Arthur J. Bryant, Petitioner-Appellant,
Richard Brown, Respondent-Appellee.
January 4, 2017
from the United States District Court for the Southern
District of Indiana, Terre Haute Division. No.
2:13-cv-00218-WTL-WGH - William T. Lawrence, Judge.
Easterbrook, and Sykes, Circuit Judges.
John Bryant, an Indiana prisoner, was convicted of murdering
his stepmother. He was 17 years old at the time of the
killing. Under Indiana law juveniles in police custody have a
statutory right to "meaningful consultation" with a
parent before waiving their constitutional rights.
See Ind. Code § 31-32-5-1. Bryant met with his
mother and made an incriminating statement to her. Two
detectives surreptitiously recorded their conversation, and
the incriminating statement was introduced at Bryant's
trial through the testimony of both eavesdropping officers.
Bryant's counsel objected to the first detective's
testimony but the objection was overruled. On direct appeal
the Indiana Court of Appeals held that the statement should
not have been admitted, but because Bryant's counsel did
not object to the second detective's testimony
about the same statement, the error was both unpreserved and
state postconviction review, Bryant raised a claim of
ineffective assistance of counsel under Strickland v.
Washington, 466 U.S. 668 (1984). He identified five
errors, including his counsel's failure to preserve the
surreptitious-recording issue and several other alleged
missteps at trial. In a separate claim, he raised a
Brady violation stemming from a falsehood in a
police report. Finally, in a catch-all argument, he claimed a
right to relief based on cumulative error.
trial judge was not persuaded by these arguments. Neither was
the Indiana Court of Appeals. Bryant then sought federal
habeas relief under 28 U.S.C. § 2254, reiterating the
same claims. The district court denied relief, and we affirm
the judgment. The state appellate court reasonably applied
Strickland and Brady.
January 4, 2000, Carol Bryant went missing. A few days later
the police discovered her body in the trunk of her abandoned
car. At the time of her death, Carol was living with her
husband, Lee Bryant, at their home in Harrison County in
southern Indiana. Lee's 17-year-old son, Arthur John
Bryant, also lived with the couple; to avoid confusion
we'll refer to him as "Bryant" and use first
names for other family members.
had previously lived with his mother, Kristi, but she kicked
him out because she could no longer control his behavior.
Among other things, he stole her truck, threatened to kill
her, chased her around the house with a baseball bat, and
day of Carol's disappearance, Lee came home midday to
have lunch with his wife and son, then went back to work.
When he returned home that evening, both Carol and Bryant
were gone. Lee found a note from Bryant saying he was
spending the night at a friend's house. Lee called
Carol's family and friends in search of her, but no one
knew where she was. When morning came without word from her,
Lee reported her missing.
Bryant was driving around in Carol's car, showing it off
to friends. He had stolen her jewelry, some of which he sold
to a pawnshop; the rest he gave away. After several days he
abandoned the stolen car on the side of a rural road. When
police recovered and searched it, they found Carol's body
in the trunk wrapped in a comforter. She had been strangled.
Police also found a pair of Bryant's jeans in the trunk.
The jeans were stained with bodily fluids. DNA analysis later
confirmed that the bodily fluids were Carol's.
soon learned that Bryant had an angry relationship with his
stepmother. They discovered some rap lyrics he had written
describing Carol in profane terms and discussing a plan to
kill a woman and leave her body in the trunk of a car.
January 8 sheriff's deputies located Bryant in a nearby
town and arrested him for Carol's murder. When they
arrived at the Harrison County Sheriff's Office, Bryant
asked for a lawyer. In the meantime, he was allowed to meet
with his mother in accordance with an Indiana statute that
gives juveniles in custody the right to consult with a parent
before waiving their constitutional rights. See IND.
CODE § 31-32-5-1. Sheriff's Detectives Richard
Bauman and William Whelan secretly eavesdropped on the
conversation using a hidden recording device. They overheard
Bryant tell his mother: "I told dad I had a problem and
if he didn't take care of it, I would, and I did."
investigation continued after Bryant's arrest. Detective
Bauman interviewed Carol's friend Tracy Beemer (nee
Borden), who told him that Carol had confided to her that Lee
was abusive and had threatened to kill her. She also told the
detective that she and Carol had contacted domestic-violence
shelters a few days before Carol's death. Detective
Bauman's report wrongly stated that Beemer told him that
Carol had identified Bryant, not Lee, as her abuser. The
prosecution disclosed this report to the defense before
trial. Bryant's defense team-he had two attorneys-did not
follow up by interviewing Beemer.
stood trial for murder, theft, and obstruction of justice.
Some factual detail about the trial is necessary to
understand the issues raised in this appeal. The prosecution
called both Detective Bauman and Detective Whelan as
witnesses. The detectives testified about Bryant's
incriminating statement to his mother at the Sheriff's
Office. Bryant's counsel objected to this line of
questioning during Detective Bauman's testimony, raising
the statutory violation. The objection was overruled.
Bryant's counsel did not reiterate the objection when
Detective Whelan testified on the same subject.
relevant here, the prosecution also called Alice Alcorn, a
friend of Carol's. She testified that Bryant told her he
would kill Carol before he turned 18. This aspect of her
testimony came as a surprise to everyone; Alcorn had ...