Chatman v. Sayler, 1:20-cv-047

CourtUnited States District Courts. 8th Circuit. United States District Court of North Dakota
Writing for the CourtClare R. Hochhalter, Magistrate Judge
PartiesMarcus Chatman, Plaintiff, v. James Sayler, Respondent.
Docket Number1:20-cv-047
Decision Date13 September 2022

Marcus Chatman, Plaintiff,

James Sayler, Respondent.

No. 1:20-cv-047

United States District Court, D. North Dakota

September 13, 2022


Clare R. Hochhalter, Magistrate Judge

Before the Court is a Motion to Dismiss Section 2254 Petition by Respondent on May 18, 2020. For the reasons that follow, the motion is granted and Petitioner Marcus Chatman's (“Chatman”) habeas petition is denied.


A. Underlying Criminal Conviction

Chatman was convicted in state district court of the offenses of possession with intent to deliver, possession of cocaine, and possession of marijuana by a driver. The North Dakota Supreme Court summarized the events culminating his conviction as follows in State v. Chatman:

[¶ 2] On May 15, 2014, Chatman was arrested on an unrelated charge. After the arrest, Bismarck police officers searched Chatman's cell phone without a warrant and found text messages about drug distribution
[¶ 3] On May 20, 2014, an informant began providing information to a Bismarck Police detective in exchange for two one-way bus tickets and to potentially help with her boyfriend's criminal charges. The informant told the detective she was a heroin user, Chatman was her source for heroin, Chatman was known by the street name “D,” she had seen Chatman in possession of heroin two days earlier, and he was selling the heroin for $100 for one-tenth of a gram. The informant told the detective she was meeting Chatman later that day. After meeting with Chatman, the informant told the detective that Chatman was leaving for Chicago that night to pick up heroin and cocaine and asked her to accompany him on the trip
[¶ 4] The informant traveled to Chicago with Chatman and kept in contact with the detective during the trip. The detective received a text message from the informant around 11:12 p.m. on May 20, 2014, stating they had left Bismarck to go to Chicago. On the morning of May 21, 2014, the detective received a text message from the informant stating they were in Wisconsin. On May 22, 2014, the detective applied for a warrant for cell tower information for a cell phone belonging to another individual the detective believed was with Chatman and the informant to track their progress. The affidavit submitted in support of the search warrant application included information obtained from the May 15, 2014 warrantless search of Chatman's cell phone. After the detective applied for the warrant for the cell tower information, he received a text message from the informant informing him they were almost to “the cities” and Chatman had the heroin in his jeans pocket.
[¶ 5] The detective applied for a warrant to search Chatman and the vehicle he was driving. The detective testified in support of the application and also submitted a copy of his affidavit from the prior cell phone tower warrant application. A warrant was issued, authorizing a search of Chatman's person and the vehicle he was driving when he arrived in Bismarck.
[¶ 6] Officers set up surveillance along the route they believed Chatman would take to determine when Chatman returned to Bismarck. The detective observed Chatman driving the vehicle on the interstate heading toward Bismarck, he notified other officers, and the officers stopped Chatman's vehicle when it reached his residence. Officers searched Chatman and the vehicle and found heroin, cocaine, and marijuana. Chatman was charged with possession of heroin with intent to deliver or manufacture, a class A felony; possession of cocaine, a class C felony; and possession of marijuana by a driver, a class A misdemeanor.
[¶ 7] Chatman moved to suppress the evidence obtained from searching him and his vehicle. He argued information from the May 15, 2014, warrantless cell phone search was used to obtain the search warrant, a warrant must be obtained to search a cell phone incident to arrest, and therefore all evidence obtained as a result of the illegal search of his cell phone must be suppressed. After a hearing, the district court denied the motion, concluding the Fourth Amendment was not violated by the search of Chatman and the vehicle because there was sufficient evidence to find probable cause to issue the search warrant absent the information obtained from the May 15, 2014, cell phone search.
[¶ 8] Before trial, Chatman requested the trial be reset because he was unable to contact the informant to testify. The district court granted the request and the trial was reset. On the morning of the first day of trial, Chatman informed the court he had subpoenaed the informant, but the person who responded to the subpoena was not the informant involved with his case, and he stated the informant should be present for the case to properly proceed. The State advised the court it did not know where
the informant was. Chatman did not make any further motions or make any further argument about the informant's absence. A jury trial was held, and the jury found Chatman guilty on all three charges.

(Doc. No. 10-13, State v. Chatman, 2015 ND 296, ¶¶ 2-8, 872 N.W.2d 595, 599-600 (“Chatman I”)).

B. Direct Appeal

Chatman directly appealed his conviction to the North Dakota Supreme Court on the grounds that the trial court had erred in denying his motion to suppress and that his Sixth Amendment rights were violated when testimonial statements of a witness made unavailable by the State were presented and allowed as trial evidence. (Doc. Nos. 10-9, 10-10). The North Dakota Supreme Court affirmed the judgment in an opinion filed on December 22, 2015. (Doc. No. 10-13, State v. Chatman, 2015 ND 296, 872 N.W.2d 595). Its mandate issued on March 1, 2016. (Doc. No. 109.) Chatman did not petition the United States Supreme Court for a writ of certiorari.

C. State Post-Conviction Proceedings

1. First Application for Post-Conviction Relief

Chatman filed an application for post conviction reliefwith the state district court on March 28, 2016, claiming ineffective assistance of trial counsel and failures by the State to correct false testimony and to provide him with exculpatory evidence as required by N.D. R. Crim P. 16. (Doc. Nos. 10-14, 10-15). The state district court dismissed his application on June 29, 2016. (Doc. No. 10-18). Its decision was affirmed by the North Dakota Supreme Court on February 16, 2017. (Doc. No. 10-23, Chatman v. State, 2017 ND 12).

Meanwhile, on December 20, 2016, Chatman filed a second application for post-conviction reliefwith the state district court, challenging the constitutionality of the anticipatory search warrant in his underlying criminal case and further asserting that he was entitled to post-conviction relief due


to new evidence he had discovered regarding both Ashley Giles's use of the alias “Jyssica Noble” and Ashley Giles's whereabouts. (Doc. Nos. 10-24, 10-25, 10-35). The state district court summarily dismissed the application on October 19, 2017. (Doc. No. 10-35). In so doing, it observed the North Dakota Supreme Court had disposed of Chatman's claim regarding the search warrants constitutionally on direct appeal. (Id.). As for Chatman's assertion regarding the discovery of new evidence, it concluded that the information was not entirely new and ultimately had little if any consequence.

[¶12] Here, Chatman's “newly discovered” evidence pertains to Giles. Specifically, Chatman alleges the “newly discovered” evidence includes Giles's alias “Jyssica Noble” and Gile's whereabout, allegedly in Massachusetts.
[¶13] Regarding Gile's whereabouts, on December 14, 2014, Attorney Dietz emailed Attorney Ewell informing him that Giles's last known location was Massachusetts. On January 13, 2015, Attorney Ewell asked for the confidential informant file on Giles. On January 14, 2015, the State responded indicating that there was no confidential information file on Giles since Giles did not sign up as a confidential informant. Later on January 14, 2015, Detective Bolme confirmed the States assertion, indicating that there was “no paperwork.” This “newly discovered”evidence was not discovered after trial. In fact it was disclosed to Attorney Ewell over a month before trial. Assuming, without finding, that the evidence was not discovered until after trial and that the failure to learn about this evidence at time of trial was not a result of Chatman's lack of diligence, the “newly discovered” evidence is neither material nor likely to result in an acquittal.
[¶14] Regarding Gile's alias, on October 7, 2016, Chatman filed an open records request. On November 3, 2016, the State provided Chatman with a letter indicating Giles's only known alias to the State or the Bismarck Police Department is “Jyssica Noble.” The State asserts that neither the State nor Detective Bolme was aware of the alias “Jyssica Noble” until July 23, 2015, over four months after Chatman's trial. The failure to learn about this evidence at the time of trial does not appear to be as a result of Chatman's lack of diligence. The “newly discovered” evidence, however, is neither material nor likely to result in an acquittal ....
* * *
[¶18] Here, the State has provided evidence that as of October 16, 2014 they believed Gile's address to be in Fargo, North Dakota. However, in an e-mail
conversation between Attorney Dietz and Attorney Ewell on December 14, 2014, Attorney Dietz disclosed that she believed Giles's last known location to be in Massachusetts. Even if the court were to determine that the State committed a Rule 16 violation by failing to disclose Giles location in Massachusetts until December 14, 2014, Chatman has nonetheless failed to show he was significantly prejudiced by the violation. Therefore, Chatman is not entitled to relief on this basis.

(Id.). Its...

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