United States District Court, N.D. Iowa, Central Division
LEONARD T. STRAND, CHIEF JUDGE.
matter is before me on a Report and Recommendation (Doc. No.
42) in which the Honorable C.J. Williams, Chief United States
Magistrate Judge, recommends that petitioner Jerel Lamar
Wright's petition (Doc. No. 1) for relief pursuant to 28
U.S.C. § 2254 be dismissed with prejudice. Neither party
has filed objections. The time for filing such objections has
STANDARD OF REVIEW
district judge must review a magistrate judge's R&R under
the following standards:
Within fourteen days after being served with a copy, any
party may serve and file written objections to such proposed
findings and recommendations as provided by rules of court. A
judge of the court shall make a de novo determination of
those portions of the report or specified proposed findings
or recommendations to which objection is made. A judge of the
court may accept, reject, or modify, in whole or in part, the
findings or recommendations made by the magistrate judge. The
judge may also receive further evidence or recommit the
matter to the magistrate judge with instructions.
28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1); see also Fed. R. Civ. P.
72(b). Thus, when a party objects to any portion of an R&R,
the district judge must undertake a de novo review of that
portions of an R&R to which no objections have been made must
be reviewed under at least a “clearly erroneous”
standard. See, e.g., Grinder v. Gammon, 73
F.3d 793, 795 (8th Cir. 1996) (noting that when no objections
are filed “[the district court judge] would only have
to review the findings of the magistrate judge for clear
error”). As the Supreme Court has explained, “[a]
finding is ‘clearly erroneous' when although there
is evidence to support it, the reviewing court on the entire
evidence is left with the definite and firm conviction that a
mistake has been committed.” Anderson v. City
of Bessemer City, 470 U.S. 564, 573-74 (1985)
(quoting United States v. U.S. Gypsum Co., 333 U.S.
364, 395 (1948)). However, a district judge may elect to
review an R&R under a more-exacting standard even if no
objections are filed:
Any party that desires plenary consideration by the Article
III judge of any issue need only ask. Moreover, while the
statute does not require the judge to review an issue de novo
if no objections are filed, it does not preclude further
review by the district judge, sua sponte or at the
request of a party, under a de novo or any other standard.
Thomas v. Arn, 474 U.S. 140, 150 (1985).
Procedural History and Facts
Williams set out the following relevant facts as previously
summarized by the Iowa Court of Appeals:
On or about September 7, 2009, Wright was involved in a
street fight. Two of the participants were stabbed. Der[r]ick
Tye was hospitalized as a result of his injuries. Jermaris
Lorez West died as a result of the injuries he sustained.
Wright was immediately arrested and taken into custody.
Wright initially exercised his right to remain silent in
response to law enforcement efforts to interrogate him. He
was permitted to call his mother, and she told him to tell
the officers what he had done. He responded accordingly and
admitted stabbing Tye and indicated he had tried to kill him
but did not admit to stabbing West. Wright was charged with
the attempted murder of Tye and the second-degree murder of
West. His statements were admitted into evidence at trial.
While Wright was incarcerated in the Dubuque County Jail he
was visited by Sister Rosanna Gleason, acting as a chaplain
or chaplain's assistant to the residents of the jail.
Wright wrote a letter in which he admitted stabbing Tye and
put it in an envelope which he gave to a jailer for delivery
to Sister Gleason. The letter did not admit that he stabbed
West. The letter was opened by the jail staff and admitted
into evidence at trial.
Neither Wright's admissions to the interrogators nor his
letter to his assistant chaplain were challenged by a motion
to suppress, and both were admitted at trial without
objection. Wright and his counsel had determined that he
would testify. The evidence was overwhelming that he had
stabbed Tye and substantial that he had stabbed West. The
blade of the knife recovered at the scene had blood with DNA
matching both Tye and West. Wright was found guilty of
attempted murder as charged and voluntary manslaughter
instead of murder in the second degree. Wright appealed and
raised the issue of ineffective assistance of counsel, but
the issue was not addressed on appeal and was left open to be
considered in a postconviction relief action.
See Doc. No. 49 at 2-4 (quoting Wright v.
State, No. 12-2101, 2014 WL 636150, at *1 (Iowa Ct. App.
Feb. 19, 2014)).
the procedural history, Wright asserted ineffective
assistance of counsel claims on direct appeal based on (1)
his counsel's failure to file a motion to suppress his
statements to the police and (2) his counsel's failure to
file a motion to suppress the statements in his letter to
Sister Gleason. The Iowa Court of Appeals found there was not
a sufficient record on which to address those claims and
preserved them for post-conviction relief (PCR).
raised the same two claims of ineffective assistance of
counsel in his state PCR petition. The district court held a
hearing and Wright's trial counsel testified. The
district court denied his claims and the Iowa Court of
Appeals affirmed. Wright filed an application for further
review, which was denied. He then filed a pro se petition in
this court alleging ineffective assistance of counsel based
on the same two grounds, along with two additional grounds
(failure to advise Wright not to testify and failure to raise
a justification defense). See Doc. No. 1. He was