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Rhines v. Young

United States District Court, D. South Dakota, Western Division

February 16, 2016

CHARLES RUSSELL RHINES, Petitioner,
v.
DARIN YOUNG, Warden, South Dakota State Penitentiary; Respondent.

ORDER GRANTING SUMMARY JUDGMENT AND DENYING PETITION FOR HABEAS CORPUS

KAREN E. SCHREIER UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

Respondent, Darin Young, moves the court for summary judgment to deny petitioner, Charles Russell Rhines’s, petition for habeas corpus. Rhines resists the motion. On October 23, 2015, the court heard oral argument on the motion. For the following reasons, the court grants the respondent’s motion for summary judgment and denies Rhines’s petition for habeas relief.

TABLE OF CONTENTS

TABLE OF CONTENTS .............................................................. 1

PROCEDURAL HISTORY ............................................................ 4

LEGAL STANDARD .................................................. 7

DISCUSSION .......................................................... 11

I. Were Rhines’s Constitutional Rights Violated by the Admission of His June 19 and 21, 1992 Confessions? ...... 11

A. Was Rhines adequately advised of his Miranda rights? ................................................. 14

1. Caldwell’s warning .................................................... 17

2. Allender’s warnings ....................................................... 18

B. Did Rhines validly waive his Miranda rights? ....................................................... 19

II. Were Rhines’s Sixth and Fourteenth Amendment Rights to an Impartial Jury Violated by the Exclusion for Cause of Prospective Jurors Diane Staeffler and Jack Meyer? ..................................................... 22

A. Diane Staeffler ...................................................................... 22

B. Jack Meyer .............................................. 27

III. Were Rhines’s Sixth and Fourteenth Amendment Rights Violated by the State’s Use of Peremptory Challenges? 30

IV. Did Admission of Victim Impact Evidence During the Penalty Phase Violate the Ex Post Facto Clause of the Constitution? ................................................ 36

V. Was Rhines’s Death Sentence Invalidated by the Jury’s Finding of an Aggravating Circumstance Later Determined to be Unconstitutionally Vague? .............................................. 41

VI. Are South Dakota’s Capital Punishment Statutes Unconstitutional? ......................................... 48

A. Does the listing of aggravating circumstances under SDCL 23A-27A-1 adequately limit “death eligible” defendants or offenders? .............................................................. 49

B. Do South Dakota’s capital sentencing statutes contain insufficient standards to guide the sentencing body’s discretion to determine whether a particular defendant will or will not receive the death penalty? .... 49

1. The “torture” aggravating factor ......................................................... 51

C. Does South Dakota unconstitutionally mandate the imposition of a death sentence upon a jury’s recommendation and foreclose the discretion of the trial judge? ......................................... 55

1. The jury as the sentencer .................................. 56

2. Opportunity to contest the sentencing jury’s findings ................................................ 56

D. Do South Dakota’s statutes require proportionality review without providing adequate guidance or a means of collecting information on death penalty cases? .......................... 58

E. Do South Dakota’s statutes unconstitutionally mandate consideration of the death penalty for Class A felonies? ........................................................... 61

VII. Were Rhines’s Constitutional Rights Violated by Improper Jury Instructions During the Penalty Phase? .... 63 A. The “depravity of mind” instruction .......................................... 63

B. The “pecuniary gain” instruction ............................................ 64

C. Did the trial court err in its refusal to give Rhines’s proposed jury instruction number 8? ....................... 66

D. Did the trial court err in its refusal to give Rhines’s proposed instruction number 9? .............................. 67

E. Did the trial court err in its refusal to give Rhines’s proposed instruction number 11? ............................ 67

F. Did the trial court improperly respond to a jury note concerning the meaning of life without parole? ... 70

VIII. Did Sufficient Evidence Support the Jury’s Finding of Two Statutory Aggravating Circumstances? ............ 73

A. Sufficiency of the evidence supporting the pecuniary gain factor ............................................................ 74

B. Sufficiency of the evidence supporting the torture factor ............................................................ 76

IX. Did Rhines’s Trial Counsel Render Ineffective Assistance? ............................................................ 81

A. Was trial counsel ineffective by failing to adequately perform a mitigation investigation on behalf of Rhines? .................................... 82

1. Issues IX.A and IX.B: investigation and presentation of mitigation evidence ........................................ 84

a. Mitigation Investigation ................................................... 84

b. Presentation ............................................................. 88

c. Circuit court decision ......................................................... 91

d. Federal habeas .......................................................... 96

2. Issue IX.I: failure to hire a mitigation expert ......................................... 100

B. Was trial counsel ineffective by presenting a “tepid” mitigation case? ............................... 101

C. Was trial counsel ineffective for failing to inform the jury of Rhines’s willingness to plead guilty or not giving Rhines an opportunity to allocute? ............................................. 101

D. Was trial counsel ineffective for failing to exclude evidence of Rhines’s homosexuality? ...................... 104

E. Was trial counsel ineffective for improperly handling a jury note regarding the conditions of life imprisonment? ........................................................ 106

F. Was trial counsel ineffective by disproportionately delegating defense work to third-chair counsel? .. 108

G. Was trial counsel ineffective due to mental and moral shortcomings and expressing a favorable view of the death penalty? ..................................................... 108

H. Was trial counsel ineffective for failing to exclude or challenge testimony from Glen Wishard? .......... 109

I. Was trial counsel ineffective for failing to hire a mitigation expert? ........................................... 112

J. Was trial counsel ineffective for failing to exclude testimony concerning Rhines’s possession of a gun and his conduct at victim’s funeral? ................................................... 112

1. Rhonda Graff ........................................................... 113

2. Connie Royer ............................................................................... 115

X. Did the South Dakota Supreme Court Fail to Perform its Proportionality Review? ............................. 117

XI. Did the Trial Court Improperly Deny Rhines’s Motion to Appoint a Forensic Communications Expert? .......... 119

XII. Did the Prosecutor Engage in Misconduct? .................................................... 124

A. Did the prosecutor improperly argue that Schaeffer’s hands were tied prior to his death? .................. 125

B. Did the prosecutor improperly argue that Schaeffer was “gutted?” ......................................... 126

C. Did the prosecutor act improperly by introducing and using the testimony of Glen Wishard? .............. 131

D. Did the prosecutor act improperly by eliminating all jurors who had misgivings about imposing the death penalty? ..................................................... 132

CONCLUSION ........................................................ 132

PROCEDURAL HISTORY

Rhines was convicted of premeditated first-degree murder for the death of Donnivan Schaeffer and of third-degree burglary of a Dig’Em Donuts Shop in Rapid City, South Dakota. On January 26, 1993, a jury found Rhines should be subject to death by lethal injection. A state circuit judge imposed this sentence. Rhines appealed his conviction and sentence to the South Dakota Supreme Court. Fourteen issues were raised on direct appeal, including the excusal of prospective juror Diane Staeffler, the state’s use of its peremptory challenges, the use of victim impact testimony, and the proportionality review. The South Dakota Supreme Court affirmed Rhines’s conviction and sentence, and the United States Supreme Court denied further review on December 2, 1996.

Rhines then applied for a writ of habeas corpus in state court on December 5, 1996. In his state habeas, Rhines raised numerous issues, including ineffective assistance of counsel, the excusal for cause of prospective juror Diane Staeffler, and the constitutionality of the South Dakota capital punishment statutes. The trial court denied Rhines’s state habeas on October 8, 1998. The South Dakota Supreme Court affirmed the denial on February 9, 2000.

On February 22, 2000, Rhines filed a federal petition for writ of habeas corpus pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254. An amended petition for writ of habeas corpus was filed on November 20, 2000, that alleged thirteen grounds for relief. Respondent alleged that several of the grounds had not been exhausted and were, therefore, procedurally defaulted. On July 3, 2002, this court found that Rhines’s grounds for relief II.B, VI.E, IX.B, IX.H, IX.I, IX.J, XII, and XIII were unexhausted. This court stayed the petition pending exhaustion of Rhines’s state court remedies on the condition that Rhines file a petition for habeas review in state court within 60 days and return to federal court within 60 days of completing the state proceedings. Respondent appealed.

On direct appeal, the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals vacated the stay and remanded the case so this court could determine whether Rhines could proceed by dismissing the unexhausted claims from his petition. Rhines v. Weber, 346 F.3d 799 (8th Cir. 2003). Rhines filed a petition for a writ of certiorari with the United States Supreme Court. The United States Supreme Court granted certiorari to determine whether a district court may issue an order of stay and abeyance in a case involving a mixed petition for habeas corpus, that is, a petition containing exhausted and unexhausted claims. Rhines v. Weber, 544 U.S. 269 (2005). The Supreme Court held that stay and abeyance is permissible under some circumstances. Id. at 277. The Court remanded the case to the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals so it could determine whether this court abused its discretion in granting the stay. Id. at 279. The Court specifically stated that “once the petitioner exhausts his state remedies, the district court will lift the stay and allow the petitioner to proceed in federal court.” Id. at 275-76.

Because this court did not have the benefit of the controlling Supreme Court authority when it issued the order of stay and abeyance in 2002, the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals remanded the case to this court to analyze the petition for writ of habeas corpus under the new test enunciated by the Spreme Court. Rhines v. Weber, 409 F.3d 982, 983 (8th Cir. 2005). This court was directed to analyze each unexhausted claim to: (1) determine whether Rhines had good cause for his failure to exhaust the claims in state court, (2) determine whether the claims were plainly meritless, and (3) consider whether Rhines had engaged in abusive litigation tactics or intentional delay. Id. (citing Rhines, 544 U.S. at 277-28). On December 19, 2009, this court found that Rhines had good cause for failing to exhaust the claims, the claims were not plainly meritless, and Rhines had not engaged in abusive litigation tactics. Docket 150. The court ordered that Rhines’s petition for habeas corpus was stayed pending exhaustion in state court. Id.

Rhines returned to state court to exhaust his claims. On February 27, 2013, the Circuit Court for the Seventh Judicial Circuit of South Dakota entered judgment in favor of respondent on all of Rhines’s claims. Rhines timely requested a Certificate of Appealability from both the Circuit Court and the Supreme Court of South Dakota. His request was denied on July 17, 2013. In early October of 2013, Rhines filed a petition for certiorari with the United States Supreme Court. The Court denied the petition on January 21, 2014. Docket 223. On February 4, 2014, this court lifted the stay on Rhines’s federal habeas corpus proceeding. Docket 224. That same day, respondent filed the present motion for summary judgment. Docket 225. On October 22, 2015, the court heard oral argument on the motion and granted the parties an opportunity to submit further briefing on two issues: (1) on the interplay between the standards of review applicable to Rule 56 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure and § 2254(d); and (2) on the relationship between Martinez v. Ryan, 132 S.Ct. 1309 (2012) and Cullen v. Pinholster, 563 U.S. 170 (2011). The parties have completed the round of supplemental briefing.

LEGAL STANDARD

Section 2254 of Title 28, as amended by the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act (AEDPA), governs a district court's authority to grant a writ of habeas corpus to state prisoners. Here, respondent has moved for summary judgment. Generally, when a party moves for summary judgment, Rule 56 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure applies, and the court views the facts in the light most favorable to the non-moving party. See Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 588 (1986). The Federal Rules of Civil Procedure apply to § 2254 proceedings “to the extent that they are not inconsistent with any statutory provisions[.]” Rules Governing Section 2254 Cases in the United States District Court; Pitchess v. Davis, 421 U.S. 482, 489 (1975). The statutory provisions of AEDPA provide the standard of review applicable to § 2254 proceedings, and AEDPA overrides the ordinary rules applicable to motions for summary judgment. See, e.g., Cummings v. Polk, 475 F.3d 230, 237 (4th Cir. 2007) (noting on summary judgment that “AEDPA’s deferential standard of review [applies] to the state court’s adjudication of a petitioner’s claims on their merits.”); Ogan v. Cockrell, 297 F.3d 349, 356 (5th Cir. 2002) (same); Workman v. Bell, 178 F.3d 759, 765 (6th Cir. 1998) (same); Sanchez v. Shillinger, 1995 WL 87117 at * 2 (10th Cir. 1995) (unpublished opinion) (same). Thus, although presented as a motion for summary judgment, the court’s standard of review is governed by AEDPA.

Where a petitioner’s claim has been adjudicated on the merits in a state court proceeding, the district court cannot grant relief unless the state court’s adjudication:

(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 in the State court proceeding.

28 U.S.C. § 2254(d)(1)-(2); see also Cullen v. Pinholster, 131 S.Ct. 1388, 1398 (2011). The standard is “difficult to meet, ” and “[t]he petitioner carries the burden of proof.” Pinholster, 131. S.Ct. at 1398. These limitations were designed “to prevent federal habeas ‘retrials’ and to ensure that state-court convictions are given effect to the extent possible under law.” Bell v. Cone, 535 U.S. 685, 693 (2002). A federal court applies a deferential standard of review when assessing a state court's disposition of a habeas petition. See Barnett v. Roper, 541 F.3d 804, 814 (8th Cir. 2008).

Under § 2254(d)(1), whether federal law is said to be “clearly established” is determined by “the holdings, as opposed to the dicta, of [the Supreme Court’s] decisions as of the time of the relevant state-court decision.” Williams v. Taylor, 529 U.S. 362, 412 (2000); see also Lockyer v. Andrade, 538 U.S. 63, 71-72 (2003) (explaining “clearly established federal law” refers to “the governing legal principle or principles set forth by the Supreme Court at the time the state court renders its decision.”). The statute’s “contrary to” and “unreasonable application of” clauses have independent meanings. See Williams, 529 U.S. at 405; Bell, 535 U.S. at 694. First, “[t]he word ‘contrary’ is commonly understood to mean ‘diametrically different, ’ ‘opposite in character or nature, ’ or ‘mutually opposed.’ ” Williams, 529 U.S. at 405 (quoting Webster’s Third New International Dictionary 495 (1976)). Thus, a state court’s decision is said to be “contrary to” clearly established federal law “if the state court applies a rule different from the governing law set forth in [the Supreme Court’s] cases, or if it decides a case differently than [the Court has] done on a set of materially indistinguishable facts.” Bell, 535 at 694. Second, as to the “unreasonable application of” clause, a federal court may grant relief if “the state court correctly identifies the governing legal principle from [the Supreme Court’s] decisions but unreasonably applies it to the facts of the particular case.” Id. Under this inquiry, the focus is “whether the state court’s application of clearly established federal law is objectively unreasonable.” Id. Thus, a federal habeas court may not grant relief “simply because that court concludes in its independent judgment that the relevant state-court decisions applied clearly established federal law erroneously or incorrectly.” Williams, 529 U.S. at 411.

Under § 2254(d)(2), the state court’s factual determinations will be upheld unless they are objectively unreasonable. Barnett, 541 F.3d at 811. Thus, those determinations are “not unreasonable merely because the federal habeas court would have reached a different conclusion in the first instance.” Wood v. Allen, 558 U.S. 290, 300 (2010). And § 2254(e)(1) provides that “a determination of a factual issue made by a State court shall be presumed to be correct” and the habeas petitioner “shall have the burden of rebutting the presumption of correctness by clear and convincing evidence.” See Barnett, 541 F.3d at 811 (“We presume that the state court's findings of fact are correct, and the prisoner has ‘the burden of rebutting the presumption of correctness by clear and convincing evidence.’ ”) (quoting 28 U.S.C. § 2254(e)(1)); see also Smulls v. Roper, 535 F.3d 853, 858 (8th Cir. 2008) (same). A state court’s adjudication of mixed questions of law and fact is reviewed under § 2254(d)(1). Garcia v. Bertsch, 470 F.3d 748, 754 (8th Cir. 2006); Evans v. Rogerson, 223 F.3d 869, 872 (8th Cir. 2000).

DISCUSSION

I. Were Rhines’s Constitutional Rights Violated by the Admission of His June 19 and 21, 1992 Confessions?

Rhines was arrested in Seattle, Washington, on June 19, 1992, following an investigation of a burglary in that state. At approximately 12:45 p.m., King County Police Officer Michael Caldwell read Rhines the following warning:

You have the right to remain silent. Number 2, anything you say or sign can be used as evidence against you in a court of law. Number 3, you have the right at this time to an attorney of your own choosing, and to have him present before saying or signing anything. Number 4, if you cannot afford an attorney, you are entitled to have an attorney appointed for you without cost to you and to have him present before saying and signing anything. Number 5, you have the right to exercise any of the above rights at any time before saying or signing anything. Do you understand each of these rights that I have explained to you?

State v. Rhines, 548 N.W.2d 415, 424 (S.D. 1996) (hereinafter Rhines I); see also Docket 215-70 at 14-15 (Suppression Transcript). Caldwell testified that Rhines did not respond to his inquiry, but instead asked about the presence of two detectives from South Dakota. Caldwell did not respond or attempt to question Rhines. Rather, Rhines was brought to a holding cell at the King County police station.

Approximately six hours later, two Rapid City, South Dakota law enforcement officers, Detective Steve Allender and Pennington County Deputy Sheriff Don Bahr, interviewed Rhines at the King County police station. Rhines initially did not want to have his conversation recorded. Allender testified at Rhines’s suppression hearing that he read Rhines his Miranda rights prior to questioning. Specifically, Rhines was asked:

You have a continuing right to remain silent. Do you understand that? Anything you say can be used as evidence against you. Do you understand that? You have the right to consult with and have the presence of an attorney, and if you cannot afford an attorney, an attorney can be appointed for you free of charge. Do you understand that? Having these rights in mind, are you willing to answer questions?

Rhines I, 548 N.W.2d at 424-25 (altered for formatting); Docket 215-70 at 42-43. Allender testified that Rhines responded affirmatively to each of his questions, although Rhines asked if he had a choice regarding the final inquiry. Allender assured Rhines that he did in fact have a choice and did not have to speak with the officers at all. Following that exchange, Rhines agreed to be interviewed with the caveat that he would answer only the questions he wanted. During the course of the interview, Rhines confessed to murdering Schaeffer and to burglarizing the Dig’Em Donuts Shop.

Approximately two hours into the interview, Rhines allowed Allender to switch on the tape recorder. The conversation between Allender and Rhines included the following exchange:

Q: Ok. Um, do you remember me reading you your rights?
A: Yes.
Q: In the beginning? Did you understand all those rights?
A: Yes.
Q: And, uh, having those rights in mind you talked to us here?
A: Yes I have.

Rhines I, 548 N.W.2d at 425; Docket 215-1 at 1-2 (June 19, 1992 audio transcript). Rhines made additional incriminating statements during the taped portion of the interview.

Two days later, on June 21, 1992, Allender and Bahr interviewed Rhines again. This interview was also tape recorded. At the beginning of the interview the following exchange between Allender and Rhines occurred:

Q: . . . Ok, Charles, let me ah, advise of your rights again, ok. Could you answer as far as you understand ‘em or not. Ok. You have the continuing right to remain silent, do you understand that?
A: Yes.
Q: Anything you say can be used as evidence against you. Do you understand that?
A: Yes.
Q: You have the right to consult with and have the presence of an attorney, and if you cannot afford an attorney, an attorney can be appointed for you free of charge. Do you understand that?
A: Yes.
Q: K. Just like the other night, having these rights in mind, are you willing to answer questions?
A: Yes.
Q: Okay. And that, in this case, it goes, if you don’t like the question, it doesn’t mean that [you’re] supposed to answer it.
A: I can take the 5th Amendment.
Q: Exactly.

Rhines I, 548 N.W.2d at 425; Docket 215-2 at 1 (June 21, 1992 audio transcript). Rhines then made further incriminating statements regarding the Schaeffer murder and the Dig’Em Donuts Shop burglary.

Rhines filed a pretrial motion to exclude his incriminating statements. The trial court denied the motion. Allender was allowed to testify regarding statements Rhines made during the untaped portions of their conversations. Additionally, the state played the recordings of Rhines’s June 19 and 21 interviews. Rhines challenged the trial court’s admission of his statements on direct appeal. Rhines I, 548 N.W.2d at 424-29. Rhines argued that he did not receive adequate Miranda warnings prior to the interviews and that he did not give a valid waiver of his Miranda rights. The South Dakota Supreme Court disagreed.

A. Was Rhines adequately advised of his Miranda rights?

The Fifth Amendment provides that “[n]o person . . . shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself[.]” U.S. Const. amend. V. In Miranda v. Arizona, 384 U.S. 436, 478 (1966), the Supreme Court held that the privilege against self-incrimination enunciated by the Fifth Amendment is implicated whenever law enforcement subjects an individual to custodial interrogation. In that situation, the Court instructed that certain “[p]rocedural safeguards must be employed to protect the privilege[.]” Id. at 478-79. Thus, in the absence of other equally effective procedures, officers must apprise a suspect prior to any questioning that:

he has the right to remain silent, that anything he says can be used against him in a court of law, that he has the right to the presence of an attorney, and that if he cannot afford an attorney one will be appointed for him prior to any questioning if he so desires.

Id. at 479. Those rights, as well as the opportunity to exercise them, must be afforded to an individual throughout the interrogation. Id. An individual may nonetheless knowingly and voluntarily waive those rights and agree to answer questions or make a statement. Id. But if those rights are not conveyed or honored, or if the individual does not knowingly and voluntarily waive them, no evidence obtained as a result of the interrogation may be used against the individual. Id.

The Supreme Court has explained, however, that “these procedural safeguards were not themselves rights protected by the Constitution but were instead measures to insure that the right against compulsory self-incrimination was protected.” Michigan v. Tucker, 417 U.S. 433, 444 (1974). “Reviewing courts therefore need not examine Miranda warnings as if construing a will or defining the terms of an easement.” Duckworth v. Eagan, 492 U.S. 195, 203 (1989). Rather, “the inquiry is simply whether the warnings reasonably ‘conve[y] to [a suspect] his rights as required by Miranda.’ ” Id. (quoting California v. Prysock, 453 U.S. 355, 361 (1981) (alterations in original)).

The South Dakota Supreme Court observed similar dictates from contemporary United States Supreme Court cases before reaching the merits of Rhines’s arguments. Rhines I, 548 N.W.2d at 425-26 (citations omitted). First, the Court rejected Rhines’s contention that he had not been advised of his right to terminate the officers’ questioning at any time. Specifically, the Court noted that Allender’s warning on June 19 informed Rhines of his “continuing right to remain silent.” Id. at 426-27. Earlier that day, Caldwell also told Rhines that he had the right to remain silent and to exercise any of his rights at any time. Id. at 427. The Court found that this earlier warning, and the lack of intervening interrogation, served to reinforce the fact that Rhines was appraised of his continuing right to remain silent. Id. Further, the Court found that Rhines’s caveat and practice of only answering the questions he wished demonstrated that he understood his right to terminate the questioning at any time. Id. (noting that Rhines switched off the tape recorder on occasion to answer certain questions). And on June 21, Allender again informed Rhines of his continuing right to remain silent and that he did not have to answer any questions if he so chose. Id.

Second, the South Dakota Supreme Court rejected Rhines’s argument that he had not been informed of his right to have an attorney present during questioning. To the contrary, the Court noted that at the outset of the June 19 and 21 interviews, Allender told Rhines that he could consult with and have an attorney present. Id. Third, the Court rejected Rhines’s assertion that he was not informed that an attorney would be appointed for him if he could not afford one. The Court observed that Allender told Rhines that if he could not afford an attorney, an attorney “can” be appointed for him. While Allender’s use of the word “can” may not have been as definitive as stating an attorney “would” or “must” be appointed, the Court concluded that Allender’s warning nonetheless reasonably complied with the substance of Miranda. Id. at 428 (citing Miranda, 384 U.S. at 473). Consequently, the Court concluded that Rhines received adequate Miranda warnings.

Here, Rhines argues the South Dakota Supreme Court’s conclusion was an objectively unreasonable application of clearly established federal law. Specifically, Rhines argues that neither Caldwell’s warning nor the two warnings issued by Allender satisfy Miranda.

1. Caldwell’s warning

Rhines does not attack the substance of Caldwell’s warning, but argues that because it was issued roughly six hours prior to his interrogation, it was too remote in time to be effective. Rhines relies on a quotation from the Miranda decision that “a warning at the time of the interrogation is indispensable . . . to insure that the individual knows he is free to exercise the privilege at that point in time.” Miranda, 384 U.S. at 468 (emphasis added).

Rhines’s argument has three problems. The first is that the quoted language from the Court’s decision is, in context, a reiteration of the general requirement that the warning must be given prior to any questioning in order to be effective, rather than ascribing a specific temporal limitation on the warning itself. See Id. at 467-68 (“if a person in custody is to be subjected to interrogation, he must first be informed in clear and unequivocal terms that he has the right to remain silent.”). Second, even if the language could be read to support the reading Rhines gives it, Rhines has cited no clearly established federal law from the Supreme Court holding that a six hour delay between a valid warning and a subsequent interrogation prefaced by another warning is impermissible. See Docket 232 at 10 (citing State v. Roberts, 513 N.E.2d 720 (Ohio 1987)). And finally, the South Dakota Supreme Court did not simply rely on Caldwell’s warning. Rather, the Court explained that his warning “reinforced” the fact that Rhines was aware of his Miranda rights at the outset of the interview. Rhines I, 548 N.W.2d at 427.[1]

2. Allender’s warnings

As to the warnings given by Allender, Rhines raises the same three arguments that were made on direct appeal. Namely, that he was not apprised of his right to terminate the questioning if he desired, that he was not told of his right to have counsel present, and that he was not advised that an attorney would be appointed for him if he could not afford one. Rhines does not explain how the South Dakota Supreme Court unreasonably applied clearly established federal law when it rejected these very arguments. Rather, Rhines attempts to relitigate whether, as a matter of substance, the warnings issued by Allender were legally sufficient. That, however, is in contravention of this court’s role in federal habeas. See Bell, 535 U.S. at 693.

Rhines was told at the beginning of each interview that he had the continuing right to remain silent. He was told that anything he said could be used as evidence against him. He was told that he had the right to consult with or have an attorney present. And he was told that if he could not afford an attorney, an attorney could be appointed for him. Rhines was then asked if he understood those rights, to which Rhines responded affirmatively. Additionally, Rhines was told that he did not have to answer any questions he did not want to answer. Rhines responded that he would answer only the questions he wanted and that he could invoke the Fifth Amendment. Rhines’s statements illustrate that he knew he could stop answering questions if he desired. While Allender may not have recited the language of Miranda verbatim, “the initial warnings given to [Rhines] touched all the bases required by Miranda.” Duckworth, 492 U.S. at 203. Thus, the court concludes that the South Dakota Supreme Court did not unreasonably apply clearly established federal law when it determined that Rhines received effective Miranda warnings prior to his June 19 and 21, 1992 interviews.

B. Did Rhines validly waive his Miranda rights?

As discussed in issue I.A, supra, the Supreme Court observed that after a Miranda warning is given, an “individual may knowingly and intelligently waive [his Miranda] rights and agree to answer questions or make a statement.” Miranda, 384 U.S. at 479. The question of whether an individual has waived his Miranda rights “is not one of form, but rather whether the defendant in fact knowingly and voluntarily waived the rights delineated in the Miranda case.” North Carolina v. Butler, 441 U.S. 369, 373 (1979). The court must inquire “into the totality of the circumstances surrounding the interrogation” to make that determination. Fare v. Michael C., 442 U.S. 707, 725 (1979).

The South Dakota Supreme Court noted that after finding a valid Miranda warning, its next task was to determine if Rhines waived his rights. Rhines I, 548 N.W.2d at 429. The Court then made its inquiry based upon the totality of the circumstances. Id. Finding a valid waiver, the Court explained:

When asked whether he understood his rights, Rhines responded that he did. He then answered affirmatively when asked if he was willing to answer questions. He was articulate and detailed in making his statements. There is no indication that Rhines was under the influence of drugs or alcohol or that he was otherwise impaired in his functioning. Nor is there any showing that law enforcement officers unlawfully induced or coerced Rhines to make a confession. Additionally, Rhines clearly understood the consequences of relinquishing his rights, including the fact that his statements could be used against him in court. Referring to his reasons for confessing to the murder, Rhines remarked, ‘This will come out in court again.’ At another point in the questioning, Rhines told Allender and Bahr, ‘If you guys bring some of this stuff into court, you're gonna look really foolish[.]’ When Allender reminded Rhines that ‘this isn't court, ’ Rhines replied, ‘No. But it will be.’ Rhines also boldly professed to have knowledge of the statutory and case law. . . . [Rhines’s] gratuitous statements reflect an individual who is aware of the potentially grave legal consequences of his confession.

Id.

Rhines does not take issue with any of the court’s findings, but rather contends that his understanding of his rights is irrelevant. Rhines supports this argument with a quotation from Miranda:

[W]e will not pause to inquire in individual cases whether the defendant was aware of his rights without a warning being given. Assessments of the knowledge the defendant possessed, based on information as to his age, education, intelligence, or prior contact with authorities, can never be more than speculation; a warning is a clearcut fact. More important, whatever the background of the person interrogated, a warning at the time of the interrogation is indispensable to overcome its pressures and to insure that the individual knows he is free to exercise the privilege at that point in time.

Docket 232 at 15 (quoting Miranda, 384 U.S. at 469) (alteration and emphasis in original).

First, the Court’s subsequent holdings in Butler and Fare make clear that a defendant’s background and understanding are relevant to whether, under the totality of the circumstances, the defendant has effectively waived his or her rights. Second, Rhines’s quoted language from Miranda stands for the proposition that the warning must be given even if the defendant may already know the rights he or she possesses. See Miranda, 384 U.S. at 469 (noting the court will not attempt to ascertain “whether the defendant was aware of his rights without a warning being given.”). The South Dakota Supreme Court applied the appropriate analysis as dictated by clearly established federal law to determine whether Rhines waived his Miranda rights. Thus, the South Dakota Supreme Court’s determination that Rhines did in fact waive his Miranda rights is not an objectively unreasonable application of the law. Consequently, Rhines is not entitled to relief on this claim.[2]

II. Were Rhines’s Sixth and Fourteenth Amendment Rights to an Impartial Jury Violated by the Exclusion for Cause of Prospective Jurors Diane Staeffler and Jack Meyer?

A. Diane Staeffler

During the jury selection process, the defense and state attorneys, and the trial court, each questioned potential juror Diane Staeffler about her views on the death penalty and her ability to follow the court’s instructions. See Rhines I, 548 N.W.2d at 429-30; Docket 215-3 at 12-36. At times, Staeffler responded to questions by the defense by indicating her willingness and ability to serve impartially. For example:

Q: Okay. Now, I am going to ask you the general question of what your views on the death penalty are.
A: I guess there have been times when I thought that it was something that should maybe happen, but I don’t like it, but there have been some things that have happened that I have read about that I felt like maybe that probably would be the best thing, depending on the circumstances.
Q: Now, your feeling concerning the death penalty would not prevent you from following the Court’s instructions and considering it; whether you decide to apply it or not is up to you, but you would consider it, would you not?
A: Yeah.

Docket 215-3 at 17-18.

At other times, Staeffler responded to the state’s questions by indicating she could not be impartial. For example:

Q: I’m interested in one of the comments you made . . . when you said you’d rather not be on, what were you telling us?
A: I just really don’t know, to make a difficult decision for the death penalty, if it came to that and live with it later. I don’t know how I could handle something like that and maybe it was the right decision, but I don’t know if I could sleep at night knowing that I had done that.
Q: You don’t think you could sit in judgment of someone else and follow the instructions and consider and give the death penalty consideration, is that right?
A: No, I couldn’t.
Q: Is there anything you think I could say to you that I could change your mind about that?
A: I just don’t think I could do it.
Q: Under any circumstances?
A: Well, no.

Docket 215-3 at 19; 22-23.

The trial court initially denied the state’s request to excuse Staeffler for cause, but allowed the state to conduct further questioning on the subject of capital punishment:

Q: . . . Do you think you’d be leaning in one direction even if you found him guilty and in that second stage do you think you’d be ...

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