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Straub v. Goodrich

United States District Court, D. Colorado

December 27, 2017

BRIAN C. STRAUB, Applicant,



         Mr. Straub initiated this habeas corpus action, pro se, on January 9, 2014, challenging the validity of his convictions in the District Court of Denver County, Colorado. (Docket No. 1). He submitted an Amended Application for a Writ of Habeas Corpus Pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254, on January 30, 2014. (Docket No. 4). Mr. Straub has paid the $5.00 filing fee.

         At the time of filing, the ineffective assistance of counsel (IAC) claims asserted in the Amended Application were unexhausted. Respondents argued in a pre-answer response (Docket No. 9) that the Amended Application should be dismissed as a mixed petition, pursuant to Rose v. Lundy, 455 U.S. 509, 520-22 (1982). On July 18, 2014, Magistrate Judge Boyd N. Boland directed Applicant to show cause why the Amended Application should not be dismissed as a mixed petition and ordered both parties to address whether a stay of this action was appropriate pursuant to Rhines v. Weber, 544 U.S. 269, 275-76 (2005).[1] On September 30, 2014, Senior District Judge Lewis T. Babcock entered an order staying this case pending Applicant's exhaustion of his IAC claims in the state courts. (Docket No. 18).

         On September 13, 2017, Mr. Straub filed a Brief (Docket No. 39) notifying the Court that the Colorado Court of Appeals had issued a decision affirming the state district court's denial of post-conviction relief. Magistrate Judge Gordon P. Gallagher thereafter ordered Respondents to file an amended pre-answer response addressing all of Applicant's claims. (Docket No. 40). Respondents filed an amended pre-answer response (Docket No. 48), on November 3, 2017. Applicant filed a reply (Docket No. 49), on November 20, 2017.

         Mr. Straub's filings are construed liberally 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 act as an advocate for pro se litigants. See Hall, 935 F.2d at 1110. For the reasons stated below, the Court will dismiss the Application, in part.

         I. State Court Proceedings

         On May 2, 2008, Mr. Straub was convicted of aggravated robbery and second-degree kidnapping in Denver District Court Case No. 07CR2494. (Docket No. 1 at 1-2). He was sentenced to consecutive 10-year terms for the offenses.[2] (Id. at 1). Mr. Straub's convictions were affirmed on direct appeal in People v. Brian C. Straub, No. 08CA1587 (Colo.App. March 8, 2012) (unpublished) (Straub I). (Docket No. 4 at 29-44). The Colorado Supreme Court denied his petition for certiorari review on January 7, 2013. (Id. at 50). Applicant did not file a petition for certiorari review in the United States Supreme Court.

         On September 10, 2014, after Mr. Straub initiated this federal habeas proceeding, he filed a motion for post-conviction relief pursuant to Colo. R. Crim. P. 35(c) (“Rule 35(c) motion”) in the state district court. (Docket No. 17 at 53-69 and No. 17-1; see also No. 39 at 29). The post-conviction motion was denied on December 14, 2014. (Docket No. 39, at 29-32, 64). The Colorado Court of Appeals affirmed in People v. Brian C. Straub, No. 15CA153 (Colo.App. Sept. 7, 2017) (unpublished) (Straub II). (Id. at 33-62).

         Applicant's petition for rehearing was denied on November 2, 2017. (Docket No. 48-2).

         II. The Amended Application

         Mr. Straub asserts the following claims for relief in the Amended Application:

1. Due process violations under Brady v. Maryland, 373 U.S. 83 (1963), in that the prosecution failed to disclose:
(a) The existence of a database of vehicle license plate numbers entering and leaving DIA parking facilities, which, had it been reviewed prior to trial, would have shown that a vehicle registered to Applicant and his father entered DIA at the approximate time of the robbery, which in turn would corroborate Applicant's alibi defense
(Docket No. 4 at 4, 9-13);
(b) Criminal histories of three prosecution witnesses (id. at 4, 13-14).
2. Prosecutorial misconduct, specifically:
a. Suggesting, through cross-examination of defense witnesses and in closing argument, that Applicant had a burden of proving his innocence (id. at 5, 14-21);
b. Commenting, during cross-examination of Applicant, on Applicant's invocation of the Fifth Amendment privilege of remaining silent (after speaking with police) (id. at 17).
3. Ineffective assistance of counsel, in that counsel failed to:
a. investigate the license plate database at DIA, which counsel knew about prior to trial (id. at 5, 22-23);
b. object to the prosecution's late disclosure of the database (id. at 22);
c. investigate the criminal backgrounds of three prosecution witnesses (id. at 5-6, 23-24);
d. adequately prepare to undermine or rebut the prosecution's evidence that DNA in a ski mask found at the scene matched Applicant's (id. at 6, 24-25);
e. object to prosecution questions of alibi witnesses MH and SF, which suggested that their lack of corroboration for their alibi testimony undermined the credibility of their testimony (id. at 25);
f. object to prosecution questions and argument suggesting Applicant had a burden to prove his ...

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