Matthew C. Stechauner, Petitioner-Appellant,
Judy P. Smith, Warden, Respondent-Appellee.
January 11, 2017
from the United States District Court for the Eastern
District of Wisconsin. No. 2:08-cv-000607-CNC - C.N. Clevert,
Bauer, Flaum, and Easterbrook, Circuit Judges.
Stechauner seeks habeas relief from his Wisconsin convictions
for second-degree reckless homicide and armed robbery. He
argues that the Wisconsin appeals court unreasonably denied
post-conviction relief despite alleged Miranda
violations and ineffective assistance of counsel. The
district court declined to hold an evidentiary hearing and
denied Stechauner's petition for habeas relief. For the
following reasons, we affirm.
November 22, 2004, Stechauner was riding in a car with
friends. An unmarked police cruiser pulled up behind the car,
and Stechauner tried to hide his sawed-off shotgun from view.
In the process, the gun accidentally fired and hit Stechauner
in the leg, and he was driven to the hospital.
received treatment for the gunshot wound. In the process of
tending to Stechauner, one of the nurses noticed a bag of
bullets in Stechauner's pocket, and so called the police.
Officer Guajardo went to the hospital but could not locate
the bullets. Then, at about 7:15 PM, Detective Kolatski
arrived, followed later by Sergeant Doney Officer Guajardo
was in full police uniform; Detective Kolatski and Sergeant
Doney apparently were not. The officers entered
Stechauner's hospital room, where he was awaiting
discharge but still dressed in a hospital gown.
Stechauner's mother also arrived at the hospital but was
denied access to Stechauner's room. (However, there is no
indication that Stechauner was aware at that time that his
mother was trying to see him.) Detective Kolatski later
testified that he had the following exchange with Stechauner
in the hospital room:
... I told [Stechauner] that in order for me to help him out
at all that he needed to tell me the entire truth including
about where the bullets were. ... I explained to him that ...
we realized that he hadn't left the room, there were no
visitors, and that the bullets were either in the room
someplace or he had possibly ingested them.
And that shortly thereafter Mr. Stechauner bent over on the
gurney and pulled ... the bag of bullets out from what I
believe to be his rectum.
had then explained to the officers that he had shot himself
with the sawed-off shotgun in a car, and that he had a
probation officer. When Detective Kolatski asked Stechauner
what had happened to the gun, Stechauner answered that it was
being kept at a friend's house. Stechauner then called
the friend from the hospital to arrange for the gun to be
dropped off in a trash container close to the house. The
questioning lasted about ninety minutes, during which time
Stechauner "seemed lucid, and ... was able to answer ...
questions." Stechauner was not given Miranda
warnings at the hospital. See Miranda v. Arizona,
384 U.S. 436, 444 (1966).
8:00 or 8:30 PM, Stechauner was discharged from the hospital.
He left on crutches with the officers, was placed in
handcuffs, and got into Officer Guajardo's cruiser, with
Detective Kolatski following behind. Stechauner directed the
officers to the place where he believed the gun was located,
but the officers were unable to find the gun in the trash
bins near Stechauner's friend's house. Around that
time, the friend arrived and he and Stechauner got into a
heated discussion, with Stechauner still seated inside the
cruiser and the friend on the other side of the cruiser door.
After the exchange, either Stechauner or the friend (neither
party knows which) told the officers that the gun was
actually hidden under the steps leading up to the
friend's house. Officer Guajardo found the gun and gave
it to Detective Kolatski. Kolatski then tried to remove a
casing lodged inside the gun but had trouble doing so. Seeing
Detective Kolatski struggle, Stechauner shouted out that one
had to use pliers to remove the casing. Officer Guajardo also
heard Stechauner's instructions and recalled that she had
found a pair of pliers in Stechauner's coat when she had
been searching for the bag of bullets in the hospital. She
gave Detective Kolatski the pliers, who then removed the
casing. As of this point, Stechauner still had not received
any Miranda warnings.
handling the sawed-off shotgun, Detective Kolatski developed
a hunch that Stechauner may have been involved in a recent
string of robberies and other crimes carried out using such a
weapon. Detective Kolatski said that he wanted to bring
Stechauner in for further questioning. Around 9:00 PM,
Stechauner went with Detective Kolatski to the station, where
Stechauner was formally arrested. Several hours later,
starting around 2:00 AM the following day, Stechauner was
given Miranda warnings and was interrogated by two
other officers. Over the course of the next nine hours,
Stechauner admitted to several crimes, some tied to the
on Stechauner's confession, the State charged Stechauner
with first-degree reckless homicide as party to a
crime; "two counts of 'armed robbery,
use of force' as party to a crime"; personal
robbery; and possession of a firearm by a felon. Stechauner
pleaded not guilty and moved to suppress his hospital
statements, cruiser statements, and the sawed-off shotgun.
trial court held a suppression hearing at which Stec-hauner,
Detective Kolatski, and other law enforcement officials
testified. Kolatski testified that Stechauner had not been in
custody at the hospital, had been free to leave, had seemed
lucid and able to answer questions, and never had been placed
in handcuffs in the hospital room. Regarding the cruiser
statements, Kolatski said that Stechauner had "indicated
where the alley was where the gun was supposed to be
hidden" and had "yelled out to [Kolatski] when
[Stechauner] saw [Kolatski] struggling ... to get the casing
contrast, Stechauner testified that he had been intoxicated
upon arriving at the hospital from a combination of alcohol,
marijuana, sleeping pills, and ecstasy; that the officers had
handcuffed him to the hospital bed; that the officers had
told Stechauner's mother that he was already under arrest
at the hospital; and that the hospital had given him three
Vi-codin, which he had taken before leaving. Relevant to this
appeal, Stechauner's trial counsel did not call several
witnesses. According to Stechauner, these witnesses included
Stechauner's mother, who would have testified that
Stechauner had been in custody in the hospital; several
friends, who would have said that Stechauner had been
intoxicated before the accidental shooting; and the treating
physician and nurse, who would have testified that he had
been handcuffed to the hospital bed. Trial counsel also did
not introduce the hospital report of Stechauner's
trial court denied Stechauner's motion to suppress. The
court credited Detective Kolatski's testimony and
discredited Stechauner's, finding that Stechauner had not
been restrained in any way in the hospital, and had not been
in custody, such that Miranda's warning
requirement had not been triggered. The court ruled the
hospital statements were admissible. The trial court then
found that Stechauner had been in custody once in handcuffs
and in the squad car. However, the court determined that
Stechauner's statements regarding the shotgun had all
been volunteered and were not the result of custodial
interrogation. The court found no Miranda violation
with respect to these statements and admitted them, as well.
The court also admitted the shotgun.
later pleaded no contest to second-degree reckless homicide
as party to a crime, and armed robbery as party to a crime.
The other counts were dismissed but considered for sentencing
purposes. Stechauner was sentenced to a total of twenty-five
years of confinement and fifteen years of extended
moved for post-conviction relief in the trial court, arguing
that the court should have suppressed the inculpatory
statements made in the hospital and in the police cruiser.
The court denied that motion, and Stechauner, represented by
new counsel, appealed. In this first state-court appeal,
Stechauner argued that both the hospital and cruiser
statements had been taken in violation of Miranda,
but did not argue that his trial counsel had been ineffective
for not calling the friendly witnesses and for not
introducing the hospital report. The Wisconsin Court of
Appeals affirmed the trial court, State v.
Stechauner, No. 2006AP1923-CR, 731 N.W.2d 384
(unpublished table decision), 2007 WL 901536 (Wis. Ct. App.
Mar. 27, 2007), and the Wisconsin Supreme Court declined
review, State v. Stechauner, No. 2006AP1923-CR, 741
N.W.2d 241 (unpublished table decision) (Wis. July 17, 2007).
14, 2007, Stechauner filed his petition for a writ of habeas
corpus with the district court under the Antiterrorism and
Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996, 28 U.S.C. § 2254
("AEDPA"), and raised five grounds for relief. The
trial court's screening order eliminated two of those
grounds, leaving the following: (1) that the state trial
court had admitted Stechauner's statements and shotgun in
violation of Miranda, (2) that Stechauner had
received ineffective assistance of appellate counsel due to
appellate counsel's failure to argue that trial counsel
had been ineffective at the suppression hearing, and (3) that
Stechauner's plea had been involuntary. Noting that
Stechauner had failed to exhaust grounds (2) and (3) in the
state courts, the district court administratively closed the
habeas petition to give Stechauner a chance to exhaust them.
then filed a second motion for post-conviction relief in
state court, raising the three remaining issues mentioned
above. See Wis. Stat. § 974.06. The state trial
court denied relief, and the Wisconsin Court of Appeals
affirmed. State v. Stechauner, No. 2009AP2367, 795
N.W.2d 62 (unpublished table decision), 2010 WL 4945103 (Wis.
Ct. App. Dec. 7, 2010). The appellate court rejected
Stechauner's Miranda arguments on the ground
that it had already disposed of them in his first motion for
post-conviction relief. Because Stechauner had failed to
raise the two other arguments in the first post-conviction
motion, they were barred unless Stechauner could demonstrate
good cause for having failed to raise them. See Wis.
Stat. § 974.06(4). The court reasoned that
post-conviction counsel's alleged ineffectiveness in
failing to raise these issues would have been sufficient
reason to excuse their earlier absence. The court then
applied the Strickland standard for effective
assistance of counsel and rejected the arguments. See
Strickland v. Washington, 466 U.S. 668, 687 (1984). The
court determined that none of the proposed witnesses actually
would have aided Stechauner's suppression arguments, and
dismissed the hospital-record argument as meritless or
underdeveloped. The court concluded that Stec-hauner had not
suffered any prejudice from these alleged errors and thus had
received effective assistance of counsel. The Wisconsin
Supreme Court again declined review. State v.
Stec-hauner, No. 2009AP2367, 797 N.W.2d 524 (unpublished
table decision) (Wis. Apr. 12, 2011).
15, 2011, the district court reopened Stechauner's case.
Stechauner presented the three grounds for relief and
requested an evidentiary hearing. The district court denied
habeas relief and the request for a hearing, but granted a
certificate of appealability on the Miranda and
review de novo the district court's denial of habeas
corpus relief. Harris v. Thompson,698 F.3d 609, 622
(7th Cir. 2012) (citation omitted). When a state court has
reviewed a petitioner's claim on the merits and denied
relief, a habeas petition may be granted only if the state
court's ruling "was contrary to, or involved an
unreasonable application of, clearly established Federal law,
as determined by the Supreme Court of the United States,
" or "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). Under this
deferential standard, the state court's ruling stands