United States District Court, D. Colorado
ORDER ON AMENDED APPLICATION FOR WRIT OF HABEAS
A. BRIMMER CHIEF UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
Dean Carbajal, is a prisoner in the custody of the Colorado
Department of Corrections. Mr. Carbajal has filed pro
se on August 28, 2018 an Amended Application for a Writ
of Habeas Corpus Pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254 (the
“Amended Application”). Docket No. 9. Mr.
Carbajal is challenging the validity of his conviction and
sentence in the District Court for the City and County of
Denver, Colorado, Case Number 10CR3824. On May 17, 2019,
Respondents filed an Answer to Application for Writ of Habeas
Corpus (the “Answer”). Docket No. 40. On August
20, 2019, Mr. Carbajal filed Applicant Dean Carbajal's
Traverse to State's Answer (the “Traverse”).
Docket No. 63. On August 22, 2019, Mr. Carbajal filed a
Motion for Leave to Correct Petitioner's Traverse Via
Errata Sheet, Docket No. 64, asking the Court to consider
additional exhibits he intended to submit with the Traverse.
That motion will be granted.
reviewing the record, including the Amended Application, the
Answer, the Traverse, and the state court record, the Court
concludes Mr. Carbajal is not entitled to relief.
following background information is taken from the opinion of
the Colorado Court of Appeals on direct appeal.
The defendant, Dean Carbajal, and the victim dated for almost
a year before they broke up in early 2010. Soon after the
breakup, a court issued a protection order, prohibiting
Carbajal from contacting the victim. Yet, Carbajal followed
the victim for the next few months, showing up at her house
and workplace. One night, Carbajal went to the victim's
house and, according to her neighbors, was holding a knife,
threatening to kill himself. The victim's neighbor called
the police, who later found and arrested Carbajal.
A jury found Carbajal guilty of five counts of protection
order violation, five counts of violating bail bond
conditions, two counts of burglary, two counts of criminal
trespass, one count of kidnapping, and two counts of
harassment by stalking.
No. 21-5 at 2. Mr. Carbajal also was convicted on two
habitual criminal counts and he was sentenced to a total term
of 151.5 years in prison. The judgment of conviction was
affirmed on direct appeal. See id.
Carbajal asserts five claims in the Amended Application. He
contends in claim one that he was denied due process and that
his rights under the Fourth, Fifth, and Fourteenth Amendments
were violated because the Denver District Court lacked
subject matter jurisdiction over his case. In claim two, he
contends that admission of various out-of-court statements at
trial violated his confrontation rights under the Sixth
Amendment and the Colorado Constitution as well as his rights
to due process and a fair trial under the Fifth and
Fourteenth Amendments. In claim three, he contends he was
denied due process and a fair trial in violation of the Fifth
and Fourteenth Amendments because the trial judge was biased
against him. Mr. Carbajal contends in claim four that joinder
of the charges and denial of a severance violated his rights
to due process and a fair trial under the Fifth and
Fourteenth Amendments. Finally, he contends in claim five
that denial of his motion to compel a psychological
examination of the victim violated his rights to due process
and a fair trial under the Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments.
STANDARDS OF REVIEW
Court must construe the Amended Application and other papers
filed by Mr. Carbajal 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. Carbajal bears the burden of
proof under § 2254(d). See Woodford v.
Visciotti, 537 U.S. 19, 25 (2002) (per curiam).
Court's inquiry is straightforward “when the last
state court to decide a prisoner's federal claim explains
its decision on the merits in a reasoned opinion.”
Wilson v. Sellers, 138 S.Ct. 1188, 1192 (2018).
“In that case, a federal habeas court simply reviews
the specific reasons given by the state court and defers to
those reasons if they are reasonable.” Id.
When the last state court decision on the merits “does
not come accompanied with those reasons” or
“consist[s] of a one-word order, such as
‘affirmed' or ‘denied,' . . . the federal
court should ‘look through' the unexplained
decision to the last related state-court decision that does
provide a relevant rationale [and] presume that the
unexplained decision adopted the same reasoning.”
Id. The presumption may be rebutted “by
showing that the unexplained affirmance relied or most likely
did rely on different grounds than the lower state
court's decision, such as alternative grounds for
affirmance that were briefed or argued to the state supreme
court or obvious in the record it reviewed.”
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.
threshold question the Court must answer under §
2254(d)(1) is whether Mr. Carbajal 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 pursuant to §
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 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 “only if all fairminded
jurists would agree that the state court got it wrong.”
Stouffer v. Trammel, 738 F.3d 1205, 1221 (10th Cir.
2013) (internal quotation marks omitted). 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]
Richter, 562 U.S. at 101 (internal quotation marks
and citation omitted; alterations in original). 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).
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
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.
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. Carbajal 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 insatiable . . . [because]
‘[d]eference does not by definition preclude
relief.'” Miller-El v. Dretke, 545 U.S.
231, 240 (2005) (quoting Miller-El v. Cockrell, 537
U.S. 322, 340 (2003)).
the Court's analysis is not complete even if Mr. Carbajal
demonstrates the existence of a constitutional violation.
“Unless the error is a structural defect in the trial
that defies harmless-error analysis, [the Court] must apply
the harmless error standard of Brecht v. Abrahamson,
507 U.S. 619 (1993).” Bland v. Sirmons, 459
F.3d 999, 1009 (10th Cir. 2006); see also Davis v.
Ayala, 135 S.Ct. 2187, 2197 (2015) (“For reasons
of finality, comity, and federalism, habeas petitioners are
not entitled to habeas relief based on trial error unless
they can establish that it resulted in actual
prejudice.”) (internal quotation marks omitted);
Fry v. Pliler, 551 U.S. 112, 121-22 (2007)
(providing that a federal court must conduct harmless error
analysis under Brecht anytime it finds
constitutional error in a state court proceeding regardless
of whether the state court found error or conducted harmless
error review). Under Brecht, a constitutional error
does not warrant habeas relief unless the Court concludes it
“had substantial and injurious effect” on the
jury's verdict. Brecht, 507 U.S. at 637.
“A ‘substantial and injurious effect' exists
when the court finds itself in ‘grave doubt' about
the effect of the error on the jury's verdict.”
Bland, 459 F.3d at 1009 (citing O'Neal v.
McAninch, 513 U.S. 432, 435 (1995)). “Grave
doubt” exists when “the matter is so evenly
balanced that [the Court is] in virtual equipoise as to the
harmlessness of the error.” O'Neal, 513
U.S. at 435. The Court makes this harmless error
determination based upon a review of the entire state court
record. See Herrera v. Lemaster, 225 F.3d 1176, 1179
(10th Cir. 2000).
claim was not adjudicated on the merits in state court, and
if the claim also is not procedurally barred, the Court must
review the claim de novo and the deferential
standards of § 2254(d) do not apply. See Gipson v.
Jordan, 376 F.3d 1193, 1196 (10th Cir. 2004).
MERITS OF APPLICANT'S CLAIMS
Carbajal contends in claim one that he was denied due process
and that his rights under the Fourth, Fifth, and Fourteenth
Amendments were violated because the Denver District Court
lacked subject matter jurisdiction over his case. According
to Mr. Carbajal, the judgment of conviction in 10CR3824 is
void because charges were filed against him “in the
County Court in a mode not prescribed by Colorado law”
and he was reprosecuted for the “identical charges in
the District Court without a formal charging document.”
Docket No. 9 at 34. More specifically, Mr. Carbajal contends
the Denver County Court and the Denver District Court failed
to follow procedures set forth in Rules 5 and 7 of the
Colorado Rules of Criminal Procedure for binding a case over
from county court to district court. He also contends that
five other county court cases (10M10759, 10CR3823, 10CR3825,
10CR3859, and 10CR3875) improperly were consolidated into
case number 10CR3824. Mr. Carbajal argues that the failure to
comply with state law implicates his federal constitutional
right to due process because “the abusive and
oppressive prosecution against Mr. Carbajal rises to the
level of a fundamental defect which inherently has resulted
in a complete miscarriage of justice, which is inconsistent
with the rudimentary demands of fair process.” Docket
No. 9 at 53-54.
Colorado Court of Appeals reasoned as follows in rejecting
Mr. Carbajal's ...