United States District Court, E.D. Wisconsin
VINCENT E. BOYD, Petitioner,
WARDEN SCOTT ECKSTEIN, Respondent.
Stadtmueller U.S. District Judge
Vincent Boyd (“Boyd”) has filed a petition for a
writ of habeas corpus pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254,
alleging that his Sixth Amendment rights to
self-representation and to confront his witnesses were
violated, and that his nolo contendere pleas were,
consequentially, invalid. The parties have fully briefed
their respective positions on Boyd's asserted grounds for
relief. For the reasons explained below, the Court finds that
Boyd's petition is without merit and therefore must be
STANDARD OF REVIEW
criminal convictions are generally considered final. Review
may be had in federal court only on limited grounds. To
obtain habeas relief from a state conviction, 28 U.S.C.
§ 2254(d)(1) (as amended by the Antiterrorism and
Effective Death Penalty Act (“AEDPA”)) requires
the petitioner to show that the state court's decision on
the merits of his constitutional claim was contrary to, or
involved an unreasonable application of, clearly established
federal law as determined by the United States Supreme Court.
28 U.S.C. § 2254(d)(1); Brown v. Payton, 544
U.S. 133, 141 (2005). The burden of proof rests with the
petitioner. Cullen v. Pinholster, 563 U.S. 170, 181
(2011). The relevant decision for this Court to review is
that of the last state court to rule on the merits of the
petitioner's claim. Charlton v. Davis, 439 F.3d
369, 374 (7th Cir. 2006).
state-court decision runs contrary to clearly established
Supreme Court precedent “if it applies a rule that
contradicts the governing law set forth in [those] cases, or
if it confronts a set of facts that is materially
indistinguishable from a decision of [the Supreme] Court but
reaches a different result.” Brown, 544 U.S.
at 141. Similarly, a state court unreasonably applies clearly
established Supreme Court precedent when it applies that
precedent to the facts in an objectively unreasonable manner.
Id.; Bailey v. Lemke, 735 F.3d 945, 949
(7th Cir. 2013).
AEDPA undoubtedly mandates a deferential standard of review.
The Supreme Court has “emphasized with rather
unexpected vigor” the strict limits imposed by Congress
on the authority of federal habeas courts to overturn state
criminal convictions. Price v. Thurmer, 637 F.3d
831, 839 (7th Cir. 2011). It is not enough for the petitioner
to prove the state courts were wrong; he must also prove they
acted unreasonably. Harrington v. Richter, 562 U.S.
86, 101 (2005); Campbell v. Smith, 770 F.3d 540, 546
(7th Cir. 2014) (“An ‘unreasonable application
of' federal law means ‘objectively unreasonable,
not merely wrong; even ‘clear error' will not
suffice.'”) (quoting White v. Woodall, 134
S.Ct. 1697, 1702 (2014)).
the petitioner must demonstrate that the state court decision
is “so erroneous that ‘there is no possibility
fairminded jurists could disagree that the state court's
decision conflicts with [the Supreme] Court's
precedents.'” Nevada v. Jackson, 133 S.Ct.
1990, 1992 (2013) (quoting Harrington, 562 U.S. at
102). The state court decisions must “be given the
benefit of the doubt.” Woodford v. Visciotti,
537 U.S. 19, 24 (2002); Hartjes v. Endicott, 456
F.3d 786, 792 (7th Cir. 2006). Further, when a state court
applies general constitutional standards, it is afforded even
more latitude under the AEDPA in reaching decisions based on
those standards. Knowles v. Mirzayance, 556 U.S.
111, 123 (2009); Yarborough v. Alvarado, 541 U.S.
652, 664 (2004) (“[E]valuating whether a rule
application was unreasonable requires considering the
rule's specificity. The more general the rule, the more
leeway courts have in reaching outcomes in case-by-case
Supreme Court has explained, “[i]f this standard is
difficult to meet, that is because it was meant to be.”
Harrington, 562 U.S. at 102. Indeed, Section 2254(d)
stops just short of “imposing a complete bar on
federal-court relitigation of claims already rejected in
state proceedings.” See Id. This is so because
“habeas corpus is a ‘guard against extreme
malfunctions in the state criminal justice systems,' not
a substitute for ordinary error correction through
appeal.” Id. at 102-103 (quoting Jackson
v. Virginia, 443 U.S. 307, 332 n.5 (1979) (Stevens, J.,
federal court may also grant habeas relief on the alternative
ground that the state court's adjudication of a
constitutional claim was based upon an unreasonable
determination of the facts in light of the evidence
presented. 28 U.S.C. § 2254(d)(2). The underlying state
court findings of fact and credibility determinations are,
however, presumed correct. Newman v. Harrington, 726
F.3d 921, 928 (7th Cir. 2013). The petitioner overcomes that
presumption only if he proves by clear and convincing
evidence that those findings are wrong. 28 U.S.C. §
2254(e)(1); Campbell, 770 F.3d at 546. “A
decision ‘involves an unreasonable determination of the
facts if it rests upon factfinding that ignores the clear and
convincing weight of the evidence.'”
Bailey, 735 F.3d at 949-50 (quoting Goudy v.
Basinger, 604 F.3d 394, 399-400 (7th Cir. 2010)).
“‘[A] state-court factual determination is not
unreasonable merely because the federal habeas court would
have reached a different conclusion in the first
instance.'” Burt v. Titlow, 134 S.Ct. 10,
15 (2013) (quoting Wood v. Allen, 558 U.S. 290, 301
(2010)). If shown, an unreasonable factual determination by
the state court means that this Court must review the claim
in question de novo. Carlson v. Jess, 526
F.3d 1018, 1024 (7th Cir. 2008).
2010, Boyd was charged with two counts of first-degree sexual
assault of a child. He cycled through three attorneys before
he was finally assigned to John Wallace
(“Wallace”) in 2012. At the final pretrial
conference, Boyd sought a continuance and, when that was
denied, tried to fire Wallace because he felt that Wallace
was not adequately prepared for trial. Additionally, he felt
that Wallace wanted him to enter a guilty plea.
the trial court would not allow Boyd to fire his
then sought to represent himself. The Court allowed this,
with the caveat that Wallace would remain as standby counsel.
The contours of Wallace's role as standby counsel were
defined in the following exchange:
DEFENDANT: Can I just represent myself on this case then?
COURT: Mr. Wallace is still going to be sitting there.
MR. WALLACE: That would be fine with me.
COURT: And you want to do your own openings and closings and
DEFENDANT: I would like to completely represent myself on
COURT: Okay, and Mr. Wallace will be at your side for standby
DEFENDANT: All right, and if I'm allowed to represent
myself, can I have an opportunity to file the motions that
I've asked be filed- MR. WALLACE: We can take
‘em-he can take ‘em up chronologically a couple
of ‘em, we can do ‘em, yes. I know exactly what
he wants to do but-I can-I can assist him, so for the record,
he has terminated me, he is proceeding pro se, and I have
been appointed standby counsel. I will assist him in his
defense, and I will advise him on what and what not to do.
COURT: Well, he hasn't fired you. You're standby
counsel, but he has a right to represent himself.
(Docket #12-22 at 11-13).
parties addressed further logistics, and the district
attorney, “Ms. Paider, ” raised the issue of Boyd
questioning the victims on the stand in light of his prior
sexual assault convictions. The transcript reads, in relevant
MS. PAIDER: Well, Your Honor, then in terms of the -at least
one of the other acts' victims, the one from the
Langlade County case, the one he was convicted of, I
know in some of his motions he is questioning that conviction
and wants to have a trial within a trial. He's already
pled and been sentenced. There's a Judgment of Conviction
there. He can't dispute the fact that that's there,
and technically, because the charge is first-degree
sexual assault of a child, the fact he has been convicted of
it by law is allowed to come in, so I just want him
to be aware of that as well. He's not going to be
able to collaterally attack that conviction at this
(Defendant speaks but is inaudible.)
COURT: That's true.
COURT REPORTER: I didn't hear him.
DEFENDANT: I have the right to defend myself against
it. I would-I would like some latitude in questioning the
victim and I would talk to- COURT: You will get no
MR. WALLACE: He's wishes-he's requesting some
latitude in questioning- COURT: You will get no latitude. You
don't-just because you're representing yourself
doesn't mean you get to violate the rules of evidence. I
mean you get to - you're right, you have a right
to defend yourself within the law. That doesn't
mean just because you're representing yourself you- means
you get to ask questions that aren't relevant, that are
prejudicial, that are hearsay. You don't get to
violate the rules of evidence just because you're
DEFENDANT: No, I understand that. I just think I
should be able to tell the jury - COURT: If you
don't-if you don't know what the rules are, maybe you
should reconsider ...