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Jones v. Archuleta

United States District Court, D. Colorado

April 26, 2018

BERNARD JONES, Applicant,
v.
LOU ARCHULETA, Warden, and THE ATTORNEY GENERAL OF THE STATE OF COLORADO, Respondents.

          ORDER ON APPLICATION FOR WRIT OF HABEAS CORPUS

          PHILIP A. BRIMMER United States District Judge

         Order Applicant Bernard Jones is a prisoner in the custody of the Colorado Department of Corrections. Mr. Jones has filed pro se on December 12, 2016 an Application for a Writ of Habeas Corpus Pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254 (“the Application”) [Docket No. 1]. Mr. Jones is challenging the validity of his conviction and sentence in the District Court for El Paso County, Colorado, Case Number 97CR873. On August 28, 2017, Respondents filed an Answer (“the Answer”) [Docket No. 33]. On February 5, 2018, Mr. Jones filed a Reply Brief (“the Traverse”) [Docket No. 47].

         Mr. Jones also has filed a Motion for Discovery and Evidentiary Hearing [Docket No. 45] with a supporting memorandum of law, a Motion for Appointment of Counsel [Docket No. 44], and a motion [Docket No. 51] seeking leave to proceed in forma pauperis in connection with the motion for appointment of counsel. The Motion for Discovery and Evidentiary Hearing is relevant to claim 3(b) and will be denied for the reasons discussed below in connection with that claim. The motions for appointment of counsel and for leave to proceed in forma pauperis also will be denied.

         After reviewing the record, including the Application, the Answer, the Traverse, and the state court record, the Court concludes Mr. Jones is not entitled to relief on his remaining claims.

         I. BACKGROUND

         The relevant factual and procedural background, which is lengthy and convoluted, was summarized by the Colorado Court of Appeals as follows:

A jury convicted Jones of first degree sexual assault and possession with intent to distribute a controlled substance. The trial court found that Jones was a habitual offender and sentenced him to sixty-four years in prison on the sexual assault conviction and ninety-six years in prison on the controlled substance conviction. Jones's convictions were affirmed on direct appeal. People v. Jones, (Colo.App. No. 98CA0146, Jan. 13, 2000) (not published pursuant to C.A.R. 35(f)).
Jones then filed a pro se Crim. P. 35(c) motion alleging ineffective assistance of trial counsel. The trial court summarily denied the motion. Jones appealed, and a division of this court remanded the case for an evidentiary hearing on the ineffective assistance of trial counsel related to three issues: (1) evidence of the victim's gang affiliation; (2) the use of the victim's juvenile adjudication to show motive or bias; and (3) the testing of Jones's dental moldings. People v. Jones, (Colo.App. No. 01CA1118, Apr. 17, 2003) (not published pursuant to C.A.R. 35(f)).
In 2006, the trial court held an evidentiary hearing, which was later reconvened and completed in 2012. On the date of the final hearing, Jones filed a supplemental Crim. P. 35(c) motion based on alleged newly discovered evidence. In a detailed and well-reasoned order, the trial court denied the Rule 35(c) motions and declined to hear evidence on the supplemental motion.

Docket No. 10-12 at 2-3.

         Mr. Jones contends he and the victim had consensual sex and denies any intent to distribute a controlled substance. He asserts the following claims: ineffective assistance of trial counsel by failing to obtain and present evidence of the victim's gang affiliation (claim 1); ineffective assistance of trial counsel by failing to present evidence of the victim's juvenile adjudication (claim 2); the trial court erred during postconviction proceedings by not considering expert testimony regarding newly discovered evidence that a bite mark on the victim was inconsistent with defendant's dentition (claim 3(a)) and trial counsel were ineffective by failing to have the bite mark tested (claim 3(b)); trial counsel labored under a conflict of interest (claim 4); ineffective assistance of trial counsel by failing to challenge the validity of Mr. Jones' prior convictions (claim 5); and vindictive prosecution by punishing Mr. Jones for exercising his constitutional rights (claim 6). Facts pertinent to each claim are set forth below.

         The Court previously entered an Order [Docket No. 28] dismissing claim 3(a) and the portion of claim 5 in which Mr. Jones seeks to directly challenge the validity of his prior convictions.

         II. STANDARD OF REVIEW

         The Court must construe the Application and other papers filed by Mr. Jones 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.

         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. Jones 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. See Harrington v. Richter, 562 U.S. 86, 98-99 (2011). In particular, “determining whether a state court's decision resulted from an unreasonable legal or factual conclusion does not require that there be an opinion from the state court explaining the state court's reasoning.” Id. at 98. 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 99. Even “[w]here a state court's decision is unaccompanied by an explanation, the habeas petitioner's burden still must be met by showing there was no reasonable basis for the state court to deny relief.” Id. at 98. 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.

         The threshold question the Court must answer under § 2254(d)(1) is whether Mr. Jones 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.

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. Furthermore,

[E]valuating 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, 562 U.S. at 101 (internal quotation marks and citation 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. at 102. 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, 563 U.S. 170, 181 (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, 562 U.S. at 102 (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, 562 U.S. at 103.

         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 presumes the state court's factual determinations are correct and Mr. Jones bears the burden of rebutting the presumption by clear and convincing evidence. The presumption of correctness applies to factual findings of the trial court as well as state appellate courts. See Al-Yousif v. Trani, 779 F.3d 1173, 1181 (10th Cir. 2015). The presumption of correctness also applies to implicit factual findings. See Ellis v. Raemisch, 872 F.3d 1064, 1071 n.2 (10th Cir. 2017). “The standard is demanding but not ...


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