United States District Court, D. Colorado
AMENDED ORDER DENYING APPLICATION FOR WRIT OF HABEAS
CHRISTINE M. ARGUELLO, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
matter is before the Court on the Application for a Writ of
Habeas Corpus Pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254 (Doc. # 1)
(“Application”) filed pro se by
Applicant Chester Lee Reneau. Mr. Reneau challenges the
validity of his conviction and sentence in the District Court
for Larimer County, Colorado, Case No. 2010CR1651.
Respondents filed an Answer (Doc. # 31), and Mr. Reneau filed
a Reply (Doc. # 32). After reviewing the record before the
Court, including the Application, Answer, Reply, and the
state court record, the Court denies the Application and
dismisses this case with prejudice.
FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND
Colorado Court of Appeals described the relevant factual and
procedural background of Case No. 2010CR1651 as follows:
Defendant pleaded guilty to identity theft [a class 4 felony]
and was sentenced to probation for two years. While on
probation, defendant was charged with criminal mischief in
Larimer County - Loveland case number 11M1019 (misdemeanor
case) and first degree assault in Larimer County case number
11CR1024 (felony assault case). The probation department
subsequently filed a motion to revoke defendant's
probation, alleging he had violated the terms by: (1)
committing criminal mischief, as reflected in the misdemeanor
case; (2) committing first degree assault, as reflected in
the felony assault case; and (3) failing to submit to
substance tests and testing positive for THC and alcohol.
A public defender (revocation counsel) was appointed to
represent defendant in the probation revocation proceedings
and the felony assault case, but defendant represented
himself in the misdemeanor case. While the motion to revoke
probation was pending, defendant pleaded guilty in the
misdemeanor case and was acquitted at trial in the felony
assault case. At a later hearing, defendant admitted to
violating probation by pleading guilty in the misdemeanor
case. The sentencing court revoked defendant's probation
and, after reviewing a presentence investigation report,
sentenced him to three years in the custody of the Department
Defendant later filed a pro se motion for postconviction
relief under Crim. P. 35(c). The district court appointed a
new attorney to represent him and, after additional briefing
and a hearing on the merits, denied defendant's motion
for postconviction relief.
(Doc. #12-7 at 2-3). The Colorado Court of Appeals affirmed
the trial court's denial of the postconviction motion.
(Id. at 13). Mr. Reneau petitioned for a writ of
certiorari from the Colorado Supreme Court, which was denied
on November 23, 2015. (Doc # 12-10).
Reneau commenced this § 2254 proceeding on July 26,
2016. (Doc. # 1). He requests unconditional release.
(Id. at 14). In support of this request, he alleges
two claims with subparts:
Claim One: “Conviction Obtained in Violation
of Sixth Amendment” 1(a): Mr. Reneau would not have
pleaded guilty to the Loveland misdemeanor case but for
ineffective assistance of trial/revocation counsel; he was
unaware, and counsel did not inform him, that a basis for
revoking parole in Case No. 10CR1651 was the pending
misdemeanor charge (Id. at 7);
1(b): trial/revocation counsel provided misleading advice
which led to Mr. Reneau having to plead guilty in Case No.
10CR1651 due to pleading guilty and accepting the plea offer
in the Loveland misdemeanor case; Mr. Reneau contends counsel
should have advised him that he should not plead guilty and
should argue violations of due process as a defense in Case
No. 10CR1651 (Id. at 8); and
1(c): trial/revocation counsel did not file an appeal in Case
No. 10CR1651, despite Mr. Reneau's request that he do so
and his agreement to do so (Id. at 9). Claim
Two: “Conviction Obtained in Violation of the
2(a): Mr. Reneau pleaded guilty to the Loveland misdemeanor
charge due to false statements from the prosecutor; the
prosecutor pushed for parole revocation in Case No. 10CR1651
because Mr. Reneau was found not guilty by a jury of felony
assault in Case No. 11CR1024 (Id. at 10); and
2(b): the Larimer County District Court judge and prosecutor
did not advise Mr. Reneau that probation revocation would be
sought in Case No. 10CR1651 and he would be sentenced to
imprisonment, if he pleaded guilty in the Loveland
misdemeanor case; the prosecutor allegedly advised him that
probation would not be revoked based on a guilty plea
(Id. at 10-11).
25, 2017, the Court entered an Order (Doc. # 19) dismissing
Claims 1(c), 2(a), and 2(b) with prejudice as procedurally
defaulted. Claims 1(a) and 1(b) remain for adjudication on
Answer addressing the merits of the remaining claims,
Respondents argue that § 2254(d) bars federal habeas
corpus relief. (Doc. # 31 at 14). They state that the
Colorado Court of Appeals' factual determinations were
supported by the record and not unreasonable. (Id.).
They contend the Colorado Court of Appeals reasonably applied
the federal legal standard for considering effectiveness of
counsel and correctly determined revocation counsel
“reviewed the complaint to revoke probation with [Mr.
Reneau]”, “fulfilled his professional duty in the
identity theft case by explaining that the separate
misdemeanor was one basis on which probation could be
revoked”, and “had good reason at the time to
believe that admitting to the [probation] violation would
result in, at worst, a reinstatement of probation.”
(Id. at 15-17). Respondents assert “the
Supreme Court has not held that counsel renders deficient
performance by failing to advise on how to plead in a case in
which counsel is not even representing a defendant simply
because a conviction in the case might result in a probation
revocation in a case in which counsel is
representing the defendant.” (Id. at 16).
Reply, with regard to Claim 1(a), Mr. Reneau alleges
revocation counsel committed perjury during the
postconviction motion hearing. (Doc. # 32 at 4). More
specifically, he asserts it is inconsistent that revocation
counsel testified that he went over the bases for the motion
to revoke probation with him, yet never gave him a copy of
the motion. (Id.). Mr. Reneau alleges revocation
counsel owed him a duty to advise him as to whether he should
enter a guilty plea in the misdemeanor case. (Id. at
5). He claims he was “not guilty” of the
misdemeanor and would have requested trial by jury in that
matter. (Id. at 6).
Claim 1(b), Mr. Reneau alleges his guilty plea in the
misdemeanor case was not knowing and voluntary because the
court presiding over that matter did not inform him that it
could cause his probation to be revoked. (Id. at 7).
Further, he alleges the prosecution in the misdemeanor case
induced him to plead guilty by promising a certain sentence.
(Id.). Thus, he claims revocation counsel should
have argued that the misdemeanor guilty plea should not
constitute a probation violation because the plea agreement
was breached. (Id. at 7-8). He states he would not
have waived his right to counsel in the misdemeanor case had
he reviewed the motion to revoke probation beforehand.
(Id. at 10). He asserts that the sentencing court
unfairly relied on the presentence report to find him
dangerous. (Id. at 12). He alleges he has a medical
condition that affects his voice, and he did not say he
intended to kill Americans in Mexico but, instead, he
intended to deal cocaine to Americans in Mexico.
(Id.). He claims misconduct by the prosecution in
the misdemeanor case. (See Id. at 13).
STANDARD OF REVIEW
Court must construe Mr. Reneau's filings 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 be an advocate for a pro se
litigant. See Hall, 935 F.2d at 1110.
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
(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;
(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. Reneau bears the burden of
proof under § 2254(d). See Woodford v.
Visciotti, 537 U.S. 19, 25 (2002) (per curiam).
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, 829-30 (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
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 under §
2254(d)(1). See id. at 1018.
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
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.
House, 527 F.3d at 1018.
Court's inquiry pursuant to the “unreasonable
application” clause is objective. 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 ...