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Hahn v. Woods

United States District Court, W.D. Michigan, Northern Division

June 21, 2019

Dennis John Hahn, Petitioner,
v.
Jeffrey Woods, Respondent.

          OPINION

          Paul L. Maloney United States District Judge.

         On July 14, 2016, Petitioner Dennis Hahn filed a petition under 28 U.S.C. § 2254 seeking relief from a state conviction for first-degree felony murder. (ECF No. 1.) The State of Michigan filed its response on January 20, 2017. (ECF No. 7.) The magistrate judge issued an R & R on January 18, 2019, recommending that the petition be denied. (ECF No. 14.) The matter is now before the Court for de novo review of Petitioner's objections to the R & R. (ECF No. 15.)

         Statement of Facts

         Hahn takes no issue with the facts as summarized by the magistrate judge. Since he lodges objections only to legal conclusions, the Court ADOPTS the magistrate judge's summary of the facts contained in the R & R. (ECF No. 14.)

         Legal Framework

         With respect to a dispositive motion, a magistrate judge issues a report and recommendation, rather than an order. After being served with a report and recommendation (R & R) issued by a magistrate judge, a party has fourteen days to file written objections to the proposed findings and recommendations. 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1); Fed.R.Civ.P. 72(b). A district court judge reviews de novo the portions of the R & R to which objections have been filed. 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1); Fed.R.Civ.P. 72(b). Only those objections that are specific are entitled to a de novo review under the statute. Mira v. Marshall, 806 F.2d 636, 637 (6th Cir. 1986) (per curiam) (holding the district court need not provide de novo review where the objections are frivolous, conclusive or too general because the burden is on the parties to “pinpoint those portions of the magistrate's report that the district court must specifically consider”). The district court judge may accept, reject, or modify, in whole or in part, the findings or recommendations made by the magistrate judge. 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1); Fed.R.Civ.P. 72(b).

         Discussion

         Hahn asserted four grounds for relief in his § 2254 petition: (1) His right to Due Process was violated when he was visibly shackled in front of the jury on the first day of trial; (2) His right to Confrontation under the Sixth Amendment was violated by the admission of a lab results made by a non-testifying witness; and (3 & 4) he received ineffective assistance of trial and appellate counsel based on their failure to raise the foregoing issues.

         A. Shackling

         Hahn first argues that his right to due process was violated when he was visibly shackled in front of the jury on the first day of his jury trial in violation of Deck v. Missouri, 544 U.S. 622, 630-32 (2005). However, the magistrate judge concluded that this claim failed because although Hahn was shackled, the state trial court conducted an evidentiary hearing and made a factual finding that “there is virtually no possibility that, ah, any of the jurors would have observed Mr. Hahn shackled on the first day of trial.” (ECF No. 14 at PageID.2177, quoting ECF No. 8-15 at PageID.1506-07.) The magistrate judge then concluded that because Deck's holding is limited to cases where a defendant is ordered to wear shackles that would be seen by the jury, Petitioner's due process claim fails. (PageID.2178 (collecting authority for the proposition that “shackles must be visible to the jury before they can be considered a due process violation.”).)

         Now in his objections, Hahn merely persists in his claim that he was visibly shackled in front of the jury. However, he has not presented any evidence to challenge the state court's finding in this respect. Under AEDPA, a determination of a factual issue made by a state court is entitled to a presumption of correctness which can only be rebutted by clear and convincing evidence. See 28 U.SC. § 2254(e)(1). Hahn has failed to meet that burden here, so his objection will be OVERRULED.

         B. Confrontation Clause

         The bulk of Hahn's Petition stems from an alleged violation of the Sixth Amendment's Confrontation Clause, relating to the admission of a blood test of the victim, Joel McFarlane.

         McFarlane died at his mobile home on September 12, 2009. Firefighters responded to the scene because the mobile home was on fire. Inside, they discovered McFarlane lying prone, having suffered a shotgun blast ...


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