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Oakes v. Reilly

United States District Court, D. New Hampshire

February 11, 2015

Harold Oakes,
v.
Edward Reilly, Warden, Northern Correctional Facility.

REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION

ANDREA K. JOHNSTONE, Magistrate Judge.

Before the court is the respondent's motion for summary judgment (doc. no. 24) on the 28 U.S.C. § 2254 petition filed by Harold Oakes.[1] Oakes objects to the motion (doc. no. 25). The motion is before the undersigned magistrate judge for a report and recommendation, pursuant to LR 72.1. For the reasons stated below, this court recommends that the district judge grant the motion for summary judgment (doc. no. 24), deny the § 2254 petition, and decline to issue a certificate of appealability.

Background[2]

I. Assault and Trial

On November 8, 2007, Sadie Tetreault, a foster care mother, reported to the Vermont Department of Children and Families ("VDCF") that Oakes had sexually abused her foster daughter, "E.N., " a child under the age of thirteen. The VDCF Investigator reported the allegations to the Enfield, New Hampshire Police Department.

The Enfield Police contacted Oakes and interviewed him for one and a half hours on December 1, 2007. On December 6, 2007, Oakes arrived at the police station at 9:00 a.m. to take a polygraph examination. After the polygraph examination, a detective, Detective Holland, interviewed Oakes from 12:30 p.m. to 3:40 p.m. During the interview, Oakes made several incriminating statements and wrote a letter of apology to the victim.

On February 15, 2008, Oakes was indicted on two counts of aggravated felonious sexual assault and one count of sexual assault. On July 28, 2008, Oakes's trial counsel filed a motion to suppress Oakes's statements to police on the ground that Oakes's confession was not voluntary. The trial court denied the motion to suppress on the ground that it was not timely filed.

In November of 2008, Oakes filed a motion to exclude from his trial any testimony about the polygraph examination and results, which the trial court granted. In response, the State moved that Oakes be precluded from discussing the time of his arrival at the police station on December 6, arguing that it would confuse the jury since the State was not permitted to discuss the polygraph examination. Over Oakes's objection, the trial court granted the State's motion, ruling that Oakes could not testify to the time he spent in the police station for the polygraph examination if the State did not "have an opportunity to explain what [Oakes] was doing there or why."

On the last day of trial, the State filed a motion in limine to prevent Oakes from testifying to the time of his arrival at the police station for the December 6 interview. Oakes's counsel had referenced the time period in his opening statement and two defense witnesses had also testified as to the length of time Oakes was at the police station that day. The State argued that the ruling on Oakes's previous motion in limine excluded all references to the polygraph examination, including the length of time that Oakes was in the station to take it. Oakes's counsel did not object, stating, "No, I believe that's all decided and agreed to, Your Honor." The trial court granted the State's motion, finding it consistent with its previous ruling on the motion to exclude the polygraph examination testimony, where the court found that "the evidence regarding the time at which [Oakes] arrived" at the police station on December 6 was inadmissible.

The jury convicted Oakes on all three charges. Oakes was sentenced to a term of fifteen to forty-five years in the New Hampshire State Prison for Men, and ordered to make restitution payments of up to $10, 000 to the alleged victim.

II. Direct Appeal

Oakes appealed his conviction to the New Hampshire Supreme Court ("NHSC"), raising several challenges to the trial court's rulings, including a challenge to the ruling that evidence of the time Oakes spent at the police station during his December 6 interview was inadmissible. The NHSC affirmed Oakes's conviction, holding that the trial court did not "unsustainably exercise[] its discretion in granting the State's motions to exclude the defendant's testimony about the time of his arrival at the police station." Oakes, 161 N.H. at 284.

III. Petition for Habeas Relief to Superior Court

On May 20, 2011, after the NHSC affirmed his conviction, Oakes filed a petition for writ of habeas corpus in the New Hampshire Superior Court, Coös County ("CCSC"). Oakes asserted in his petition that his trial counsel was ineffective for failing to file a timely motion to suppress his comments to police. At a hearing on his petition, Oakes argued that a motion to suppress would have been successful because his statements were made as a result of an improperly conducted and improperly recorded polygraph examination. This was the first time in the habeas corpus proceeding that Oakes raised a concern about the polygraph examination and the manner in which the examination was administered. The CCSC directed Oakes to amend his petition to address his claims concerning the polygraph examination. In his amended petition, Oakes asserted that the polygraph examination that was administered "may have been a ruse." CCSC Or. (doc. no. 19-2) at 3. Oakes also moved to depose the polygraph examiner, David Crawford.

On November 7, 2011, the CCSC denied Oakes's petition. With regard to Oakes's claim that the polygraph examination may have been a ruse, the court held:

[A]ssuming without deciding that the polygraph examination was a ruse, the petitioner has not explained how, or even alleged that, any such trickery or deceit induced him to make the statements to Detective Holland that the petitioner now seeks to suppress. Likewise, assuming without deciding that Crawford in fact administered the polygraph examination but improperly administered it and/or improperly documented it, the petitioner has not alleged that any such deficiencies in the polygraph examination induced him to make the statements. The petitioner has not asserted that, or explained how, his statement to Detective Holland were precipitated or extracted by the acts he suspects Crawford may have ...

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