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Bruton v. Director, TDCJ-CID

United States District Court, E.D. Texas, Sherman Division

April 13, 2017

PETER CAIN BRUTON #01730014
v.
DIRECTOR, TDCJ-CID

          ORDER OF DISMISSAL

          AMOS L. MAZZANT UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         The above-entitled and numbered civil action was referred to United States Magistrate Judge Christine A. Nowak. The Report and Recommendation of the Magistrate Judge (“the Report”) (Dkt. 13), which contains proposed findings of fact and recommendations for the disposition of such action, has been presented for consideration. The Report recommends that the Court deny Bruton's Petition for a Writ of Habeas Corpus pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254 (Dkt. 1), dismiss the case with prejudice, and deny a certificate of appealability. Bruton has filed written Objections (Dkt. 14). Having made a de novo review of the Objections, the Court concludes that the findings and conclusions of the Magistrate Judge are correct and adopts the same as the findings and conclusions of the Court.

         I. BACKGROUND

         Bruton was indicted and subsequently convicted of aggravated sexual assault of a child and indecency with a child by sexual contact, pursuant to Texas law. Prior to trial, his lawyer made a motion in limine intended to restrict the discussion of unindicted wrongful conduct in the jury's presence. The defense motion in limine requested, inter alia, that the trial court:

[ ]hold a hearing outside the presence of the jury and instruct the Attorney for the State not to mention or allude to the following without said hearing:

         I.

Any extraneous offenses, crimes, wrongs or acts that the Defendant is alleged to have engaged in either as a principal or a party, including but not limited to those identified by the State in any response pursuant to Texas Rule of Evidence 404(b) or Tex. Code of Crim. Proc. Art. 37.07[.]

         II.

Any prior convictions, if any, of the Defendant if the State intends to introduce them either at the punishment phase [or for] impeachment purposes.

         III.

Any additional unindicted offenses involving the Defendant, if any, in this case.

Dkt. 10-1 at 121-22. As the Magistrate Judge observed in her Report:

[T]he trial court considered the parties' arguments on the motion [in limine]. The prosecutor indicated that “there [would] be a good number of extraneous offenses involving the victim.” Dkt. 10-22 at 8. He further informed the court that “[t]here's other victims that we have evidence of, but we would certainly approach before we mentioned that in any way, so I have no objection to a motion in limine as to other victims. But we do intend on getting other instances of sexual abuse with this victim that is not mentioned in the indictment.” Id. (emphasis added). Defense counsel argued that the State should be required to obtain an admissibility ruling outside the jury's presence before introducing unindicted instances of sexual abuse with either the victim in the case or with any other alleged victim. Id. The trial court denied the defense motion in limine as to unindicted instances of sexual abuse with the victim in the case. See Id. However, the court granted the motion as to conduct with “any other person other than the victim in this case.” Id.

Dkt. 13 at 7-8.

         The case proceeded to trial and, during the State's closing argument in the guilt phase, the following exchange occurred:

[The prosecutor]: And it's crucial that you hold him accountable for his actions, because if you don't, you're putting other children at risk. You simply are. I know you don't want to hear that, but you are because of the way this man's mind works. If you let him get away with it, it's going to progress. He has proven that. When he got away with it before, it continued because no one stopped him. And if he's not held accountable, it's going to continue. He's going to feel bullet proof. He's going to know no one is going to believe these kids. I can do what I want. I can continue ...

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