United States District Court, D. Colorado
MARK A. ESQUIBEL, Applicant,
SIOBAHN BURTLOW, and THE ATTORNEY GENERAL OF THE STATE OF COLORADO, Respondents.
ORDER ON APPLICATION FOR WRIT OF HABEAS
BROOKE JACKSON, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
Mark A. Esquibel, has filed, pro se, a second
amended Application for a Writ of Habeas Corpus Pursuant to
28 U.S.C. § 2254 (Doc. No. 8) challenging the validity
of his criminal conviction in the District Court of Arapahoe
County, Colorado. Having considered the Respondents'
Answer (Doc. No. 29) and the state court record, the Court
will deny the second amended Application.
Factual and Procedural Background
2010, Mr. Esquibel was convicted by a jury of aggravated
motor vehicle theft, criminal mischief, and reckless driving.
(Doc. No. 15-1 at 22; No. 15-2 at 2). He was adjudicated a
habitual offender and sentenced to an aggregate prison term
of 24 years. (Doc. No. 15-1 at 20; Doc. No. 15-2 at 2). The
Colorado Court of Appeals affirmed Mr. Esquibel's
convictions in People v. Mark Anthony Esquibel, No.
11CA0411 (Colo.App. Jan. 10, 2013) (unpublished) (Doc. No.
15-2). Mr. Esquibel's petition for certiorari review was
denied by the Colorado Supreme Court on September 16, 2013.
(Doc. No. 15-4).
Esquibel filed a motion for post-conviction relief pursuant
to Colo. Crim. P. Rule 35(c) on February 12, 2014. (Doc. No.
15-1 at 18). The motion was denied on January 1, 2018,
following an evidentiary hearing. (Doc. No. 15-1 at 17). The
Colorado Court of Appeals affirmed the district court's
order in People v. Mark Anthony Esquibel, No.
17CA0380 (Colo.App. Dec. 20, 2018) (unpublished). (Doc. No.
15-3). Mr. Esquibel did not seek certiorari review in the
Colorado Supreme Court.
Esquibel initiated this § 2254 proceeding on March 4,
2019. He filed a second amended application on April 10,
2019, asserting the following claims for relief:
(1) The trial court violated Mr. Esquibel's Fourth
Amendment rights when the court failed to order the
suppression of a key found near him at the time of his
arrest. (ECF No. 8 at 7).
(2) Post-conviction counsel was constitutionally ineffective
in connection with the post-conviction evidentiary hearing.
(Id. at 11).
(3) Mr. Esquibel's 24-year sentence violates the Eighth
Amendment's prohibition against cruel and unusual
punishment. (Id. at 15).
(4) Mr. Esquibel was denied a fair trial when the trial court
allowed the admission of the following highly prejudicial and
irrelevant evidence: (a) a police officer's testimony
about his encounter with Mr. Esquibel, which omitted the
information that the encounter resulted in an arrest which
was later deemed illegal; (b) testimony from Mr.
Esquibel's former employer that Mr. Esquibel stopped
working for him when he “went to jail”; and, (c)
testimony about a recorded jailhouse conversation in which
Mr. Esquibel suggested manufacturing an alibi. (Id.
Pre-Answer Response, Respondents conceded that this action is
timely under 28 U.S.C. § 2244(d)(1) and that Mr.
Esquibel exhausted available state court remedies for claims
3 and 4(c). (Doc. No. 15 at 4, 14). Respondents argued,
however, that claim 2 failed to state a basis for federal
habeas corpus relief, see Id. at 3, and that claims
1, 4(a) and 4(b) were procedurally defaulted, id. at
August 14, 2019 Order to Dismiss in Part, the Court dismissed
claims 1, 2, 4(a) and 4(b) and directed Respondents to answer
the merits of claims 3 and 4(c). (Doc. No. 26).
Court addresses claims 3 and 4(c) below.
Applicable Legal Standards
28 U.S.C. ' 2254
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). The applicant 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, 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 Arefers 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.
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
, 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.
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
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' 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]
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]
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
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.
Harrington, 562 U.S. at 102.
under' 2254(d)(1) is limited to the record that was
before the state court that adjudicated the claim on the
merits.” Cul ...