United States District Court, E.D. Michigan, Southern Division
DAVID J. KATAJA, JR., Petitioner,
BILL SCHUETTE, Respondent.
OPINION AND ORDER DENYING PETITION FOR WRIT OF HABEAS
CORPUS AND GRANTING IN PART AND DENYING IN PART CERTIFICATE
STEPHEN J. MURPHY, UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
J. Kataja Jr. was convicted in 2007 in the Oakland Circuit
Court of second-degree criminal sexual conduct, Mich. Comp.
Laws § 750.520c(1)(A), attempted second-degree criminal
sexual conduct, Mich. Comp. Laws § 750.92, and
furnishing alcohol to a minor, Mich. Comp. Laws §
436.1701(1). Kataja was sentenced to 28½ months to 15
years for the criminal sexual conduct conviction, 2 to 5
years for the attempted criminal sexual conduct conviction,
and 60 days for the furnishing alcohol conviction.
commenced this action through counsel in 2011. Along with his
petition, Kataja filed a motion to stay the case so that he
could return to the state courts and exhaust additional
claims. After a motion to extend the stay and prolonged state
court proceedings, Kataja moved to reopen the case in 2015.
The motion was granted, Respondent filed a responsive
pleading, and the matter is ready for decision.
amended petition raises five claims: (1) the prosecutor
committed misconduct by suppressing exculpatory evidence and
making improper comments in closing argument, (2) Kataja was
denied the effective assistance of trial counsel, (3) Kataja
was denied the effective assistance of appellate counsel, (4)
Kataja was denied his right to present a defense when he was
required to use the Freedom of Information Act to discover
exculpatory evidence during post-conviction proceedings, and
(5) Kataja's rights under the Double Jeopardy Clause were
violated. The petition will be denied because the claims are
without merit. The Court will, however, grant Kataja a
certificate of appealability with respect to part of his
second claim, but deny a certificate of appealability with
respect to his other claims.
was charged with touching the breast of a twelve-year-old
girl ("the Victim"). At trial, the Victim testified
that in the fall of 2006 she met the twenty-year-old Kataja
through his then-girlfriend, Lisa Mascaro
("Mascaro"). Kataja lived nearby. The Victim also
knew Kataja's younger brother, Matt, who was thirteen
years old. Shortly after meeting, Kataja and the Victim began
incident giving rise to the charges occurred in December
2006. The Victim testified that Kataja picked her up from
school and they went to his house. Kataja served an alcoholic
drink to the Victim. While sitting on a futon in Kataja's
room, Kataja put his arms around the Victim and tried to put
his hand up her shirt. She stopped him by pulling his hand
out. Kataja tried again and on the second attempt succeeded
in putting his hand under her bra and onto the Victim's
breast. He kept it there for a few minutes. Kataja then took
his hand out from under her shirt. Matt was in the room, but
facing away playing a computer game. Another person, Aaron
Brannon ("Brannon") came in and out of the room.
Victim did not immediately tell anyone what happened. She
explained that she knew what Kataja did was wrong, but she
did not want to spoil her friendship with him. The friendship
spoiled shortly after, however, when the Victim angered
Kataja by supporting Mascaro during an argument between
Mascaro and Kataja. Kataja called the Victim names and they
the argument, the Victim called Mascaro and told her about
Kataja touching her breast. The Victim explained that she and
Kataja were no longer friends and she no longer had a reason
to hide what had occurred. Unbeknownst to the Victim, her
friend Lindsey Sutterfield ("Lindsey") heard about
the incident. The Victim testified that Lindsey told her that
Kataja had also touched her breast. Two weeks after the
incident, the Victim called the police and spoke with an
individual at the Care House-an organization seeking to
prevent child abuse.
trial, two relevant witnesses for the prosecution testified.
Kataja's friend, James Tawse ("Tawse"),
testified that Kataja began hanging out with the Victim in
the summer of 2006. Kataja told Tawse that he loved the
Victim, and Tawse replied that she was too young for him.
Tricia Schuster, a forensic interviewer at Care House,
testified regarding forensic interviewing protocols, the
characteristics of child sexual assault victims, and reasons
why victims may delay disclosure of an incident.
defense called five witnesses. Officer Edward Pilch of the
Milford Village Police Department testified that he
interviewed Kataja. Kataja denied that he committed the
alleged acts, but admitted that he was on the futon with the
Victim on the evening in question. Pilch testified that he
had prior contacts with the Victim and her mother.
Brannon testified that he recalled the Victim being at
Kataja's house one night when he was there playing video
games with Matt. This was the first time Brannon had seen the
two together. Brannon, Matt, and Kataja took turns playing
the game. Brannon testified that while he and Matt were
sitting in front of the computer playing the game, Kataja and
the Victim were seated behind them on the futon, but Brannon
did not see any physical contact between Kataja and Knox.
Sutterfield testified that she was fifteen years old at the
time of trial. She had been best friends with the Victim, but
they were no longer friends. Lindsey denied that the Victim
told her about the alleged incident. She also denied telling
the Victim that Kataja had done the same thing to her.
Mascaro testified that she and Kataja were long-time friends
and shared a romantic relationship. Mascaro testified that
she was no longer friends with the Victim. Shortly after
Mascacro stopped dating Kataja, she had a conversation with
the Victim who was upset about Mascaro and Kataja fighting.
The Victim told Mascaro that something happened with Kataja
about two weeks earlier, but did not appear upset. Mascaro
denied Victim's testimony that she told Mascaro about the
incident shortly after it occurred.
younger brother Matt testified that he and the Victim had
dated about a year earlier, and that the Victim had also hung
out with Kataja. One day Matt, Kataja, and Brannon were
playing a computer game with the Victim in the room. Matt
testified that he and Kataja talked about the game as he
played it. He testified that he was sitting at the computer,
with the Victim and Kataja sitting behind him on the futon.
Matt testified that he did not see anything unusual that
evening, and he did not see any physical contact between
Kataja and the Victim.
closing arguments and instructions, the jury found Kataja
guilty on all charges.
trial, Kataja filed motions for discovery, an evidentiary
hearing, and a new trial. The motions contended that Kataja
was entitled to relief because of ineffective assistance of
counsel and prosecutorial misconduct. The trial court
required Kataja to obtain police reports through the Freedom
of Information Act ("FOIA") to support his claims.
hearing held on November 5, 2008, Kataja indicated that the
police department's response to the FOIA request included
a heavily redacted report that potentially contained evidence
that would impeach the Victim. The report allegedly involved
a separate criminal sexual misconduct allegation, but the
redactions limited the report's clarity and probative
value. The trial court expressed concern that ordering
production of unredacted reports would violate FOIA. ECF
14-7, PgID 929.
hearing was held on April 8, 2009, at which the trial court
denied Kataja's post-conviction motions, and declined to
conduct an in camera review of an unredacted copy of
the police report. The court found that trial counsel was not
ineffective for failing to obtain the police report. The
court further ruled that counsel was not ineffective in
failing to object to the prosecution's expert witness
testimony, failing to object to inadmissible character
evidence, or failing to object to the conduct of the
prosecutor. ECF 14-8.
counsel then filed a claim of appeal in the Michigan Court of
Appeals. The brief on appeal raised two claims:
I. Defendant is entitled to a new trial where his trial
counsel was ineffective in (1) failing to thoroughly
investigate, (2) failing to object to inadmissible character
evidence, (3) failing to object to the unqualified testimony
of the Care House witness, and (4) failing to object to the
prosecution's misconduct in shifting the burden of proof.
II. The trial court erred in denying defendant's
post-trial motion for discovery, thereby denying him the
constitutional right to present a defense, where the evidence
was not "mere impeachment" nor was it prohibited
from discovery under the "rape shield" statute and
where the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) did not prevent
an in camera review of the requested documents nor
the disclosure of those documents to defendant.
ECF 14-9, PgID 964.
Michigan Court of Appeals affirmed the trial court decision
in an unpublished opinion. People v. Kataja, No.
282953, 2009 WL 3837181 (Mich. Ct. App. Nov. 17, 2009).
Kataja subsequently filed an application for leave to appeal
in the Michigan Supreme Court, which denied the application.
People v. Kataja, 487 Mich. 853 (2010) (Table).
then filed his habeas petition with the Court, along with a
motion to stay the case while he returned to the state court
to exhaust his state court remedies with respect to
additional claims. The Court granted the motion.
then returned to the state trial court and filed a motion for
relief from judgment, raising eight claims. ECF 14-11. The
trial court found that the claims lacked merit, determined
that Kataja failed to demonstrate good cause and actual
prejudice for failing to raise the claims in his direct
appeals as required by MCR 6.508(D)(3), and denied the motion
for relief from judgment. ECF 14-15. The Michigan Court of
Appeals denied Kataja's leave to appeal because the
claims "could have been raised previously" and
Kataja "failed to establish both good cause for failing
to previously raise the issues and actual prejudice from the
irregularities alleged." ECF 14-6, PgID 1375. The
Michigan Supreme Court similarly denied relief. People v.
Kataja, 497 Mich. 1022 (2015) (Table).
claims raised by a state prisoner in a habeas petition were
decided on the merits by a state court, federal district
courts possess circumscribed authority to review the
constitutional claims. 28 U.S.C. § 2254(d). Relief is
available only if the state court adjudication was
"contrary to" or resulted in an "unreasonable
application of clearly established Federal law[.]"
Section 2254(d) serves as a "guard against extreme
malfunctions in the state criminal justice systems, not a
substitute for ordinary error correction through
appeal." Harrington v. Richter, 562 U.S. 86,
102-03 (2011) (quotations omitted).
state court's decision is 'contrary to' . . .
clearly established law if it 'applies a rule that
contradicts the governing law set forth in [Supreme Court
cases]' or if it 'confronts a set of facts that are
materially indistinguishable from a decision of [the Supreme]
Court and nevertheless arrives at a result different from
[the] precedent.'" Mitchell v. Esparza, 540
U.S. 12, 15-16 (2003) (per curiam) (quoting Williams v.
Taylor, 529 U.S. 362, 405-06 (2000)).
'unreasonable application' prong of [the statute]
permits a federal habeas court to 'grant the writ if the
state court identifies the correct governing legal principle
from [the Supreme] Court's decisions but unreasonably
applies that principle to the facts' of petitioner's
case." Wiggins v. Smith, 539 U.S. 510, 520
(2003) (quoting Williams, 529 U.S. at 413.) "A
state court's determination that a claim lacks merit
precludes federal habeas relief so long as fairminded jurists
could disagree on the correctness of the state court's
decision." Richter, 562 U.S. at 101 (quotation
omitted); see also Woods v. Etherton, 136 S.Ct.
1149, 1152 (2016) (finding habeas relief precluded if state
court decision is "not beyond the realm of possibility
[from what] a fairminded jurist could conclude").