United States District Court, S.D. Texas, Houston Division
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
LAKE UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
Damonn Washington has filed a Petition for a Writ of Habeas
Corpus By a Person in State Custody ("Petition")
(Docket Entry No. 1), seeking relief under 28 U.S.C. §
2254 from an aggravated assault conviction in Montgomery
County, Texas. The respondent has filed Respondent
Davis's Motion for Summary Judgment with Brief in Support
("Respondent's MSJ") (Docket Entry No. 15),
along with a copy of the state court records (Docket Entry
No. 16) . Washington has filed "Petitioner['s]
Response to Respondent['s] Motion for Summary
Judgment" ("Petitioner's Response")
(Docket Entry No. 17). After considering the pleadings, the
state court record, and the applicable law, the court will
grant Respondent's MSJ and will dismiss this action for
the reasons explained below.
Montgomery County grand jury returned an indictment against
Washington in cause number 13-01-00068-CR, charging him with
aggravated assault with a deadly weapon on a Montgomery
County Sheriff's Deputy who was acting in his official
capacity as a public servant (count one) and aggravated
assault on a security officer (count two) at the
Woodland's Mall, where the incident
occurred. The indictment was enhanced for purposes
of punishment with allegations that Washington had at least
four prior felony convictions for burglary of a habitation,
possession of a firearm as a felon (twice), and aggravated
robbery. On December 4, 2014, a jury in the 9 th
District Court of Montgomery County found Washington guilty
as charged in count one, but not guilty as charged in count
After a separate punishment proceeding, the trial court
sentenced Washington to life imprisonment.
raised eight issues on direct appeal, challenging the
sufficiency of the evidence, several rulings made by the
trial court, and the prosecution's use of a peremptory
strike to remove the only black female (Juror #58) who was
left on the panel after all of the challenges for cause had
been made. An intermediate court of appeals affirmed
the conviction and sentence in an unpublished opinion, which
summarized all of the evidence presented at trial. See
Washington v. State, No. 09-15-00462-CR, 2017 WL 640823
(Tex. App. - Beaumont, Feb. 15, 2017) . In a pro se
petition for discretionary review Washington argued that the
trial court erred by overruling his defense counsel's
objection to the peremptory strike used to remove Juror #58,
and that the intermediate court of appeals likewise erred by
upholding that decision in violation of Batson v.
Kentucky, 106 S.Ct. 1712 (1986). The Texas Court of Criminal
Appeals summarily refused Washington's petition for
discretionary review on May 3, 2017.
now seeks a federal writ of habeas corpus under 28 U.S.C.
§ 2254 to challenge his conviction for aggravated
assault on a public servant. Washington raises the same claim
that was rejected by the intermediate appellate court and the
Texas Court of Criminal Appeals on discretionary review,
arguing that the trial court violated Batson by
overruling his counsel's objection to the peremptory
strike that was used to remove Juror #58 from the panel
during voir dire. The respondent moves for summary judgment,
arguing that Washington is not entitled to relief because his
claim is without merit under the governing federal habeas
corpus standard of review.
Standard of Review
Washington's claim was adjudicated on the merits in state
court, his Petition is subject to review under the
Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996
("AEDPA"), codified at 28 U.S.C. § 2254(d).
Under the AEDPA a federal habeas corpus court may not grant
relief unless the state court's adjudication
"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[.]" 28 U.S.C. § 2254(d)(1). Likewise, a
court may not grant relief on a claim that presents a
question of fact unless the petitioner shows that the state
court's denial of relief "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) (2) .
purposes of review under § 2254(d) (1), "* [a]
state court's decision is deemed contrary to clearly
established federal law if it reaches a legal conclusion in
direct conflict with a prior decision of the Supreme Court or
if it reaches a different conclusion than the Supreme Court
on materially indistinguishable facts.'"
Matamoros v. Stephens, 783 F.3d 212, 215 (5th Cir.
2015) (citations omitted); see also Williams v.
Taylor, 120 S.Ct. 1495, 1519-20 (2002) . To constitute
an "unreasonable application of" clearly
established federal law, a state court's holding
"must be objectively unreasonable, not merely wrong;
even clear error will not suffice." Woods v.
Donald, 135 S.Ct. 1372, 1376 (2015) (quoting White
v. Woodall, 134 S.Ct. 1697, 1702 (2014)). "To
satisfy this high bar, a habeas petitioner is required to
'show that the state court's ruling on the claim
being presented in federal court was so lacking in
justification that there was an error well understood and
comprehended in existing law beyond any possibility for
fairminded disagreement.'" Id. (quoting
Harrington v. Richter, 131 S.Ct. 770, 786-87
AEDPA "imposes a 'highly deferential standard for
evaluating state-court rulings, ' . . . [which]
'demands that state-court decisions be given the benefit
of the doubt.'" Renico v. Lett, 130 S.Ct.
1855, 1862 (2010) (citations omitted) . This standard is
intentionally "difficult to meet" because it was
meant to bar relitigation of claims already rejected in state
proceedings and to preserve federal habeas review as "a
'guard against extreme malfunctions in the state criminal
justice systems, ' not a substitute for ordinary error
correction through appeal." Richter, 131 S.Ct.
at 786 (quoting Jackson v. Virginia, 99 S.Ct. 2781,
2796, n.5 (1979) (Stevens, J., concurring)); see also
White. 134 S.Ct. at 1702.
court's factual determinations are also entitled to great
deference on federal habeas corpus review. Findings of fact
are "presumed to be correct" unless the petitioner
rebuts those findings with "clear and convincing
evidence." 28 U.S.C. § 2254(e)(1). This presumption
of correctness extends not only to express factual findings,
but also to the state court's implicit findings. See
Garcia v. Ouarterman, 454 F.3d 441, 444-45 (5th Cir.
2006) (citing Summers v. Dretke, 431 F.3d 861, 876
(5th Cir. 2005); Young v. Dretke, 356 F.3d 616, 629
(5th Cir. 2004)). A federal habeas corpus court "may not
characterize these state-court factual determinations as
unreasonable 'merely because [it] would have reached a
different conclusion in the first instance.'"
Brumfield v. Cain, 135 S.Ct. 2269, 2277 (2015)
(quoting Wood v. Allen, 130 S.Ct. 841, 849 (2010)).
"Instead, § 2254(d)(2) requires that [a federal
court] accord the state trial court substantial
contends that the trial court erred when it overruled his
objection to the peremptory strike that the prosecutor used
to remove Juror #58, who was the last black juror remaining
on the panel after challenges for cause had been
used. Washington argues that he is entitled to
relief because the state court's decision to uphold the
trial court's ruling violates Batson v.
Kentucky- 106 S.Ct. 1712 (1986).
Batson the Supreme Court reaffirmed the principle
that the state violates a black defendant's rights under
the Equal Protection Clause by "put[ting] him on trial
before a jury from which members of his race have been
purposefully excluded." 106 S.Ct. at 1716 (citing
Strauder v. West Virginia, 10 Otto 303, 100 U.S.
303, 25 L.Ed. 664 (1880)). Batson established a
three-part methodology for determining whether a peremptory
challenge was impermissibly based on race:
First, a defendant must make a prima facie showing that a
peremptory challenge has been exercised on the basis of race;
second, if that showing has been made, the prosecution must
offer a race-neutral basis for striking the juror in
question; and third, in light of the parties'
submissions, the trial court must determine whether the
defendant has shown purposeful discrimination.
Foster v. Chatman, 136 S.Ct. 1737, 1747 (2016)
(quoting Snyder v. Louisiana, 128 S.Ct. 1203, 1207
(2008) (internal quotation marks and brackets omitted));
see also Puckett v. Epps, 641 F.3d 657, 663 (5th
Cir. 2011) ...