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Gutierrez v. Davis

United States District Court, W.D. Texas, Austin Division

June 16, 2017

JORGE GUTIERREZ
v.
LORIE DAVIS

          REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION OF UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE

          HON. LEE YEAKEL, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         The Magistrate Judge submits this Report and Recommendation to the District Court pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(b) and Rule 1(e) of Appendix C of the Local Court Rules of the United States District Court for the Western District of Texas, Local Rules for the Assignment of Duties to United States Magistrates.

         Petitioner is represented by counsel and has paid the full filing fee for this case. Before the Court are Petitioner's Application for Writ of Habeas Corpus under 28 U.S.C. § 2254 (Document 1) and Brief in Support of Petition for a Writ of Habeas Corpus (Document 2), Respondent's Answer with Brief in Support (Document 7), and Petitioner's Reply (Document 8). For the reasons set forth below, the undersigned recommends that Petitioner's Application for Writ of Habeas Corpus be denied.

         STATEMENT OF THE CASE

         Respondent has custody of Petitioner pursuant to a judgment and sentence imposed by the 167th District Court of Travis County, Texas. A jury found Petitioner guilty of capital murder and the trial court imposed the statutory sentence of life imprisonment without parole. Petitioner contends he is entitled to federal habeas relief because he was denied his right to the effective assistance of trial counsel.

         BACKGROUND

         A. Factual background

         The Texas Court of Appeals did not specify a statement of facts in its decision denying Petitioner's appeal. Gutierrez v State, 2013 WL 4822923 (Tex. App.-Austin 2013, pet. ref'd). The following facts are quoted from the State's brief in Petitioner's state habeas proceedings:

On May 31, 2010, Sergeant Scott Crowe received a call of shots fired at 3:17 a.m. at a business known as the Pink Monkey. (RR VII: 39). He arrived at the scene within 7 minutes of the call and found two victims on the ground. (RR VII: 40). One victim, Arturo Rodriguez, was located south of the business building, and another victim, Jose Hernandez, was just to the right of the front door of the business laying on the curbside. (RR VII: 40) ..... Jose appeared to already be deceased. (RR VII: 43-44).
Crowe observed a shell casing and a projectile on the ground next to this second victim. (RR VII: 44-45). To the right of the entrance to the Pink Monkey, Crowe found shell casings for a .380 caliber gun and 9 millimeter. (RR VII: 50). He also found pieces of belt, belt buckle, and piece of leather attached to the buckle. (RR VII: 50; SX6). Crowe found another shell casing for a 9 millimeter in some pea gravel near the victim south of the building. (RR VII: 51; SX8). Witnesses reported to Crowe that the suspect had left the scene in a vehicle. (RR VII: 51; SX8). . . . Crowe also learned that the night manager for the club, Ryan Dorer, had fired a gun at some point during the evening, but Crowe did not locate that weapon. (RR VII: 67). Based on the number of casings at the scene, Crowe determined that the .380 was fired four times and the 9 millimeter was fired at least four times. (RR VII: 71-72).
Dorer testified that after the club closed that night, a security guard informed him that there was an altercation in the parking lot. (RR VII: 85). In the parking lot, Dorer encountered two groups of people, about 4 or 5 in each group, bickering and calling each other names. . . .
Raul Hernandez, the brother of the two victims killed in this shooting, testified that the fight began between two girls arguing over a cell phone. (RR VIII: 102). One of the girls accused the victim named Jose of stealing the cell phone, which angered him. (RR VIII: 102). The other victim, Arturo, had actually picked up the phone off the ground. As Arturo was handing it over, one of the men with applicant snatched the phone from Arturo's hand. (RR VIII: 102-103). A fight broke out between the two groups. (RR VII: 104).
. . .The argument escalated into a fist fight between about 8 people; one person, who had driven the get-away car, took off his “big cowboy belt” and swung it at and hit Jose. (RR VII: 87-88). In Dorer's words, Jose was “getting his butt kicked.” (RR VII: 88).
. . . Dorer went to the back of the property where a female employee gave him what he thought was a “starter pistol” and told him to shoot it to break up the fight. (RR VII: 88-89). Dorer twice fired two shots into the air, but the fighting continued. (RR VII: 89-90). Dorer gave the gun back to the female employee and began screaming that the cops were coming; the fighting stopped, and everyone “started going their own way.” (RR VII: 90).
Dorer started walking toward the front door of the club and toward Jose when he heard someone say “he has got a gun.” (RR VII: 90-91). Dorer looked and saw applicant (Dorer identified applicant in the courtroom) walking toward him and Jose with a big silver gun in his hand. (RR VII: 91). Dorer testified that applicant was coming out of a truck with the “big gun” in his hand. (RR VII: 91). Applicant's friends stood in front of him and tried to stop him. (RR VII: 91-92). But, applicant pushed through his friends, walked up to Jose and shot him. (RR VII: 92).
Dorer described the events immediately before applicant shot Jose. Jose had his back turned as applicant approached. (RR VII: 92). Jose turned around, saw the gun in applicant's hand, and then tried to turn again but applicant shot him. (RR VII: 92) Dorer was only 10 feet away. (RR VII: 92). Dorer never saw a weapon in Jose's hands. (RR VII: 93).
The surveillance video from the Pink Monkey showing the incident was admitted into evidence and played for the jury. (RR VII: 95-96; SX13A). While watching the video, Dorer explained that everybody ran for their cars after applicant shot Jose. (RR VII: 100). Applicant ran back to the truck, but the person with him that night did not want applicant to get back into the truck. (RR VII: 101). Applicant then walked from the truck with the gun in his hand and shot Arturo, Jose's brother. (RR VII: 101-102). Applicant shot Arturo a second time as Arturo was running away. (RR VII: 102).
Dorer never saw a weapon in either Jose's or Arturo's hands. (RR VII: 104). Jose did not pose any threat to applicant when he shot him; in fact, Jose was walking away. (RR VII: 104). And, Arturo did not pose any threat of physical harm to applicant when he shot Arturo. (RR VII: 104). Arturo was sitting in a car and then running away when applicant twice shot him. (RR VII: 104). Dorer never aimed his small pistol at applicant, and he never saw anyone threaten applicant with any kind of weapon. (RR VII: 103-104). Dorer testified that applicant could have left the scene before shooting the brothers, but he didn't. (RR VII: 102-103). Asked to describe applicant's demeanor during the incident, Dorer stated that applicant “was totally calm. Like it was nothing. It was really scary.” (RR VII: 104-105).
Nichole Teaney arrived at the Pink Monkey about 2:30 a.m. to pick up her sister who was a waitress at the club. (RR VII: 163). She was talking to some men in the parking lot when she saw two females fighting. (RR VII: 164). Teaney got out of the car to record with her phone the females fighting, but then some guys started fighting with fists and belts. (RR VII; 166-167). The club manager fired into the air to stop the fighting. (RR VII: 168). Teaney recalled applicant going to his truck, getting his gun, and shooting Jose who was not armed. (RR VII: 169-171). She also saw applicant shoot Arturo, who was also unarmed, and then calmly walk away. (RR VII: 171, 172-173) (Teaney testified that Arturo was still wearing his belt when he was shot, so he was not one of the men fighting with a belt.) (RR VII: 200).
Sergeant Craig Smith of the Travis County Sheriff's Office was the lead detective in this case. (RR VII: 228). Smith explained for the jury how investigations into a case proceeded. (RR VII: 233). He explained that murder cases start out as “deceased person” cases while each lead is pursued, witnesses are investigated, and evidence is collected. (RR VII: 233-234). The investigation includes following any information or [indications] of self-defense. (RR VII: 234). Smith interviewed applicant in his office after applicant was pulled from the truck that fled the scene. (RR VII: 231-232). Applicant had on a ripped shirt but no significant injuries to his face or person. (RR VII: 232-233). The evidence collected in this case did not appear to be self-defense. (RR VII: 234).
***
. . . The night of this capital murder, [Pedro] Solis arrived at the club about 11 p.m. or midnight. (RR VII: 264). Solis observed Jose in an altercation with applicant. (RR VII: 266-267). There were about 8 people involved in the fight, four on four. Jose, Arturo, and two friends were on the same side of the fight. (RR VII: 267). Solis testified that Jose's and Arturo's friends started the fight with applicant's friends, but applicant and his friends “absolutely decimated” them. (RR VII: 268). Solis tried to break up the fight, and he pulled two of applicant's friends off Jose. (RR VII: 268). Jose then swung at Solis, but Solis took him down and began to walk away. (RR VII: 268).
At this point, the fighting was over, but Solis saw applicant take a gun from the backseat of the truck. (RR VII: 268-270). In fact, Jose [] was walking back toward the club. (RR VII: 270). As applicant walked by Solis, applicant's gun accidentally discharged, and a ricochet fragment hit Solis in the leg. (RR VII: 270). Applicant acknowledged “my bad, ” and Solis was shocked by applicant's nonchalance with just having struck him with a round. (RR VII: 270, 272). Then applicant fired two shots at Jose who had his back to applicant and was walking away. (RR VII: 272-273). Applicant walked back toward his truck but he took a shot at Arturo as Arturo went to get his car. (RR VII: 273). . .
Solis testified that applicant then trotted back to this truck and drove away “like he just ordered a pizza.” (RR VII: 274). He described it as “the most cool, calm, collected situation [he had] ever seen.” (RR VII: 274). Solis stated that he had friends in the military with 18 years' experience doing special operations and special forces who were not as calm as applicant after shooting someone. (RR VII: 274). Solis cautioned that he was not testifying that applicant's shootings were premeditated, but, in his opinion, it wasn't applicant's “first rodeo.” (RR VII: 274).
Solis never saw Jose or Arturo with a weapon. (RR VII: 275). Neither Jose nor Arturo posed any physical threat to applicant at the time of the shooting. (RR VII: 275). In fact, Arturo was by the building, running away from the situation when applicant shot him. (RR VII: 275; RR VIII: 45-46).
Deputy John Lopez with the Travis County Sheriff's Office responded to the shots fired call at the Pink Monkey. (RR VIII: 141). While in route, Lopez received a description of the suspect vehicle, a white F-250 pickup. (RR VIII: 142). Lopez noticed a vehicle matching that descriptions and pursued it. (RR VIII: 144). As Lopez began to pursue the vehicle, it changed direction and began to increase its speed. (RR VIII: 144). Lopez noticed the vehicle lost control and swerve[d] on the road, a flash came out of the driver's side, and it smelled like a gun had been fired. (RR VIII: 145). Lopez thought someone had fired at him. (RR VIII: 146).
The suspect vehicle eventually stopped, and Lopez ordered the occupants to stick their hands out the windows. (RR VIII: 148). The driver and passenger both put their hands out initially, but the passenger's hands kept going in and out [of] the window. (RR VIII: 148). Once back up arrived, Lopez was able to take the occupants of the vehicle into custody. (RR VIII: 150). . . . The passenger was identified as applicant. (RR VIII: 153). A black triangular gun case (SX 25) fell out of the vehicle as applicant exited it. (RR VIII: 151-152). Lopez was struck with how calm applicant appeared. (RR VIII: 169).
Lopez then walked to the area where he had smelled the odor of a fired weapon. (RR VIII: 154). Lopez found a shiny pistol on the roadway. (RR VIII: 154). Lopez described the pistol as a 9 mm Beretta . . .
The medical examiner testified as to the manner and cause of death of both victims. Jose suffered three gunshot wounds to his head, upper right arm, and his back. (RR VIII: 245). The gunshot wound to his head was just below his right eye and apparently travelled into his mouth. (RR VIII: 245, 247). The gunshot wound to his upper arm went through his arm and reentered his body on the right side of his back. (RR VIII: 247-248). The bullet travelled through Jose's right lung, his aorta, left lung, and then exited the left side of his chest. (RR VIII: 248). This gunshot severely damaged the aorta and caused significant internal bleeding. (RR VIII: 247-248). . . . The medical examiner determined that the cause of Jose's death was multiple gunshot wounds and the manner of his death was a homicide. (RR VIII: 262-263).
Arturo came to the medical examiner from the hospital where multiple life-saving procedures had been attempted. (RR VIII: 263). Arturo suffered one gunshot wound to his left thigh. (RR VIII: 264). The gunshot travelled back to front, angling [from] left to right. (RR VIII: 267). The gunshot entered from the back of the thigh and severed both his femoral artery and left femoral vein. (RR VIII: 264). . . . He died of a gunshot wound to his thigh, and the manner of death was homicide. (RR VIII: 269).

Document 6, Exh. 17 at 10-21.

         B. Petitioner's state court proceedings

         A grand jury indictment returned August 11, 2010, charged Petitioner with capital murder, alleging that he killed two people during the same criminal transaction. Id., Exh. 11 at 5. Petitioner was represented by retained counsel in his criminal proceedings. Document 5, Exh. 14 at 13. The State noticed that it would not seek the death penalty. Id., Exh. 6 at 6. The State offered Petitioner a plea bargain of 60 years' imprisonment, which he declined. Id.

         All of the witnesses testified that two or three shots were fired by Mr. Dorer before Petitioner retrieved his gun from the truck. Id., Exh. 11 at 56. Two witnesses related to the victims testified that, just before the shooting of the two men, “[w]e were going to try to leave at the end because the cops were going to get there.” Id., Exh. 11 at 57, 107. These witnesses testified that, other than Mr. Dorer and Petitioner, no one was armed. Id., Exh. 11 at 57, 105. The two witnesses who were related to the victims testified that, just before he was shot, “ [Jose] was about to square up again, like he put his hands up, and I guess he seen the gun, and . . .that is when he got shot.” Id., Exh. 11 at 58, 108 (Petitioner came toward them “but we couldn't see the gun yet, so then he shot to the ground and then that is when my brother is like he was like getting ready to fight him again, but then when he saw he shot the ground, my brother like turned around, and that is when he like he aimed at him and he shot him.”). The victims' brother testified, in response to the question: “And what was Jose doing when the defendant raised the gun to shoot him, ” that “He was getting ready to put his hands up to fight.” Id., Exh. 11 at 108. In response to the question: “And once Jose saw the gun or once both of you saw the gun, what did you do, ” this witness answered “We were trying to run.” Id.

         Petitioner's brother, and a female friend who witnessed the fight preceding the shooting, testified at his trial. Id., Exh. 12 at 146-213. Petitioner's brother testified that they were attacked outside the bar by several men. Id., Exh. 12 at 80. The brother testified that, after a lull in the fight, Petitioner assessed his brother's injuries:

Q. So you testified that when he grabbed your face, that it was bleeding?
A. Yes.
Q. He said what?
A. They got you.
Q. And what did he do after that? I don't want to know what he said after that. What did he do after that?
A. He takes the gun and he cocks it twice, two full bullets fall into the ground, and then he shoots one into the floor.
Q. Was anybody facing him? Was he - was anybody yelling at him or telling him anything as he was doing that, screaming or anything going on?
A. Yes. The other guys were - they were pretty close, maybe like 10 feet, and they were still like - they had their hands up and they were yelling cuss words like bitch, you ain't going to do shit. It was just a whole bunch of people.
Q. Did your brother appear calm at that time?
A. No.
Q. And were you calm?
A. No, sir.
Q. Was Iris calm?
A. I don't think so.
Q. And so what happens next?
A. So that is when she comes and she tries to pull them. They are still yelling at him and like they keep on getting closer. That is when he takes a step and he shoots the first guy.
***
A. Well, it was really fast, but I saw who he was shooting at.
Q. Okay. Was that person that he shot one of the persons that was involved in the fight?
A. Yes, sir, it was the main guy that started everything.
***
Q. Did somebody flick a cigarette in his face?
A. Yes, sir.
Q. Do you know who it was that flicked the cigarette in his face?
A. Yes.
Q. Who was the one that flicked the cigarette in his face?
A. It was some guy wearing a black shirt.
Q. Do you know if it was the same guy that got shot first or not?
A. No, sir.

Id., Exh. 12 at 187-88, 190. Petitioner's brother reiterated that Petitioner had first fired a “warning shot into the ground.” Id., Exh. 12 at 193. The defense also called two female cousins of Petitioner, who testified that Petitioner was not the instigator of the melee and that they left the scene before the victims were shot. Id., Exh. 12 at 67, 147. The defense also called a forensic expert to testify regarding the trajectory of the bullet which killed the second victim. Id., Exh. 12 at 218-63.

         After presenting its case and after some testimony had been introduced by the defense, the State:

essentially [conceded] the first aggressor issue in the sense that we don't want to present any evidence on it and we are not going to argue against it. We are not going to claim that either of the . . . victims was not the ...

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