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Quintana v. Trani

United States District Court, D. Colorado

March 25, 2019



          Philip A. Brimmer, Chief 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, filed pro se, by Angel Quintana. Docket No. 1. Having considered the Application, Respondents' Answer, Applicant's Traverse (“Reply”), and the state court record, the Court denies the Application for the reasons discussed below.


         Applicant was convicted by a jury in Denver District Court No. 04CR2291 of criminal attempt to commit reckless manslaughter, first degree assault, and two counts of second degree kidnapping with a deadly weapon. (State Court Record (“R.), Court File at 279-287).[1] The Colorado Court of Appeals summarized the evidence at Applicant's trial as follows:

After B.M. broke up with defendant at a local restaurant in Denver, B.M. and her sister, S.P. (the victims), drove to a different restaurant where they socialized with others in the restaurant's parking lot. B.M. was talking with T.S., a male friend of hers, in her car. T.S. was sitting in the driver's seat, and B.M. was crouched alongside him, “in the door jamb, ” showing him the televisions that were in the car. S.P. was in the passenger's seat of the car talking to another man. Shortly thereafter, B.M. saw defendant rapidly approaching, “yelling, cursing, ” and shooting at the car. Defendant shot approximately four bullets, one of which hit the window of the car door. T.S. jumped out of the car and ran away. As he was running away, defendant fired a shot in his direction, but T.S. was not hit.
Defendant grabbed B.M., threw her into the driver's seat, got into the backseat of the car, and told her to drive. Evidence was conflicting whether defendant ordered S.P. to get into the car or whether S.P. was already in the car then. In any event, S.P., who was in the passenger's seat, screamed at defendant, asking him what he was doing, and in response, defendant hit her in the mouth. B.M., having driven a few feet, put the car in park, and told S.P. to get out of the car. When B.M. attempted to exit the car, defendant shot her in the hip. B.M. tried to run, but she fell down because her leg was numb from the gunshot wound. As S.P. came around the car to see if B.M. was okay, defendant picked up B.M. and put her in the passenger's seat of the car. He then put S.P. in the backseat of the car.
Defendant drove the victims to a deserted field, put on gloves, and said that he had to kill B.M., because she had “f ***** up” and tried “to play him, ” meaning that she had “made him feel stupid.” However, defendant had no more bullets. B.M. said she was sorry and asked him to take her to the hospital. Defendant refused and instead took the victims to his mother's house where B.M. began “shaking really bad” and begged defendant to take her to the hospital. Eventually, defendant agreed to take B.M. to the hospital with the understanding that she would tell the police that she was shot in a drive-by shooting.
Initially, both victims told the police that B.M. had been shot in a drive-by shooting. However, in a second interview with the police, B.M. admitted that defendant shot her, but did not provide defendant's last name.
Defendant was charged with one count of criminal attempt to commit first degree murder against B.M., one count of first degree assault against B.M., and two counts of second degree kidnapping with a deadly weapon (one count against B.M. and one count against S.P.). After a trial, the jury found defendant not guilty of attempt to commit first degree murder, but guilty of the lesser included offense of criminal attempt to commit manslaughter. The jury also found defendant guilty of the remaining charges. Defendant was sentenced to a total of forty-eight years in the custody of the Department of Corrections.

Docket No. 12-3, at 2-4. See also R., Court File at 296-97.

         The Colorado Court of Appeals affirmed Applicant's convictions and sentence in People v. Quintana (Quintana I), No. 07CA1381 (Colo. Ct. App. Oct. 28, 2010) (unpublished)). Docket No. 12-3. On March 14, 2011, the Colorado Supreme Court denied Applicant's petition for certiorari review. Docket No. 12-5.

         On January 3, 2012, Applicant filed a motion for state post-conviction relief pursuant to Colo. Crim. P. Rule 35(c), which the state district court denied. The Colorado Court of Appeals affirmed in People v. Quintana (Quintana II), No. 12CA1926 (Colo. Ct. App. Sept. 4, 2014) (unpublished)). Docket No. 12-8. The Colorado Supreme Court denied Applicant's petition for certiorari review on April 20, 2015. Docket No. 12-10.

         On July 23, 2015, Applicant filed a § 2254 Application purporting to raise approximately 36 claims for relief. Docket No. 1. After reviewing the Respondents' Pre-Answer Response and Applicant's Reply, the Court issued an order on November 4, 2015 dismissing several claims as procedurally barred. Docket No. 19 at 12-19. The Court further concluded that the following claims of trial court error, which are asserted in the § 2254 Application, were properly exhausted in Applicant's direct appeal proceeding and were ripe for review on the merits:

(1) Applicant's federal and state statutory speedy trial rights were violated;
(2) the prosecution failed to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that Applicant committed second degree kidnapping against S.P.
(3) The trial court erred in entering inconsistent verdicts on both reckless and intentional mental states for the same act against the same victim.

Docket No. 19 at 12-13, 19; see also Quintana I, Docket No. 12-3.

         Although Applicant exhausted two additional claims in his direct appeal proceeding, he did not raise them in the § 2254 Application.[2] Respondents state in the Answer that they have not addressed the merits of claims that were exhausted in the Colorado appellate courts, but not asserted in the § 2254 Application. Docket No. 39 at 4 n.3. In the Reply, Applicant does not dispute Respondents' statement or contend that he meant to assert the omitted claims in his Application. See Docket No. 43 at 3, summarizing the claims raised by Applicant. Consequently, the Court's review of claims of trial court error is limited to the three claims identified above.

         The Court further concluded in the November 4 Order that the following Sixth Amendment claims asserted by Applicant were presented to the Colorado Court of Appeals in Applicant's first state post-conviction proceeding, and were properly exhausted in the state courts:

(4) Trial counsel was operating under a conflict of interest.
(5) Trial counsel was constitutionally ineffective in failing to:
(a) remove jurors who saw Applicant in restrictive custody;
(b) protect Applicant's right to a speedy trial;
(c) provide Applicant with discovery before trial;
(d) prepare for trial;
(e) make an opening statement;
(f) investigate the case;
(g) effectively cross-examine certain witnesses; (h) call witnesses favorable to the defense;
(i) file a notice of appeal;
(j) pursue an “innocence” defense.

Docket No. 19 at 13-14; Quintana II, Docket No. 12-8, at 3, 6-13.

         The Court also determined that Applicant presented other ineffective assistance claims that were not exhausted in the state courts and, therefore, were anticipatorily procedurally defaulted. Docket No. 19 at 4-5, 15-19. However, because Applicant was not represented by counsel in his state post-conviction proceeding, the Court deferred ruling on the claims pending a determination of whether there was cause for the procedural default under the standard articulated in Martinez v. Ryan, 566 U.S. 19 (2012). Id. at 17-18. In Martinez, the Supreme Court held:

Where, under state law, claims of ineffective assistance of trial counsel must be raised in an initial-review collateral proceeding, a procedural default will not bar a federal habeas court from hearing a substantial claim of ineffective assistance at trial if, in the initial-review collateral proceeding, there was no counsel or counsel in that proceeding was ineffective.

Id. at 17.

         Respondents were directed to file an Answer addressing the merits of the claims delineated above, and to address whether the procedurally defaulted ineffective assistance claims are substantial under Martinez. Id. at 19.

         Thereafter, Applicant filed a motion to stay the § 2254 Application so he could attempt to exhaust his unexhausted ineffective assistance claims in a second post-conviction motion he had filed in the state courts. Docket No. 21. On December 28, 2015, the Court issued an order staying the case pending the Colorado courts' determination of Applicant's second post-conviction motion. Docket No. 24. The Colorado Court of Appeals issued a decision affirming the state district court's denial of post-conviction relief on March 15, 2018. See People v. Angel Quintana (Quintana III), No. 16CA0469 (Colo.App. March 15, 2018) (unpublished) Docket No. 28-1. Applicant's petition for certiorari review was denied on September 17, 2018. Docket No. 34-1.

         On November 18, 2018, Respondents filed an Answer addressing the merits of the properly exhausted claims and the applicability of Martinez to the unexhausted claims. Docket No. 39. Applicant filed a Reply on January 11, 2019. Docket No. 43.


         A. 28 U.S.C. § 2254

         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). The applicant 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. 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 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 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 of the relevant state court decision. See Greene v. Fisher, 565 U.S. 34 (2011). 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 2018.

         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. 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.

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. 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, 562 U.S. at 101 (internal quotation marks 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.

         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 Harrington, 562 U.S. at 88 (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 ...

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