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Pagan v. Maldonado

United States District Court, D. Connecticut

August 24, 2016

JOSE PAGAN, Petitioner,
v.
WARDEN MALDONADO, et al., Respondents.

          RULING DENYING PETITION FOR WRIT OF HABEAS CORPUS

          Jeffrey Alker Meyer United States District Judge.

         Petitioner Jose Pagan has filed a petition for a writ of habeas corpus pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254. He is serving a sentence of 13 years of imprisonment following his conviction in a Connecticut state court on charges of sexual assault in the first degree, in violation of Connecticut General Statutes § 53-70(a)(2), and risk of injury to a minor, in violation of § 53-21(a)(2). He now contends that his constitutional rights were violated on the grounds that the state court erroneously denied his motion to suppress incriminating statements that he made to the police, that his trial counsel provided ineffective assistance of counsel, and that the state court improperly refused to appoint him counsel for purposes of his state habeas corpus proceedings. For the reasons stated below, I will deny the petition for habeas corpus.

         Background

         According to the evidence presented at trial, between October 2004 and February 2005, petitioner had sexual contact and sexual intercourse with a 12-year-old girl several times. After a jury trial in 2006, he was convicted of first degree sexual assault and risk of injury to a minor. He was sentenced to 13 years in prison followed by 12 years of special parole. His conviction was affirmed on direct appeal, State v. Pagan, 107 Conn.App. 118 (2008), cert. denied, 287 Conn. 917 (2008), and his state petition for habeas corpus was also denied, Pagan v. Warden, State Prison, 2013 WL 539195, at *1 (Conn. Super. Ct. 2013), aff'd sub nom. Pagan v. Comm'r of Correction, 153 Conn.App. 904 (2014). He now brings the instant federal habeas petition, which seeks to challenge his conviction on the grounds that the state court improperly denied his motion to suppress incriminating statements, that he received ineffective assistance of counsel, and that he was denied counsel for his state habeas petition.

         Discussion

         Federal courts have very limited authority to overturn state court convictions. A state court defendant who seeks relief by way of a federal petition for a writ of habeas corpus pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254 must show that his state court conviction was rendered by means of a very clear violation of federal law-i.e., that the state court's adjudication of his claims “(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 that it “(2) resulted in a decision that was based on an unreasonable determination of the facts in light of the evidence presented in the State court proceeding.” 28 U.S.C. § 2254(d)(1)-(2); see also Chrysler v. Guiney, 806 F.3d 104, 118 (2d Cir. 2015) (reviewing governing standard); Robinson v. Arnone, 2016 WL 223693, at *1 (D. Conn. 2016) (same.

         This is a “highly deferential standard for evaluating state-court rulings, which demands that state-court decisions be given the benefit of the doubt.” Cullen v. Pinholster, 563 U.S. 170, 181 (2011). As the Supreme Court has more recently explained, “[w]hen reviewing state criminal convictions on collateral review, federal judges are required to afford state courts due respect by overturning their decisions only when there could be no reasonable dispute that they were wrong.” Woods v. Donald, 135 S.Ct. 1372, 1376 (2015) (per curiam).

         Motion to Suppress

         Petitioner asserts that the state court unreasonably applied federal law when it denied his motion to suppress incriminating statements that he made to the police. Petitioner argues that these statements were made in violation of his rights under Miranda v. Arizona, 384 U.S. 436 (1966).

         When petitioner complained to the police that he was receiving harassing telephone calls from the victim of his sexual assaults, two New London police officers were dispatched to petitioner's apartment. One of the officers had been investigating the victim's complaints of sexual assault, and he informed petitioner of this fact and showed petitioner that he had acquired motel receipts that were evidence of the crime. Petitioner then made one or more incriminating statements. The police asked him to go to the police station to give a statement. He rode with the police to the station, during which time he telephoned his fiancée and told her he was on the way to the police station. When they arrived at the police station, petitioner asked to call his attorney, and he was permitted to do so; then, upon the advice of his attorney, petitioner declined to give a written statement, and one of the police officers then took petitioner back to his apartment. The police neither gave petitioner any Miranda warnings nor placed him under arrest at that time. See State v. Pagan, 107 Conn.App. 118, 120-23 (2008).

         The trial court denied petitioner's motion to suppress, concluding that he was not in “in custody” for purposes of triggering the protections of the Miranda rule at the time that he made incriminating statements. Petitioner appealed, and the Connecticut Appellate Court affirmed the trial court, noting that petitioner's claim rested on a challenge to the trial court's factual findings that the police had not acted coercively (e.g., rejecting petitioner's claim that the police locked the door of his apartment and that they called him a liar). See State v. Pagan, 107 Conn.App. at 125.

         Petitioner has not shown that the Connecticut Appellate Court misstated the requisites of the Miranda rule. To the contrary, the Appellate Court carefully and correctly set forth the governing legal standard. See, e.g., Howes v. Fields, 132 S.Ct. 1181, 1189-90 (2012) (explaining Miranda “in custody” standard). Nor has petitioner done anything else to show that the state courts unreasonably applied the Miranda “in custody” standard to the facts of his case. Instead, petitioner relies on his own reiteration of facts (Doc. #10 at 8-9) that were rejected by the state courts, and petitioner does not set forth any tenable grounds for me to conclude that the state court's factual determinations were clearly erroneous or unreasonable. Accordingly, I conclude that petitioner is not entitled to federal habeas corpus relief on the ground of any violation of his Miranda rights.

         Ineffective Assistance of Counsel

         Petitioner claims that his trial counsel rendered constitutionally ineffective assistance of counsel. He raised sixteen separate claims of ineffective assistance of his trial counsel in his state habeas petition. The specific claims were described at ...


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