Searching over 5,500,000 cases.


searching
Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

Lenz v. Davis

United States District Court, W.D. Texas, San Antonio Division

May 22, 2017

KENNETH LEE LENZ, TDCJ No. 02061901, Petitioner,
v.
LORIE DAVIS, Director, Texas Department of Criminal Justice, Correctional Institutions Division, Respondent.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

          David Alan Ezra, Senior United States Distict Judge

         Before the Court are Petitioner Kenneth Lenz's Petition for Writ of Habeas Corpus pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254 (Docket Entry “DE” 1) and the Respondent's Answer (DE 11). Although Petitioner requested, and received, an extension of time to file a reply, no such pleading was filed. This case is thus ripe for review.

         In December 2016, Petitioner pleaded guilty to manufacture/delivery of a controlled substance (enhanced) and was sentenced to twelve years of imprisonment pursuant to a plea agreement. He now challenges the constitutionality of his state court conviction and sentence, arguing (1) his counsel was ineffective for failing to ensure the State abided by the terms of the plea offer he agreed to-namely, that he would plead guilty only to possession of a controlled substance with no enhancements; (2) the State breached the plea agreement; and (3) his sentence is therefore illegal. Having reviewed the record and pleadings submitted by both parties, the Court concludes Petitioner is not entitled to relief under the standards prescribed by the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996 (AEDPA). See 28 U.S.C. § 2254(d).

         I. Background

         In September 2014, Petitioner was indicted in Guadalupe County, Texas, on two counts: (1) possession of a chemical precursor with intent to manufacture a controlled substance (Methamphetamine), and (2) possession with intent to deliver a controlled substance (same) in an amount of one gram or more but less than four grams. (DE 10-4 at 30-31). The indictment also contained a repeat offender enhancement showing Petitioner had previously been convicted of the felony offense of possession of a controlled substance in an amount greater than four grams but less than two-hundred grams. Petitioner pleaded guilty and was sentenced to twelve years' imprisonment pursuant to the terms of the plea bargain agreement. State v. Lenz, No. 14-1922-CR-B (274th Dist. Ct., Guadalupe Cnty., Tex. Dec. 16, 2015).

         Petitioner did not appeal his conviction and sentence because he waived his right to appeal when he pleaded guilty. (DE 10-4 at 128, 131). Instead, he filed a state habeas corpus application on August 2, 2016, raising the same allegations that are now being presented to this Court. On September 28, 2016, the state habeas application was denied without written order by the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals. Ex parte Lenz, No. 85, 679-01 (Tex. Crim. App.). (DE 10-1). The instant federal habeas petition was placed in the prison mail system on December 10, 2016, and file-marked on December 12, 2016.

         II. Standards of Review

         A. Review of State Court Adjudications

         Lenz's federal petition is governed by the heightened standard of review provided by the AEDPA. 28 U.S.C.A. § 2254. Under § 2254(d), a petitioner may not obtain federal habeas corpus relief on any claim that was adjudicated on the merits in state court proceedings, unless the adjudication of that claim either: (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. Brown v. Payton, 544 U.S. 133, 141 (2005). This intentionally difficult standard stops just short of imposing a complete bar on federal court relitigation of claims already rejected in state proceedings. Harrington v. Richter, 562 U.S. 86, 102 (2011) (citing Felker v. Turpin, 518 U.S. 651, 664 (1996)).

         A federal habeas court's inquiry into unreasonableness should always be objective rather than subjective, with a focus on whether the state court's application of clearly established federal law was “objectively unreasonable” and not whether it was incorrect or erroneous. McDaniel v. Brown, 558 U.S. 120 (2010); Wiggins v. Smith, 539 U.S. 510, 520-21 (2003). Even a strong case for relief does not mean the state court's contrary conclusion was unreasonable, regardless of whether the federal habeas court would have reached a different conclusion itself. Richter, 562 U.S. at 102. Instead, a petitioner must show that the decision was objectively unreasonable, which is a “substantially higher threshold.” Schriro v. Landrigan, 550 U.S. 465, 473 (2007); Lockyer v. Andrade, 538 U.S. 63, 75-76 (2003). So long as “fairminded jurists could disagree” on the correctness of the state court's decision, a state court's determination that a claim lacks merit precludes federal habeas relief. Richter, 562 U.S. at 101 (citing Yarborough v. Alvarado, 541 U.S. 652, 664 (2004)). In other words, to obtain federal habeas relief on a claim previously adjudicated on the merits in state court, Lenz must show that the state court's ruling “was so lacking in justification that there was an error well understood and comprehended in existing law beyond any possibility for fairminded disagreement.” Id. at 103; see also Bobby v. Dixon, 565 U.S. 23, 24 (2011).

         Furthermore, except for the narrow exceptions contained in § 2254(e)(2), a habeas petitioner is precluded from further factual development in federal court and must rely on the evidence presented to the state court when challenging a state court finding. Cullen v. Pinholster, 563 U.S. 170, 181-82 (2011). Reasoning that “[i]t would be strange to ask federal courts to analyze whether a state court's adjudication resulted in a decision that unreasonably applied federal law to facts not before the state court, ” Pinholster explicitly held that “[i]f a claim has been adjudicated on the merits by a state court, a federal habeas petitioner must overcome the limitation of § 2254(d)(1) on the record that was before that state court.” Id. Thus, “evidence introduced in federal court has no bearing on § 2254(d)(1) review” and this Court's review “is limited to the record in existence at the time [of the state court decision], i.e., the record before the state court.” Id.

         B. Review of Sixth Amendment Claims

         The Court reviews Sixth Amendment claims concerning the alleged ineffective assistance of trial counsel (IATC claims) under the familiar two-prong test established in Strickland v. Washington, 466 U.S. 668 (1984). Under Strickland, a petitioner cannot establish a violation of his Sixth Amendment right to counsel unless he demonstrates (1) counsel's performance was deficient and (2) this deficiency prejudiced his defense. 466 U.S. at 687-88, 690. According to the Supreme Court, “[s]urmounting Strickland's high bar is never an easy task.” Padilla v. Kentucky, 559 U.S. 356, 371 (2010).

         In determining whether counsel performed deficiently, courts “must be highly deferential” to counsel's conduct, and a petitioner must show that counsel's performance fell beyond the bounds of prevailing objective professional standards. Id. at 687-89. Counsel is “strongly presumed to have rendered adequate assistance and made all significant decisions in the exercise of reasonable professional judgment.” Burt v. Titlow, 134 S.Ct. 10, 17 (2013) (quoting Strickland, 466 U.S. at 690). “A conscious and informed decision on trial tactics and strategy cannot be the basis for constitutionally ineffective assistance of counsel unless it is so ill chosen that it permeates the entire trial with obvious unfairness.” Cotton v. Cockrell, 343 F.3d 746, 752-53 (5th Cir. 2003). As the Supreme Court explained, “[j]ust as there is no expectation that competent counsel will be a flawless strategist or tactician, an attorney may not be faulted for a reasonable miscalculation or lack of foresight or for failing to prepare for what appear to be remote possibilities.” Richter, 562 U.S. at 110. For this reason, every effort must be made to eliminate the “distorting effects of hindsight.” Strickland, 466 U.S. at 689; Yarborough v. Gentry, 540 U.S. 1, 6 (2003) (“The Sixth Amendment guarantees ...


Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.