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Hutchins v. Davis

United States District Court, N.D. Texas, Fort Worth Division

November 17, 2017

MICHAEL O'NEAL HUTCHINS, Petitioner,
v.
LORIE DAVIS, Director, Texas Department of Criminal Justice, Correctional Institutions Division, Respondent.

          OPINION AND ORDER

          REED O'CONNOR, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         Before the Court is a petition for a writ of habeas corpus pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254 filed by petitioner, Michael O'Neal Hutchins, a state prisoner confined in the Correctional Institutions Division of the Texas Department of Criminal Justice (TDCJ), against Lorie Davis, director of TDCJ, Respondent. After considering the pleadings and relief sought by Petitioner, the Court has concluded that the petition should be denied.

         I. BACKGROUND

         In April 2011, a jury found Petitioner guilty of aggravated robbery with a deadly weapon in Tarrant County, Texas, Case No. 1147257D, found the habitual-offender notice in the indictment true, and sentenced Petitioner to 49 years' confinement. Clerk's R. 132, ECF No. 18-10. Petitioner appealed his conviction, but the Second District Court of Appeals of Texas affirmed the trial court's judgment and the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals refused Petitioner's petition for discretionary review. Docket Sheet 1-2, ECF No. 18-2. Petitioner also filed a postconviction state habeas-corpus application challenging his conviction, which was denied by the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals without written order on the findings of the trial court. Action Taken, ECF No. 18-25.

         At trial, Miguel Correa, a night assistant at a QuikTrip store in Arlington, Texas, testified that on February 9, 2009, a man robbed him at gunpoint. Reporter's R., vol. 3, 15-18, ECF No. 18-7. Although Correa could describe the clothing the man wore, he could not identify Petitioner as the man who robbed him in a photo lineup or at trial. Id. at 30-31, 42, 147-48. The police, after investigating a string of robberies in the area, developed Petitioner as a suspect in several robberies in Fort Worth and Arlington, including the QuikTrip robbery. Id. at 48. Petitioner gave a recorded statement to the Fort Worth police and to the Arlington police. Id. at 49. At trial, a suppression hearing was held outside the presence of the jury regarding the admissibility of his statement to the Arlington police. The state appellate court summarized the evidence presented at the hearing and the trial court's findings on the issue as follows:

Testimony at Suppression Hearing
Fort Worth police interviewed [Petitioner], who was a suspect in several robberies in Fort Worth. Sometime shortly after the interview, Fort Worth police arrested [Petitioner] on an assault charge. While [Petitioner] was in custody as a result of the arrest, Fort Worth police contacted Sergeant Anthony Wright with the Arlington police department, who was investigating a robbery at a QT convenience store in Arlington. The Fort Worth officers told Sergeant Wright that they had received a tip which led them to suspect that [Petitioner] had been involved in several robberies, including the QT robbery. Sergeant Wright then interviewed [Petitioner] starting around 9 p.m. at the Mansfield Law Enforcement Center. Sergeant Wright taped the interview, during which [Petitioner] waived his Miranda rights.
Sergeant Wright testified that he did not know how long [Petitioner] had been in custody when he picked him up from Fort Worth and took him to Mansfield for the interview. Sergeant Wright did not remember what [Petitioner] was wearing, and he did not know whether [Petitioner] had eaten, but he did say [Petitioner] did not appear fatigued. The interview lasted thirty minutes.
Sergeant Wright acknowledged that he started out the interview by telling [Petitioner] that he “had been speaking with Fort Worth, which is initially who identified” [Petitioner] to him. Sergeant Wright showed [Petitioner] photographs and video stills of a couple of robberies in Arlington, including the QT one, but he did not remember showing [Petitioner] photos or video stills of any of the Fort Worth offenses. When Sergeant Wright told [Petitioner] he had done an analysis of “all the videos, ” he was referring to the two Arlington robberies, but Sergeant Wright had viewed some of the video stills from Fort Worth. . . . Sergeant Wright said that he questioned [Petitioner] about the 7-11 robbery first, then the QT one, but he could not be sure whether [Petitioner] was looking at the 7-11 and QT photos together when he confessed to the QT robbery because all the photos were on the table by that point.
Sergeant Wright testified that he made no promises to [Petitioner], did not coerce [Petitioner], and was not aware of any promises made by Fort Worth police; he told [Petitioner] he did not know about the facts of the Fort Worth cases. Sergeant Wright did not know “anything about [Fort Worth's] investigation.” Sergeant Wright admitted that [Petitioner] could have thought during the interview that Sergeant Wright knew everything that Fort Worth police knew about robberies other than the ones in Arlington.
[Petitioner] testified that in the initial Fort Worth interview, the police told him he was under arrest but did not read him his Miranda warnings. He thought they told him, however, that he did not have to talk to them, but he was not sure. The Fort Worth interview took place the day before the interview with Sergeant Wright. When asked if he thought the Arlington interview was “in connection with” the Fort Worth interview, [Petitioner] answered he did, “[s]eeing how he [Sergeant Wright] said that he had already spoke with the . . . Fort Worth people.” [Petitioner] thought his confession was going to help “somewhat” with the Fort Worth investigation. However, he did not think the statements he made in the Fort Worth interview could be used against him in the Arlington interview. He said he thought he had to tell Sergeant Wright the same things he told Fort Worth police. He also “was very unsure about what was going on. [He] really didn't know the concept . . . so [he] was very unsure about the whole process.”
[Petitioner] said that he did not realize that he was helping to build a case against himself when he made the waiver because the day before in Fort Worth, he was told that if he cooperated, they would work with him and that by being honest, they would go easy on him for punishment. If he had realized that he would be charged with aggravated robbery by the Arlington police, he would not have waived his rights.
According to [Petitioner], Sergeant Wright did not promise him anything, but “he kind of led [Petitioner] into believing that he had already spoke with Fort Worth, and that they had been working hand in hand.” [Petitioner] never confessed to any of the Fort Worth robberies, however. He also did not believe he ever really confessed anything to Sergeant Wright. He said he had never been through an interrogation before and was confused. He said his questions to the officer about whether he would be tried in Fort Worth or Arlington or whether he was going back to Fort Worth show his confusion about the Arlington interview and whether it was an extension of the Fort Worth interview.
Audiotapes
The audiotapes of [Petitioner]'s two interviews were played for the trial court. [Petitioner]'s answers in the tape of the Fort Worth interview are very difficult to understand. However, the officers' questions are easier to understand, and it is quite clear that they told [Petitioner] at the beginning of the interview that he was not in custody and that he was free to leave at any time. They also said the same thing later in the interview, towards the end. Although [Petitioner] did not admit to participating in robbing store clerks in several cities, he did over the course of the interview admit being in the car with two men whom the Fort Worth officers told [Petitioner] were involved in those robberies; [Petitioner] also admitted stealing cigarettes from some of those stores. However, throughout the interview, [Petitioner] denied knowing about or participating in any robberies at those same stores. Although the police focused primarily on what appear to be Fort Worth offenses, they did ask [Petitioner] about a 7-11 robbery in Arlington and told him they were going to show the pictures from that store to Arlington police “in the morning.” Throughout the interview, Fort Worth police told [Petitioner] they knew he was one of the men in the video and that they thought he was just making bad decisions while under the influence of drugs.
Sergeant Wright started his interview with [Petitioner] by telling him that he had been working “real close with those Fort Worth guys” and that they told him [Petitioner] had been cooperative and wanted to get all this behind him. Sergeant Wright then asked [Petitioner] to talk to him, read [Petitioner] his Miranda warnings, asked if [Petitioner] would agree to talk to him, and had [Petitioner] sign and initial a waiver card saying [Petitioner] understood his rights. Sergeant Wright also told [Petitioner] that he did not know what was going on in Fort Worth, that he was not there to discuss it with [Petitioner], and that it was none of his business.
Sergeant Wright asked [Petitioner] about robberies at a QT and a 7-11 in Arlington. Although he showed [Petitioner] pictures, we cannot tell which stores were shown in the pictures. Sergeant Wright did tell [Petitioner] that based on the pictures [Petitioner] had looked at in Fort Worth (and had identified himself in), Sergeant Wright thought [Petitioner] was the person who robbed the clerks in Arlington. [Petitioner] admitted that the man in Sergeant Wright's pictures could have been him, but he told Sergeant Wright he was not sure if he had ever been in those stores. [Petitioner] identified his companion, Dre, in a picture when [Petitioner] and Sergeant Wright were discussing the 7-11 robbery.
When [Petitioner] did not say whether he had participated in the QT robbery, Sergeant Wright told him he knew the man in the picture was him. Sergeant Wright told [Petitioner] that the clerk at the QT had identified him but that the clerk at the 7-11 could not. According to Sergeant Wright, there was no question that the man in the QT picture was [Petitioner] because the clerk could clearly see his face.
Sergeant Wright said he wanted to know why “they” had picked the QT and whether [Petitioner] intended to kill or hurt the clerk. In response to that question, about halfway through the interview, [Petitioner] said the gun was not loaded; he also told Sergeant Wright that Dre had dropped him off at the store, and he did not know why Dre picked certain stores. This was the first time in the interview with Sergeant Wright in which [Petitioner] admitted participating in the robberies. Sergeant Wright also told [Petitioner] that the clerk at the QT was distraught over the robbery and feared for his life. Sergeant Wright told [Petitioner] he wanted to be able to tell the clerk that the robbers did not intend to kill him, and [Petitioner] affirmed that he did not.
By the end of the interview, [Petitioner] had admitted his involvement in both offenses. Sergeant Wright thanked [Petitioner] for his cooperation and said that he would be able to reassure the QT clerk that the men did not intend to kill him that night and were not going to retaliate against him or his family. Sergeant Wright then asked [Petitioner] for a saliva sample for DNA testing; when [Petitioner] expressed confusion, Sergeant Wright told [Petitioner] he was not required to provide a sample voluntarily. After Sergeant Wright read [Petitioner] the consent form for the sample, and [Petitioner] acquiesced verbally, [Petitioner] asked what would happen if he waited until he had an attorney to find out what was the best thing to do. Sergeant Wright told [Petitioner] he was free to consult an attorney before giving a DNA sample. [Petitioner] then referred to the Fort Worth interview, and Sergeant Wright again explained to [Petitioner] that the Fort Worth offenses were separate and that he was interested only in the Arlington offenses. Upon [Petitioner]'s questioning about who would be responsible for prosecuting him, Sergeant Wright explained that Tarrant County would be responsible for prosecuting all of the cases and that they would probably be handled by one DA.
Findings
The trial court made the following oral findings on the record:
Article 38.22 of the Texas Code of . . . Criminal Procedure was complied with. The [Petitioner] was read his Miranda rights by Sergeant Wright. The [Petitioner] . . . initialed the card -- the warning card which contained the Miranda warning. Specifically, he was warned that he had the right to remain silent, not make any statements at all. And any statement he make -- may make would -- may be used against him at trial. Any statements you may make may be used as evidence against you in court.
He was advised, “You have the right to have a lawyer present to advise you prior to and during any questioning. If you are unable to employ a lawyer, you have the right to have a lawyer appointed to advise you prior to and during any questioning. You have the right to terminate the interview at any time.” The statement given by the [Petitioner] was given to Officer Wright. This was recorded. The Miranda warning was recorded by Officer Wright also. The [Petitioner] knowingly, intelligently, and voluntarily waived any rights set out in the motion. The statement was recorded by a recording device that was capable of making an accurate recording, and I believe it was competent. And the recording is accurate and has not been altered. Voices on the recording were identified.
The [Petitioner] was not promised anything as -- in order to induce him to make a statement. No threats were made to the [Petitioner], no promises. It was a completely voluntar[]y statement made by [Petitioner].
The Court also finds that the [Petitioner] did not confess to Fort Worth police, and that he was not in . . . custody at the time because he was not under arrest. But in any event, no statement was made by [Petitioner] at that time.
But the Court finds that in its totality, the action of officer -- or Sergeant Wright complied with 38.22; therefore, the Court will overrule your objection. State's Exhibit 5 will be -- which is the unredacted copy, will be admitted for record purposes only. State's Exhibit 6 ...

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