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Steven R. Rann v. Donald Hulick

October 19, 2011

STEVEN R. RANN, PETITIONER,
v.
DONALD HULICK, WARDEN, MENARD CORRECTIONAL CENTER RESPONDENT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Herndon, Chief Judge:

MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

Introduction

Before the Court is a Report and Recommendation ("R&R") (Doc. 28) of United States Magistrate Judge Williams, issued pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(B), recommending denial of petitioner Steven R. Rann's § 2254 habeas petition (Doc. 2). The R&R was sent to the parties, with a notice informing them of their right to appeal by way of filing "objections" within fourteen days of service of the R&R. In accordance with the notice, petitioner filed timely objections to the R&R (Doc. 29). Because petitioner filed timely objections, this Court must undertake de novo review of the objected-to portions of the R&R. 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(B); FED. R. CIV. P. 72(b); SOUTHERN DISTRICT OF ILLINOIS LOCAL RULE 73.1(b); Willis v. Caterpillar, Inc., 199 F.3d 902, 904 (7th Cir. 1999); Govas v. Chalmers, 965 F.2d 298, 301 (7th Cir. 1992). The Court may "accept, reject, or modify the recommended decision." Willis, 199 F.3d at 904. In making this determination, the Court must look at all the evidence contained in the record and give fresh consideration to those issues for which specific objection has been made. Id. However, the Court need not conduct a de novo review of the findings of the R&R for which no objections have been made. Thomas v. Arn, 474 U.S. 140, 149-52 (1985). For the reasons discussed herein, the Court adopts the findings of the R&R.

Background

On November 14, 2006, a Saline County jury convicted petitioner of two counts of criminal sexual assault and one count of child pornography. On February 2, 2008, petitioner received a sentence of consecutive terms of twelve years of imprisonment on each sexual assault conviction and fifteen years for the child pornography conviction. Petitioner filed a direct appeal in state court alleging he received ineffective assistance of counsel as his counsel did not seek to suppress images obtained without a warrant from a zip drive and camera memory card.*fn1 After exhausting his state remedies, petitioner filed a petition for writ of habeas corpus pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254 on November 10, 2008 (Doc. 2).

Similarly to the R&R, the Court finds the Illinois Appellate Court's Rule 23 Order affirming petitioner's conviction on direct appeal recites the relevant facts giving rise to petitioner's claim as follows:

In January 2006, the defendant's biological daughter, S.R., who was then 15 years old, reported to the Eldorado police department that she had been sexually assaulted by the defendant and that he had taken pornographic pictures of her. Following her interview by the police, S.R. returned to her home, retrieved an Olympus digital camera memory card from the top of a big-screen television set in her parents' bedroom, and took the memory card to the police. The officer to whom she delivered the memory card, Deputy Sheriff Investigator Mike Jones of the Saline County Sheriff's Department, testified at the defendant's subsequent trial that no law enforcement officers accompanied S.R. on her return to her home, and there is no evidence in the record to suggest that S.R. was directed to attempt to recover evidence for the police or even to return home at all. Images downloaded from the memory card depict the defendant sexually assaulting S.R. and were introduced into evidence at the defendant's trial . . . The images, taken in 2005, were admitted as propensity evidence . . . and do not relate directly to the charges of which the defendant was convicted in this case.

Sometime subsequent to S.R.'s initial interview with the police, S.R.'s mother brought Deputy Jones a computer zip drive that contained additional pornographic images of S.R. and pornographic images of K.G., who is the defendant's stepdaughter and S.R.'s half-sister. The images on the zip drive are from 1999 and 2000, when S.R. was approximately 9 years old and K.G. was approximately 15 years old, and are directly related to the charges of which the defendant was convicted in this case. Four of the images, taken around Christmas of 1999, were admitted into evidence at the defendant's trial... Deputy Jones testified that no law enforcement officers were present when S.R.'s mother procured the zip drive, and there is no evidence in the record to suggest that S.R.'s mother was directed to attempt to recover evidence for the police. (Doc. 17-3, pp. 1-2).

Petitioner asserts one ground for habeas relief. Petitioner contends his counsel's failure to move to suppress the digital memory card and zip drive the police obtained from S.R. and her mother denied him of effective assistance of counsel. Petitioner objects to the R&R's finding that the government's warrantless opening of the digital storage devices did not violate the Fourth Amendment as it did not exceed the scope of the initial private searches. Petitioner also contends the government did not meet its initial burden of proving an exception to the warrant requirement existed (Doc. 29, pp. 1-4). Further, petitioner objects to the R&R's finding that failure to motion to suppress did not prejudice his sexual assault counts as considerable independent evidence of guilt exists (Doc. 29, pp. 4-5).

Discussion

A.§ 2254 Review

The standards of the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996 (AEDPA) govern the Court's review of petitioner's § 2254 petition. AEDPA permits a federal court to issue a writ of habeas corpus if the state court reached a decision on the merits of a claim that was either (1) "contrary to, or involved an unreasonable application of, clearly established federal law, as determined by the Supreme Court of the United States," or (2) "was based on an unreasonable determination of the facts in light of the evidence presented in the State court proceeding." Martin v. Grosshans, 424 F.3d 588, 590 (7th Cir. 2005) (citing 28 U.S.C. § 2254(d)). The clauses "contrary to" and "unreasonable application" stated within § 2254 have independent meaning. Bell v. Cone, 535 U.S. 685, 694 (2002) (citing Williams v. Taylor, 529 U.S. 362, 404-05 (2000)); see also Washington v. Smith, 219 F.3d 620, 628 (7th Cir. 2000) (also citing Williams).

However, a federal court is not allowed to grant habeas relief to a state prisoner when a violation of state law is at issue. Bloyer v. Peters, 5 F.3d 1093, 1098 (7th Cir. 1993) (a federal court cannot re-examine state court determinations on state law questions in order to grant habeas relief) (citing Estelle v. McGuire, 502 U.S. 62, 67-8 (1991); Reed v. Clark, 984 F.2d 209, 210 (7th Cir. 1993)). For a state court's decision to be "contrary to . . . clearly established federal law as established by the United States Supreme Court," it must be "substantially different from relevant [Supreme Court] precedent." Washington, 219 F.3d at 628 (citation omitted). Typically, this would involve the state court "appl[ying] a rule different from the governing law set forth in [cases of the Supreme Court], or if it decides a case differently than [the Supreme Court] on a set of materially indistinguishable facts." Bell, 535 U.S. at 694 (citing Williams, 529 U.S. at 404-5).

A state court's decision "involve[s] an unreasonable application of, clearly established federal law, as determined by the Supreme Court of the United States," if it is "objectively unreasonable." Id. at 694-95. It is important to note that "an unreasonable application is different from an incorrect one" -- meaning that a district court is not allowed to merely substitute its own judgment as to what it believes is the correct outcome, absent a finding that the state court's decision was unreasonable. Id.; see also Washington, 219 F.3d at 628. Notably, an "objectively unreasonable" state court decision need not cite or even demonstrate awareness of relevant Supreme Court cases, "so long as neither the reasoning nor the result of the state court decision contradicts them." Early v. Packer, 537 U.S. 3, 8 (2002). As the Supreme Court has recently reiterated, "Section 2254(d) reflects the view that habeas corpus is a 'guard against ...


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