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Engle v. Davis

United States District Court, N.D. Texas, Dallas Division

May 15, 2018

MARK EUGENE ENGLE (TDCJ No. 1958430), Petitioner,
LORIE DAVIS, Director Texas Department of Criminal Justice, Correctional Institutions Division, Respondent.



         Petitioner Mark Eugene Engle, a Texas inmate, has filed a pro se application for writ of habeas corpus under 28 U.S.C. § 2254. See Dkt. Nos. 3 & 5. This resulting action has been referred to the undersigned United States magistrate judge for pretrial management under 28 U.S.C. § 636(b) and a standing order of reference from United States District Judge Karen Gren Scholer. For the reasons explained below, the Court should deny Engle's habeas petition.

         Applicable Background

         “Engle, charged with the manufacture or delivery of more than four grams but less than 200 grams of a controlled substance” - in violation of Texas Health and Safety Code § 481.112(d) - “filed a motion to suppress evidence. After this motion to suppress was denied by the trial court, Engle entered a plea of guilty to the charge and submitted the issue of punishment to a Hunt County jury, which assessed a life sentence” - after “[t]he State alleged and proved two prior convictions for enhancement purposes.” Engle v. State, No. 06-14-00239-CR, 2015 WL 6689258, at *1, nn.1-2 (Tex. App. - Texarkana Nov. 3, 2015, pet ref'd); see State v. Engle, No. 29, 110 (354th Dist. Ct., Hunt Cty., Tex.). Engle appealed the denial of the suppression motion, that point of error was overruled, and the trial court's judgment and sentence were affirmed. See Engle, 2015 WL 6689258.

         The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals (the “CCA”) refused discretionary review. See Engle v. State, PD-1562-15 (Tex. Crim. App. Feb. 3, 2016). And the CCA denied his state application for writ of habeas corpus without a written order. See Ex parte Engle, WR-83, 567-08 (Tex. Crim. App. July 13, 2016).

         In his timely-filed federal habeas application, Engle does not assert that his guilty plea was involuntary but does allege that the trial and appellate courts committed errors and that his trial and appellate counsel were ineffective.

         Legal Standards

         Where a state court has already rejected a claim on the merits, a federal court may grant habeas relief on that claim only if the state court adjudication:

(1) 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; or
(2) resulted in a decision that 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).

         A state court adjudication on direct appeal is due the same deference under Section 2254(d) as an adjudication in a state post-conviction proceeding. See, e.g., Dowthitt v. Johnson, 230 F.3d 733, 756-57 (5th Cir. 2000) (a finding made by the CCA on direct appeal was an “issue ... adjudicated on the merits in state proceedings, ” to be “examine[d] ... with the deference demanded by [the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996 (the “AEDPA”)]” under “28 U.S.C. § 2254(d)”).

         A state court decision is “contrary” to clearly established federal law if “it relies on legal rules that directly conflict with prior holdings of the Supreme Court or if it reaches a different conclusion than the Supreme Court on materially indistinguishable facts.” Busby v. Dretke, 359 F.3d 708, 713 (5th Cir. 2004); see also Lopez v. Smith, 574 U.S.___, 135 S.Ct. 1, 2 (2014) (per curiam) (“We have emphasized, time and time again, that the AEDPA prohibits the federal courts of appeals from relying on their own precedent to conclude that a particular constitutional principle is ‘clearly established.'” (citation omitted)).

         A decision constitutes an “unreasonable application” of clearly established federal law if “the state court identifies the correct governing legal principle from [the Supreme] Court's decisions but unreasonably applies that principle to the facts of the prisoner's case.” Williams v. Taylor, 529 U.S. 362, 413 (2000). “For purposes of § 2254(d)(1), an unreasonable application of federal law is different from an incorrect application of federal law.... A state court's determination that a claim lacks merit precludes federal habeas relief so long as fairminded jurists could disagree on the correctness of the state court's decision.” Harrington v. Richter, 562 U.S. 86, 101 (2011) (citations and internal quotation marks omitted). “Under § 2254(d), a habeas court must determine what arguments or theories supported or ... could have supported, the state court's decision; and then it must ask whether it is possible fairminded jurists could disagree that those arguments or theories are inconsistent with the holding in a prior decision of [the Supreme] Court.” Id. at 102 (internal quotation marks omitted); see Evans v. ...

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