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Mitchell v. MacLaren

United States Court of Appeals, Sixth Circuit

August 1, 2019

Vaughn Mitchell, Petitioner-Appellant,
v.
Duncan MacLaren, Warden, Respondent-Appellee.

          Argued: May 9, 2019

          Appeal from the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan at Flint. No. 4:15-cv-10356-Linda V. Parker, District Judge.

         ARGUED:

          Angela Dunay, Seth Yost, UNIVERSITY OF VIRGINIA SCHOOL OF LAW, Charlottesville, Virginia, for Appellant.

          Scott R. Shimkus, OFFICE OF THE MICHIGAN ATTORNEY GENERAL, Lansing, Michigan, for Appellee.

         ON BRIEF:

          Angela Dunay, Seth Yost, Stephen L. Braga, UNIVERSITY OF VIRGINIA SCHOOL OF LAW, Charlottesville, Virginia, for Appellant.

          Scott R. Shimkus, Andrea M. Christensen-Brown, OFFICE OF THE MICHIGAN ATTORNEY GENERAL, Lansing, Michigan, for Appellee.

          Before: SUHRHEINRICH, BUSH, and READLER, Circuit Judges.

          OPINION

          JOHN K. BUSH, CIRCUIT JUDGE.

         Vaughn Mitchell was convicted in Wayne County, Michigan, of first-degree murder, carjacking, and felony firearm possession for chasing and beating Michael Jorden, shooting and killing him, and then stealing his car. In his habeas petition, pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254, Mitchell raises two issues: (1) whether the interrogating officer (Detective Collins) misled Mitchell to believe that he did not have a right under the Fifth Amendment to have counsel present during interrogation and misstated the availability of a defense attorney in the county where Mitchell was interrogated; and (2) whether Detective Collins provided Miranda[1] warnings to Mitchell in "mid-stream," in violation of Supreme Court case law discrediting this two-step technique.

         The manner in which Collins interacted with Mitchell regarding the right to counsel is troubling. However, the Michigan Supreme Court's decision-that the Miranda warnings, considered as a whole, adequately advised Mitchell of his rights-was not contrary to or an unreasonable application of Supreme Court precedent. Accordingly, we AFFIRM the district court's denial of Mitchell's § 2254 petition.

         I. BACKGROUND

         On June 21, 2008, Mitchell and Jorden got into a dispute over the ownership of a gun, resulting in Jorden's death.

         According to Mitchell, his father, Vaughn Brown, had given him a gun and Mitchell had, in turn, given that weapon to Jorden. Jorden subsequently lost the gun but gave Mitchell another, which Mitchell mistakenly thought was a replacement for the lost firearm until Jorden asked Mitchell to pay for the new one. Before further addressing the matter with Jorden, Mitchell called his father for "advice as to the situation." R. 10-11, PageID 1130.

         Brown, Mitchell, and Jorden then all met, and discussions over the ownership of the gun soon escalated into a physical altercation. Apparently fearing that Jorden would use a gun on him, Mitchell used a pipe-like metal object given to him by Brown to strike Jorden on the head. Jorden retreated, but Mitchell pursued, hitting him at least twice more. What happened next is subject to dispute based on differing accounts of witnesses. The disagreement essentially boils down to whether Brown or Mitchell shot Jorden. The jury determined that Mitchell fired a shot that killed Jorden, and then either Brown or Mitchell shot at Jorden's body multiple times. The jury also determined that, after the shooting, Mitchell took Jorden's keys and money and drove off in Jorden's vehicle.

         Mitchell's affidavit recounts the following as to his arrest and interrogation. He was arrested on September 9, 2008. The following morning, Detective Collins took Mitchell out of his cell, interrogated him for thirty minutes without reading him his Miranda rights, and then returned him to his cell. In the afternoon, Collins again removed Mitchell from his cell and again questioned him without Miranda warnings. During this second interrogation, Mitchell told Collins that there had been "an incident about a gun before June 21," R. 1-2, PageID 169 (emphasis added), prompting Collins to ask Mitchell about the night of June 21, when the shooting happened. Mitchell responded that "there was a lot of us who were just hanging around getting ready to go out." Id. at PageID 169-70. When Collins pressed for further details, Mitchell told Collins that he "would tell him what happened," but that Mitchell would need "to start from the beginning so he would understand." "As soon as I said this," according to Mitchell's affidavit, "Detective Collins stopped me." Id. at PageID 170. Collins then took Mitchell upstairs to an interrogation room to be Mirandized and video-recorded.

         Collins's recollection of his interaction with Mitchell is somewhat different than Mitchell's. Collins testified at trial that he had only one conversation with Mitchell prior to the video-recorded interrogation and that the conversation lasted approximately five minutes. During this conversation, Collins told Mitchell he knew Mitchell was involved in a homicide because an eyewitness linked Mitchell to the crime. Collins then asked Mitchell to confirm his involvement, "[a]nd when he started talking about that he had some involvement, that's when I took him upstairs." R. 10-10, PageID 937.

         Both Mitchell and Collins agree that once upstairs, Collins gave Mitchell a sheet explaining Mitchell's Miranda rights. The "Constitutional Rights Certificate of Notification" stated:

1. I have a right to remain silent and that I do not have to answer any questions put to me or make any statements.
2. Any statement I make or anything I say will be used against me in a Court of Law.
3. I have the right to have an attorney (lawyer) present before and during the time I answer any questions or make any statement.
4. If I cannot afford an attorney (lawyer), one will be appointed for me without cost by the Court prior to any questioning.
5. I can decide at any time to exercise my rights and not answer any questions or make any statement.

         R. 1-2, PageID 163. Then the following exchange occurred:

INVESTIGATOR [Collins]: Okay, Vaughn, I'm going to give you your Constitutional Rights . . . . I need you to read the first Right out loud.
MR. MITCHELL: I understand the [sic] I have the right to remain silent and that I do not have to answer any questions put to me or make any statements.
INVESTIGATOR: You can read the rest to yourself. Do you understand that?
MR. MITCHELL: I ought to just read #1 again. (10 min. pause-Mr. Mitchell reading his rights)
INVESTIGATOR: Do you understand-did you finish?
MR. MITCHELL: Uh, I do have a question. Number 4, that's not speaking currently-right now?
INVESTIGATOR: Well the question speaks for itself. If I cannot afford an attorney-you probably can-one will be appointed to me without cost by the ...

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