United States District Court, D. New Jersey
JOSE R. PALACIOS-RODRIGUEZ, Petitioner,
ROBERT BUECHELE, et al., Respondents.
MADELINE COX ARLEO, District Judge
before the Court is the petition for a writ of habeas corpus
of Jose R. Palacios-Rodriguez ("Petitioner")
brought pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254 challenging
Petitioner's state court conviction. (ECF No. 1.)
Following an order to answer, Respondents filed a response to
the petition. (ECF No. 3.) For the following reasons, this
Court will deny the petition and will deny Petitioner a
certificate of appealability.
opinion affirming Petitioner's conviction, the Superior
Court of New Jersey -Appellate Division provided the
following factual summary of the background of this matter:
[O]n the afternoon of June 28, 2008, [Petitioner], the victim
([Petitioner's] cousin) and two others were sitting in
the living room of their home drinking beers when the victim
grabbed [Petitioner] and threw him down on the sofa. ... The
victim pushed [Petitioner] down and told him that he was not
a man. After a struggle, the victim let [Petitioner] up, but
then [Petitioner] pursued the victim through the house
stabbing the victim in the back and the chest.
[Petitioner] left the house and walked to work. Later that
evening, the police apprehended [Petitioner] outside of his
workplace. When arrested. [Petitioner] provided the police
with a false name. Officers transported [Petitioner] to the
Ramsey Police Headquarters, where he was placed in a holding
cell and subsequently fell asleep. [Petitioner] later
participated in a videotaped interview with Detectives James
Brazofsky, Brian Huth and Luis Alvarez Prior to trial,
[Petitioner] moved to suppress his confession, and the judge
conducted a Mirandahearing. Brazofsky, Huth and
Alvarez testified regarding the interrogation. Brazofsky
testified that he and Huth brought [Petitioner! into an
interview room at the Bergen County prosecutor's office.
The interview was conducted in Spanish initially by
Brazofsky, then later by Alvarez Before questioning
[Petitioner], Brazofsky advised him that his consent was
necessary and it was his option to discuss the incident.
Brazofsky noticed that [Petitioner's] eyes appeared
bloodshot and his speech was slurred, but stated that he took
into account that [Petitioner] had recently been asleep.
Brazofsky testified that he smelled an odor of alcohol on
[Petitioner] admitted to the detectives that he was
illiterate, but Brazofsky testified that [Petitioner]
understood their conversation, and [Petitioner] informed him
that he understood Spanish, but not English. Brazofsky
presented [Petitioner] with a Miranda waiver form
translated into Spanish. Brazofsky read each of the warnings
aloud in Spanish and questioned whether [Petitioner]
understood [Petitioner] initialed each paragraph and signed a
written waiver. Huth later testified that although
[Petitioner] appeared to have been drinking he did understand
Brazofsky testified that he then began to question
[Petitioner] about the incident but called m Alvarez, a
native Spanish speaker, to continue the interrogation '
Alvarez testified that [Petitioner] was "calm,
cooperative, attentive" and responded coherently during
questioning. [Petitioner] repeatedly informed Alvarez that as
a result of his drinking, he could not remember what had
occurred However, [Petitioner] stated that the victim pushed
him down and claimed that he' was not a man. [Petitioner]
admitted to stabbing the victim two or three times with a
knife Alvarez testified that [Petitioner] detailed his
placement of the knife during the altercation, its color, as
well as the points of impact on the victim's body
[Petitioner] also stood up from his chair in order to
physically demonstrate how he stabbed the victim.
[Petitioner] informed the detective that after the stabbing,
he left the house, threw the knife away and went to work.
three-and-one-half-hour interrogation was videotaped. A
transcript of [Petitioner's] interview and a portion of
the videotape were provided to the court during the motion
hearing and to the jury during the trial. The video shows
[Petitioner] waiving his Miranda rights and
confessing to the stabbing.
conclusion of the Miranda hearing, the judge denied
[Petitioner's] motion [Petitioner] thereafter asserted
intoxication as a defense to the attempted murder and
aggravated assault charges. Nevertheless, the jury found
[Petitioner] guilty of attempted murder, aggravated assault
and the two related charges. State v.
Palacios-Rodriguez, No. A-0892-10T3, 2013 WL 4710521, at
* 1-2 (N.J. App. Div. Sept. 3, 2013).
was sentenced by the state trial court to a fourteen-year
term of imprisonment, 85% of which was to be served without
parole eligibility. Id. at * 1. Petitioner appealed
his conviction and sentence, and the Appellate Division, on
September 3, 2013, affirmed. Id. The New Jersey
Supreme Court denied certification in July 2014. State v.
Palacios-Rodriguez, 218 N.J. 275 (2014).
thereafter filed his habeas petition in this Court on January
21, 2015. (ECF No. 1). The petition raises two grounds for
GROUND ONE: [PETITIONER'S] RIGHT TO BE FREE FROM SELF
INCRIMINATION WAS VIOLATED BECAUSE THE INTERROGATING
DETECTIVE MISLEADLNGLY QUALIFIED THE MIRANDA
WARNINGS BY SAYING THAT [PETITIONER] COULD REMAIN SILENT BUT
THEN "WON'T HAVE THE OPPORTUNITY TO EXPLAIN " U
s' CONST AMENDS. V, XIV.
GROUND TWO: [PETITIONER'S] WAIVER OF HIS RIGHT TO BE FREE
FROM SELF INCRIMINATION WAS NOT KNOWING BECAUSE HE WAS DRUNK,
EXHAUSTED, AND ILLITERATE; THE WARNINGS WERE GIVEN IN SPANISH
BY A NON-FLUENT DETECTIVE; THE WARNINGS WERE MISLEADING;
[PETITIONER] RESPONDED NEGATIVELY WHEN ASKED IF HE UNDERSTOOD
HIS RIGHT TO SILENCE- AND [PETITIONER] THEREAFTER TRIED TO
CUT OFF THE INTERROGATION. U.S. CONST. AMENDS. V, XIV.
(ECF No. 1 at 5-6.)
28 U.S.C. § 2254(a), the district court "shall
entertain an application for a writ of habeas corpus [o]n
behalf of a person in custody pursuant to the judgment of a
State court only on the ground that he is in custody in
violation of the Constitution or laws or treaties of the
United States." A habeas petitioner has the burden of
establishing his entitlement to relief for each claim
presented in his petition based upon the record that was
before the state court. See Eley v. Erickson, 712
F.3d 837, 846 (3d Cir. 2013); see also Parker v.
Matthews, ___ U.S. ___, ___, 132 S.Ct. 2148, 2151
(2012). Under the statute, as amended by the Anti-Terrorism
and Effective Death Penalty Act, ("AEDPA"), Pub. L
104-132, 110 Stat. 1214 (Apr. 24, 1996), district courts are
required to give great deference to the determinations of the
state trial and appellate courts. See Renico v.
Lett, 559 U.S. 766, 772-73 (2010).
claim has been adjudicated on the merits by the state courts,
the district court shall not grant an application for a writ
of habeas corpus unless the state court adjudication:
(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;
(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)(1)-(2).
law is clearly established for these purposes where it is
clearly expressed in "only the holdings, as opposed to
the dicta" of the opinions of the United States Supreme
Court. See Woods v. Donald, ___ U.S. ___,
___, 135 S.Ct. 1372, 1376 (2015). "When reviewing state
criminal convictions on collateral review, federal judges are
required to afford state courts due respect by overturning
their decisions only when there could be no reasonable
dispute that they were wrong." Id. Where a
petitioner challenges an allegedly erroneous factual
determination of the state courts, "a determination of a
factual issue made by a State court shall be presumed to be
correct [and the] applicant shall have the burden of
rebutting the presumption of correctness by clear and
convincing evidence." 28 U.S.C. § 2254(e)(1).
AEDPA standard under § 2254(d) is a
"difficult" one to meet; it is a "highly
deferential standard for evaluating state-court rulings,
which demands that state-court decisions be given the benefit
of the doubt." Cullen v. Pinholster, 563 U.S.
170, 181 (2011). Review under § 2254(d)(1) "is
limited to the record that was before the state court that
adjudicated the claim on the merits." Id. In
applying AEDPA's standards, the relevant state court
decision that is appropriate for federal habeas corpus review
is the last reasoned state court decision. See Bond v.
Beard, 539 F.3d 256, 289-90 (3d Cir. 2008).
Grounds presented in Petitioner's habeas petition are
rooted in Petitioner's assertion that his right against
self-incrimination was violated during the course of his
three-and-one-half hour interrogation on June 28, 2008. In
Ground One, Petitioner asserts that the Miranda
warning given to him by Detective Brazofsky before Petitioner
provided his incriminating statement to police included
"a substantially misleading qualification of the
right-to-silence warning." (Pet'r's Br. 27, ECF
No. 1-2.) In Ground Two, Petitioner asserts that his
subsequent waiver of his right to remain silent was not
knowing because "[e]ven if the Miranda warnings
were perfect, [Petitioner] - a drunk exhausted, and
illiterate immigrant - was in no condition to understand
them." (Id. at 36.) Petitioner asserts that his
inculpatory statements to police should have been suppressed
in light of the foregoing. (Id. at 42.)
raised all of these claims on direct appeal. State v.
Palacios-Rodriguez, 2013 WL 4710521, at *2-3 (N.J. App.
Div. Sept. 3, 2013). In ultimately affirming the state trial
court's judgment and conviction of Petitioner, the
Appellate Division analyzed these claims as follows:
[Petitioner] contends that his confession should have been
suppressed on several theories, namely that he was illiterate
and non-English speaking and therefore did not understand his
Miranda rights; he was so intoxicated that he was
incapable of knowingly and voluntarily waiving his
Miranda rights during the police interview; and he
was provided misleading and ...