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Martinez v. Davis

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

November 29, 2017

LORIE DAVIS, Director, [1]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, Rhonald Martinez, 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

         Petitioner was charged in Tarrant County, Texas, Case No. 1253416D, with possession with intent to deliver four grams or more but less than 200 grams of methamphetamine. Adm. R., SH15 WR-16, 448-11 95, ECF No. 9-58. On August 1, 2013, following a bench trial in the 297th District Court, the trial court found Petitioner guilty of the offense and true to the habitual-offender notice in the indictment. Id. On December 20, 2013, following preparation of a presentence investigation report, the court assessed his punishment at 40 years' confinement. Id. Petitioner appealed his conviction and filed a postconviction state habeas-corpus application challenging his conviction, to no avail.

         The state appellate court set out the background facts of the case as follows:

One night in September 2011, Fort Worth Police Department Officer Aaron Cade was on patrol in a “high crime, very high drug activity area” when he saw a car with a defective license plate and an expired registration. Officer Cade conducted a traffic stop. As he approached [Petitioner]'s car, [Petitioner] lowered his driver's side window, quickly raised it back up, and began stepping out of the car. Officer Cade instructed [Petitioner] to sit in the car, but [Petitioner] said that his window was not working. Nonetheless, [Petitioner] sat in the car and again lowered the window.
Officer Cade asked [Petitioner] for his identification and told him why he had been stopped. Then, Officer Cade asked him where he was going and what he was doing. [Petitioner] could not answer those questions. He appeared to be “really nervous”; his hand shook as he handed Officer Cade his driver's license, his voice was unsteady, and he was sweating. When Officer Cade asked [Petitioner] why he was nervous, [Petitioner] said, “I respect the police.” Officer Cade asked whether [Petitioner] had anything illegal in the car, and [Petitioner] said that he did not. Based on [Petitioner]'s strange behavior, Officer Cade called for the help of another officer.
By consent, Officer Cade searched [Petitioner]'s clothing but found nothing of consequence. Officer Cade also asked if he could search [Petitioner]'s car. [Petitioner] initially said yes. But when Officer Cade attempted to open the car, he noticed that [Petitioner] had locked its doors and had left its keys in the ignition with the car still running. Because [Petitioner] had given consent for Officer Cade to search the car but had then locked it with the keys inside, Officer Cade became “fairly certain . . . that [Petitioner] was hiding something.” Officer Cade called for a narcotics dog and detained [Petitioner] in the back of the patrol car. [Petitioner] then withdrew his consent for the search of the car.
Minutes later, the narcotics dog-“Z”-arrived and “hit” on the driver's side door of [Petitioner]'s car. The police, believing that they had developed probable cause to search the car, found a way to open it, searched it without obtaining a warrant, and discovered a baggie containing methamphetamine under the driver's side seat. [Petitioner]'s car also contained marijuana, more methamphetamine in the glove box, several empty baggies that had the potential to be used for packaging methamphetamine, and a syringe. Officer Cade arrested [Petitioner] without writing citations or warnings for the traffic offenses. From the traffic stop to [Petitioner]'s arrest, thirteen minutes elapsed.
A grand jury indicted [Petitioner] with possessing while intending to deliver between four and two hundred grams of methamphetamine. [Petitioner]'s indictment included a paragraph alleging that he had been previously convicted of two felony offenses. The trial court appointed counsel to represent [Petitioner]. [Petitioner] filed several pretrial motions, including a motion to suppress evidence “obtained as a result of illegal acts on behalf of the Government.” Specifically, in the motion to suppress, [Petitioner] contended that his roadside detention was not reasonable.
The trial court denied [Petitioner]'s motion to suppress. [Petitioner] waived his right to a jury trial and pled not guilty. At trial, he testified that he did not own the car he was driving on the night of his arrest, that he never gave consent for Officer Cade to search the car or his clothes, and that he did not know drugs were in the car before his arrest.

Id., Mem. Op. 2-3, ECF No. 9-4.

         II. ISSUES

         Petitioner raises four grounds for relief, wherein he claims that (1) the search of the car was unconstitutional, (2) he was denied effective assistance of counsel on appeal, (3) the medical examiner who retested the drugs was not independent of the state or a “chemist expert, ” and (4) the state withheld exculpatory evidence in violation of Brady. Pet. 6-7, ECF No. 1.


         Respondent believes that the petition is neither barred by the statute of limitations nor successive but asserts that grounds one and three are procedurally barred. Resp't's Ans. 11-15, ECF No. 8.


         Respondent claims petitioner's grounds one and three are procedurally barred from federal habeas review. Under his first ground, Petitioner claims that the search of the car following a routine traffic stop and investigation violated his constitutional rights under the Fourth Amendment. A federal habeas court is generally barred from reviewing Fourth Amendment claims. Stone v. Powell, 428 U.S. 465, 481 (1976). In Stone, the United States Supreme Court held that “where the State has provided an opportunity for full and fair litigation of a Fourth Amendment claim, a state prisoner may not be granted federal habeas corpus relief on the ground that evidence obtained in an unconstitutional search or seizure was introduced at his trial.” Id. at 494. To satisfy the “opportunity for full and fair litigation” requirement, the state need only provide the processes whereby a defendant can obtain full and fair litigation of a Fourth Amendment claim. Petitioner litigated his Fourth Amendment claim, although unsuccessfully, during trial and again on appeal. Consequently, he had the “opportunity for full and fair litigation” of the claim and federal habeas review of the claim is not available.

         Under his third ground, Petitioner claims that the Tarrant County medical examiner appointed to retest the drugs “was not independent of the state or a chemist expert.” Pet. 7, ECF No. 1. Petitioner raised this claim for the first time in his state habeas application and the state habeas court entered the following relevant findings of fact regarding the claim:

10. Jennifer (Jondran) Mocking, trained in drug chemistry and board certified by the American Board of Criminalistics, of the Fort Worth Crime Lab's drug chemistry section initially tested the controlled substances.
11. There is no evidence, or allegation, that Mrs. Mocking was not qualified to test the ...

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