865 F.3d 857 (7th Cir. 2017), 15-2276, Harper v. Brown

Docket Nº:15-2276
Citation:865 F.3d 857
Opinion Judge:Sykes , Circuit Judge.
Party Name:CHAS HARPER, Petitioner-Appellant, v. RICHARD BROWN, Respondent-Appellee
Attorney:For CHAS HARPER, Petitioner - Appellant: Nicole C. Henning, Attorney, JONES DAY, Chicago, IL. For RICHARD BROWN, Respondent - Appellee: Eric Parker Babbs, Attorney, OFFICE OF THE ATTORNEY GENERAL, Indianapolis, IN.
Judge Panel:Before KANNE, SYKES, and HAMILTON, Circuit Judges.
Case Date:July 31, 2017
Court:United States Courts of Appeals, Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit
 
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Page 857

865 F.3d 857 (7th Cir. 2017)

CHAS HARPER, Petitioner-Appellant,

v.

RICHARD BROWN, Respondent-Appellee

No. 15-2276

United States Court of Appeals, Seventh Circuit

July 31, 2017

         Argued September 28, 2016

          Appeal from the United States District Court for the Southern District of Indiana, Terre Haute Division. No. 2:14-cv-0306-WTL-MJD -- William T. Lawrence, Judge.

         For CHAS HARPER, Petitioner - Appellant: Nicole C. Henning, Attorney, JONES DAY, Chicago, IL.

         For RICHARD BROWN, Respondent - Appellee: Eric Parker Babbs, Attorney, OFFICE OF THE ATTORNEY GENERAL, Indianapolis, IN.

         Before KANNE, SYKES, and HAMILTON, Circuit Judges.

          OPINION

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          Sykes , Circuit Judge.

          Chas Harper, an Indiana prisoner, seeks habeas relief under 28 U.S.C. § 2254 claiming that his attorney on direct appeal was constitutionally ineffective because he failed to adequately develop an argument that Harper's sentence warranted revision under Rule 7(B) of the Indiana Rules of Appellate Procedure. Because the argument was underdeveloped, the state appellate court deemed it waived. The court later rejected Harper's claim on postconviction review that the waiver amounted to ineffective assistance of counsel. Applying

Page 859

the standard announced in Strickland v. Washington, 466 U.S. 668, 104 S.Ct. 2052, 80 L.Ed.2d 674 (1984), the court held that Harper was not prejudiced by the waiver because his sentence was appropriate under state law, so a well-developed Rule 7(B) argument would have failed.

         Harper challenges that ruling under § 2254, but his argument is really an attack on the state court's resolution of a question of state law embedded within its analysis of a Strickland claim. Federal courts are not empowered to review questions of state law under § 2254. Because the state court reasonably applied the Strickland standard, we affirm the district court's denial of § 2254 relief.

         I. Background

         In October 2007 police in North Vernon, Indiana, were tipped off by an informant that Harper had drugs in his home. Officers obtained and executed a search warrant at the home and recovered a lockbox containing a stolen firearm, 109.9 grams of methamphetamine, a digital scale, plastic baggies, and 0.61 grams of heroin in small foil packages. They also located a video surveillance system that relayed a live transmission of anyone who approached the front door.

         Harper was charged by state prosecutors with dealing methamphetamine and heroin and receiving stolen property. At trial the prosecution introduced...

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