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Vansickle v. Braggs

United States District Court, E.D. Oklahoma

June 28, 2017

JEORLD BRAGGS, JR., Warden, Respondent.


          Ronald A. White United States District Judge

         This matter is before the Court on Petitioner's petition for a writ of habeas corpus filed pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254.[1] Petitioner, a pro se inmate in the custody of the Oklahoma Department of Corrections, currently is incarcerated at Lexington Correctional Center in Lexington, Oklahoma. He is attacking his conviction and sentence in Choctaw County District Court Case No. CF-2011-150 for Aggravated Manufacture of a Controlled Dangerous Substance. He sets forth the following grounds for relief:

I. The evidence was insufficient to prove the elements of the crime beyond a reasonable doubt.
II. The trial court erred in not giving jury instruction OUJI-CR (2d) 9-13 concerning corroboration of confessions.
III. The trial court erred in failing to sustain Petitioner's request for a mistrial based on the mistaken verdict form first submitted by the jury.
IV. Petitioner's state and federal rights to due process were violated by improper destruction of evidence important to his defense.
V. The trial court erred in failing to conduct a Daubert hearing regarding expert testimony violated [sic] due process and the right to avoid unnecessary prejudice, resulting in a fundamentally unfair and tainted trial and jury.
VI. Prosecutorial misconduct denied Petitioner his right to due process of law and a fair trial.
VII. The district court misapplied the sentencing guidelines by including both the weight of the wastewater and extractable methamphetamine in determining the base offense level, in violation of the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines.
VIII. The cumulative effect of all the errors addressed above deprived Petitioner of a fair trial.
IX. Petitioner received ineffective assistance of trial counsel.
X. Petitioner received ineffective assistance of appellate counsel.

         The respondent concedes that Petitioner has exhausted his state court remedies for the purpose of federal habeas corpus review. The following records have been submitted to the court for consideration in this matter:

A. Petitioner's direct appeal brief
B. The State's brief in Petitioner's direct appeal
C. Summary Opinion affirming Petitioner's judgment and sentence
D. Order Denying Post-Conviction Relief
E. Petitioner's post-conviction brief
F. Order Affirming Denial of Application for Post-Conviction Relief
G. State court record

         In addition, Petitioner has filed a reply to Respondent's response to the petition (Dkt. 11).

         Standard of Review

         Under the Anti-Terrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act, federal habeas corpus relief is proper only when the state court adjudication of a claim:

(1) resulted in a decision that was contrary to, or involved an unreasonable application of, clearly established Federal law, as determined by the Supreme Court of the United States; or
(2) 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).


         The record shows that Officer B.J. Hedgecock, an investigator with the Choctaw County District Attorney's Office, obtained a search warrant for Petitioner's residence in a shed behind Petitioner's mother's house in Boswell, Oklahoma (Tr. I 61, 65-67). Officers Hedgecock, Chester Marzek, and Josh Williams executed the search on July 2, 2011 (Tr. I 67-67, 158, 161-62). The officers entered the small shed with two rooms and found Petitioner asleep on a bed in the east room (Tr. I 67, 162). The officers removed Petitioner from the residence, and Officer Marzek read Petitioner's Miranda rights to him (Tr. I 159-60, 167-68).

         Petitioner told Officer Williams that he lived in the shed (Tr. I 168). During the search of the shed, the officers found Petitioner's ID card, male clothing, a methamphetamine pipe, numerous two-liter pop bottles, salt, a coffee filter, a jar with a funnel, camp fuel, and other items required for the manufacture of methamphetamine (Tr. I 68, 70-77). These items were later tested for the presence of methamphetamine at the OSBI laboratory (Tr. I 144). A container of liquid (Exhibit 1B) and a glass smoking device with residue (Exhibit 1K) tested positive for the substance (Tr. I 144-45, 151; State's Exhibit 37). The container that tested positive for methamphetamine contained approximately 1, 000 milliliters of liquid with a net weight of 650 grams (Tr. I 144-45; State's Exhibit 37).

         Ground I: Sufficiency of the Evidence

         Petitioner alleges in Ground I of the petition that the evidence was insufficient to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that he had dominion and control over a controlled dangerous substance upon which the manufacturing charge was based. Respondent asserts the decision by the Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals (OCCA) on this issue was not contrary to, or an unreasonable application, of Supreme Court law. The OCCA analyzed the claim and denied relief on direct appeal:

[W]e find that the State presented sufficient evidence, viewed in a light most favorable to the State, to prove that Vansickle committed the essential elements of aggravated manufacture of a controlled dangerous substance, methamphetamine, beyond a reasonable doubt. Easlick v. State, 90 P.3d 556, 559 (Okla. Crim. App. 2004). Where there is competent evidence in the record to support a conviction, this Court will not interfere with the verdict. Gilson v. State, 8 P.3d 883, 910 (Okla. Crim. App. 2000).
To satisfy the elements of aggravated manufacture of a controlled dangerous substance, the State must prove that Vansickle knowingly/intentionally manufactured or attempted to manufacture a controlled dangerous substance by, in this case, having fifty (50) grams or more of methamphetamine, its salts, its isomers, and salts of its isomers or 500 grams or more of a mixture or substance containing a detectible amount of methamphetamine, its salts, its isomers, or salts of its isomers. Okla. Stat. tit. 63, § 2-401(G)(3)(h) (2005).
Evidence that Vansickle was in possession of the paraphernalia associated with methamphetamine manufacturing allows for the inference that Vansickle was knowingly involved in the manufacturing process taking place in the shed. Possession may be proved through circumstantial evidence. Carolina v. State, 839 P.2d 663, 664-65 (Okla. Crim. App. 1992). In the absence of physical possession, if an accused has exclusive access to the premises where contraband was found, dominion and control, or constructive possession, may be inferred. Doyle v. State. 759 P.2d 223, 224 (Okla. Crim. App. 1988). If the accused does not have exclusive access, “constructive possession may be proven if there are additional independent factors which show his knowledge and control of the drugs.” Carolina, 839 P.2d at 665. Such factors include incriminating conduct or other circumstances allowing for such an inference. Id.
In the present case, the State presented sufficient evidence from which the jury inferred that Vansickle had dominion and control over the manufacturing process. Appellant lived in a shed on his mother's property. The shed, which was comprised of two rooms, was littered with the tools and materials necessary to manufacture methamphetamine. Vansickle's ID and some articles of clothing were found in the shed. Vansickle admitted that he lived in the shed. Moreover, nothing in the record suggests anyone else had entered or used the shed, which would allow for a reasonable inference by the jury that Vansickle had exclusive access.
The conviction is further justified by the fact whenever Vansickle entered the shed to go to his bedroom, he had to pass through the room containing most of the evidence of the manufacturing process. In his bedroom, there was also a basket hanging from the ceiling containing items readily associated with both the manufacture and consumption of methamphetamine. This case is analogous to Brumfield v. State, 155 P.3d 826 (Okla. Crim. App. 2007), wherein this Court held that when the defendant's “home and property were littered with the essential ingredients for methamphetamine manufacture--or evidence that essential ...

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