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Carpenter v. Davis

United States District Court, N.D. Texas, Dallas Division

May 12, 2017

LORIE DAVIS, Director, Texas Department of Criminal Justice, Correctional Institutions Division, Respondent.



         Pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(b) and Special Order No. 3, Petitioner David Lynn Carpenter's section 2254 petition was automatically referred for findings, conclusions, and recommendation.

         On April 15, 2004, the Court granted an unopposed motion to stay these proceedings to allow exhaustion of his claim regarding newly discovered evidence that the co-defendant had confessed to the murder and exculpated Carpenter. On October 25, 2010, the Court stayed these proceedings to allow the exhaustion of a claim that he was denied due process when the prosecutor withheld exculpatory evidence at trial. On March 6, 2014, the Court stayed these proceedings in light of Martinez v. Ryan, 566 U.S. 1 (2012), and Trevino v. Thaler, 133 S.Ct. 1911 (2013), to allow Carpenter to exhaust claims of ineffective assistance of trial counsel in the state court that had not previously been presented due to the alleged ineffective assistance of Carpenter's state habeas counsel. Each time the case was stayed to permit exhaustion, the state court refused to consider the claims, finding them to be procedurally barred by the state abuse-of-the-writ rule. Because of the importance of determining whether certain claims come within an exception to procedural bar, the Court now concludes that an evidentiary hearing is warranted.


         Petitioner David Lynn Carpenter (“Carpenter”) was convicted of and sentenced to death in 1999 for the murder for hire of Nelda Henin in Dallas, Texas, on August 28, 1991. He claims that the prosecution failed to disclose evidence that state's witness Mandee McBay Cloud was suffering from severe mental problems and was under the influence of psychotropic medication (i.e. Zoloft) during the trial in violation of Brady v. Maryland, 373 U.S. 83, 86-87 (1963). (3rd Am. Pet. at 140-56.) The Court previously determined that this claim was potentially meritorious in that evidence indicated that the witness's psychiatric medication affected her memory and that these memory problems existed during the time of the trial. (Order granting stay, doc. 94, at 3 (citing Report and Recommendation at 5).) The evidence was also material in that identity was a contested issue and the only other identifying witnesses were the co-conspirator in the murder and an eyewitness who briefly saw someone she did not know driving a car from the scene. Since the evidence had been withheld by the prosecution, the Court also found good cause for Carpenter to have not raised it earlier. (Order granting stay at 2.)

         Carpenter also presents claims of ineffective assistance of trial counsel that were not presented to the state court in the original state collateral review due to the alleged ineffective assistance of his state habeas counsel. These claims assert that trial counsel provided ineffective assistance in failing to investigate and present (1) evidence that Matthew Tolbert actually murdered the victim (3rd Am. Pet. at 46-55), (2) evidence that the eyewitness identification procedure used to inculpate Carpenter was impermissibly suggestive (3rd Am. Pet. at 77-86), (3) evidence that was mitigating and that Carpenter posed no future danger (3rd Am. Pet. at 171-76), and (4) evidence that Mandee McBay Cloud was his common law wife and thus privileged from testifying at the trial (3rd Am. Pet. at 92-106). The Court previously determined that because it was “not entirely clear” that Texas' subsequent-application bar would prohibit consideration of these claims, the Texas courts should make that determination in the first instance. (Order Recommending Abatement at 5 (citing Wilder v. Cockrell, 274 F.3d 255, 262-63 (5th Cir. 2001).)


         Texas law precludes successive habeas claims except in narrow circumstances. See Tex. Code Crim. Proc. Ann. art. 11.071, § 5 (West 2015). This is a codification of the judicially created Texas abuse-of-the-writ doctrine. See Barrientes v. Johnson, 221 F.3d 741, 759 n.10 (5th Cir. 2000). Under this state law, a habeas petitioner is procedurally barred from returning to the Texas courts to exhaust his claims unless the petitioner presents a factual or legal basis for a claim that was previously unavailable or shows that, but for a violation of the United States Constitution, no rational juror would have found for the State. See Id. at 758 n.9. It is an independent and adequate state law ground to bar federal habeas review. Hughes v. Quarterman, 530 F.3d 336, 342 (5th Cir. 2008); Canales, 765 F.3d at 566. Therefore, unexhausted claims that fail to meet these state law requirements are procedurally barred from review on the merits in this Court unless an exception is shown. See Beazley v. Johnson, 242 F.3d 248, 264 (5th Cir. 2001).

         While these proceedings were stayed for exhaustion, the Texas courts found that Carpenter's claims are barred by the Texas abuse-of-the-writ rule and did not reach the merits of his claims. As a result, this Court cannot reach the merits of any claim that Carpenter does not prove comes within a recognized exception to procedural bar. See Sawyer v. Whitley, 505 U.S. 333, 338 (1992); Coleman v. Thompson, 501 U.S. 722, 729 (1991), modified by Martinez v. Ryan, 566 U.S. at 9. However, for any claim that is shown to come within an exception, this Court must consider the claim de novo without deference to the state court adjudication. See Miller v. Johnson, 200 F.3d 274, 281 n.4 (5th Cir.2000) (“Review is de novo when there has been no clear adjudication on the merits.” (citing Nobles v. Johnson, 127 F.3d 409, 416 (5th Cir.1997))); Mercadel v. Cain, 179 F.3d 271, 275 (5th Cir.1999) (“the AEDPA deference scheme outlined in 28 U.S.C. § 2254(d) does not apply” to claims not adjudicated on the merits by the state court); Woodfox v. Cain, 609 F.3d 774, 794 (5th Cir. 2010) (the AEDPA deferential standard of review would not apply to a procedural decision of the state court). Because both the claims Carpenter raises and the cause and prejudice asserted to excuse the procedural bar of such claims depend on the resolution of disputed facts, an evidentiary hearing is warranted.


         Even if the limitation to permitting an evidentiary hearing under § 2254(e)(2) applies to the consideration of the merits of a habeas claim, the court nevertheless must make the threshold procedural determination of whether the exception to the procedural bar applies and receive the evidence necessary to make that determination. See House v. Bell, 547 U.S. 518, 537 (2006) (noting that an evidentiary hearing was conducted by the district court on an exception to procedural bar); Schlup v. Delo, 513 U.S. 298, 331 (1995) (discussing standards for the district court to determine whether to hold an evidentiary hearing on exception); Dickens v. Ryan, 740 F.3d 1302, 1321 (9th Cir. Jan. 23, 2014) (en banc) (“Section 2254(e)(2), however, does not bar a hearing before the district court to allow a petitioner to show ‘cause' under Martinez.); Detrich v. Ryan, 740 F.3d 1237, 1246 (9th Cir. Sept. 3, 2013) (en banc) (“district court should allow discovery and hold an evidentiary hearing where appropriate to determine whether there was ‘cause' under Martinez for the state-court procedural default and to determine, if the default is excused, whether there has been trial-counsel IAC.”).

         In Martinez v. Ryan, the Supreme Court created a new exception to procedural bar for claims of ineffective assistance of trial counsel.

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.

132 S.Ct. at 1320. Because counsel was appointed to represent him in the state habeas proceedings, Carpenter must show that his habeas counsel was ineffective under the standards of Strickland v. Washington,466 U.S. 668 (1984), in order to come within this new exception. SeeMartinez, 132 S.Ct. at 1318. Further, Carpenter must also show “that the underlying ineffective- assistance-of-trial-counsel claim is a substantial one, which is to say that the prisoner must demonstrate that the claim has some merit.” Id. at 1318-19 (citing Miller-El v. Cockrell,537 U.S. 322 (2003) (describing standards for certificates of appealability to issue)). These standards did not exist when Carpenter filed his original petition for federal habeas relief. Thus, the Court concludes that Carpenter should be afforded an opportunity to prove ...

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