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Dixon v. Hartley

United States District Court, D. Colorado

August 28, 2014

ROBERT H. DIXON, Applicant,


MARCIA S. KRIEGER, Chief District Judge.

Applicant, Robert H. Dixon, has filed, pro se, an Amended Application for a Writ of Habeas Corpus Pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254 (ECF No. 21) challenging the validity of his criminal conviction in the District Court of Denver, Colorado. Respondents have filed an Answer (ECF No. 34), and Applicant has filed a Reply (ECF No. 42). Having considered the same, along with the state court record, the Court will deny the Application.


Applicant's first trial, in Denver County District Court Case No. 06CR3022, ended in a hung jury and mistrial. (ECF Nos. 15-1, at 6; 15-12, at 14). Following a second jury trial, Applicant was convicted of first degree sexual assault. (ECF No. 15-1, at 9). He was adjudicated a habitual offender and sentenced to a 48-year prison term in the Colorado Department of Corrections. ( Id. ).

The Colorado Court of Appeals affirmed Applicant's convictions and sentence on direct appeal in People v. Dixon ( Dixon I ), No. 07CA1158 (Colo.App. Sept. 10, 2009) (unpublished decision). (Doc. No. 15-11). The Colorado Supreme Court denied Applicant's request for certiorari review on December 21, 2009. (ECF No. 15-9).

On April 12, 2010, Applicant filed a motion for sentence reconsideration pursuant to Colo. R. Crim. P. 35(b), which was denied by the state district court on July 7, 2010. (ECF No. 15-1, at 3). Applicant did not appeal that order.

On December 30, 2010, Applicant filed a motion for post-conviction relief pursuant to Colo. R. Civ. P. 35(c), which the state district court denied summarily on April 1, 2011. ( Id. at 2; ECF No. 15-8). The Colorado Court of Appeals affirmed the district court's order in People v. Dixon ( Dixon II ), 11CA0942 (Colo.App. Oct. 18, 2012) (unpublished). (ECF No. 15-6). The Colorado Supreme Court denied certiorari review on June 24, 2013. (ECF No. 15-4).

Applicant initiated this action on August 14, 2013. He filed an Amended Application on January 24, 2014. (ECF No. 21). The Court discerns the following claims from the Amended Application:

1) Prosecutorial misconduct, in violation of Applicant's due process rights, as evidenced by: (a) the prosecution's strikes of "all African-Americans and women gender" from the panel, leaving an "all white jury with only one women [sic]" ( id. at 7); (b) the fact that the Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner (SANE) who examined the victim: (i) changed her testimony between the first and second trial, and thereby "exaggerat[ed] the severity of [her] evidentiary medical findings" ( id. at 5); and, (ii) "alter[ed] a diagram she had prepared and used in the first trial, " to show "more cuts and injury's [sic] to the victim's labia." ( id. ); (c) the prosecution's introduction of "false evidence" namely, crime scene photos alleged to have been, but actually were not, taken by the original detective ( id. at 6); (d) the prosecution's handling of other act evidence - namely, (i) mentioning, during opening statement, that Applicant had sexually assaulted two other victims (without the benefit of an immediate curative instruction) ( id. at 7); (ii) asserting that the other sexual assaults happened in the same way as the charged crime ( id. ); and, (iii) suggesting, during cross-examination of Applicant, that he had sexually assaulted two other victims ( id. at 6); (e) the prosecution's closing argument, which: (i) falsely exaggerated the SANE's findings ( id. at 6) (e.g., arguing that the victim's vagina was "shredded" and "torn open from top to bottom"); (ii) improperly stated that the jurors would have felt "cheated" if the prosecution had not introduced evidence of applicant's prior sexual assaults, as it had discussed in opening statements ( id. at 8); and, (iii) "[w]hat you have heard from SM confirmation by nurse Marquez tells you this was not consensual intercourse" ( id. ); and, (f) cumulative error ( id. ).
2) The trial court violated Applicant's due process rights when: (a) an expert prosecution witness who did not testify at the first trial testified at the second, even though the expert was not endorsed properly and the defense was unprepared for his testimony (ECF No. 21, at 8); (b) the SANE testified "as an expert on physical trauma without having any expertise in [the] field" ( id. at 9); (c) the trial court excluded evidence that: (i) a witness, Ms. E, who testified at the first trial that the victim's car was stolen, had since admitted that the victim gave Ms. E permission to use the car ( id. at 9), and, (ii) the victim's vaginal injury could have been caused by a sexual encounter she had with another person "within hours" of having sex with Applicant ( id. ); (d) the trial court erroneously admitted another sexual assault (i) in the absence of proof that Applicant actually committed that assault ( id. at 9-10); and, (ii) that, being nearly 20 years old, was too remote in time and unduly prejudicial ( id. at 10); (e) the trial court ruled that counsel appointed to investigate the validity of Applicant's prior convictions, alleged as habitual criminal counts, could not represent Applicant in the habitual criminal adjudication ( id. at 10); (f) the trial court refused to appoint new counsel after Applicant complained "numerous times that his counsel would not listen to him and refused to let him participate in any way in his own defense" ( id. ); (g) the trial court refused to conduct a proportionality review ( id. at 11); and, (h) cumulative error ( id. ).
3). Trial counsel was ineffective in failing to: (a) introduce and use evidence of the alleged victim's clothing to prove that the victim was not dragged 10 feet through dirt and grass, held down, and assaulted; (b) introduce the victim's videotaped statement to the police in which she admitted to having consented to having sex with the Applicant; (c) investigate and use telephone records to show that the victim and her friend were in contact with the Applicant the day of the assault, and afterward; (d) introduce preliminary hearing transcripts to impeach the victim's testimony; and, (e) introduce Nurse Marquez's prior statements into evidence that she did not know how the victim's injury occurred. (ECF No. 21, at 11-13).
4). Trial counsel was ineffective in failing to: (a) interview or subpoena Detective Castro to testify at trial that he did not believe that a crime had been committed; (b) investigate and call the victim's friend, a known prostitute, as a witness to testify that on the night of the assault she and the victim had been drinking and smoking crack cocaine, and that the victim had engaged in prostitution; (c) investigate witnesses John L. and Suzanne S. "on behalf of the petitioner[s] defense and credibility"; (d) endorse and use a criminal investigator; and, (e) endorse a physical trauma expert to evaluate and testify about the physical evidence. ( Id. at 13-14).
5). Trial counsel was ineffective in: (a) suggesting that Applicant was guilty of the sexual assault; (b) communicating privately with a juror; (c) failing to impeach the victim after she committed perjury; (d) failing to impeach witness Detective Colaizzi after he lied about not having video evidence that would have exonerated Applicant; (e) failing to adequately cross-examine Officer Ortega about the victim's statements to him; (f) bringing up "the pet criminal past" to the jury; (g) failing to make objections to certain evidence and to prosecutorial arguments; (h) refusing Applicant access to discovery; (i) failing to advise Applicant whether to testify on his own behalf at trial and in the habitual criminal trial; (j) in continuing to represent Applicant even though there was a conflict-of-interest and in failing to advise the court that a different attorney was representing Applicant in the habitual criminal proceeding; and, (k) failing to conduct an investigation and present mitigating evidence. ( Id. at 15-17). Direct appeal counsel was constitutionally ineffective in failing to present on appeal numerous constitutional errors that occurred at Applicant's trial. ( Id. at 18). The evidence to support the sexual assault conviction was insufficient because the prosecution relied on inadmissible other acts evidence and prejudicial arguments to convict Applicant. ( Id. ). The habitual criminal convictions were unconstitutionally obtained. ( Id. ).

On September 23, 2013, Magistrate Judge Boyd N. Boland ordered Respondents to file a pre-answer response addressing the affirmative defenses of timeliness and exhaustion of state court remedies. Respondents filed a Pre-Answer Response on November 4, 2013. (ECF No. 15). Magistrate Judge Boland thereafter directed Applicant of file an Amended Application, which Applicant filed on January 24, 2014. (ECF Nos. 18, 21). Respondents filed an Amended Pre-Answer Response (ECF No. 25) on January 30, 2014. In the Amended Pre-Answer Response, Respondents conceded the timeliness of the Application under the one-year limitation period set forth in 28 U.S.C. § 2244(d)(1). ( See id. at 5-6). Respondents further conceded that Mr. Dixon exhausted state remedies for sub-claims 1(b)(i), 1(b)(ii), 1(e)(i), and 2(c)(ii). ( Id. at 21). Respondents contended, however, that the remainder of Applicant's claims were barred from federal habeas review based on the doctrines of procedural default and anticipatory procedural default. ( Id. at 19-36).

In a previous Order, the Court dismissed the following sub-claims as procedurally barred: 1(a), 1(c), 1(d)(i), 1(d)(ii), 1(d)(iii), 1(e)(ii), 1(e)(iii), 2(a), 2(b), 2(c)(i), 2(c)(ii) (violation of Sixth Amendment confrontation rights), 2(d)(i), 2(d)(ii), 2(e), 2(f), 2(g), 2(h) (except for the allegations raised in sub-claim 2(c)(ii), which will be addressed on the merits as part of the cumulative error claim raised in sub-claim 1(f)); and, claims 3, 4, and 5 in their entirety. (ECF No. 37). Respondents filed an Answer to properly exhausted sub-claims 1(b)(i), 1(b)(ii), 1(e)(i), and 1(f) (except for the allegations in sub-claim 1(d)(iii)), and 2(c)(ii) (violation of constitutional right to present a defense). (ECF No. 34). Applicant thereafter filed a Reply. (ECF No. 42).

The Court addresses the merits of Applicant's properly exhausted claims below.


A. 28 U.S.C. § 2254

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

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 the applicant 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 ...

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