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Stanley J. Mute v. Bruno Stolc

March 15, 2012


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Scott A. Oravec United States Magistrate Judge



Stanley Mute was convicted of two counts of sexually assaulting his girlfriend, M.E., as well as one count of assaulting M.E.'s brother, Herman. After litigating a number of claims in state court, Mute filed a petition for a writ of habeas corpus in federal court. Two of Mute's three claims were dismissed because Mute failed to raise them in any state court proceeding. The remaining claim is that the relationship between Mute and his attorney had broken down to the point where Mute was effectively denied his right to counsel, Docket 122. Mute has also requested an evidentiary hearing, at Docket 133, claiming that he should be able to develop additional facts supporting this claim.


1. Did the Alaska Court of Appeal's opinion in "Mute I"*fn1 result in a decision that was contrary to, or an unreasonable application of, clearly established Federal law as determined by the Supreme Court of the United States?

2. Did the Alaska Court of Appeal's opinion in "Mute I"result in a decision that was based on an unreasonable determination of the facts in light of the evidence presented in the State court proceeding?

3. Is Mute entitled to an evidentiary hearing to develop the factual issues underlying his claims?


1. Underlying Criminal Offense and Charges

Stanley Mute lived in Napaskiak, a Yupik village a few miles away from Bethel, Alaska, with his girlfriend, M.E.*fn3 On November 17, 1995, Mute, M.E., and M.E.'s brother, Herman, were drinking alcohol.*fn4 Mute and M.E. began to argue, and when Herman tried to intervene, Mute and Herman fought.*fn5 Herman's arm was broken as a result of the altercation.*fn6 Herman left the residence to get help removing the children from the household.*fn7 Sometime after Herman left, M.E. was severely injured.*fn8 Mute was arrested, and charged with several offenses, including two counts of sexual assault against M.E., one count of simple assault against Herman, and one count of kidnapping.*fn9

2. Criminal Trial

At the beginning of his trial, Mute objected to being represented by his court-appointed attorney, Victor Carlson.*fn10 Mute claimed, among other things, that Carlson did not file certain motions that Mute wanted to file. But when asked what those motions were, Mute could not identify them, or even explain his specific concern with Carlson's pre-trial planning and strategy.*fn11 Mute did claim that he felt Mr. Carlson was not providing him a zealous defense.*fn12 Mute stated that he and his attorney had not discussed any defense strategy, and disagreed about calling Paul Mute (Stanley's brother) as a witness.*fn13 The trial court judge denied Mute's motion for a new attorney, and indicated that she would appoint counsel to investigate Mute's claims at the conclusions of the trial if he was still unhappy with Carlson's performance.*fn14 Towards the conclusion of the trial, Mute objected to Carlson's efforts to subpoena M.E. to testify, because their child was sick and M.E. did not want to fly to Bethel to testify.*fn15 After M.E. was eventually brought to Bethel, she refused to testify, and Mute informed both Carlson and the court that he would refuse to testify. Mute also said that he did not want Carlson to call his brother, Paul Mute, as a witness.*fn16

At this point, both sides presented their closing arguments; after closing arguments were complete, Mute changed his mind and decided that he wanted himself and Paul to testify. This request was denied by the judge, who noted that the time for Mute to present evidence had passed.*fn17 Mute was convicted by the jury of one count of first-degree sexual assault and one count of second-degree sexual assault.*fn18 He was also convicted of one count of assault for the altercation with Herman.*fn19 After the jury had returned its verdict, Mute told the judge that he wanted to file a motion for post-conviction relief.*fn20 The trial court judge appointed counsel to investigate Mute's claim, and that counsel represented Mute in his direct appeal.*fn21

3. Direct Appeal ("Mute I")

Mute's convictions were affirmed on direct appeal.*fn22 Mute's counsel did not file a Petition for Hearing with the Alaska Supreme Court.*fn23 Mute filed a pro se Petition for Hearing in the Alaska Supreme Court on September ...

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