United States District Court, S.D. Texas, Galveston Division
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
C. HANKER UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
petitioner, Darla Marie Sheffield (TDCJ #01769407), was
recently released from the custody of the Texas Department of
Criminal Justice - Correctional Institutions Division
("TDCJ") and is now in a halfway house (Dkt. 78).
Sheffield has filed a petition for a writ of habeas corpus
under 28 U.S.C. § 2254 challenging a state court
conviction. Respondent Lorie Davis has filed a motion for
summary judgment accompanied by the appropriate state-court
records (Dkt. 62-Dkt. 64). Sheffield has responded (Dkt. 72).
reviewing all of the pleadings, the record, and the
applicable law, the Court concludes that the Respondent is
entitled to summary judgment.
January 26, 2012, a Galveston County jury convicted Sheffield
of driving while intoxicated (Dkt. 62-2 at p. 21). Prior
convictions for driving while intoxicated elevated the charge
to a felony (Dkt. 62-1 at p. 6). See Tex. Penal Code
§§ 12.42(a), 49.09(b)(2). The jury also found that
Sheffield had used her car as a deadly weapon (Dkt. 62-2 at
p. 22). Sheffield received ten years in prison (Dkt. 62-2 at
DWI arrest was somewhat unusual in that it did not follow
either a conventional traffic stop or, thankfully, a car
crash; instead, it resulted from concerned citizens'
calls to 911 to report a car driving erratically on Seawall
Boulevard in Galveston ("Seawall") in the middle of
the day on February 4, 2011 (Dkt. 62-8 at pp. 11, 29-30, 99;
Dkt. 62-9 at p. 117). Sheffield, against the advice of her
counsel, took the stand and insisted that, while she was
drunk on the date of her arrest,  she did not drive (Dkt. 62-9
at pp. 144, 173, 180). Sheffield grounded that defense on the
fact-and it is an undisputed one-that no police officer ever
saw her behind the wheel. However, the State presented other
witnesses at trial who did, including one man who testified
that he was a passenger in her car until, frightened by her
driving, he made her pull over at a Wendy's on Seawall
and let him out. Sheffield was arrested next to her car
within sight of that Wendy's. The material testimony
offered by the State is summarized below.
acquaintance of Sheffield's, Benjamin Mills, testified
that he and Sheffield lived in the same boarding house in
Galveston on the date of Sheffield's arrest (Dkt. 62-7 at
pp. 19-20). That morning, Mills was sitting on the porch of
the boarding house when Sheffield walked up to him with a
beer in her hand (Dkt. 62-7 at p. 21). The two sat and talked
for a while, during which time Mills went to a nearby store
and got a beer of his own (Dkt. 62-7 at pp. 22, 31-32).
Sheffield then told Mills that she was going to the liquor
store and offered him a ride in her car, which he accepted
(Dkt. 62-7 at p. 22). Sheffield drove Mills to the liquor
store, where Sheffield bought "some kind of a liquor,
like whiskey" and began drinking it in the parking lot
(Dkt. 62-7 at pp. 23, 31). After drinking in the liquor store
parking lot for approximately ten or fifteen minutes,
Sheffield pulled onto Seawall heading west (Dkt. 62-7 at pp.
cruised west "like she was sightseeing" until Mills
began "trying to get [Sheffield] to take [him] back to
the house because [he] had to get ready to go to work"
(Dkt. 62-7 at pp. 24-25). Sheffield then turned around and
started driving back east on Seawall in a manner that was
"real fast" and "kind of
reckless"-running red lights and "swerving between
the lanes and, you know, like dodging cars and stuff (Dkt.
62-7 at pp. 25-27, 32). Because there were "quite a
few" cars on the road and he was afraid of getting into
a car wreck, Mills asked Sheffield to pull into a Wendy's
on Seawall so that he could get out (Dkt. 62-7 at pp. 26-28).
Sheffield pulled into the Wendy's parking lot going the
wrong way (meaning she entered through the parking lot's
exit lane) and "nicked" a car in the parking lot
(Dkt. 62-7 at pp. 34, 36). Mills got out of the car at
Wendy's, and Sheffield "drove and left" (Dkt.
62-7 at p. 27).
Edward testified that, on the day of Sheffield's arrest,
he turned onto Seawall from the parking lot of a Kroger
grocery store and began heading east (Dkt. 62-8 at pp. 6-7).
He pulled into the right lane, and when he looked in his
rear-view mirror he saw a gray Honda Passport "coming at
an enormous amount of speed" in the left lane (Dkt. 62-8
at pp. 7, 34). Edward veered off of Seawall into an adjacent
parallel parking lane "so the vehicle wouldn't
sideswipe [him] or run into [him]" (Dkt. 62-8 at p. 7).
While in the parking lane, Edward saw other cars ahead
swerving to avoid being hit by the same Passport, which
continued "traveling at a high rate of speed" down
Seawall until Edward quickly "lost sight of [it]"
(Dkt. 62-8 at pp. 10-11). Edward pulled out of the parking
lane and continued east down Seawall (Dkt. 62-8 at p. 10). He
caught up to the Passport while the Passport was sitting at a
red light, and he called 911 (Dkt. 62-8 at p. 11). When the
light turned green, the Passport began moving through the
intersection "at a slow rate of speed[, ]" drove
"about . . . halfway up the block, " and then
suddenly "just took off real fast [and] made a left turn
... in the Wendy's exit" (Dkt. 62-8 at p. 14).
on the phone with the 911 dispatcher, Edward "turned on
24th Street which runs parallel to the exit of
Wendy's" and stopped (Dkt. 62-8 at pp. 16-18). The
Passport entered the Wendy's drive-through lane going the
wrong way "pretty fast" and came "within
inches" of striking another car head-on, though the two
cars averted a serious collision because "[a]t the last
minute they both slammed on their brakes" (Dkt. 62-8 at
p. 16). The Wendy's drive-through customer got out of his
car, at which point the Passport "backed up and jumped
up on the curb" between the other car and the
Wendy's building to get around the other car (Dkt. 62-8
at p. 16). As the Passport went around the other car, the
driver of the other car had to "[take] a couple quick
steps to the back of his vehicle to the trunk part" to
avoid being struck by the Passport (Dkt. 62-8 at pp. 16-19).
The Passport then continued going the wrong way through the
Wendy's drive-through lane until it rounded the building
"and came out, you know, the entrance part" (Dkt.
62-8 at p. 19). Edward caught a glimpse of the driver; he
"noticed that it was a white-at that time [he] thought
it was a white guy, Caucasian guy" (Dkt. 62-8 at p. 20).
rounded the block and pulled back onto Seawall, again going
east (Dkt. 62-8 at pp. 20-21). The Passport was parked on
Seawall facing east, and Edward told the 911 dispatcher that
the car had pulled over (Dkt. 62-8 at p. 21). Edward drove
past the Passport, and when he did he saw a man walking up to
the Passport's passenger-side window (Dkt. 62-8 at pp.
21-22). The driver, whom Edward identified as Sheffield at
trial, was still in the Passport's driver's seat
(Dkt. 62-8 at pp. 22, 37, 40). Edward rounded another block
and came back down Seawall, this time headed west (Dkt. 62-8
at p. 22). He drove by the Passport again, and this time he
saw a police car behind the Passport and "three people
standing there, you know, on the Seawall, two people with a
patrol officer" (Dkt. 62-8 at p. 22). One of the two
people standing with the police officer was the driver,
Sheffield; the other appeared to Edward to be the man who had
approached the Passport's passenger-side window a few
moments before (Dkt. 62-8 at pp. 22-23, 40).
Wilkinson owned an air-conditioning and heating business and
was a former deputy sheriff who still held a license from the
Texas Commission on Law Enforcement (Dkt. 62-8 at pp. 51,
69). On the day of Sheffield's arrest, Wilkinson was in
Galveston for a conference and vacation with his wife and
another couple, and the four were in a pickup driven by
Wilkinson's friend (Dkt. 62-8 at pp. 52-53). The pickup
was stopped at a red light facing south, waiting to turn onto
Seawall (Dkt. 62-8 at p. 52). When the light turned green,
Wilkinson's friend began to enter the intersection; but
Wilkinson told his friend to stop the pickup because he saw
another vehicle traveling down Seawall "at a high rate
of speed" that looked like "it wasn't going to
stop" (Dkt. 62-8 at p. 52).
other vehicle did indeed run the red light, and
Wilkinson's friend turned left onto Seawall and followed
it (Dkt. 62-8 at p. 53). As his friend's pickup followed
the other vehicle down Seawall, Wilkinson observed that the
other vehicle "failed to maintain a single lane of
traffic multiple times, almost rear-ended several different
vehicles[, and] would stop at a green light and run the red
lights, or attempt to run-slide through the red lights"
(Dkt. 62-8 at p. 53). The other vehicle then made a left turn
into a Wendy's parking lot when it did not have the right
of way, forcing "oncoming traffic [to] come to a
complete stop" (Dkt. 62-8 at p. 54). When the car
entered the Wendy's parking lot, Wilkinson saw a
passenger get out (Dkt. 62-8 at pp. 54, 58). Wilkinson told
his friend to pull over on Seawall, and Wilkinson got out of
the pickup so that he could try to flag the other car down
(Dkt. 62-8 at pp. 58-59).
other vehicle pulled out of the Wendy's parking lot back
onto Seawall, Wilkinson flagged it down, and it pulled over
on Seawall facing east (Dkt. 62-8 at pp. 59-60). The driver,
whom Wilkinson identified as Sheffield at trial, rolled the
windows down, and Wilkinson walked up to the passenger-side
window and asked Sheffield for her keys (Dkt. 62-8 at pp. 60,
63). At first, the keys would not come out of the ignition
because the vehicle was still in drive, and Wilkinson had to
tell Sheffield to put her vehicle in park (Dkt. 62-8 at pp.
60-61). After getting the vehicle into park, Sheffield gave
Wilkinson her keys but immediately asked him to give them
back (Dkt. 62-8 at p. 61). When Wilkinson refused to return
the keys and instead put them in his pocket, Sheffield got
out of her car and began yelling at him and striking him
(Dkt. 62-8 at pp. 61-62). Police officers arrived
"[v]ery quickly" after Sheffield began trying to
get her keys back (Dkt. 62-8 at p. 62).
Franco was a patrol officer for the Galveston Police
Department (Dkt. 62-8 at p. 98). He arrested Sheffield on
suspicion of driving while intoxicated after responding to a
call "in reference to a reckless driver that had struck
several vehicles" at a Wendy's on Seawall (Dkt. 62-8
at p. 99). After getting the call, Franco drove south down a
street that intersected Seawall near the Wendy's (Dkt.
62-8 at p. 99). When he got to the intersection with Seawall,
he saw a gray Honda Passport parked in a no-parking zone
"in the middle of the intersection" and
"observed a female approaching a male" (Dkt. 62-8
at pp. 99-101, 106). Franco got out of his patrol car, and
the man (whom Franco later identified as Wilkinson) gave him
a set of car keys that he had gotten from the woman (Dkt.
62-8 at pp. 103-04; Dkt. 62-9 at pp. 13-14). Franco noted
that the woman showed numerous signs of intoxication,
including a strong odor of alcohol on her breath; red,
bloodshot, glassy eyes; a blank, glazed look on her face;
slurred speech; a loud tone of voice; an argumentative
demeanor; and the inability to stand without swaying or walk
without staggering (Dkt. 62-9 at p. 9). The woman also
admitted to drinking alcohol and had an open container of
alcohol in her vehicle (Dkt. 62-9 at p. 9). Franco arrested
the woman, whom he identified at trial as Sheffield (Dkt.
62-8 at 104-05).
the jury found her guilty, Sheffield appealed, arguing that
there was insufficient evidence to sustain the jury's
finding that she used her car as a deadly weapon and that the
trial judge erred by limiting her cross-examination of
Wilkinson. The First Court of Appeals of Texas affirmed.
See Sheffield v. State, No. 01-12-00209-CR, 2013 WL
5638878 (Tex. App.-Houston [1st Dist] Oct. 15, 2013, pet. ref
d). The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals denied discretionary
review. See Texas Court of Criminal Appeals Case
Number PD-1661-13. Sheffield pursued collateral review by
filing a state habeas petition, which the Texas Court of
Criminal Appeals denied without opinion. See Texas
Court of Criminal Appeals Case Number WR-81, 746-01.
then filed this federal habeas petition. She has brought
numerous grounds for relief, though they all fall into one of
three categories: (1) claims that her conviction was
supported by insufficient evidence; (2) claims that her trial
lawyers provided ineffective assistance; and (3) a claim that
her rights under the Sixth Amendment's Confrontation
Clause were violated by the trial judge's limitations on
cross-examination of Wilkinson.
STANDARDS OF REVIEW
federal habeas petition is governed by the Antiterrorism and
Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996 (AEDPA). Lindh v.
Murphy, 117 S.Ct. 2059, 2068 (1997). The intent of the
AEDPA is to avoid federal habeas "retrials" and
"ensure that state-court convictions are given effect to
the extent possible under [the] law." Bell v.
Cone, 122 S.Ct. 1843, 1849(2002).
provisions of Section 2254(d) create a highly deferential
standard, thereby demanding that state court decisions be
given the benefit of the doubt. Woodford v.
Visciotti, 123 S.Ct. 357, 360 (2002). A federal court
cannot grant a writ of habeas corpus with respect to any
claim that was adjudicated on the merits in state court
unless the state court's decision:
(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).
questions of law and mixed questions of law and fact are
reviewed under § 2254(d)(1), and questions of fact are
reviewed under § 2254(d)(2)." Martin v.
Cain, 246 F.3d 471, 475-76 (5th Cir. 2001) (quotation
court decision is contrary to clearly established law if the
decision contradicts the governing law set forth by the
Supreme Court or if the state court decides a case
differently than the Court's precedent when the facts are
materially indistinguishable. Early v. Packard, 123
S.Ct. 362, 365 (2002). A state court unreasonably applies
federal law if the court "identifies the correct
governing legal principle . . . but unreasonably applies that
principle to the facts of the prisoner's case."
Williams v. Taylor, 120 S.Ct. 1495, 1523 (2000). To
be an unreasonable application of federal law, the state
court decision must be objectively unreasonable and more than
simply incorrect or erroneous. Lockyer v. Andrade,
123 S.Ct. 1166, 1174 (2003).
the AEDPA grants great deference to state determinations of
factual issues, a claim adjudicated on its merits in state
court and based on factual decisions will not be overturned
on factual grounds unless the court determines that the
decision was both incorrect and objectively unreasonable.
Williams, 120 S.Ct. at 1522. In reviewing a federal
habeas petition, the court must presume that a factual
determination made by the state court is correct unless the
petitioner rebuts this presumption by clear and convincing
evidence. 28 U.S.C. § 2254(e)(1).
may grant summary judgment when the evidence shows that there
is no genuine issue of material fact and that the movant is
entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c);
Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 106 S.Ct. 2548, 2552
(1986). The moving party has the responsibility of informing
the court of the basis for its summary judgment motion and
"identifying those portions of 'the pleadings,
depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on
file, together with the affidavits . . .'" that
demonstrate that there is no genuine issue of material fact.
Celotex, 106 S.Ct. at 2553. In response, the
nonmovant must go beyond the pleadings and by affidavits,
depositions, answers to interrogatories, or admissions on
file show that there is a genuine issue of material fact
requiring resolution through a trial. Id. If the
nonmoving party is unable to meet this burden, the motion for
summary judgment will be granted. FED. R. Civ. P. 56(c).
of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure "applies with
equal force in the context of habeas corpus cases."
Clark v. Johnson, 202 F.3d 760, 764 (5th Cir. 2000).
The rule, however, only applies to the extent that it does
not conflict with the habeas rules. Smith v.
Cockrell, 311 F.3d 661, 668 (5th Cir. 2002),
overruled on other grounds, Tennard v. Dretke, 124
S.Ct. 2562 (2004). Generally, in ruling on a motion for
summary judgment, the court resolves any doubts and draws any
inferences in favor of the nonmoving party-Hunt v.
Cromartie, 119 S.Ct. 1545, 1551-52 (1999)-but 28 U.S.C.
§ 2254(e)(1) commands that factual findings of the state
court are to be presumed correct. Thus, 28 U.S.C. §
2254(e)(1) overrides the general summary judgment rule.
Smith, 311 F.3d at 668. The petitioner is required
to rebut the presumption of correctness by clear and
convincing evidence; otherwise, the court will presume the
factual determination of the state court is correct.
Id.; 28 U.S.C. § 2254(e)(1).
SUFFICIENCY OF THE EVIDENCE
The Constitutional standard and the essential substantive
petition is often very difficult to understand, but the Court
first divines a challenge to the sufficiency of the evidence
used to convict her. In order to obtain habeas relief on this
ground, Sheffield must show that, "upon the record
evidence adduced at the trial, no rational trier of fact
could have found proof of guilt beyond a reasonable
doubt." Jackson v. Virginia, 443 U.S. 307, 324
(1979). The evidence is viewed in the light most favorable to
the prosecution. Id. at 319. The essential
substantive elements of the criminal offense are established
by the state's criminal law. Id. at 324 n.16;
Hughes v. Johnson, 191 F.3d 607, 619 (5th Cir.
leaves juries broad discretion in deciding what inferences to
draw from the evidence presented at trial, requiring only
that jurors draw reasonable inferences from basic facts to
ultimate facts." Coleman v. Johnson, 132 S.Ct.
2060, 2064 (2012) (quotation marks omitted). "[T]he only
question ... is whether [the jury's] finding was so
insupportable as to fall below the threshold of bare
rationality." Id. at 2065. The prosecution is
not "under an affirmative duty to rule out every
hypothesis except that of guilt beyond a reasonable doubt[,
]" and the evidence of guilt is not insufficient simply
because the record might support conflicting inferences.
Jackson, 443 U.S. at 319, 326. In fact, the
resolution of conflicting inferences and hypotheses is
perhaps the factfinder's most important role, and one
that Jackson took great pains to preserve. See
Id. ("This familiar standard gives full play to the
responsibility of the trier of fact fairly to resolve
conflicts in the testimony, to weigh the evidence, and to
draw reasonable inferences from basic facts to ultimate
facts."); see also Gibson v. Collins, 947 F.2d
780, 783 (5th Cir. 1991) ("Under Jackson, we
may find the evidence sufficient to support a conviction even
though the facts also support one or more reasonable
hypotheses consistent with the defendant's claim of
was convicted under Section 49.04 of the Texas Penal Code. A
person commits an offense under that statute when he or she
"is intoxicated while operating a motor vehicle in a
public place." Tex. Penal Code § 49.04(a).
"'Intoxicated' means . . . not having the normal
use of mental or physical faculties by reason of the
introduction of alcohol, a controlled substance, a drug, a
dangerous drug, a combination of two or more of those
substances, or any other substance into the body[.]"
TEX. PENAL CODE § 49.01(2)(A). DWI is a strict-liability
crime in Texas; the State does not have to prove a specific
culpable mental state such as intent, recklessness, or
knowledge. Farmer v. State, 411 S.W.3d 901, 905
(Tex. Crim. App. 2013). The jury also found that Sheffield
used her car as a deadly weapon. A "deadly weapon,
" under Texas law, can be: (1) anything manifestly
designed, made, or adapted for the purpose of inflicting
death or serious bodily injury; or (2) anything that in the
manner of its use or intended use is capable of causing death
or serious bodily injury. Tex. Penal Code § 1.07(17).
The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals has held that "[a]
motor vehicle may become a deadly weapon if the manner of its
use is capable of causing death or serious bodily injury.
Specific intent to use a motor vehicle as a deadly weapon is
not required." Drichas v. State, 175 S.W.3d
795, 797-98 (Tex. Crim. App. 2005) (citation omitted)
(applying the Jackson standard and holding that a
jury finding that the defendant used his car as a deadly
weapon while evading police was adequately supported by
evidence-.showing that the defendant "disregarded
traffic signs and signals, drove erratically, wove between
lanes and within lanes, turned abruptly into a construction
zone, knocking down barricades as he did so, and drove on the
wrong side on the highway" when there was other traffic
on the road during the chase).
Sheffield's claims ...