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Sanders v. Davis

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

February 5, 2019

MELVIN LEE SANDERS, III, Petitioner,
v.
LORIE DAVIS, Director, Texas Department of Criminal Justice, Correctional Institutions Division, Respondent.

          FINDINGS, CONCLUSIONS, AND RECOMMENDATION OF THE UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE

          REBECCA RUTHERFORD UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.

         Petitioner Melvin Lee Sanders, III, a Texas prisoner, filed a pro se petition for a writ of habeas corpus under 28 U.S.C. § 2254. The district court referred the resulting civil action to the United States magistrate judge, pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(b) and a standing order of reference. Petitioner also filed a Motion to Request Stay and Abeyance to Exhaust Habeas Claim (ECF No. 24). For the following reasons, the petition should be dismissed, and the motion should be denied.

         I.

         In June 2014, Petitioner was convicted by a jury of aggravated sexual assault of a child and sentenced to life in prison. State of Texas v. Melvin Lee Sanders, III, No. F-47748 (18th Dist. Ct., Johnson County, Tex., June 10, 2014). The Tenth District Court of Appeals affirmed the judgment, Sanders v. State, No. 10-14-00211-CR, 2015 WL 2170229 (Tex. App. - Waco 2015, pet. ref'd), and the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals (“CCA”) refused Petitioner's petition for discretionary review, Sanders v. State, No. PD-0616-15. The United States Supreme Court refused Petitioner's petition for writ of certiorari. Sanders v. Texas, 136 S.Ct. 2413 (2016).

         Petitioner also filed an application for a state writ of habeas corpus, Ex parte Sanders, No. 86, 787-01 (ECF No. 17-30 at 19), which the CCA denied without written order on the findings of the trial court without a hearing. (ECF No. 17-24). Petitioner then filed the instant § 2254 petition in federal court, in which he argues:

(1) the trial court erred and violated his “fair trial rights” in denying three separate motions for a mistrial after trial witnesses mentioned his criminal history and outstanding warrants;
(2) the jury committed misconduct, violating his right to due process; and
(3) appellate counsel provided ineffective assistance.

         On November 30, 2018, Petitioner filed a Motion to Request Stay and Abeyance to Exhaust Habeas Claim. (ECF No. 24).

         II.

         A. Standard of Review

         The standard of review in federal habeas cases is governed by the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996 (the “AEDPA”), 28 U.S.C. § 2254. The pertinent terms of the AEDPA provide:

(d) An application for writ of habeas corpus on behalf of a person in custody pursuant to the judgment of a state court shall not be granted with respect to any claim that was adjudicated on the merits in State court proceedings unless the adjudication of the claim -
(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 a State court proceeding.

See 28 U.S.C. § 2254(d). Under the “contrary to” clause, a federal habeas court may grant the writ of habeas corpus if the state court arrives at a conclusion opposite to that reached by the United States Supreme Court on a question of law or if the state court decides a case differently from the United States Supreme Court on a set of materially indistinguishable facts. Williams v. Taylor, 529 U.S. 362, 380-84 (2000). Under the “unreasonable application” clause, a federal court may grant a writ of habeas corpus if the state court identifies the correct governing legal principle from the United States Supreme Court's decisions, but unreasonably applies that principle to the facts of the prisoner's case. Id.

         Under Texas law, when the CCA denies a state habeas petition, as in the present case, the “denial” means that the court rejected the merits of a particular claim. See Miller v. Johnson, 200 F.3d 274, 281 (5th Cir. 2000) (“Under Texas law, a denial of relief by the Court of Criminal Appeals serves as a denial of relief on the merits of the claim.”); Ex parte Torres, 943 S.W.2d 469, 472 (Tex. Crim. App. 1997) (en banc) (“In our writ jurisprudence, a ‘denial' signifies that we addressed and rejected the merits of a particular claim while a ‘dismissal' means that we declined to consider the claim for ...


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