United States District Court, N.D. Texas, Fort Worth Division
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
a petition for a writ of habeas corpus pursuant to 28 U.S.C.
§ 2254 filed by petitioner, Augustine Sifuentes, 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 having
considered the pleadings, state court records, and relief
sought by petitioner, the court has concluded that the
petition should be denied.
state court records reflect that in December 2014 petitioner
was indicted in Tarrant County, Texas, Case Nos. 13491496D,
1391497D, and 1391499D, for possession of a controlled
substance with intent to deliver, unlawful possession of a
firearm, and theft of firearm, respectively. (01SHR 49, doc.
10- 2; 02SHR 50, doc. 10-4; 03SHR 95, doc.
10-6.) The indictments for possession of a
controlled substance and unlawful possession of a firearm
included habitual-offender notices and the indictment for
theft of a firearm included a state-jail-felony enhancement.
On May 8, 2015, pursuant to plea agreements, the state waived
the habitual-offender allegations and petitioner pleaded
guilty to all three offenses. (01SHR 55, doc. 10-2; 02SHR
52-56, doc. 10-4; 03SHR 97-101, doc. 10-6.) In accordance
with the plea agreements, the trial court sentenced
petitioner to 15 years' imprisonment in each case, the
sentences to run concurrently. (01SHR 56, doc. 10-2; 02SHR
57, doc. 10-4; 03SHR 102, doc. 10-6.) Petitioner did not
appeal the trial court's judgments of conviction, but he
did seek postconviction state habeas relief by filing three
state habeas applications, one for each conviction, which
were denied by the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals without
written order on the findings of the trial court. (01SHR,
Action Taken, doc. 10-1; 02SHR, Action Taken, doc. 10-3;
03SHR, Action Taken, doc. 10-10-54.) This federal petition
ground for relief, petitioner claims he received ineffective
assistance of trial counsel because counsel-
(1) coerced or frightened him into pleading guilty;
(2) failed to investigate the cases;
(3) failed to challenge the indictment in the
(4) refused to go to trial; and
(5) gave him erroneous advice and lied about the nature of
the theft-of-firearm offense.
(Pet. 6, doc. 1.)
RULE 5 STATEMENT
does not believe that the petition is successive, that the
petition should be dismissed as untimely, or that
Petitioner's claims are unexhausted. (Resp't's
Answer 3, doc. 11.)
STANDARD OF REVIEW
§ 2254 habeas petition is governed by the heightened
standard of review provided for by 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 determined 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. Harrington v.
Richter, 562 U.S. 86, 100-01 (2011); 28 U.S.C. §
2254(d) (1}- (2) . 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. It is the petitioner's burden
to rebut the presumption of correctness through clear and
convincing evidence. 28 U.S.C. § 2254 (e) (1).
criminal defendant has a constitutional right to the
effective assistance of counsel at trial. U.S. Const, amend,
VI, XIV; Evitts v. Lucey, 469 U.S. 387, 396 (1985);
Strickland v. Washington, 466 U.S. 668, 688 (1984).
To prevail on an ineffective assistance claim in the context
of a guilty plea, a defendant must demonstrate that his plea
was rendered unknowing or involuntary by showing that (1)
counsel's representation fell below an objective standard
of reasonableness, and (2) there is a reasonable probability
that, but for counsel's deficient performance, he would
not have pleaded guilty and would have insisted on going to
trial. Hill v. Lockhart, 474 U.S. 52, 56-59 (1985);
Smith v. Estelle, 711 F.2d 677, 682 (5th Cir. 1983);
see also Strickland, 466 U.S. at 687. In assessing
the reasonableness of counsel's representation,
"counsel should be 'strongly presumed to have
rendered adequate assistance and made all significant
decisions in the exercise of reasonable professional
judgment.'" Cullen v. Pinholster, 563 U.S.
170, 189 (2011} (quoting Strickland, 466 U.S. at
by entering a knowing, intelligent and voluntary guilty plea,
a defendant waives all nonjurisdictional defects in the
proceedings preceding the plea, including all claims of
ineffective assistance of counsel that do not attack the
voluntariness of the guilty plea. Smith, 711 F.2d at
682; Bradbury v. Wainwright, 658 F.2d 1083, 1087
(5th Cir. 1981). A guilty plea is knowing, voluntary and
intelligent if done with sufficient awareness of the relevant
circumstances and likely consequences surrounding the plea.
Brady v. United States, 397 U.S. 742, 748 (1970). If
a challenged guilty plea is knowing, voluntary and
intelligent, it will be upheld on federal habeas review.
James v. Cain, 56 F.3d 662, 666 (5th Cir. 1995).
case, counsel filed an affidavit in the state habeas
proceedings addressing petitioner's claims, wherein he
states (all spelling, grammatical, and/or punctuation errors
are in the original):
I understand [petitioner]'[s] complaint herein to be that
I "rendered ineffective assistance of counsel" by;
1) coercing or frightening him into a plea of