United States District Court, E.D. Wisconsin
MATTHEW A. MCDOWELL, Petitioner,
WILLIAM POLLARD, Respondent.
DECISION AND ORDER DENYING PETITION FOR WRIT OF
E. JONES, UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.
March 2014, Matthew A. McDowell pled guilty to a reduced
charge of first-degree reckless homicide and concealing a
corpse. In June 2014, the Kenosha County Circuit Court
sentenced Mr. McDowell to consecutive prison terms of
twenty-nine years of initial confinement and ten years of
extended supervision on the reckless homicide count, and
three years of initial confinement and one year of extended
supervision on the concealing a corpse count. Mr. McDowell is
currently serving his time at Dodge Correctional Institution.
2017, Mr. McDowell filed a petition for a writ of habeas
corpus pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254, alleging that his
custody is unconstitutional because he was sentenced based on
inaccurate information and that a new factor warrants
re-sentencing. The Respondent opposes the petition, arguing
that Mr. McDowell has failed to meet his burden of proving
that the Wisconsin Court of Appeals’ decision is
contrary to, or an unreasonable application of clearly
established federal law, or based on an unreasonable
determination of the facts in light of the evidence
presented. For the following reasons, the Court will deny Mr.
McDowell pled guilty to first-degree reckless homicide and
concealing a corpse. Petition For Writ Of Habeas Corpus 2.
The following facts are taken from the Wisconsin Court of
McDowell admitted that during an argument, he pushed the
victim onto a bed and placed his hands on her face and neck.
He stated she was choking and that he heard a crack and
realized the victim was no longer breathing. The medical
examiner determined the cause of death to be blunt neck
trauma due to assault and the death was ruled a homicide.
of Appeals Decision 2. Mr. McDowell was given a bifurcated
sentence of thirty-nine years for count one, and a bifurcated
sentence of four years for count two. Id. He is
currently incarcerated at Dodge Correctional Institution.
McDowell filed a post-conviction motion for relief/sentence
modification and argued that his due process right to be
sentenced on accurate information was violated and that a new
factor warranted re-sentencing. Pet. 4. His motion was
denied. Id. Mr. McDowell subsequently filed a direct
appeal, arguing the same grounds as his post-conviction
motion. Pet. 3. On March 16, 2016, the Wisconsin Court of
Appeals issued a decision affirming Mr. McDowell’s
sentence. See Ct. App. Decision.
September 20, 2017, Mr. McDowell filed a federal habeas
corpus petition pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254, asserting
three grounds for relief: (1) that the Court of Appeals erred
in denying his request for re-sentencing as he was sentenced
based on inaccurate information, (2) that a new factor
entitles him to a re-sentencing, and (3) that the errors at
sentencing were not harmless. Mr. McDowell was allowed to
proceed on his claims. See Rule 4 Order, ECF No. 4.
The Petition is now fully briefed and ready for disposition.
See Brief in Support of Petitioner’s Habeas
Corpus Petition, ECF No. 11; Brief Opposing Petition for Writ
of Habeas Corpus, ECF No. 14; and Reply Brief in Support of
Petitioner’s Habeas Corpus Petition, ECF No. 17.
Standard of Review
habeas corpus review is governed by the Antiterrorism and
Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996, Pub. L. No. 104-132, 110
Stat. 1214. Under AEDPA, a prisoner in custody pursuant to a
state-court judgment of conviction is entitled to federal
habeas relief only if he is “in custody in violation of
the Constitution or laws or treaties of the United
States.” 28 U.S.C. § 2254(a). With respect to
claims adjudicated on the merits in state court, a federal
court can grant an application for a writ of habeas corpus
“only if the state court’s decision was contrary
to clearly established Supreme Court precedent, involved an
unreasonable application of such precedent, or was based on
an unreasonable determination of the facts in light of the
evidence presented in state court.” Promotor v.
Pollard, 628 F.3d 878, 888 (7th Cir. 2010) (citing 28
U.S.C. § 2254(d)); see also White v. Woodall,
134 S.Ct. 1697, 1702 (2014).
legal principle is ‘clearly established’ within
the meaning of [§ 2254(d)(1)] only when it is embodied
in a holding of [the Supreme Court].” Thaler v.
Haynes, 559 U.S. 43, 47 (2010) (citing Carey v.
Musladin, 549 U.S. 70, 74 (2006); Williams v.
Taylor, 529 U.S. 362, 412 (2000)). A state-court
decision is “contrary to” clearly established
federal law if “the state court arrives at a conclusion
opposite to that reached by [the Supreme Court] on a question
of law or if the state court decides a case differently than
[the Supreme Court] has on a set of materially
indistinguishable facts.” Williams, 529 U.S.
at 412–13 (opinion of O’Connor, J.). Similarly, a
state-court decision results in an “unreasonable
application” of clearly established federal law when
that court either “identifies the correct governing
legal rule from [Supreme Court] cases but unreasonably
applies it to the facts of the particular state
prisoner’s case” or “unreasonably extends a
legal principle from [Supreme Court] precedent to a new
context where it should not apply or unreasonably refuses to
extend that principle to a new context where it should
apply.” Id. at 407. A writ of habeas corpus
may not issue under the “unreasonable
application” clause “simply because the federal
court concludes that the state court erred. Rather, the
applicant must demonstrate that the state court applied the
Supreme Court’s precedent in an objectively
unreasonable manner.” Kubsch v. Neal, 838 F.3d
845, 859 (7th Cir. 2016) (citing Woodford v.
Visciotti, 537 U.S. 19, 24–25 (2002)). Thus, the
petitioner “must show that the state court’s
ruling . . . was so lacking in justification that there was
an error well understood and comprehended in existing law
beyond any possibility for fair-minded disagreement.”
Kubsch, 838 F.3d at 859 (quoting Harrington v.
Richter, 562 U.S. 86, 103 (2011)).
state-court factual determination is 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, 301 (2010). For purposes of
federal habeas review, state-court factual determinations are
entitled to “substantial deference.”
Brumfield v. Cain, 135 S.Ct. 2269, 2277 (2015). To
obtain relief under § 2254(d)(2), a petitioner must
demonstrate that the state-court decision “rests upon
fact-finding that ignores the clear and convincing weight of
the evidence.” McManus v. Neal, 779 F.3d 634,
649 (7th Cir. 2015) (quoting Goudy v. Basinger, 604
F.3d 394, 399 (7th Cir. 2010)); see also 28 U.S.C.
§ 2254(e)(1). “The decision must be ‘so
inadequately supported by the record as to be arbitrary and
therefore objectively unreasonable.’” Alston
v. Smith, 840 F.3d 363, 370 (7th Cir. 2016) (quoting
Ward v. Sternes, 334 F.3d 696, 704 (7th Cir. 2003)).
applying the above standards, federal courts look to
“the ‘last reasoned state-court decision’
to decide the merits of the case, even if the state’s
supreme court then denied discretionary review.”
Dassey v. Dittmann, 877 F.3d 297, 302 ...