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Hunt v. Davis

United States District Court, W.D. Texas, San Antonio Division

May 21, 2018

DERRICK WAYNE HUNT, TDCJ No. 01817959, Petitioner,
LORIE DAVIS, Director, Texas Department of Criminal Justice, Correctional Institutions Division, Respondent.



         Before the Court are Petitioner Derrick Hunt's pro se Petition for Writ of Habeas Corpus pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254 (ECF No. 1), Respondent's Answer (ECF No. 7), Petitioner's Amended Petition (ECF No. 11), and his Reply (ECF No. 14).[1] Having reviewed the record and pleadings submitted by both parties, the Court concludes Petitioner is not entitled to relief under the standards prescribed by the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996 (“AEDPA”). See 28 U.S.C. § 2254(d). Petitioner is also denied a certificate of appealability.

         I. Background

         In October of 2012, a Bexar County jury found Petitioner guilty on one count of capital murder, and he was sentenced to life imprisonment without parole. The facts presented at trial were accurately summarized by the Fourth Court of Appeals in his direct appeal:

In the early morning hours of October 10, 2011, John Dexter, a taxi driver in San Antonio, was dispatched to Foss Meadows Drive. Dexter activated his meter at 3:48 A.M. At 4:03 A.M., Dexter stopped at a nearby convenience store and purchased a pack of gum with a twenty dollar bill and received $19.62 in change. On his way out of the store, Dexter encountered San Antonio Police Department Officer James Phelan, who was taking a break. Dexter told Officer Phelan that he believed his current customer would not pay the fare. Officer Phelan offered to speak with the customer, but Dexter declined, stating that he would call the police if the fare was not paid. Officer Phelan observed a black male sitting in the back seat of the taxi before Dexter left and drove away . . .
Several minutes later, Daniel Solis was sleeping in his home on Sunrise Pass when he was awakened by five to six loud banging noises. He looked out his front window and observed Dexter's taxi in the street with the engine running. After several minutes, the taxi slowly moved forward and collided with the back of a parked vehicle. Solis went outside to investigate and found Dexter sitting in the driver's seat, bleeding. Solis opened the driver's door, placed the taxi in park, and called 911. Officer Phelan, the first officer to respond to the scene, arrived at 4:15 A.M. He encountered Solis standing in the street and observed Dexter unconscious in the driver's seat, still restrained by his seatbelt. Officer Phelan observed that Dexter had been shot several times and had no pulse. The medical examiner later determined that Dexter was shot six times in his head and upper body. The medical examiner testified that the bullets were fired from behind Dexter at an intermediate close range. Spent shell casings and bullet fragments found at the crime scene were consistent with bullets fired from a semi-automatic handgun. No. money was found at the crime scene, except for sixty-two cents found in Dexter's pocket.
Police investigators subsequently discovered footprints in the mud consistent with someone traveling [a]way from the taxi, through a fenced backyard, and toward the street neighboring Sunrise Pass. The taxi company provided a recording of the phone call placed by Dexter's final customer requesting taxi service from Foss Meadows Drive. On the recording, the caller identified himself as “Tyrone Callahan.” Police eventually tracked the phone number of the caller to a cell phone registered to Marsheila Williams and used by her son, Carnel Walker.
Walker testified that he and several friends, including Hunt, went to a nightclub on the night of October 9, 2011. . . . Several hours later, Savawn Kyle gave Hunt and Terrance Scott a ride to Scott's home. Upon arriving at Scott's home, Hunt asked Kyle to take him to Walker's home. . . . Kyle . . . dropped Hunt off at Walker's home. Hunt knocked on the front door and spoke with Walker in the front yard. Walker refused to allow Hunt to sleep at his house because Walker's mother had a policy prohibiting overnight guests. Walker gave Hunt the phone number for a taxi and allowed Hunt to use his cell phone. Walker testified that Hunt called for a taxi using the name “Tyrone.” Before the taxi arrived, Walker went back inside to sleep, but instructed Hunt to leave his cell phone inside and lock the door behind him.
The next morning, police contacted Williams and asked her come to the police station to discuss a homicide investigation. Williams relayed this information to Walker and then went to the police station. While she was away, Walker buried his cell phone in a neighbor's backyard. Walker subsequently consented to an interview with police detectives and told them that Hunt called him after leaving his house and stated that he had killed someone. Walker also told police that he observed that Hunt had a black semi-automatic handgun on the morning of the murder. At trial, Walker remembered telling police the information, but could no longer recall whether the information was true. Walker subsequently led police to his buried cell phone. He testified that he buried the phone because he was scared after learning that his mother was being questioned regarding a homicide.
Hunt's grandparents' home is located on the street behind Sunrise Pass, the site of the murder. Hunt's grandfather, William Bell, told police that Hunt knocked on his door during the 4:00 A.M. hour on October 10, 2011. Bell allowed Hunt into the house where he went to sleep. Bell testified that at the time, he heard police sirens and a helicopter and could see flashing emergency lights on the neighboring street. Bell subsequently allowed investigators to search Hunt's room, but they found nothing connecting Hunt to the crime scene. Police did, however, recover a latent fingerprint on the exterior of the taxi matching Hunt's fingerprint. Hunt consented to an interview with police, but denied that he had been in a taxi on the morning of the murder, claiming that he had received a ride home from his girlfriend, Raquel Fumbanks. During the interview, investigators asked Hunt to pronounce several street names, including “Callaghan.” Immediately thereafter, Hunt requested to terminate the interview. At trial, Fumbanks denied that she ever gave Hunt a ride home. After listening to the recording of the phone call requesting taxi service, she identified the voice of “Tyrone Calla[g]han” as that of Hunt.

Hunt v. State, No. 04-12-00689-CR, 2014 WL 2443812, at *1-2 (Tex. App.─San Antonio 2014, pet. ref d). Petitioner did not testify at his trial.

         Petitioner's conviction and sentence were affirmed on direct appeal, and the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals refused his petition for discretionary review on November 5, 2014. Hunt v. State, No. PD-0787-14 (ECF No. 8-9). Petitioner sought a state writ of habeas corpus, alleging he was denied the effective assistance of trial and appellate counsel. The state trial court made findings of fact and conclusions of law, and recommended the writ be denied. (ECF No. 9-18 at 162-188 & ECF No. 9-19 at 1-16). The Court of Criminal Appeals denied the writ on the findings of the trial court. (ECF No. 9-7).

         Petitioner signed the instant federal petition on September 28, 2017. (ECF No. 1 at 10). In his Amended Petition, Petitioner asserts he was denied the effective assistance of trial and appellate counsel. Respondent allows the petition is timely and asserts one of Petitioner's claims is procedurally barred. (ECF No. 7 at 2).

         II. Standard of Review

         Petitioner's federal habeas petition is governed by the heightened standard of review provided by the AEDPA, codified at 28 U.S.C. § 2254. Under § 2254(d), a petitioner may not obtain federal habeas corpus relief on any claim that was adjudicated on the merits in state court proceedings, unless the adjudication of that claim either “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 resulted in a decision based on an unreasonable determination of the facts in light of the evidence presented in the state court proceeding. Brown v. Payton, 544 U.S. 133, 141 (2005). This intentionally difficult standard stops just short of imposing a complete bar on federal court relitigation of claims already rejected in state proceedings. Harrington v. Richter, 562 U.S. 86, 102 (2011) (citing Felker v. Turpin, 518 U.S. 651, 664 (1996)).

         A federal habeas court's inquiry into unreasonableness should always be objective rather than subjective, with a focus on whether the state court's application of clearly established federal law was “objectively unreasonable” and not whether it was incorrect or erroneous. McDaniel v. Brown, 558 U.S. 120, 132-33 (2010); Wiggins v. Smith, 539 U.S. 510, 520-21 (2003). Even a strong case for relief does not mean the state court's contrary conclusion was unreasonable, regardless of whether the federal habeas court would have reached a different conclusion. Richter, 562 U.S. at 102. Instead, a petitioner must show the state court's decision was objectively unreasonable, a “substantially higher threshold.” Schriro v. Landrigan, 550 U.S. 465, 473 (2007); Lockyer v. Andrade, 538 U.S. 63, 75-76 (2003). As long as “fairminded jurists could disagree” on the correctness of the state court's decision, a state court's determination that a claim lacks merit precludes federal habeas relief. Richter, 562 U.S. at 101 (citing Yarborough v. Alvarado, 541 U.S. 652, 664 (2004)). In other words, to obtain federal habeas relief on a claim previously ...

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