Patterson v. Haskins

Decision Date31 October 2006
Docket NumberNo. 04-3280.,04-3280.
Citation470 F.3d 645
PartiesEric Scott PATTERSON, Petitioner-Appellant, v. Thomas B. HASKINS, Warden, Respondent-Appellee.
CourtU.S. Court of Appeals — Sixth Circuit

ARGUED: Dennis C. Belli, Columbus, Ohio, for Appellant. Bruce D. Horrigan, Assistant Attorney General, Corrections Litigation Section, Cleveland, Ohio, for Appellee.

ON BRIEF: Dennis C. Belli, Columbus, Ohio, for Appellant.

Bruce D. Horrigan, Assistant Attorney General, Corrections Litigation Section, Cleveland, Ohio, for Appellee.

Before MOORE and GILMAN, Circuit Judges; ROSEN, District Judge.*

GILMAN, J., delivered the opinion of the court, in which MOORE, J., joined. ROSEN, D.J., (pp. 669-75), delivered a separate opinion concurring in part and concurring in the judgment.

OPINION

RONALD LEE GILMAN, Circuit Judge.

In 2003, this court granted Eric Scott Patterson a conditional writ of habeas corpus on the ground that the state trial court had omitted from its jury instructions a key element in defining the offense of involuntary manslaughter. Patterson v. Haskins, 316 F.3d 596, 599-602 (6th Cir. 2003) (Patterson I). After Patterson's retrial ended in a hung jury, the state announced its intention to try him for a third time. Patterson then sought to avoid a third trial—one at which the state has said it intends to introduce additional evidence—by filing a motion in the district court styled a "Motion to Invoke Continuing Jurisdiction for an Order Granting Petitioner's Unconditional Release and for a Stay of State Court Proceedings." The district court denied the motion, but granted a certificate of appealability (COA) regarding the propriety of its decision. Because we find no error in the district court's denial of Patterson's motion, and because we reluctantly conclude that no other avenue of federal relief is available to Patterson at this stage, we AFFIRM the judgment of the district court.

I. BACKGROUND

Patterson was convicted of involuntary manslaughter based on child endangering in July of 1997. He was sentenced to a term of between 10 and 25 years in prison. His wife Lisa was convicted of misdemeanor child endangering and received a sentence of six months in prison. Before the Ohio Court of Appeals, Patterson argued that the trial court had erred in excluding the expert testimony of a criminologist proffered by Patterson and that his conviction was unconstitutional because the evidence was insufficient to sustain it. The Ohio Court of Appeals rejected both arguments. As to the latter, the appellate court discussed the difference between an allegation that the evidence was insufficient to support a conviction and the argument that the verdict was against the weight of the evidence. It then concluded: "We have reviewed the record on appeal, and we find the evidence sufficient as a matter of law, and also find that the manifest weight of the evidence supports the jury's verdict that the State had proven the charges beyond a reasonable doubt." State v. Patterson, No. CT97-0035, 1998 WL 346857, at *3 (Ohio Ct.App. June 4, 1998).

After subsequent attempts to reopen his appeal and secure review by the Ohio Supreme Court failed, Patterson filed a petition for a writ of habeas corpus in federal court, raising six grounds for relief. The district court denied the petition, but granted Patterson a COA with respect to two issues: (1) whether the evidence produced at his trial was constitutionally insufficient to support his conviction, and (2) whether the jury instructions violated Patterson's due process rights by omitting a key element of the offense that the state was required to prove beyond a reasonable doubt.

This court reversed, holding that the state trial court had violated Patterson's due process rights by omitting the required element of proximate cause from the jury instructions for involuntary manslaughter. Patterson I, 316 F.3d at 609-10. Because the state appellate court on direct review had required only that the instructions be "sufficiently detailed," and not that every element of the offense be proved beyond a reasonable doubt, that court's decision was held to be "contrary to ... clearly established federal law" as determined by the Supreme Court in United States v. Gaudin, 515 U.S. 506, 522-23, 115 S.Ct. 2310, 132 L.Ed.2d 444 (1995). Patterson I, 316 F.3d at 608-09. Declining to pass on Patterson's other claim regarding the alleged insufficiency of the evidence, we instead granted Patterson a conditional writ of habeas corpus that required the state to retry him with proper jury instructions within 180 days. Id. at 611. We offered the following reason for declining to address the insufficiency-of-the-evidence claim:

When the jury decided (according to faulty instructions) that Patterson was guilty of involuntary manslaughter based on child endangering, it ceased deliberating and therefore did not reach a decision on whether Patterson was guilty of the lesser included offense of involuntary manslaughter based on simple assault. A reasonable, properly instructed jury might have concluded that the evidence was insufficient to establish the causation element of involuntary manslaughter based on child endangering, yet then have convicted on the lesser included offense of involuntary manslaughter based on simple assault.

Id. at 611.

Patterson filed a timely petition for rehearing, pointing to a series of cases in which this court has stated that it will review insufficiency-of-the-evidence claims even under circumstances where it has set aside the judgment of conviction due to trial error. He cited the cases of United States v. Quinn, 901 F.2d 522 (6th Cir. 1990), Delk v. Atkinson, 665 F.2d 90 (6th Cir.1981), and United States v. Orrico, 599 F.2d 113 (6th Cir.1979). We requested a response from the state, but ultimately denied rehearing without further explanation. Patterson filed neither a petition for rehearing en banc nor a petition for certiorari. The mandate issued on August 1, 2003, after which Patterson was released on bail while awaiting his new trial.

Patterson's retrial commenced on January 26, 2004, 179 days after the mandate had issued. Four days before the second trial, the state informed Patterson's counsel that it intended to call two witnesses who had not testified at the first trial—Patterson's father (Carroll) and Patterson's wife (Lisa). The trial court permitted Carroll to testify, but granted Patterson's motion to exclude Lisa's testimony based on spousal immunity. When the jury was unable to reach a verdict, the state trial judge declared a mistrial and scheduled a third trial for February 17, 2004. The following day, the prosecutor sent a letter to Patterson's lawyer announcing his intention to again call Carroll and Lisa as witnesses at the third trial, and also to introduce a summary of a 1995 telephone conversation between Patterson and the county coroner. This conversation had not been presented at either of the first two trials.

Patterson then filed a motion in the district court styled a "Motion to Invoke Continuing Jurisdiction for an Order Granting Petitioner's Unconditional Release and for a Stay of State Court Proceedings." In that motion, Patterson maintained that the state had "violated the spirit, intent, and limitations of the conditional writ" issued by this court in Patterson I by initiating a third trial after the 180-day period had expired and by seeking to introduce evidence that was previously available but that had not been presented at the first trial.

The district court assumed that it had jurisdiction to stay the state-court proceedings but declined to do so, finding "nothing in the Sixth Circuit's decision [suggesting] that the State of Ohio may not now again re-try [Patterson] since his trial resulted in a hung jury." Likewise, the district court did not read the Patterson I opinion or the authorities cited by Patterson as barring the state from introducing evidence that it had not previously presented. Although it doubted that a COA was required for Patterson to appeal its decision, the district court nonetheless issued one, certifying the following question: "Did [the district court] err in refusing to grant petitioner's request for a stay of state court proceedings and an order granting his unconditional release?"

This court originally scheduled Patterson's current appeal for telephonic arguments in June of 2005, but then cancelled the arguments and asked the parties to brief two additional questions: (1) whether the original hearing panel should have addressed Patterson's insufficiency-of-the-evidence argument and, if so, (2) whether this court has the authority to do so now. The case was initially assigned to a panel that included the two circuit judges from the original panel, with a third circuit judge substituted for District Judge Rosen.

Following the rescheduled oral argument held on December 6, 2005, a concern arose that, because the court might have to revisit its previous decision in Patterson I, the proper panel to conduct such an inquiry should include all three judges from the original hearing panel. The original panel was consequently reconstituted with the gracious consent of Judge Rosen. A second round of supplemental briefing was implemented, and a second telephonic argument was held before us on May 10, 2006.

II. ANALYSIS

Our analysis will proceed in three steps. First, we will consider whether we erred in Patterson I by failing to address the insufficiency-of-the-evidence claim. We will then decide whether we currently have the authority to address that claim either under the law-of-the-case doctrine or by recalling the mandate issued in Patterson I. Finally, we will address whether the district court erred in denying Patterson's motion to stay the state-court proceedings and grant his unconditional release.

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