Santana v. Cowen, 19-1270

CourtUnited States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (1st Circuit)
Writing for the CourtSELYA, Circuit Judge.
PartiesCÉSAR SANTANA, Petitioner, v. BRAD COWEN, Superintendent, MCI Norfolk, Respondent.
Docket NumberNo. 19-1270,19-1270
Decision Date07 July 2021

CÉSAR SANTANA, Petitioner,
BRAD COWEN, Superintendent, MCI Norfolk, Respondent.

No. 19-1270

United States Court of Appeals For the First Circuit

July 7, 2021

Not for Publication in West's Federal Reporter


Hon. William G. Young, U.S. District Judge

Before Howard, Chief Judge, Selya and Thompson, Circuit Judges.

Elizabeth Caddick on brief for petitioner.
Maura Healey, Attorney General of Massachusetts, and Susanne G. Reardon, Assistant Attorney General, on brief for respondent.

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SELYA, Circuit Judge. This case, which pits a state prisoner seeking federal habeas relief against the superintendent of the state correctional institution in which he is confined, turns on the narrow contours of federal habeas review and the deference due to the state court's findings of fact. Staying within those guardrails and reviewing the district court's denial of the habeas petition de novo, we affirm.

The essential facts may be succinctly summarized. The reader who thirsts for a more detailed description of the facts should consult the opinion of the court below, see Santana v. Cowen (Santana II), 361 F. Supp. 3d 115, 119-23 (D. Mass. 2019), and the opinion of the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court (SJC) rejecting Santana's direct appeal, see Commonwealth v. Santana (Santana I), 82 N.E.3d 986, 990-91 (Mass. 2017).

On August 25, 2004, Rafael Castro (Castro) and his stepdaughter, Norma Cedeno, were attacked by four men upon their return to Castro's apartment in Lawrence, Massachusetts. Castro was killed by a gunshot wound to his head. During the following week, petitioner-appellant César Santana (Santana), who was on probation in connection with an unrelated offense, contacted his probation officer and said that he was willing to disclose information about a shooting in Lawrence in exchange for money. The probation officer reported this contact to the Boston police.

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The record sheds no light on what response (if any) the call elicited.

Seven months later, Santana — then incarcerated on unrelated charges — again contacted his probation officer about the shooting in Lawrence. Nothing happened. Eventually, however, the authorities decided to question Santana about the shooting.

On March 4, 2005, a Massachusetts state trooper, Robert LaBarge (LaBarge), interviewed Santana. LaBarge was accompanied by a bilingual member of the Lawrence police force, Detective Carlos Cueva (Cueva). Although Santana stated that he spoke and understood English, Detective Cueva was meant to serve as a translator, if needed, because Santana's primary language was Spanish. Santana consented to the recording of the interview "as long as it is not used in court."

Following a brief discussion of Santana's educational level, English and Spanish language proficiency, and the like, Trooper LaBarge, with Detective Cueva's assistance, gave Santana Miranda warnings. See Miranda v. Arizona, 384 U.S. 436, 444 (1966). At Trooper LaBarge's request, Santana read each warning out loud in Spanish and confirmed that he understood it. He then signed a copy of the written warnings.

When Trooper LaBarge began questioning Santana about the Lawrence shooting, Santana stated, early on, that he was "willing to help" but "want[ed] to talk with [Trooper LaBarge] without the

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pressure of the tape recorder." Santana agreed to continue the interview with the officers taking notes. When the session concluded, though, Santana refused to sign the notes.

On December 12, 2008, an Essex County grand jury returned an indictment charging Santana with first-degree murder, home invasion, two counts of armed assault during a burglary, and two counts of kidnapping while armed with a firearm. Santana thrice moved to suppress the statements that he had made to Trooper LaBarge, but all three motions were denied. Following an eight-day trial, a jury found Santana guilty on all six counts, and the presiding judge sentenced him to life imprisonment. On August 17, 2017, the SJC affirmed the denial of Santana's third motion to suppress and affirmed his convictions and sentence. See Santana I, 82 N.E.3d at 992-95, 1002.

Santana repaired to the federal district court, seeking habeas relief. See 28 U.S.C. § 2254. He argued — as relevant here — that the SJC not only unreasonably determined that he had voluntarily made incriminating statements to Trooper LaBarge but also unreasonably applied clearly established federal law in finding those statements voluntary. He stressed his initial insistence that his statements "not [be] used in court."

In a thoughtful rescript, the district court denied Santana's habeas petition. See Santana II, 361 F. Supp. 3d at 131. It concluded that the SJC had not misapplied clearly

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established federal law and that the SJC's determination that any promise of confidentiality had been wiped away by Santana's consent to the Miranda protocol withstood review under the deferential habeas standard. See id. This timely appeal followed.

We need not linger. We often have said that when a district court has "supportably found the facts, applied the appropriate legal standards, articulated [its] reasoning clearly, and reached a correct result, a reviewing court ought not to write at length merely to hear its own words resonate." deBenedictis v. Brady-Zell (In re Brady-Zell), 756 F.3d 69, 71 (1st Cir. 2014); accord De La...

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