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Graves v. Brown

United States District Court, S.D. Indiana, Terre Haute Division

June 18, 2019

BRIAN E. GRAVES, Petitioner,
RICHARD BROWN, Respondent.




         Petitioner Brian Graves was convicted of escape, resisting law enforcement, and classified as a habitual offender in an Indiana state court. Mr. Graves now seeks a writ of habeas corpus pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254. He argues that both his trial and appellate counsel provided ineffective assistance, and he raises three other constitutional claims. The Indiana Court of Appeals reasonably applied Strickland v. Washington, 466 U.S. 668 (1984), in denying Mr.

         Graves's ineffective-assistance-of-counsel claims, and his remaining claims are procedurally defaulted. Therefore, Mr. Graves's petition for a writ of habeas corpus is denied and a certificate of appealability will not issue.

         I. Background

         Federal habeas review requires the Court to “presume that the state court's factual determinations are correct unless the petitioner rebuts the presumption by clear and convincing evidence.” Perez-Gonzalez v. Lashbrook, 904 F.3d 557, 562 (7th Cir. 2018); see 28 U.S.C. § 2254(e)(1). On direct appeal, the Indiana Court of Appeals summarized the facts underlying Mr. Graves's convictions as follows:

[O]n the cold and snowy evening of February 7, 2010 Indiana State Police Trooper Christopher Howell began to patrol Interstate 74 looking for drivers who might be stranded due to the inclement weather. The trooper observed Graves's truck parked in the emergency pull-off lane on the interstate. Graves was standing at the front of the vehicle. When Trooper Howell stopped to investigate, he asked Graves what he was doing. Graves replied that he was scraping ice from his windshield. Trooper Howell, who observed that there was nothing in Graves's hands, noted that Graves's words were slurred and he was unsteady on his feet. At this point, Howell was standing in front of his police cruiser, which in turn was stopped behind Graves's truck. He asked Graves to come to him. Graves initially refused and told the trooper he was going to “take off”. Transcript at 34. In response, Trooper Howell issued a “loud command” to Graves to walk to the trooper. Id. This time, Graves complied. The trooper patted down Graves and asked where he had been and where he was going. When Graves responded, Trooper Howell detected the odor of alcohol on his breath. He asked if Graves had been drinking and Graves said he had not. Trooper Howell asked for Graves's identification and registration and was informed that they were in the truck. He escorted Graves to the vehicle and watched as Graves retrieved his wallet and began looking through its contents. He noted that Graves had an Indiana identification card, which signified to the trooper either that Graves did not have a driver's license, or that his license was suspended. He asked Graves about the status of his license and Graves responded that it had been suspended for nonpayment of parking tickets. Graves was not able to produce any of the other requested documentation. At that point, because of the weather and conditions, Trooper Howell asked Graves to sit in the front passenger seat of his police cruiser while he verified Graves's information.
After the two were seated inside the cruiser, Trooper Howell began running Graves's information on a laptop computer located between the two of them such that both Howell and Graves could see the information displayed on the screen. When the laptop began to emit audible alert tones and display Graves's information, Graves was looking at the screen and reading the information along with Trooper Howell. Among the information on the screen was an indication that Graves was wanted on four open warrants. After a few seconds, Graves “turned his head and said sorry, I gotta go.” Id. at 39. He then opened the door and, according to Howell, “out he went.” Id. Trooper Howell at first just sat there, “dumbfounded.” Id. at 40. He saw Graves start toward his truck, and then the trooper exited his car and ran to intercept Graves. During the ensuing scuffle, the trooper repeatedly commanded Graves to “stop resisting” and told him, “You need to stop.” Id. at 74. He grabbed Graves while they were between the vehicles, but Graves slipped from his grasp and continued to the front passenger side of his truck. Trooper Howell decided to run around the driver's side of the truck and intercept Graves from that direction. He caught Graves near the front of the vehicle. Graves pushed Howell, who fell backward and hit his head and was stunned for a moment. By the time Howell recovered, Graves had climbed into the driver's seat of the truck, but the door was still open when Howell got to him and began pulling on Graves, attempting to extricate him from the truck. He continued pulling Graves by the coat and ordering him to get out of the truck and to quit resisting. At some point, Graves managed to get his truck into gear, stepped on the gas, and began driving away. When he did, the forward motion caused the door to shut on Trooper Howell's left hand, injuring one of his fingers badly enough that it later required stitches. Trooper Howell hung on “for a little bit” but soon let go. Id. at 42. He called the State Police Post and gave them Graves's description and a description of his truck. That description was relayed to law enforcement officials in the area.
Approximately ten minutes later, Deputy Joseph Mohr of the Shelby County Sheriff's Department observed Graves driving on I-74. After ascertaining that the truck matched the description of the subject vehicle, Deputy Mohr initiated a traffic stop. Graves sped away and threw several items out of the window before he eventually stopped after a chase. He was ultimately convicted of escape as a class B felony, resisting law enforcement as a class D felony, [which were merged at sentencing], and found to be a habitual offender.

Graves v. State, 978 N.E.2d 759, 2012 WL 5458116, *1-2 (Ind.Ct.App. 2012) (“Graves I”). The Indiana Court of Appeals affirmed his convictions.

         Mr. Graves then pursued state post-conviction relief. The state post-conviction court vacated his adjudication as a habitual offender, but left intact his escape conviction. See Graves v. State, 94 N.E.3d 357, 2017 WL 4343051, *1 n.1 (Ind.Ct.App. 2017) (“Graves II”). The Indiana Court of Appeals affirmed the denial of relief on Mr. Graves's escape conviction. See Id. After the Indiana Supreme Court denied transfer, Mr. Graves filed the instant petition for a writ of habeas corpus on June 22, 2018.

         II. Applicable Law

         A federal court may grant habeas relief only if the petitioner demonstrates that he is in custody “in violation of the Constitution or laws . . . of the United States.” 28 U.S.C. § 2254(a). The Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996 (“AEDPA”) directs how the Court must consider petitions for habeas relief under § 2254. “In considering habeas corpus petitions challenging state court convictions, [the Court's] review is governed (and greatly limited) by AEDPA.” Dassey v. Dittmann, 877 F.3d 297, 301 (7th Cir. 2017) (en banc) (citation and quotation marks omitted). “The standards in 28 U.S.C. § 2254(d) were designed to prevent federal habeas retrials and to ensure that state-court convictions are given effect to the extent possible under law.” Id. (citation and quotation marks omitted).

         A federal habeas court cannot grant relief unless the state court's adjudication of a federal claim on the merits:

(1) resulted in a decision that was contrary to, or involved an unreasonable application of, clearly established Federal law, as determined by the Supreme Court of the United States; or
(2) resulted in a decision that was based on an unreasonable determination of the facts in light of the evidence presented ...

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