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Avila v. Key

United States District Court, E.D. Washington

July 25, 2019

LUIS A. AVILA, Petitioner,
v.
JAMES R. KEY, Defendants.

          ORDER DENYING PETITION FOR FEDERAL HABEAS RELIEF

          STANLEY A. BASTIAN UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         Before the Court is Luis Avila's (Petitioner) Petition for Writ of Habeas Corpus by a Person in State Custody, ECF No. 5. Petitioner is an inmate at the Airway Heights Corrections Center pursuant to a judgment and sentence of the Asotin County Superior Court. He was convicted by jury verdict on one count of second degree rape. Petitioner requests this Court issue a writ of habeas corpus, arguing his conviction was obtained in violation of the Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments to the United States Constitution. For the following reasons, the Court denies the petition for federal habeas relief.

         FACTS[1]

         On June 13, 2011, Detective Jackie Nichols received a report that Bonnie Larson, an elderly woman residing a Sycamore Glen Family Home - an adult care facility - had been raped at the facility by an employee later identified as Luis Avila.

         Upon receiving this report, Detective Nichols called Mr. Avila and “asked if he would be willing to come in for an interview.” Mr. Avila agreed, and together they “arranged a time which would be mutually convenient.” Sharee Kromrei, the owner of Sycamore Glen, and a friend of Mr. Avila's, then contacted Detective Nichols and asked to be present at the interview. Detective Nichols agreed.

         On June 16, 2011, Ms. Kromrei drove Mr. Avila to the sheriff's office. Detective Nichols escorted them to the interview room, which is

where we conduct all our interviews, victim interviews, child/victim interviews, adult interviews. So it's, the setting is conducive to being comfortable it's got upholstered chairs, pictures on the walls kind of a neutral tone in the paint, carpet, you know, it's like a throw rug type carpet on the floor.

         Once in the interview room, Ms. Kromrei and Mr. Avila sat next to each other on the side of the table nearest to the door. Nothing blocked Mr. Avila's path to the door.

         Detective Nichols, in full uniform, told Mr. Avila he was free to leave at any time. At no time was Mr. Avila handcuffed or physically restrained. Neither Ms. Kromrei nor Mr. Avila were searched. Detective Nichols did not inform Mr. Avila of his Miranda[2] rights before interviewing him.

         During the interview, which lasted no more than 20 minutes, Mr. Avila appeared to understand the questions he was asked and the allegations at issue, never declined to answer any questions, never requested an interpreter or a lawyer, and never asked to leave. When the interview was over, Mr. Avila and Ms. Kromrei walked out of the sheriff's office together.

         Nearly a year later, on May 15, 2012, the State charged Luis Avila with the second degree rape of Bonnie Larson. In preparation for trial, defense counsel did not request a CrR 3.5 hearing to determine whether Mr. Avila's statements to Detective Nichols had been made voluntarily. At trial, Detective Nichols testified about the statements Mr. Avila made during the interview. Mr. Avila also testified at trial in his own defense. The statements Detective Nichols attributed to Mr. Avila were inconsistent with Mr. Avila's trial testimony. At the conclusion of the trial, the jury found Mr. Avila guilty, and the court sentenced him to 90 months to life.

         PROCEDURAL HISTORY

         Direct Appeal

         On direct appeal, Petitioner challenged the voluntariness of his statements to Detective Nichols during the June 16, 2011 interview. In response, the State requested the matter be remanded to the trial court for a CrR 3.5 hearing. The Court of Appeals granted the State's motion and remanded the case for a CrR 3.5 hearing.

         The superior court held a CrR 3.5 hearing on January 15, 2015. The superior court concluded Petitioner's statements to Detective Nichols on June 16, 2011, were not the result of a custodial interrogation. Therefore, Petitioner's statements were voluntary and admissible. The superior court's Order contained the following findings of fact:

1. On June 12, 2011, Bonnie J. Larson, an elderly resident of the Sycamore Glen Family Home, a facility licensed by the state for long-term care, told various people at her church that she had been forcibly raped by an employee of the home the previous night.
2. On June 13, 2011 when at the local hospital for a routine appointment, Ms. Larson reported again that she had been raped at Sycamore Glen on June 11, 2011 by a caregiver named “Luis.” She was given a rape examination but there were no overt signs of assault. The medical personnel collected “swabs” as part of a standard rape kit, which were sent to the Washington State Patrol Crime Lab for analysis.
3. The medical personnel contacted law enforcement and Detective Jackie Nichols of the Asotin County Sheriff's Office was assigned the case and responded to the hospital to investigate.
4. Detective Nichols interviewed Ms. Larson at the hospital and spoke with other potential witnesses.
5. The Detective contacted Saree Kromrei, the Administrator of Sycamore Glen. Ms. Kromrei told Detective Nichols that the employee identified as “Luis” was Luis A. Avila. She indicated that she was a friend of Mr. Avila's and that she had heard about the report but did not believe it. She told the Detective that she had already spoken with Mr. Avila and that he had told her that the accusations were “completely false.”
6. Over the next few days Detective Nichols continued her investigation and at some point called Mr. Avila on the phone and asked if he would be willing to come in for an interview. Mr. Avila agreed to come in and together they arranged a time which would be mutually convenient.
7. After speaking with Mr. Avila on the phone, Detective Nichols received a call from Ms. Kromrei. She asked if she could accompany Mr. Avila to the interview. Detective Nichols told her that she had no objection and that she was welcome to attend.
8. On June 16, 2011, during regular working hours. Luis A. Avila and Sharee Kromrei arrived at the Asotin County Sheriff's Office for the interview, having driven to that location in a private vehicle. They were met by Detective Nichols in the lobby and escorted to the interview room inside of the Sheriff's Office.
9. The interview room is regularly used for non-custodial interviews of witnesses, victims (including child victims), and persons of interest. The room is decorated in a nonthreatening manner with “homey” decor which includes muted lighting, upholstered ...

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