FROM THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT FOR THE NORTHERN
DISTRICT OF OKLAHOMA (D.C. NO. 4:11-CV-00277-GKF-FHM)
L. Miller, Assistant Attorney General (E. Scott Pruitt,
Attorney General, and Jay Schniederjan, Assistant Attorney
General, on the briefs) Office of the Attorney General,
Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, for Respondent-Appellant.
L. Derryberry, Research and Writing Specialist (Julia L.
O'Connell, Federal Public Defender, and Chance Cammack,
Research and Writing Specialist, with him on the brief)
Office of the Federal Public Defender for the Northern
District of Oklahoma, Tulsa, Oklahoma, for
TYMKOVICH, Chief Judge, BALDOCK, and HARTZ, Circuit Judges.
TYMKOVICH, Chief Judge.
Holland and his brother were accused of robbing a driver of
her purse on a rural Oklahoma highway, and then unlawfully
entering a home after their getaway car had a flat tire. At a
joint trial, the state court allowed, as relevant here, two
pieces of evidence to be introduced: (1) one of the
victims' statements that she saw Holland had Nazi tattoos
on his arm, and (2) the other victim's statement that she
heard Holland's brother confess to the robbery by saying
"I did it. I did it. We don't associate with black
guys." This evidence was admitted without objection and
both brothers were convicted of the crimes.
his convictions became final on state direct review, Holland
brought in federal court a petition for habeas relief under
28 U.S.C. § 2254. The district court granted relief on
two grounds: (1) the introduction of the above evidence at
trial deprived Holland of a fundamentally fair trial, and (2)
Holland's trial counsel's failure to object to the
evidence deprived him of constitutionally effective
assistance of counsel.
the deferential standard of review contained in the
Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996 (AEDPA)
to the holding of the Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals
(OCCA), we conclude that the OCCA did not unreasonably apply
Supreme Court law in finding that the evidence did not
substantially affect the outcome of the trial.
therefore REVERSE the district court's grant of habeas
driving into Miami, Oklahoma, on South 550 Road, Mona Lester
saw a car make a partial U-turn and come to a stop near her
vehicle. The driver, later identified as Holland, got out of
his vehicle and approached Ms. Lester's passenger door.
Ms. Lester lowered the passenger window a few inches and
asked if Holland needed anything. Holland responded,
"Yeah, I need that purse." Holland grabbed the
purse, returned to his car, and drove west away from the
scene. Ms. Lester initially chased Holland's vehicle
westward. During the chase she managed to note Holland's
license plate number and spot a second man sit up in the back
seat of the vehicle.
thirty minutes later, a second encounter occurred. Carrie
Stotts heard a noise coming from the road in front of her
home and saw a vehicle approaching her driveway. She later
identified the car as Holland's. The vehicle had a flat
tire. The vehicle pulled into Ms. Stotts's driveway and
two men left the car. The second man was later identified as
Holland's brother and co-defendant, Jeremy
Holland. Ms. Stotts testified that the brother was
driving at this time. Holland asked for tools to change the
tire, and to use Ms. Stotts's cell phone. After Holland
used the phone, Ms. Stotts re-entered her home through the
side door, locking it behind her. She later testified she
locked the door because she "was kind of scared and
afraid . . . they didn't have any shirts on, and they-one
of them had visible Nazi tattoos." App., Vol. I at 279.
Even so, Ms. Stotts soon found the two men had come in
through the front door into her living room. In response to
her telling them to leave, one of the men said,
"We'll get you."
Stotts called the police, who quickly located and apprehended
Holland and his brother at her house. Ms. Lester was brought
to the scene and identified Holland as the man who had robbed
her. When asked if she could identify Holland's brother,
Ms. Lester later testified: "I thought it was a black
guy in the back seat of the car. All I seen was the bald head
and that's what I thought. And I said but there was a
black guy. And that's when [Holland's brother] said,
'I did it, I did it. We don't associate with black
guys.'" Id. at 259–62. Holland's
counsel did not object to any of this testimony. The jury
convicted Holland of robbery and unlawful entry.
his conviction and sentence, Holland filed a direct appeal to
the OCCA, alleging eight propositions of error. The OCCA
denied relief in a summary opinion. As relevant here, the
OCCA found the testimony concerning the tattoos and the
brother's statement ("We don't associate with
black guys.") "properly admissible as part of the
res gestae of the offenses." Id. at
217. As to the confession, the OCCA found that while
"error occurred when the trial court omitted to give a
limiting instruction upon the jury's use of the
Co-Defendant's statement ['I did it. I did it.'],
" no prejudice had resulted from the error. Id.
at 220. Reviewing under the standard established in
Strickland v. Washington, 466 U.S. 668, 687 (1984),
the OCCA denied the ineffective assistance of counsel claim.
then filed a petition for habeas relief under 28 U.S.C.
§ 2254 in the Northern District of Oklahoma. The
district court granted relief on two grounds. First, the
court concluded that the introduction at trial of the
co-defendant's statement, "I did it, I did it. We
don't associate with black guys, " and Ms.
Stotts's testimony regarding Holland's Nazi tattoos
deprived Holland of a fundamentally fair trial in violation
of due process because the evidence was both prejudicial and
irrelevant. The court also found counsel's failure to
object to these statements constituted ineffective assistance
of counsel, both because the evidence was inflammatory and
because the confession violated Holland's Confrontation
the deferential AEDPA standard, the district court found the
introduction of the two statements resulted in a
"fundamentally unfair trial in violation of"
Holland's due process rights and his right to effective
counsel. App., Vol. II at 45. The district court found the
OCCA's denial of relief "contrary to, or an
unreasonable application of" clearly established Supreme
Court law because the introduction of the evidence prejudiced
Holland by "impacting the jury's sentencing
recommendation." Id. at 46. The court also
found that counsel's failure to object constituted
ineffective assistance of counsel, and the OCCA's finding
of no prejudice was "contrary to, or an unreasonable
application of" the Supreme Court's decision in
government contends that the district court should not have
granted habeas relief. It argues that the OCCA did not
misapply federal due process or Sixth Amendment law in
upholding Holland's convictions. We agree. We start with
the well-settled provisions of AEDPA, which govern our ...