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Rosales v. Raemisch

United States District Court, D. Colorado

January 22, 2019

JORGE J. ROSALES, Applicant,


          William J. Martinez United States District Judge.

         This matter is before the Court on the Application for a Writ of Habeas Corpus Pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254 (ECF No. 1)[1] (“Application”) filed pro se by Applicant Jorge J. Rosales. Applicant challenges a conviction imposed in the District Court for Boulder County, Colorado, No. 2015CR52. Respondents filed an Answer (ECF No. 13). Applicant filed a Reply (ECF No. 14). After reviewing the record before the Court, including the Application, Answer, Reply, and the state court record, the Court FINDS and CONCLUDES that the Application should be denied and the case dismissed with prejudice.


         The Colorado Court of Appeals described the relevant factual and procedural background of No. 2015CR52 as follows:

Defendant, Jorge Jovani Rosales, was convicted of second degree kidnapping, aggravated robbery, menacing, and third degree assault for his role in the robbery of his supervisor. Rosales and his accomplice told their supervisor that they would drive him to see a truck he intended to purchase with cash. Once inside the car, they locked the doors, and Rosales held the victim at gunpoint as his accomplice drove to a remote location. There, Rosales dragged the victim from the car; the two men beat him; and, while Rosales held a gun to the victim's head, the accomplice took the cash from the victim's pocket.

(ECF No. 9-3 at 2). In the direct appeal, Applicant argued “the evidence was insufficient to support his convictions for kidnapping and robbery” as a principal, and no complicity jury instruction was tendered, thus his convictions should be reversed. (Id.). The Colorado Court of Appeals affirmed the convictions based on Applicant's role as a principal. (Id. at 9). Respondents contend that the conviction became final on September 16, 2018. (ECF No. 9 at 4).

         Applicant commenced this § 2254 proceeding on September 10, 2018. (ECF No. 1). He alleges his due process rights were violated because no complicity jury instruction was given and the prosecution failed to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that Applicant “knowingly seized and carried the victim (Mr. Cheek) from one place to another and/or knowingly took anything from victim.” (Id. at 5, 7). He requests “relief from his unlawful convictions.” (Id. at 7).

         In the Answer, Respondents argue that § 2254(d) bars federal habeas corpus relief. (ECF No. 13 at 13). They contend “there was a significant amount of evidence presented at trial showing Applicant was guilty of the charged crimes as a principal, ” and the Colorado Court of Appeals' factual determinations were supported by the record and not unreasonable. (Id. at 13-14).

         In the Reply, Applicant does not address the merits of his claim. (ECF No. 14). Instead, he requests appointment of counsel “if an evidentiary hearing is warranted.” (Id. at 3). He attached a copy of his Reply Brief from the direct appeal. (Id. at 7-19).


         The Court must construe Applicant'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.

         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). 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, 829-30 (10th Cir. 2003). The threshold question the Court must answer under § 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). 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 under § 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 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 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.

Harrington v. Richter, 562 U.S. 86, 101 (2011) (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 alsoRichter, 562 U.S. at 102 (stating ‚Äúthat even a strong case for relief does not ...

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