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Kuebler v. Hinds County Sheriff

Supreme Court of Mississippi

June 27, 2019


          DATE OF JUDGMENT: 02/20/2018






         ¶1. Charles L. Kuebler appeals the denial of his petition for writ of habeas corpus. In his petition, Kuebler alleged that the employees of the Jackson Detention Center ("JDC") confiscated and photocopied his legal work, refused to let him meet with his attorneys, and eavesdropped on confidential attorney-client conversations. The circuit court found that Kuebler had not presented sufficient proof to support claims of violations of his constitutional rights and found no merit to the claims. After reviewing Kuebler's petition and the evidence presented, we find that the circuit court did not err in denying the petition. We affirm.


         ¶2. In 2011, Kuebler was convicted of murder. His conviction was reversed and remanded for a new trial. See Kuebler v. State, 204 So.3d 1220 (Miss. 2016).

         ¶3. Kuebler was then transferred to the JDC, where he has been held without bond awaiting retrial. He has actively participated in the preparation of his defense. His trial preparation included regular meetings with his attorneys and the creation of documents, which he contends contained confidential information and work-product information.

         ¶4. Kuebler's problems with the JDC staff allegedly began on December 20, 2017, when JDC officers Lieutenant Gloria Petty and Sergeant Angela Robinson conducted a search of Kuebler's cell. As a result of the search, Lieutenant Petty and Sergeant Robinson found white-out, a spiral notebook, and an ink pen. Each of these items was considered contraband. They also found voluminous papers stored under the bed in three unauthorized laundry bags. The JDC Inmate Handbook allows inmates to keep legal papers in their cell, but it also states that the floor of an inmate's cell must be kept clear at all times, except for authorized items. Lieutenant Petty testified that the amount of papers in the cell created a fire hazard. Additionally, many of the documents had been stapled together, and staples were prohibited.

         ¶5. Kuebler was not present for the search. When Kuebler returned to his cell, he claims that Lieutenant Petty and Sergeant Robinson removed or confiscated his legal papers, including documents such as motions, hearing and trial transcripts, attorney-client correspondence, strategy documents, private investigator notes, and more. Lieutenant Petty instructed Kuebler to pack the majority of the papers into boxes, which would be stored in the property room, available for him to access on an item-by-item basis. The papers also were made available for Kuebler's attorneys to pick up at his request. Kuebler testified the conversation with Lieutenant Petty took place in a JDC office several hours after the papers were initially removed from his cell.

         ¶6. Five boxes of legal papers were packed up by Kuebler and were placed in the property room. The boxes remained there for approximately twenty-four hours until they were picked up by Michael Smith, one of Kuebler's attorneys, on December 21, 2017. Smith inventoried the boxes and observed that staples had been removed from some, but not all, documents. There was testimony that the JDC staff did not read the documents, photocopy the documents, or discuss the contents of the boxes with anyone.

         ¶7. Between December 2016 and January 2018, Kuebler's attorneys visited him approximately seventy-five times, according to Kuebler's attorney Thomas Fortner. On Sunday, December 24, 2017, Smith arrived at the JDC for a visit but was told that visits were not allowed that day and would resume on Wednesday, December 27, 2017. Smith returned on December 27, 2017, to visit Kuebler.

         ¶8. Kuebler claims that his right to effective assistance of counsel was impeded. During regular business hours, the JDC allows attorney visits to be conducted on the second floor of the JDC in private rooms. The rooms are monitored and secured from a central control room, referred to as the tower. After business hours, the second floor of the JDC is closed. and a room on the first floor of the JDC is available for attorneys to conduct inmate visits. The room on the first floor does not have a door; however, it is located down an empty hallway where staff traffic is light after hours. A guard is posted in the hallway to ensure security.

         ¶9. During the December 27 inmate visit, Smith and Kuebler were allowed to meet in the first-floor room. Smith stated that the presence of a guard outside the room caused the meeting to be cut short due to their concern of a lack of privacy. According to Smith and Fortner, this had occurred before. On December 18, 2017, ...

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