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Maldonado v. Secretary, Department of Corrections

United States District Court, M.D. Florida, Tampa Division

November 21, 2017




         Miguel Omar Maldonado, a Florida inmate, filed a pro se petition for writ of habeas corpus under 28 U.S.C. § 2254 challenging his Hillsborough County convictions. (Dkt. 1). Respondent opposes the petition. (Dkt. 13). Petitioner filed a reply. (Dkt. 24). Upon consideration, the petition is DENIED.


         Petitioner was convicted after a jury trial of first degree felony murder with a firearm; three counts of robbery with a firearm; and two counts of kidnapping with a firearm. (Dkt. 15, Ex. 2, Vol. IV, pp. 657-58). He was sentenced him to life in prison. (Dkt. 15, Ex. 3). The state appellate court affirmed, per curiam. (Dkt. 15, Ex. 6). Petitioner's motions for postconviction relief under Florida Rule of Criminal Procedure 3.850 were denied. (Dkt. 15, Exs. 8-11; Dkt. 31, Ex. 20). The state appellate court affirmed, per curiam. (Dkt. 15, Ex. 15).


         Under the Anti-Terrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996 ("AEDP A"), habeas relief can only be granted if a petitioner is in custody "in violation of the Constitution or laws or treaties of the United States." 28 U.S.C § 2254(a).[1] A petitioner must demonstrate that the state court's adjudication of his federal claim resulted in a decision that was contrary to, or involved an unreasonable application of, clearly established federal law, or resulted in a decision that 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)(1)-(2).


         Ground One: "Trial Court Reversibly Erred in Denying Petitioner's Motion To Suppress Regarding Statements He Made To Law Enforcement."

         Petitioner asked to speak to Detective Morgan after his arrest and gave a recorded interview on April 4, 2006. Detective Sepulveda translated, since Petitioner spoke Spanish. Petitioner was detained at a county jail, and complained to the detectives about the conditions of his confinement. He argues that his statements were involuntary because they were induced by the detectives' promises to secure better conditions for him. He alleges that the state court erred in denying his motion to suppress, and his claim is liberally construed as raising a federal due process violation.

         After an evidentiary hearing, the state court found:

The testimony at the suppression hearing reflected Defendant Maldonado was interviewed on March 30, 2006 with an interpreter present and on April [4], 2006 when the Defendant's sister informed Detective Morgan that the Defendant wanted to speak to him. Detective Sepulveda, a Spanish speaking officer conducted this interview which was recorded. The detective admits the Defendant complained about the conditions in the jail specifically that he couldn't bathe and the jail personnel having [sic] difficulty understanding him.
The transcript reflects the Defendant asking Detective Sepulveda if he can be moved to another cell. The detective responds they can check into that but that is something the jail controls. The defendant also complains jail staff doesn't understand him and the detective respond [sic] they will talk to the jail supervisor.
The incident occurred on March [1)8, 2006. The Defendant tells the detective in his taped interview he was high on cocaine and marijuana when the incident occurred. The interview took place on April 4, 2006.
There is no evidence to suggest the detective made any promise to the Defendant. The Defendant complained about his jail conditions and the detective replied he would check with a jail supervisor. No promises were made to induce the Defendant's statements. The fact that the Defendant stated he was high on drugs when the incident occurred on March 18, 2006 has no bearing on the voluntariness of his confession April 4, 2006 [sic]. The Defendant's Motion alleging his confession was not voluntary is denied.

(Dkt.30, Ex. 17, pp. 104-05).

         "[A] defendant in a criminal case is deprived of due process of law if his conviction is founded, in whole or in part, upon an involuntary confession." Jackson v. Denno, 378 U.S. 368, 376 (1964). In determining the admissibility of a confession, a court considers whether police complied with Miranda v. Arizona, 384 U.S. 436 (1966), and whether the confession was voluntary. United States v. Jones, 32 F.3d 1512, 1516 (11th Cir. 1994).

         Petitioner does not challenge the detectives' compliance with Miranda, but contends that his confession was involuntary because it was induced by the detectives' promises. Voluntariness "must be examined in light of the totality of the circumstances." Hubbard v. Haley, 317 F.3d 1245, 1252 (11th Cir. 2003) (citing Schneckloth v. Bustamonte, 412 U.S. 218, 226 (1973)). In assessing the totality of the circumstances, it must be determined whether the statement "was the product of 'an essentially free and unconstrained choice.'" Id. (quoting United States v. Garcia, 890 F.2d 355, 360 (11th Cir. 1989). "[P]romises or inducements by police" are one factor to be considered. Id. Further, "[g]overnment coercion is a necessary predicate to a finding of involuntariness under the Fifth Amendment." United States v. Thompson, 422 F.3d 1285, 1296 (11th Cir. 2005).

         Petitioner relies on two portions of the interview in support of his claim. The first states:

SEPULVEDA: Go ahead and fill in the time, it's 0935. Okay, let the record reflect that Mr. Maldonado has signed his uh, Consent to be Interviewed for[m] in Spanish. He indicated to me in Spanish that he understood all the points of his uh, Miranda warning.
MORGAN: Alright, I got...
MALDONADO: Ask him if [he] can remove me from the cell, please.
SEPULVEDA: If you can take off what?
MALDONADO: He can't take me out of the cell and put me somewhere else?
SEPULVEDA: He's asking if you could take him out of the cell that he's in and put him in another cell.
MORGAN: I, I, yeah, explain to him that right now, based on what I know, it's because, he's in there because of his charges ...
SEPULVEDA: Okay . ..
MORGAN: . . . because of the severity of his charges to avoid anyone from hurting him.
SEPULVEDA: Okay, the reason that you[']r[e] in the cell that you are now is because of the charges that you have, to protect you. You understand, that is the reason that you are there.
MALDONADO: To protect me ...
SEPULVEDA: To protect you and because the charges you have are very serious. Okay, you understand that, that's the reason that you are in that particular cell.
MALDONADO: For how long?
SEPULVEDA: How much longer?
MORGAN: I can, well, I can check on it, but that's something that has to be...
SEPULVEDA: He can check with the superiors who work here, okay, but for now, that is where you are going to live in that cell. You understand?
MALDONADO: For a long time?
SEPULVEDA: No, I don't know. He doesn't know.
MORGAN: That's something the jail controls ...
SEPULVEDA: We don't have any control over . ..
MALDONADO: I see .. .
SEPULVEDA: .. . of that, is the supervisors that work here in this place, in this jail...
MALDONADO: ... I'm going crazy ...
MALDONADO: I'm going crazy in there, they don't understand me ...
SEPULVEDA: No, okay . . . he's saying that he's going crazy in there because nobody understands him ...
MORGAN: Oh, I see ...
MALDONADO: They don't... they don't, I don't know how to explain... if I tell them I want water, there's the water that (INAUDIBLE)
SEPULVEDA: Mmhmm ...
MALDONADO: The food ...
SEPULVEDA: He's complaining that, you know, when he's thirsty ...
MALDONADO: They won't let me take a bath ...
SEPULVEDA: .. .you know, food, he hasn't, he hasn't had a chance to take a bath and nobody seems to understand that he's trying to ask for them. We are going to take [sic] with the supervisors of this jail when we finish,
MORGAN: That, that portion of that I can address .. .
MORGAN: ... and I can talk to them in lockdown . ..
SEPULVEDA: But that's what I just told him ...
MORGAN: ... and explain to them .. .
SEPULVEDA: Okay, we're going to talk with the supervisors to help you with that.
MORGAN: Yeah, I mean he has the right to take a shower and get a drink or anything like that. ..
SEPULVEDA: Now the reason that we're here, okay, in this office is because your sister talked with us and that you wanted to tell us, or to him, the both of us, what happened ... this is what we want to talk about...
MALDONADO: Yeah . ..
SEPULVEDA: . . . okay and if you have something to say to us about that case, we are here to listen to what you have to say ...

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