kept the gun to Lott’s head as they drove away. Surveillance video revealed that Sonny used Lott’s ATM card to withdraw funds from an ATM approximately one hour after the initial carjacking.

Shields and Sonny then drove to the house of Sonny’s friend Lendzo Parker. According to Parker’s testimony, Shields and Sonny explained that they had robbed Lott and needed Parker’s help to get rid of the car. Parker and Parker’s friend James Stafford agreed to follow behind Shields and Sonny as they drove away in Lott’s car with Lott trapped in the trunk. Two other witnesses testified to their departure.

Parker testified that the men crossed into Arkansas, stopped at a gas station, and bought a gas can, which Stafford filled at the pump with gasoline. The men then resumed driving, first on a secluded paved road and then on an unpaved road. They parked by a field. Shields and Sonny got out of Lott’s car, opened Lott’s trunk, and directed Lott to get out. Lott begged for his life. When Lott attempted to run away, Sonny pulled a gun and fired at him. Shields grabbed the gun and ran after Lott, firing additional shots as he ran. Sonny followed. Parker testified that he heard several more shots before Shields and Sonny returned to the cars. The men then drove away in both cars, leaving Lott’s body behind.

After arriving in Memphis, however, Sonny noticed that the cap to the gas can was missing, so the four decided to return to the field to find it. They were not successful, so they drove back to Memphis. They then looked for a place to burn Lott’s car. Settling on a location near Hernando Street and Kerr Street, Shields parked the car in a field and lit it on fire, suffering burns to his arm and face in the process.

Lott’s car was found by the police. Lott’s body was later found in Crittenden County, Arkansas, by the farmer who owned the field in which the body had been left.

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According to a medical examiner, Lott had been shot five times including once in the head, was wearing only his underwear, and was badly burned after having been set on fire.

The Investigation

Local television stations began airing surveillance-camera footage from the grocery store showing Shields and Sonny as they approached Lott’s car. On May 21, Sonny turned himself in to the Memphis Police Department, making statements that implicated himself, but largely blaming Shields. United States v. Shields, 480 Fed.Appx. 381, 385 (6th Cir. 2012).

Shields, meanwhile, went to his aunt’s home, where he explained that he had been working on a car and been injured in a car-battery fire. Shields changed clothes and shoes and asked for a ride to Grenada, Mississippi, where he could meet up with his girlfriend. Shields told his girlfriend that he had been injured in a barbecuing accident. His girlfriend took Shields to a nearby hospital, where he checked in under the pseudonym " Willie Oliver." The hospital transferred him to a burn center in Greenville, Mississippi, where Shields continued to use the pseudonym.

Sonny told the police where to find Shields. Local law enforcement took Shields into custody in Greenville, and Memphis Police Detective Joseph Pearlman and Sergeant Jasper Clay drove down to Greenville on May 24. When Pearlman and Clay arrived, Shields began to tell them, unprompted, that he was not a killer and that he wanted to tell them his side of the story. Clay stopped Shields and proceeded to go with him to the U.S. Marshals’ office at the federal courthouse in Greenville, where Shields was due to be arraigned.

After giving Shields an opportunity to eat, Pearlman and Clay entered his holding cell and presented Shields with a Miranda -waiver form that lists the Miranda rights.1 Pearlman testified that his practice was first to turn the form over and ask the suspect about his education level, literacy, mental disabilities, and any recent pain-medicine or drug consumption, and then to ask the suspect to read the first line of the form out loud and the remainder of the form silently. Pearlman testified that he followed this practice with Shields, who read the first line of the form aloud.

Shields then said " I know my rights, I’ve been arrested before, I know I don’t have to talk to you if I don’t want to." Appellant’s Br. 9. Pearlman testified that Shields then said, " I can stop talking any time I want to stop." Shields also printed his name on the Miranda waiver form and signed it. According to Pearlman, Shields specifically stated " I understand my Miranda rights," and he " was very cognizant and very aware and very eager to talk."

On the back of the Miranda waiver form, Pearlman had noted that Shields told him that he had been in special-education classes in high school, that he had dropped out in the 11th grade, and that he " could read some but was not that good at it." Shields had also told the detectives that he had taken pain medication for the burns he had suffered five days earlier.

Shields then gave a 38-minute tape-recorded statement, which would be played for the jury at trial, implicating himself in Lott’s kidnapping. Shields admitted, among other things, that he was at the scene of the carjacking, that he rode to the ATM, and that he was present when Sonny fired his gun at Lott and when Sonny set Lott’s body on fire. Some of Shields’s

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statement sought to shift blame to Sonny: Shields said, for example, that he did not know that Sonny had a gun until the two were approaching Lott’s car, that Sonny threatened to kill Shields if he did not go along with the plan, that only Sonny fired the gun in the field, and that only Sonny was responsible for burning Lott’s body.2

Shields’s Trial

Shields stood trial in the United States District Court for the Western District of Tennessee, with Judge Bernice Bouie Donald presiding. On August 19, 2008, Shields’s trial counsel moved to suppress Shields’s confession on the grounds that it was coerced and not voluntary. After this motion was made, and before Judge Donald ruled on it, Judge Donald held a pretrial hearing to determine whether Shields was mentally retarded so as to preclude the government from seeking the death penalty. The hearing spanned ten full days, including five days in November 2008 and five days in January 2009. Shields and the government each called both expert and lay witnesses to testify to Shields’s mental capacity and ability to function.

Both parties submitted post-hearing memoranda. The parties stipulated to the definition of mental retardation in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (Fourth Edition-Text Revision) (DSM-IV-TR). According to the DSM-IV-TR, a finding of mental retardation has three requirements: (1) significantly subaverage intellectual functioning as demonstrated by an IQ of approximately 70 or lower on an individually administered IQ test; (2) concurrent deficits or impairments in present adaptive functioning in at least two of various areas such as communication, self-care, work, and so on; and (3) onset of the mental retardation before age eighteen.


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