Hendrix v. Palmer, s. 16-2279/2310

Decision Date26 June 2018
Docket NumberNos. 16-2279/2310,s. 16-2279/2310
Citation893 F.3d 906
Parties Joseph HENDRIX, Petitioner-Appellee/Cross-Appellant, v. Carmen PALMER, Warden, Respondent-Appellant/Cross-Appellee.
CourtU.S. Court of Appeals — Sixth Circuit

ARGUED: Linus Banghart-Linn, OFFICE OF THE MICHIGAN ATTORNEY GENERAL, Lansing, Michigan, for Appellant/Cross-Appellee. Michael Skinner, LAW OFFICES OF MICHAEL SKINNER, Lake Orion, Michigan, for Appellee/Cross-Appellant. ON BRIEF: John S. Pallas, OFFICE OF THE MICHIGAN ATTORNEY GENERAL, Lansing, Michigan, for Appellant/Cross-Appellee. Michael Skinner, LAW OFFICES OF MICHAEL SKINNER, Lake Orion, Michigan, for Appellee/Cross-Appellant.

Before: GILMAN, COOK, and GRIFFIN, Circuit Judges.

RONALD LEE GILMAN, Circuit Judge.

Joseph Hendrix is currently serving a life sentence imposed by a Michigan state court following his conviction for felony murder, carjacking, and unlawfully driving away a motor vehicle. The district court conditionally granted Hendrix’s application for a writ of habeas corpus brought under 28 U.S.C. § 2254. Warden Carmen Palmer (the State) appeals the issuance of the writ, and Hendrix cross-appeals the denial of relief on several alternative claims.

At trial, the State presented evidence that Hendrix committed a carjacking that resulted in a woman’s death. The evidence included statements that Hendrix made to the police after being reinterrogated following the invocation of his right to counsel—statements that the State now concedes were inadmissible under Supreme Court precedent. Hendrix’s trial counsel failed to challenge the admissibility of these statements, however, and they became central to the State’s case.

On direct appeal in the Michigan courts, Hendrix challenged the admission of these statements as violating his Fifth Amendment rights under Miranda and its progeny. He also argued that his counsel’s failure to challenge the statements' admission violated his Sixth Amendment right to the effective assistance of counsel. The State opposed Hendrix’s claims on the theory that its use of the statements was proper. Michigan’s courts uniformly denied Hendrix relief.

Hendrix then brought this federal habeas action. After the district court ordered oral argument on Hendrix’s Fifth Amendment claim, the State changed its position, conceding for the first time that Hendrix’s statements were admitted erroneously, but now arguing that the error was harmless. The district court granted habeas relief on Hendrix’s Fifth and Sixth Amendment claims, but denied relief on his other claims. Hendrix and the State both appealed.

For the reasons set forth below, we (1) AFFIRM the judgment of the district court granting Hendrix habeas relief based on his Fifth and Sixth Amendment claims; (2) REVERSE the district court’s denial of Hendrix’s Doyle claim; and (3) AFFIRM the holding of the district court that the evidence was sufficient to support Hendrix’s conviction. Hendrix is therefore entitled to the habeas relief granted by the district court, but the State is entitled to retry him if it so desires, subject to the time constraint imposed by the district court. The remaining issues raised by Hendrix are moot, and we do not consider them.

I. BACKGROUND
A. Factual background

On the evening of September 5, 2006, Gina Doen was running errands with her mother and daughter in Shelby Charter Township, Michigan, located about 15 miles north of Detroit. Gina parked her Dodge Caravan at a strip mall and, along with her daughter, walked into a dry cleaner. Her 65-year-old mother, Evangeline Doen, remained in the minivan, so Gina left the vehicle’s doors unlocked and the keys in the ignition. After about five minutes in the dry cleaner, Gina walked out and saw her mother lying on the pavement. The minivan was gone. Her mother’s head was bleeding.

The police arrived minutes later, and Evangeline Doen was taken to the hospital. Although Evangeline had sustained a serious head injury, she was still conscious and able to speak. At the hospital, Evangeline told a police officer what had happened.

The officer testified at Hendrix’s trial that Evangeline told him that she had been sitting in the front seat of the minivan when a man got into the driver’s seat. Evangeline "told this young man that he had got the wrong car, he got into the wrong car," but the man "told her to get out and started backing up the van." She tried to get out, but as she was struggling to remove her seatbelt, the man pushed her out the door. Evangeline described the carjacker as a "tall, thin, white male with possible glasses, and ... possible blonde hair ... [and] some mention about a brown shirt."

Approximately six hours after the carjacking, at around 1:30 a.m. on September 6, 2006, Officer Kyle Bryent encountered the stolen minivan parked at a gas station in an area of Detroit known for drug trafficking. Hendrix was inside. Officer Bryent had previously arrested Hendrix in the same area, although the record does not disclose the reason for that arrest. After Officer Bryent removed Hendrix from the minivan and arrested him, Sergeants Brad Ferguson and Stan Muszynski transported Hendrix from Detroit to Shelby Charter Township.

Hendrix had brown hair at the time of his arrest. Inside the minivan, officers found a beige and white cap, a black knit hat, a white do-rag, and a makeup bag. Hendrix’s girlfriend, Michelle Zlatevski, later told the police that the makeup bag was probably hers. Fingerprints belonging to Hendrix were found on the vehicle’s rearview mirror and sliding door. Officers also found fingerprints that belonged to neither Hendrix nor Gina.

Once in the police car, Hendrix acknowledged and waived his Miranda rights. Sergeant Muszynski then questioned him about how he acquired the minivan. Hendrix stated that he did not know how he acquired the minivan and did not know what to say. He appeared "very nervous."

Later that morning, Detective Terry Hogan removed Hendrix from his jail cell for interrogation. Detective Hogan described the interrogation in his police report:

At approx. 7:30 AM I escorted Hendrix from the Shelby Twp cell block to the interview room. I advised Hendrix of his rights off the Shelby Twp advise [sic] of rights forms. Hendrix refused to speak with me until he had the opportunity to speak with an attorney. I returned Hendrix to the cell block without any further questioning.

An advice-of-rights form signed by Hendrix confirms that he requested an attorney. Detective Hogan later testified that, at this meeting with Hendrix, he informed Hendrix that a woman was seriously injured during the minivan’s carjacking and that she might die from her injuries. The record does not reveal when during this meeting Detective Hogan informed Hendrix of the seriousness of the victim’s condition, but Detective Hogan’s trial testimony strongly implies that it was after Hendrix had refused to cooperate.

Despite Hendrix having requested an attorney at the September 6 meeting and not yet having met with one, Detective Hogan sought to interrogate him again two days later. As Detective Hogan recorded in a report: "On 9/8/06 myself and D/Sgt. Muszynski again tried to interview suspect Joseph Hendrix." Detective Hogan presented Hendrix with another advice-of-rights form at the September 8 meeting, which Hendrix refused to sign. Hendrix, according to Detective Hogan, nonetheless agreed to speak with him.

At trial, the State elicited little testimony regarding Hendrix’s statements to the police on September 6. But it elicited extensive testimony regarding his statements on September 8. Detective Hogan testified that; on September 8, Hendrix did not want to say where he was during the evening of September 5. Hendrix stated only that he had been in Sterling Heights and had called his grandmother’s house from a 7-Eleven store. But investigators found no evidence of a call from area pay phones to Hendrix’s grandmother, although his grandmother told Detective Hogan that she remembered receiving a call from Hendrix that day.

Detective Hogan also testified that Hendrix had cryptically said to "just check with [the Detroit Police Department], they know the truth." Finally, Hendrix asked Detective Hogan "if he was going to be charged with murder or homicide." Soon afterwards, Hendrix clammed up, saying "I don't think I'm going to say anymore, because ... I don't want to get into anymore trouble."

Detective Hogan further testified that he surmised from Hendrix’s reluctance to divulge his September 5 whereabouts that Hendrix was "afraid to admit that he's the one that actually pushed Mrs. Doen out of the vehicle." He considered Hendrix’s silence "noteworthy" because "[i]f he's not the thief, he's not going to want to be charged with a crime of that type of nature."

Evangeline Doen died on her tenth day in the hospital, having suffered from a subdural hematoma. At trial, the medical examiner testified that her death was primarily caused by "blunt force head trauma," consistent with a "decent fall like from the back of your head with the concrete."

The State also sought to link Hendrix to the carjacking with evidence that he had committed similar thefts in the past. In particular, the State emphasized that the circumstances of the carjacking—including its occurrence near Hendrix’s residence, the carjacker’s opportunistic use of keys left in the ignition, and the minivan’s ultimate destination in a drug-trafficking area of Detroit—were consistent with the circumstances of prior vehicle thefts that Hendrix had committed.

The State presented evidence that the first such theft occurred approximately four years earlier, "just right around the block" from where Hendrix lived. Jeffrey Piontkowski testified that, in December 2002, he walked out of a restaurant to see a man behind the wheel of his 1985 GMC pickup truck. Trying to thwart the theft, Piontkowski opened one of the truck’s doors and managed to get his hand and foot inside. But as the thief...

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