Garrison v. Burt

Decision Date01 March 2010
Docket NumberNo. 4:08-CV-00474-JAJ.,4:08-CV-00474-JAJ.
Citation707 F.Supp.2d 945
PartiesHoward Paul GARRISON, Petitioner,v.Jerry BURT, Warden, Anamosa State Penitentiary, Respondent.
CourtU.S. District Court — Southern District of Iowa

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Alfredo G. Parrish, Parrish Kruidenier Dunn Boles Gribble Parrish Gentry & Fisher LLP, Des Moines, IA, for Petitioner.

Thomas William Andrews, Attorney General of Iowa, Des Moines, IA, for Respondent.

ORDER

JOHN A. JARVEY, District Judge.

This matter comes before the Court pursuant to Howard Paul Garrison's (Garrison) November 19, 2008 Petition for Writ of Habeas Corpus pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254 (Dkt. No. 1). Garrison challenges convictions in state court for two counts of first-degree murder. In his petition for relief, Garrison claims that the trial information should have been dismissed because the prosecutor intentionally engaged in misconduct that forced a second trial thereby violating the Double Jeopardy Clause of the Fifth Amendment to the United States Constitution. Garrison also claims that prosecutorial misconduct infected the trial with unfairness so as to make his resulting conviction a denial of the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. Finally, Garrison argues that the evidence at trial was insufficient to prove that he committed two counts of first-degree murder, again resulting in a denial of due process. For the following reasons, the Court denies Garrison's § 2254 application.

I. Procedural History
A. First Trial

Garrison was charged by trial information on November 18, 2002, with the October 24, 2002, murders of Steve Emerson and John Caswell, Jr. The trial began on November 18, 2003, and ended on November 26, 2003. The jury found Garrison guilty of two counts of murder in the first degree, and Garrison was thereafter sentenced on January 16, 2003, to two terms of consecutive life imprisonment. Garrison timely filed his first notice of appeal on January 20, 2003.

On January 19, 2006, the Iowa Court of Appeals reversed Garrison's convictions and remanded for a new trial. State v. Garrison (Garrison I), No. 5-432/04-0141, 2006 WL 138280, at *19, 2006 Iowa App. LEXIS 25, at *56 (Iowa Ct.App. Jan. 19, 2006). The court concluded that because the State could not establish a personal or direct relationship between Garrison and witness Brian Martin, Martin's testimony regarding the defendant's sales of OxyContin was not relevant and therefore inadmissible. Id. at *11-12, 2006 Iowa App. LEXIS 25 at *31-32. As a result, the trial court should have granted Garrison's motion for mistrial “once the nature and extent of Martin's testimony concerning OxyContin and his lack of a prior relationship was known by the court and it had become apparent Martin's OxyContin testimony was not relevant to show a prior relationship with Garrison....” Id.

B. Second Trial

On May 23, 2006, Garrison filed a Motion to Dismiss the Trial Information and/or for Sanctions based on prosecutorial misconduct that necessitated a second trial.1 [App. 3.] The court denied the motion and found that the State's prior conduct regarding the Martin testimony did not “intend to force a mistrial when it misinformed the Court that the defendant and Martin had a prior relationship.” [App. 26-27.] The second trial began on October 23, 2006, and the jury returned a verdict of guilty on both counts on November 4, 2006. Garrison was sentenced on December 1, 2006, to two consecutive terms of life in prison. [App. 90.] Garrison timely filed his notice of appeal on December 5, 2006. [App. 92.]

The Iowa Court of Appeals affirmed Garrison's convictions on July 30, 2008. State v. Garrison (Garrison II), 2008 WL 2902024, at *7, 2008 Iowa App. LEXIS 539, at *20 (Iowa Ct.App. July 30, 2008). The court found that the lower court had properly denied the motion to dismiss because “granting a new trial was a sufficient remedy in this case.” Id. at *2, 2008 Iowa App. LEXIS 539 at *6. The court also held that “the district court did not abuse its discretion [when it] den[ied] Garrison's motion for a mistrial based on the allegations of prosecutorial misconduct.” Id. at *6, 2008 Iowa App. LEXIS 539 at *17. Finally, the court concluded that there was substantial circumstantial evidence for a jury to find Garrison guilty of the murders. Id. at *6-7, 2008 Iowa App. LEXIS 539 at *18-20.

Garrison made an application for further review on August 18, 2008 [Dkt. No. 10 ¶ 2h], which the Iowa Supreme Court denied on September 23, 2008. [Dkt. No. 10 ¶ 2i.] The Court issued procedendo on September 26, 2008. [Dkt. No. 10 ¶ 2j.]

C. Federal Application for a Writ of Habeas Corpus

On November 19, 2008, Garrison filed his Petition for relief in this court. Garrison asserts three grounds for relief in support of his writ: (1) the trial information should have been dismissed because the prosecutor intentionally engaged in conduct that forced a second trial; (2) prosecutorial misconduct infected the trial with unfairness so as to make his resulting conviction a denial of due process; and (3) the evidence at trial was insufficient to prove that he committed two counts of first-degree murder.

On March 17, 2009, the Respondent filed a response to Garrison's Petition. [Dkt. No. 8.] Garrison filed a brief on the merits on August 18, 2009 [Dkt. No. 13], and on September 18, 2009, the Respondent filed a responsive brief. [Dkt. No. 15.] The Respondent also filed an appendix of relevant state court opinions and rulings on September 21, 2009. [Dkt. No. 16.] The Court finds that the matter is fully submitted and ready for decision.

II. Factual Background 2

The Iowa Court of Appeals concisely and judiciously reported the facts underlying Petitioner's convictions as follows:

Howard Garrison was charged with two counts of first-degree murder for the shooting deaths of John Caswell, Jr. and Steven Emerson. Caswell and Emerson manufactured methamphetamine at a farm outside Knoxville, Iowa. Garrison frequently visited the farm, where he smoked methamphetamine with the victims.
Brian Martin testified that while he and Garrison were in jail together, Garrison told him he shot Caswell and Emerson because he was “tired of being ripped off.” Garrison told Martin he and Emerson had a disagreement about the manufacture of methamphetamine and he got mad and shot Emerson. Then, realizing Caswell probably heard the shots, Garrison waited for Caswell to appear and he shot him as well.
Witnesses testified Garrison was at the farm on the morning of October 24, 2002, the day of the murders. The murder weapon was a .22 caliber gun. Witnesses stated Garrison owned a .22 Ruger, but it could not be found after the murders. Garrison had ammunition consistent with that used in the killings. One spent cartridge, which matched those from the murders, was found in the vent on the hood of Garrison's car. Also, in Garrison's car officers found a plastic box with a foam insert which had the imprint of a shape that matched a .22 Ruger. Garrison told witnesses he left the farm at noon, and Caswell and Emerson were alive then. The County Medical Examiner Investigator testified, however, that the time of death for both men was about 11:00 a.m.

Garrison II, 2008 WL 2902024, at *1, 2008 Iowa App. LEXIS 539, at *1-2.

III. Standards of Review

A court shall allow an application for a writ of habeas corpus in certain circumstances. Title 28 U.S.C. § 2254(d) provides:

(d) An application for a writ of habeas corpus on behalf of a person in custody pursuant to the judgment of a State court shall not be granted with respect to any claim that was adjudicated on the merits in State court proceedings unless the adjudication of the claim-
(1) resulted in a decision that was contrary to, or involved an unreasonable application of, clearly established Federal law, as determined by the Supreme Court of the United States; or
(2) resulted in a decision that was based on an unreasonable determination of the facts in light of the evidence presented in the State court proceeding.

28 U.S.C. § 2254(d).

Accordingly, [s]ection 2254(d) distinguishes between two types of erroneous decisions-those of law and those of fact-and treats each in separate subparagraphs.” Weaver v. Bowersox, 241 F.3d 1024, 1029 (8th Cir.2001). Claims involving legal error are subject to a(d)(1) analysis, whereas factual error claims are governed by the standard in (d)(2). Id. at 1030. Section (e)(1) then subjugates the analysis to a “presumption of correctness in favor of state court findings of fact.” Id.

A. Standard of Review Under 28 U.S.C. § 2254(d)(1)

If a claim was adjudicated on the merits in state court, a federal court may grant a state habeas petitioner relief for a claim if that adjudication “resulted in a decision that was contrary to, or involved an unreasonable application of, clearly established Federal law, as determined by the Supreme Court of the United States.” Mitchell v. Esparza, 540 U.S. 12, 15-16, 124 S.Ct. 7, 157 L.Ed.2d 263 (2003) (per curiam) (quoting 28 U.S.C. § 2254(d)(1)); see also Honeycutt v. Roper, 426 F.3d 957, 960 (8th Cir.2005). The Supreme Court further explains the statutory meaning of § 2254(d)(1) and the corresponding degree of deference courts should ascribe to state court decisions on the merits. See generally Rompilla v. Beard, 545 U.S. 374, 125 S.Ct. 2456, 162 L.Ed.2d 360 (2005); Williams v. Taylor, 529 U.S. 362, 120 S.Ct. 1495, 146 L.Ed.2d 389 (2000); Bucklew v. Luebbers, 436 F.3d 1010, 1015-16 (8th Cir.2006). Courts should “undertake only a limited and deferential review of underlying state court decisions.” Taylor v. Roper, 561 F.3d 859, 862 (8th Cir.2009); Collier v. Norris, 485 F.3d 415, 421 (8th Cir.2007).

Williams established that a state court decision can be “contrary to” Supreme Court precedent in one or two ways: (1) “if the state court arrives at a conclusion opposite to that reached by [the Supreme Court] on a question of law”...

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