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Manning v. Houston

United States District Court, D. Nebraska

March 25, 2014

AARON D. MANNING, Petitioner,
v.
ROBERT HOUSTON, Director, Nebraska Department of Corrections Respondent.

MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

JOSEPH F. BATAILLON, District Judge.

This matter is before the court on Aaron Manning's Petition for Writ of Habeas Corpus filed pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254, Filing No. 1. Manning challenges his conviction under a plea of nolo contendere in the District Court of Buffalo County, Nebraska. Id. Manning contends that his conviction should be vacated or set aside, because the State of Nebraska violated his United States Constitutional rights. Id.

BACKGROUND

A. SUBSTANTIVE CRIME AND EVIDENCE OF RELATED ACTIVITY

This case arises out of incidents pertaining to Aaron Manning's attack on two individuals. See Filing No. 9 (stating the Nebraska Court of Appeals' recitation of the facts). Aaron D. Manning ("Manning"), the petitioner, and Jim Haga ("Haga") were close friends. Filing No. 7-4 at 3. On Halloween night in 2004, Manning, dressed as a surgeon, went to a house where Haga's wife and child resided. Id. Manning cut the wife and daughter's necks and throats and the daughter's face with a scalpel. Filing No. 9 at p. 1-2. The attack stopped only after the daughter stabbed Manning with a knife, causing Manning's surgical mask to fall off and allowing the victims to identify him. Id. at p. 2. Both victims lived, although "a doctor would have testified that the cuts were within millimeters of hitting either their jugular veins or carotid arteries." Id.

Around the time of Manning's attack, Haga had been accused of sexually molesting his daughter. Filing No. 1, Attachment 2, p. 13. On the same evening that Manning attacked the victims, one of Deb Haga's friends had "two men, one dressed in a ghillie suit and one dressed all in black come to her front door in Kearney, Nebraska and ask who was home." Filing No. 1, Attachment 2, at p. 14. The friend, Ginger Axtell, often spent Halloweens with the victims in this case. Id. The two men left after learning that no one other than Axtell and Axtell's grandson were home. Id. Deb Haga later received a letter threatening retaliation for her role in Haga's molestation case. Filing No. 7-4 at p. 4. Manning claims that he learned of these facts between July 2009 and January 11, 2011.[1] Filing No. 12 at p. 2.

B. PROCEDURAL HISTORY

The District Court of Buffalo County convicted Manning of two Class 2 felonies after Manning entered a plea of nolo contendere. Filing No. 7-13 at p. 4-5 (explaining that the conviction came from Manning pleading guilty to two counts of attempted murder in return for the State dismissing two counts of using a weapon to commit a felony). The district court then sentenced Manning on August 19, 2005, to a minimum of forty years and a maximum of fifty years. Filing No. 1 at p. 1. Manning appealed his conviction to the Nebraska Court of Appeals on September 16, 2005. Id. at p. 2; Filing No. 7-10 at p.1. The court dismissed the appeal on December 19, 2005, and Manning did not seek further review. Filing No. 7-1 at p. 2; see Filing No. 1 at p. 6 (explaining that Manning dismissed his appeal because his attorney withdrew as counsel).

Manning, however, twice moved for post-conviction relief in the District Court of Buffalo County, Nebraska. Filing No. 1 at p. 3-4. The district court dismissed the first motion for post-conviction relief, filed on July 30, 2009, on its own motion. Id. at 3. Manning moved to amend the pleading and a motion to vacate the judgment, but the court denied his motion. Id. ; see Filing No. 7-4 at p. 3 (explaining Manning's postdismissal steps). Manning appealed the order denying the motion to amend, but the Nebraska Court of Appeals affirmed the District Court of Buffalo County. Filing No. 7-2 at p. 2.

In the second motion for post-conviction relief, filed on January 27, 2011, the district court determined that Manning raised similar issues in his prior motion for postconviction relief and dismissed the second motion. Filing No. 7-12 at p. 31. Manning moved for further review by the Nebraska Court of Appeals, who summarily affirmed the District Court on August 15, 2011. Id. ; Filing No. 7-3 at p. 2. Manning sought review by the Supreme Court of Nebraska on September 14, 2011. Filing No. 7-3 at p. 2. The Supreme Court of Nebraska denied the motion for further review on September 21, 2011. Id. ; see Filing No. 1 at p. 5, 12 (explaining that Manning sought review by the highest state court). Manning then filed his Petition for Writ of Habeas Corpus under 28 U.S.C. § 2254 on May 22, 2012. Id. at p. 1.

In his petition, Manning set forth eight claims with various sub-parts. See Filing No. 3 at p. 2-3. This court found that of the eight claims, seven were potentially cognizable in federal court. Id. The claims included:

"Claim One:
The petitioner was denied due process of law because the petitioner was not notified of his Constitutional rights and was in custody or under arrest when the petitioner made incriminating statements; See Filing No. 1 - Petition Attachment Two p. 11 ¶ 9.
Claim Two:
The petitioner was denied due process of law because law enforcement continued questioning the petitioner after the petitioner repeatedly indicated he did not want to make a statement until his attorney was present;
Id. at 11 ¶ ...

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