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Walton v. Falk

United States District Court, D. Colorado

May 1, 2014

HUGH WALTON, Applicant,


RAYMOND P. MOORE, District Judge.

Applicant, Hugh Walton, is a prisoner in the custody of the Colorado Department of Corrections (DOC) who currently is incarcerated at the correctional facility in Sterling, Colorado. Mr. Walton, acting pro se, filed an Application for a Writ of Habeas Corpus Pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254 (ECF No. 1) challenging the validity of his conviction in Case No. 98CR2420 in Arapahoe County, Colorado, district court. He paid the $5.00 filing fee. After reviewing the record, including the habeas corpus application, the answer, the state court record, and the traverse, the Court concludes that the application should be denied and the case dismissed with prejudice.

I. Federal Habeas Corpus Proceedings

In an order entered on February 15, 2013, Magistrate Judge Boyd N. Boland directed Respondents to file a pre-answer response limited to addressing the affirmative defenses of timeliness under 28 U.S.C. § 2244(d) and exhaustion of state court remedies under 28 U.S.C. § 2254(b)(1)(A) if Respondents intend to raise either or both of those affirmative defenses in this action. On March 19, 2013, after being granted an extension of time, Respondents filed their pre-answer response (ECF No. 9). On May 13, 2013, after being granted extensions of time, Mr. Walton filed a reply (ECF No. 15) to the pre-answer response.

On August 29, 2013, the Court entered an order (ECF No. 18) denying the application in part. Specifically, claim 10 was dismissed for failure to state a cognizable federal constitutional claim. Claims 1(a), 2, 7(b), 8, and 9 were dismissed as procedurally defaulted. In the August 29 order, the Court also directed Respondents to file within thirty days after the filing of the state court record an answer that fully addressed the merits of exhausted claims 1(b), 3, 4, 5, 6(a), 6(b), 7(a), and 7(c). In a separate order entered on August 29 (ECF No. 19), the Court directed Respondents to provide the state court record, which was submitted on September 6, 2013 (ECF No. 24). On September 26, 2013, Respondents filed their answer (ECF No. 25). On November 22, 2013, Mr. Walton filed a traverse (ECF No. 32). Claims 1(b), 3, 4, 5, 6(a), 6(b), 7(a), and 7(c) remain pending.

II. Background and State Court Proceedings

Mr. Walton was convicted by a jury in Arapahoe County District Court Case No. 98CR2420 on two counts of aggravated robbery, one count of theft, two counts of menacing, and one count of crime of violence. ECF No. 9, ex. B ( People v. Walton, No. 01CA2119 (Colo. Ct. App. May 13, 2004) (unpublished)) at 2. Following the trial court's determination that Mr. Walton had been convicted of felonies on four prior occasions, he was sentenced as an habitual offender to an aggregate term of 128 years of imprisonment in the DOC. ECF No. 9, ex. B at 3.

On May 13, 2004, Mr. Walton's convictions and sentence were affirmed on direct appeal. ECF No. 9, ex. B. On December 10, 2004, he filed a postconviction motion pursuant to Rule 35(c) of the Colorado Rules of Criminal Procedure, ECF No. 9, ex. A at 17, which the trial court appears to have denied on August 25, 2005. ECF No. 9, ex. A at 16. On appeal, the Colorado Court of Appeals on May 31, 2007, affirmed in part, reversed in part, and remanded the case for a hearing on a claim of ineffective assistance of trial counsel. People v. Walton, No. 05CA2262 (Colo. Ct. App. May 31, 2007), published at 167 P.3d 163 (Colo. Ct. App. 2007). On June 1, 2010, after three days of hearings, the trial court denied the claim. ECF No. 9, ex. A at 10. On August 30, 2012, the Colorado Court of Appeals affirmed. ECF No. 9, ex. C ( People v. Walton, No. 10CA1298) (Colo. Ct. App. Aug. 30, 2012) (unpublished)). On January 28, 2013, the Colorado Supreme Court denied certiorari review. ECF No. 9, ex. N.

III. Analysis

A. Standard of Review on the Merits

The Court must construe liberally Mr. Walton's filings because he is not represented by an attorney. See Haines v. Kerner, 404 U.S. 519, 520-21 (1972); Hall v. Bellmon, 935 F.2d 1106, 1110 (10th Cir. 1991). However, the Court should not be an advocate for a pro se litigant. See Hall, 935 F.2d at 1110.

Title 28 U.S.C. § 2254(d) provides that a writ of habeas corpus may not be issued with respect to any claim that was adjudicated on the merits in state court unless the state court adjudication:

(1) resulted in a decision that was contrary to, or involved an unreasonable application of, clearly established Federal law, as determined by the Supreme Court of the United States; or
(2) resulted in a decision that was based on an unreasonable determination of the facts in light of the evidence presented in the State court proceeding.

28 U.S.C. § 2254(d). Mr. Walton bears the burden of proof under § 2254(d). See Woodford v. Visciotti, 537 U.S. 19, 25 (2002) (per curiam).

A claim may be adjudicated on the merits in state court even in the absence of a statement of reasons by the state court for rejecting the claim. Harrington v. Richter, 131 S.Ct. 770, 784-85 (2011). Thus, "[w]hen a federal claim has been presented to a state court and the state court has denied relief, it may be presumed that the state court adjudicated the claim on the merits in the absence of any indication or state-law procedural principles to the contrary." Id. at 784-85. In other words, the Court "owe[s] deference to the state court's result, even if its reasoning is not expressly stated." Aycox v. Lytle, 196 F.3d 1174, 1177 (10th Cir. 1999). Therefore, the Court "must uphold the state court's summary decision unless [the Court's] independent review of the record and pertinent federal law persuades [the Court] that its result contravenes or unreasonably applies clearly established federal law, or is based on an unreasonable determination of the facts in light of the evidence presented." Id. at 1178. "[T]his independent review' should be distinguished from a full de novo review of the petitioner's claims." Id.

Although Richter concerned a state-court order that did not address any of the defendant's claims, its presumption is applicable when a state-court opinion addresses some but not all of those claims. Johnson v. Williams, 133 S.Ct. 1088, 1094-98 (2013). For purposes of § 2254(d), when a state court rules against a defendant in an opinion that rejects some of the defendant's claims but does not expressly address a federal claim, a federal habeas court must presume, subject to rebuttal, that the federal claim was adjudicated on the merits. Id. at 1094-96. Federal habeas courts should not assume that any unaddressed federal claim simply was overlooked because a state court does not uniformly discuss separately every claim referenced by a defendant. Id.

The Court reviews claims of legal error and mixed questions of law and fact pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254(d)(1). See Cook v. McKune, 323 F.3d 825, 830 (10th Cir. 2003). The threshold question the Court must answer under § 2254(d)(1) is whether Mr. Walton seeks to apply a rule of law that was clearly established by the Supreme Court at the time his conviction became final. See Williams v. Taylor, 529 U.S. 362, 390 (2000). Clearly established federal law "refers to the holdings, as opposed to the dicta, of [the Supreme] Court's decisions as of the time of the relevant state-court decision." Id. at 412. Furthermore,

clearly established law consists of Supreme Court holdings in cases where the facts are at least closely-related or similar to the case sub judice. Although the legal rule at issue need not have had its genesis in the closely-related or similar factual context, the Supreme Court must have expressly extended the legal rule to that context.

House v. Hatch, 527 F.3d 1010, 1016 (10th Cir. 2008). If there is no clearly established federal law, that is the end of the Court's inquiry pursuant to § 2254(d)(1). See id. at 1018.

If a clearly established rule of federal law is implicated, the Court must determine whether the state court's decision was contrary to or an unreasonable application of that clearly established rule of federal law. See Williams, 529 U.S. at 404-05.

A state-court decision is contrary to clearly established federal law if: (a) "the state court applies a rule that contradicts the governing law set forth in Supreme Court cases"; or (b) "the state court confronts a set of facts that are materially indistinguishable from a decision of the Supreme Court and nevertheless arrives at a result different from [that] precedent." Maynard [ v. Boone ], 468 F.3d [665, ] 669 [(10th Cir. 2006)] (internal quotation marks and brackets omitted) (quoting Williams, 529 U.S. at 405). "The word contrary' is commonly understood to mean diametrically different, ' opposite in character or nature, ' or mutually opposed.'" Williams, 529 U.S. at 405 (citation omitted).
A state court decision involves an unreasonable application of clearly established federal law when it identifies the correct governing legal rule from Supreme Court cases, but unreasonably applies it to the facts. Id. at 407-08. Additionally, we have recognized that an unreasonable application may occur if the state court either unreasonably extends, or unreasonably refuses to extend, a legal principle from Supreme Court precedent to a new context where it should apply.

House, 527 F.3d at 1018.

The Court's inquiry pursuant to the "unreasonable application" clause is an objective inquiry. See Williams, 529 U.S. at 409-10. "[A] federal habeas court may not issue the writ simply because that court concludes in its independent judgment that the relevant state-court decision applied clearly established federal law erroneously or incorrectly. Rather that application must also be unreasonable." Id. at 411. "[A] decision is objectively unreasonable' when most reasonable jurists exercising their independent judgment would conclude the state court misapplied Supreme Court law." Maynard, 468 F.3d at 671. In addition,

evaluating whether a rule application was unreasonable requires considering the rule's specificity. The more general the rule, the more leeway courts have in reaching outcomes in case-by-case determinations. [I]t is not an unreasonable application of clearly established Federal law for a state court to decline to apply a specific legal rule that has not been squarely established by [the Supreme] Court.

Richter, 131 S.Ct. at 786 (citation and internal quotation marks omitted). In conducting this analysis, the Court "must determine what arguments or theories supported or... could have supported[] the state court's decision" and then "ask whether it is possible fairminded jurists could disagree that those arguments or theories are inconsistent with the holding in a prior decision of [the Supreme] Court." Id. In addition, "review under § 2254(d)(1) is limited to the record that was before the state court that adjudicated the claim on the merits." Cullen v. Pinholster, 131 S.Ct. 1388, 1398 (2011).

Under this standard, "only the most serious misapplications of Supreme Court precedent will be a basis for relief under § 2254." Maynard, 468 F.3d at 671; see also Richter, 131 S.Ct. at 786 (stating that "even a strong case for relief does not mean the state court's contrary conclusion was unreasonable").

As a condition for obtaining habeas corpus from a federal court, a state prisoner must show that the state court's ruling on the claim being presented in federal court was so lacking in justification that there was an error well understood and comprehended in existing law beyond any possibility for fairminded disagreement.

Richter, 131 S.Ct. 786-87.

The Court reviews claims asserting factual errors pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254(d)(2). See Romano v. Gibson, 278 F.3d 1145, 1154 n.4 (10th Cir. 2002). Section 2254(d)(2) allows the Court to grant a writ of habeas corpus only if the relevant state court decision was based on an unreasonable determination of the facts in light of the evidence presented to the state court. Pursuant to § 2254(e)(1), the Court must presume that the state court's factual determinations are correct and Mr. Walton bears the burden of rebutting the presumption by clear and convincing evidence. "The standard is demanding but not insatiable... [because] [d]eference does not by definition preclude relief.'" Miller-El v. Dretke, 545 U.S. 231, 240 (2005) (quoting Miller-El v. Cockrell, 537 U.S. 322, 340 (2003)).

If a claim was not adjudicated on the merits in state court, and if the claim also is not procedurally barred, the Court must review the claim de novo and the deferential standards of § 2254(d) do not apply. See Gipson v. Jordan, 376 F.3d 1193, 1196 (10th Cir. 2004).

B. Claims

Exhausted claims 1(b), 3, 4, 5, 6(a), 6(b), 7(a), and 7(c) remain pending. The Court now will address the merits of these claims. Retaining the numbering in the application, the claims are:

(1) The police continued to question Applicant after he expressed a desire not to answer questions without an attorney present. This violated his rights as required by the Fifth Amendment and Miranda v. Arizona, 384 U.S. 436, 478-79 (1966), to:
(b) have counsel present. ECF No. 1 at 5.
(3) The Fourteenth Amendment was violated by the introduction at trial of the statements Applicant made to the police following his alleged request to speak with an attorney. Id. [1]
(4) Applicant was denied due process and a fair trial by the introduction at trial of identification evidence based on unduly suggestive procedures. Id. at 7.
(5) Applicant was denied due process by the introduction at trial of evidence of other robberies he committed. Id.
(6) Applicant's rights to testify and to present a defense were violated when the trial court:
(a) limited some of his answers on cross-examination to "yes" or "no, " and
(b) did not allow him to testify concerning the circumstances surrounding one of his prior ...

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