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Chambers v. Davis

United States District Court, N.D. Texas, Fort Worth Division

September 14, 2017

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



         Before the Court is a petition for a writ of habeas corpus pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254 filed by petitioner, Brandon M. Chambers, a state prisoner confined in the Correctional Institutions Division of the Texas Department of Criminal Justice (TDCJ), against Lorie Davis, director of TDCJ, Respondent. After considering the pleadings and relief sought by Petitioner, the Court has concluded that the petition should be denied.

         I. BACKGROUND

         In September 2011 Petitioner was indicted in Tarrant County, Texas, Case No. 1247238D, for continuous sexual abuse of a child younger than 14 years of age. Adm. R., Clerk's R. 6, ECF No. 15-10. A jury convicted Petitioner of the offense on June 19, 2013, and the trial court assessed his punishment at 40 years confinement. Id. at 102. The state appellate court affirmed the trial court's judgment, and the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals refused Petitioner's petition for discretionary review. Id., Electronic R., ECF No. 15-15. Petitioner also filed a state habeas-corpus application challenging his conviction, which was denied by the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals without written order on the findings of the trial court. Id., Writ Rec'd 2-21, ECF No. 15-17; Resp't's Answer 3, ECF No. 16.

         The state appellate court briefly summarized the facts of the case as follows:

Appellant, who was twenty-three years old, engaged in what he characterized as “consensual sexual contact” with an eleven-year-old girl over an extended period of time. Appellant confessed to repeated sexual contact and sexual intercourse with the child, both to the investigating detective as well as in open court when he testified before the jury and the trial court. His entire defense rested upon the representations that he never used force, threats, or duress against the child and that he was not a registered sex offender. He argued at trial and argues on appeal that these two facts met the test for the statutory affirmative defense under the specific language of the continuous sexual abuse statute.

Adm. R., Mem. Op. 2, ECF No. 15-3.

         II. ISSUES

         In this federal petition, Petitioner raises six grounds for relief alleging trial court error (grounds one, two, and three) and ineffective assistance of trial counsel (ground four, five, and six). Pet. 6-7 & Attach., ECF No. 1.


         Respondent believes that Petitioner has exhausted his state court remedies as to the claims raised and that the petition is neither barred by limitations nor subject to the successive-petition bar. Resp't's Answer 4, ECF No. 16.


         A. Legal Standard for Granting Habeas-Corpus Relief

         A § 2254 habeas petition is governed by the heightened standard of review provided for in the Anti-Terrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act (AEDPA). 28 U.S.C. § 2254. Under the Act, a writ of habeas corpus should be granted only if a state court arrives at a decision that is contrary to or an unreasonable application of clearly established federal law as established by the United States Supreme Court or that is based on an unreasonable determination of the facts in light of the record before the state court. 28 U.S.C. § 2254(d)(1)-(2); Harrington v. Richter, 562 U.S. 86, 100 (2011). This standard is difficult to meet and “stops short of imposing a complete bar on federal court relitigation of claims already rejected in state proceedings.” Harrington, 562 U.S. at 102. Additionally, the statute requires that federal courts give great deference to a state court's factual findings. Hill v. Johnson, 210 F.3d 481, 485 (5th Cir. 2000). Section 2254(e)(1) provides that a determination of a factual issue made by a state court shall be presumed to be correct. A petitioner has the burden of rebutting the presumption of correctness by clear and convincing evidence. 28 U.S.C. § 2254(e)(1); Miller-El v. Cockrell, 537 U.S. 322, 340 (2003); Williams v. Taylor, 529 U.S. 362, 399 (2000). Finally, when the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals denies a federal claim in a state habeas-corpus application without written order, a federal court may presume “that the state court adjudicated the claim on the merits in the absence of any indication or state-law procedural principles to the contrary” and applied the correct “clearly established federal law, as determined by the Supreme Court of the United States, ” unless there is evidence that an incorrect standard was applied, in making its decision. Johnson v. Williams, 568 U.S. 1088, 1094 (2013); Harrington, 562 U.S. at 99; Schaetzle v. Cockrell, 343 F.3d 440, 444 (5th Cir. 2004).

         B. Trial Court Error

         Under grounds one, two, and three, Petitioner claims that his rights to due process and equal protection of the law were violated by the trial court's failure to exercise its judicial power to adequately research and provide an accurate interpretation of Texas Penal Code § 21.02(g); the trial court's refusal to include in the jury charge an instruction on his affirmative defense under § 21.02(g); and the trial court's denial of his motion for a directed verdict. Pet. 6-7 & Attach., ECF No. 1. Relying solely on state law, the state appellate court overruled the last two claims as follows: Texas Penal Code section 21.02 provides,

(b) A person commits an offense if:
(1) during a period that is 30 or more days in duration, the person commits two or more acts of sexual abuse . . .; and
(2) at the time of the commission of each of the acts of sexual abuse, the actor is 17 years of age or older and the victim is a child younger than 14 years of age.
Subsection (g) of section 21.02 provides, It is an affirmative defense to prosecution under this section that the actor:
(1) was not more than five years older than:
(A) the victim of the offense, if the offense is alleged to have been committed against ...

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