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Magana v. Archuleta

United States District Court, D. Colorado

December 7, 2017

LOU ARCHULETA, Fremont Correctional Facility Warden, and CYNTHIA COFFMAN, The Attorney General of the State of Colorado, Respondents.


          R. Brooke Jackson, United States District Judge.

         The matter before the Court is an Application for a Writ of Habeas Corpus Pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254, ECF No. 6. After reviewing the pertinent portions of the record in this case, including the Application and Answer, ECF No. 25, the Court determines it can resolve the Application without a hearing, see 28 U.S.C. § 2254(e)(2); Fed. R. Governing Section 2254 Cases 8(a), and concludes that the action should be dismissed.

         I. BACKGROUND

         Applicant is a prisoner in the custody of the Colorado Department of Corrections. He currently is incarcerated at the Fremont Correctional Facility in Cañon City, Colorado, pursuant to his conviction and sentencing in State of Colorado Criminal Case No. 10CR1857. The Colorado Court of Appeals (CCA), in the denial of Applicant's direct appeal, summarized the underlying facts as follows:

According to the prosecution's trial evidence, defendant touched and penetrated the victim's vagina with his finger and penis on multiple occasions.
Prior to trial, the People asked that the victim, defendant's daughter, who was ten years old at the time of trial, be permitted to testify via closed circuit television (CCTV). Defendant objected. After a hearing at which the victim's counselor testified, the court permitted the victim to give testimony in his chambers (outside the presence of defendant), which was displayed via CCTV in the courtroom.
The jury returned guilty verdicts on all of the charges tried.

People of the State of Colo. v. Magana, No. 12CA1073, 1 (Colo.App. July 3, 2014); ECF No. 12-2 at 2.


         Applicant, acting pro se, initiated this 28 U.S.C. § 2254 action on February 25, 2016, by submitting an Application for a Writ of Habeas Corpus Pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254. On March 28, 2016, pursuant to a court order, Applicant filed an Amended Application, which is the operative pleading in this action. Applicant asserts one claim in the March 28 Application as follows:

[His] right to confront accusatory witness impermissibly infringed when the trial court's decision authorizing the use of closed circuit television testimony was contrary to and an unreasonable application of Maryland v. Craig, 497 U.S. 836 (1990); U.S. Const. amend. VI; 28 U.S.C. § 2254(d)(1) (2) . . . . [A]s a whole, testimony from the therapist that the CCTV procedure was necessary was insufficient within the scope of Craig.

ECF No. 6 at 6.

         On March 30, 2016, Magistrate Judge Gordon P. Gallagher entered an order directing Respondents to file a Pre-Answer Response and address 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 intended to raise either or both of these defenses. Respondents filed a Pre-Answer Response, ECF No. 12, on April 19, 2016. Applicant did not reply to the Response. Respondents concede in the Pre-Answer Response that the Application is timely and the claim is exhausted. ECF No. 12 at 3 and 6. On August 22, 2016, the Court directed Respondents to file an Answer that addresses the merits of Applicant's claim. Respondents filed the Answer on October 25, 2016. See ECF No. 25. Applicant requested an extension of time to reply, which was granted. See ECF Nos. 26 and 27. Applicant, nonetheless, has failed to submit a reply.

         A. Pro Se Standard of Review

         Applicant is proceeding pro se. The Court, therefore, “review[s] his pleadings and other papers liberally and hold[s] them to a less stringent standard than those drafted by attorneys.” Trackwell v. United States, 472 F.3d 1242, 1243 (10th Cir. 2007) (citations omitted); see also Haines v. Kerner, 404 U.S. 519, 520-21 (1972) (pro se complaint held to less stringent standards than formal pleadings drafted by lawyers). However, a pro se litigant's “conclusory allegations without supporting factual averments are insufficient to state a claim on which relief can be based.” Hall v. Bellmon, 935 F.2d 1106, 1110 (10th Cir. 1991). A court may not assume that an applicant can prove facts that have not been alleged, or that a respondent has violated laws in ways that an applicant has not alleged. Associated Gen. Contractors of Cal., Inc. v. Cal. State Council of Carpenters, 459 U.S. 519, 526 (1983).

         B. 28 U.S.C. § 2254

         Section 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 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 pursuant to ' 2254(d)(1) is whether 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). The “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, 563 U.S. 170, 181 (2011). “Finality occurs when direct state appeals have been exhausted and a petition for writ of certiorari from this Court has become time barred or has been disposed of.” Greene v. Fisher, 565 U.S. 34, 39 (2011) (citing Griffith v. Kentucky, 479 U.S. 314, 321 n.6 (1987).

         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.” Williams, 529 U.S. 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, 120 S.Ct. 1495). “The word ‘contrary' is commonly understood to mean ‘diametrically different, ' ‘opposite in character or nature, ' or ‘mutually opposed.' ” Williams, 529 U.S. at 405, 120 S.Ct. 1495 (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, 120 S.Ct. 1495. 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. Carter [v. Ward, 347 F.3d. 860, 864 (10th Cir. 2003)] (quoting Valdez [v. Ward, 219 F.3d 1222, 1229-30 10th Cir. 2000]).

House, 527 F.3d at 1018.

         The Court's inquiry pursuant to the “unreasonable application” clause is an objective one. 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.

Harrington v. Richter, 562 U.S. 86, 101 (2011) (citations and internal quotation marks omitted). This 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. at 102. “[E]ven a strong case for relief does not mean the state court's contrary conclusion was unreasonable.” Id. at 102. (citation omitted). “Section 2254(d) reflects the view that habeas corpus is a guard against extreme malfunctions in the state criminal justice systems, not a substitute for ordinary error correction through appeal.” Id. at 102-03(internal quotation marks and citation omitted).

         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. Furthermore,

[a]s a condition for obtaining habeas corpus relief 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 ...

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