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Taylor v. Butts

United States District Court, S.D. Indiana, Indianapolis Division

July 22, 2019

ROBERT TAYLOR, Petitioner,
v.
KEITH BUTTS, Respondent.

          ORDER DENYING PETITION FOR A WRIT OF HABEAS CORUPUS

          JAMES R. SWEENEY II, JUDGE

         Following a bench trial in Marion County, Indiana, petitioner Robert Taylor was convicted of one count of rape and sentenced to a 17-year prison term. Mr. Taylor now seeks a writ of habeas corpus pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254. He argues that (1) the master commissioner who presided over his trial did so without subject-matter jurisdiction, thereby violating Mr. Taylor's right to due process, (2) the prosecutor committed misconduct by introducing DNA evidence recovered from the victim's pantiliner, (3) the prosecutor committed misconduct by eliciting the victim's identification of Mr. Taylor, and (4) post-conviction counsel was ineffective. These claims do not warrant habeas relief, so Mr. Taylor'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 relevant facts and procedural history as follows:

On June 27, 2009, S.S. was homeless and living in a shelter on 10th Street near downtown Indianapolis. Late that Saturday morning, she was walking down 10th Street toward Pennsylvania Avenue to a location where she could have a free lunch in a park. While walking past a construction zone, a man pulled his car up by the curb and asked if she needed a ride. S.S. declined. Shortly thereafter, the man grabbed her from behind and dragged her up a hill where he threw her on the ground, pulled off her shorts and underwear, and raped her. After ejaculating inside her, the man then went back down the hill and drove away.
Distraught and unable to call 911, S.S. dressed and then walked to the park for lunch. Several hours later, S.S. encountered a good friend and told her about the rape. The friend helped her call police. S.S. described her attacker as a black male in his twenties or thirties, about five feet and ten inches tall, with short hair and a thin build. Detective David Everman took S.S. to Methodist Hospital to be examined by a sexual assault nurse examiner (SANE). SANE Robin Brannan collected swabs from S.S., as well as the underwear S.S. wore after the attack. A panty liner was attached to the underwear. Brannan apparently did not notice the panty liner, as it was not separated from the underwear or documented. The underwear with the panty liner were bagged together, sealed, and included in the rape kit. Thereafter, the rape kit, which was stored in a locked refrigerator, was collected by the Marion County Crime Lab and securely stored at the lab.
Shannin Guy, a forensic scientist with the Marion County Forensic Services Agency, conducted serology and DNA analysis on the material collected in the rape kit. Guy identified the presence of seminal material on the vaginal cervical swab, the speculum swab, the vaginal wash, and the panty liner. She then performed DNA analysis on a portion of the seminal material collected from each of these four items. Analysis revealed that the male DNA profiles from each item matched, identifying the same unknown male individual. Guy submitted the profile from the seminal material found on the panty liner to CODIS, which resulted in a match to Taylor in August 2010. After obtaining a buccal swab from Taylor, Guy performed further DNA analysis, directly matching his DNA to the seminal material found on the vaginal cervical swab, the speculum swab, the vaginal wash, and the panty liner.
Detective Everman met with S.S. on October 15, 2010 and presented her with a photo array. S.S. was unable to identify her attacker. The detective then directed her to Taylor's picture and indicated that there had been a DNA match.
On November 18, 2010, the State charged Taylor with class B felony rape and class D felony criminal confinement. Taylor unsuccessfully sought to suppress the DNA results. Following a bench trial on December 7, 2011, Taylor was found guilty as charged. A judgment of conviction, however, was entered only on the rape charge, and the trial court imposed an executed sentence of seventeen years.

Taylor v. State, 2012 WL 4077898, at *1-2 (Ind.Ct.App. Sept. 18, 2012).

         On direct appeal, Mr. Taylor argued, as relevant here, that the victim's identification of Mr. Taylor and the DNA evidence recovered from the victim's pantiliner were improperly admitted. Dkt. 12-3 at 4-9. The appellate court affirmed. Taylor, 2012 WL 4077898. Mr. Taylor did not petition to transfer to the Indiana Supreme Court.

         Mr. Taylor next filed a post-conviction petition in the state trial court. Taylor v. State, 2018 WL 388072, at *2 (Ind.Ct.App. Jan. 12, 2018). His counsel withdrew from representation, and Mr. Taylor withdrew his petition without prejudice. Id. Mr. Taylor then filed another petition, which the trial court denied after a hearing. Id. On post-conviction appeal, Mr. Taylor argued that (1) the master commissioner who presided over his trial lacked jurisdiction to do so, (2) the prosecutor committed misconduct by introducing DNA evidence recovered from the victim's pantiliner, (3) the prosecutor committed misconduct by eliciting the victim's confession, and (4) post-conviction counsel was ineffective for withdrawing representation and failing to argue ineffective assistance of direct appeal counsel. Dkt. 12-9 at 8-20. The appellate court affirmed, Taylor, 2018 WL 388072, and the Indiana Supreme Court denied transfer, dkt. 12-8 at 10.

         Mr. Taylor filed a petition for a writ of habeas corpus on June 28, 2018, raising the same claims raised in his post-conviction appeal. Dkt. 1 at 5-10. Respondent concedes the petition is timely, dkt. 15, but he asserts that claims 1, 2, and 3 are procedurally defaulted, dkt. 12 at 9-11.

         II. ...


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