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Woods v. Davis

United States District Court, S.D. Texas, Houston Division

April 24, 2019

Richard Dee Woods, Petitioner,
v.
Lorie Davis, Respondent.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

          GRAY H. MILLER SENIOR UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         Petitioner, a state inmate proceeding pro se, filed this section 2254 habeas lawsuit challenging his conviction. Respondent filed a motion for summary judgment. (Docket Entry No. 13.) Despite expiration of a reasonable period of time in excess of ninety days, including an extension of time granted at his request, petitioner failed to file a response to the motion, and the motion is uncontested.

         Having considered the motion, the pleadings, the record, and the applicable law, the Court GRANTS the motion for summary judgment and DISMISSES this lawsuit for the reasons explained below.

         Background and Claims

         Petitioner was convicted of possession with intent to deliver/manufacture a controlled substance, as enhanced, and sentenced to ninety-nine years' imprisonment. The conviction was affirmed on appeal, Woods v. State, 2016 WL 4040120, No. 09-15-00013-CR (Tex. App.-Beaumont 2016, pet. refd.), and the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals refused discretionary review. The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals denied petitioner's timely-filed application for state habeas relief.

         Petitioner raises the following grounds for federal habeas relief in this proceeding:

1. There was insufficient evidence to convict him of possession with intent to deliver a controlled substance;
2. There was insufficient evidence to affirmatively link him to the methamphetamine that the police found in the truck he was driving;
3. Trial counsel was ineffective in failing to interview his co-defendant or call the co-defendant to testify that the drugs belonged to him, not petitioner;
4. Appellate counsel was ineffective in failing to challenge the trial court's denial of petitioner's motion to suppress.

         Respondent argues that petitioner's claims should be summarily dismissed as they have no merit.

         The Applicable Legal Standards

         Habeas Review

         This petition is governed by the applicable provisions of the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996 (AEDPA). 28 U .S.C. § 2254. Under the AEDPA, federal habeas relief cannot be granted on legal issues adjudicated on the merits in state court unless the state adjudication was contrary to clearly established federal law as determined by the Supreme Court, or involved an unreasonable application of clearly established federal law as determined by the Supreme Court. Harrington v. Richter, 562 U.S. 86, 98-99 (2011); Williams v. Taylor, 529 U.S. 362, 404-05 (2000); 28 U.S.C. §§ 2254(d)(1), (2). A state court decision is contrary to federal precedent if it applies a rule that contradicts the governing law set forth by the Supreme Court, or if it confronts a set of facts that are materially indistinguishable from such a decision and arrives at a result different from the Supreme Court's precedent. Early v. Packer, 537 U.S. 3, 7-8 (2002).

         A state court unreasonably applies Supreme Court precedent if it unreasonably applies the correct legal rule to the facts of a particular case, or unreasonably extends a legal principle from Supreme Court precedent to a new context where it should not apply, or unreasonably refuses to extend that principle to a new context where it should apply. Williams, 529 U.S. at 409. In deciding whether a state court's application was unreasonable, this Court considers whether the application was objectively unreasonable. Id. at 411. "It bears repeating that even a strong case for relief does not mean the state court's contrary conclusion was unreasonable." Richter, 562 U.S. at 102. As stated by the Supreme Court in Richter,

If this standard is difficult to meet, that is because it was meant to be. As amended by AEDPA, § 2254(d) stops short of imposing a complete bar on federal court relitigation of claims already rejected in state proceedings. It preserves authority to issue the writ in cases where there is no possibility fairminded jurists could disagree that the state court's decision conflicts with this Court's precedents. It goes no farther. Section 2254(d) reflects the view that habeas corpus is a "guard against extreme malfunctions in the state criminal justice systems," not a substitute for ordinary error correction through appeal.

Id., at 102-03 (emphasis added; internal citations omitted).

         The AEDPA affords deference to a state court's resolution of factual issues. Under 28 U.S.C. § 2254(d)(2), a decision adjudicated on the merits in a state court and based on a factual determination will not be overturned on factual grounds unless it is objectively unreasonable in light of the evidence presented in the state court proceeding. Miller-El v. Cockrell, 537 U.S. 322, 343 (2003). A federal habeas court must presume the underlying factual determination of the state court to be correct, unless the petitioner rebuts the presumption of correctness by clear and convincing evidence. 28 U.S.C. § 2254(e)(1); see also Miller-El, 537 U.S. at 330-31.

         Summary Judgment Review

         In deciding a motion for summary judgment, the district court must determine whether the pleadings, discovery materials, and the summary judgment evidence show that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c). Once the movant presents a properly supported motion for summary judgment, the burden shifts to the nonmovant to show with significant probative evidence the existence of a genuine issue of material fact. Hamilton v. Segue Software, Inc., 232 F.3d 473, 477 (5th Cir. 2000).

         While summary judgment rules apply with equal force in a section 2254 proceeding, the rules only apply to the extent that they do not conflict with the federal rules governing habeas proceedings. Therefore, section 2254(e)(1), which mandates that a state court's findings are to be presumed correct, overrides the summary judgment rule that all disputed facts must be construed in the light most favorable to the nonmovant. Accordingly, unless a petitioner can rebut the presumption of correctness of a state court's factual findings by clear and convincing evidence, the state court's findings must be accepted as correct by the federal habeas court. Smith v. Cockrell, 311 F.3d 661, 668 (5th Cir. 2002), overruled on other grounds by Tennard v. Dretke, 542 U.S. 274 (2004).

         Insufficiency of the Evidence

         Petitioner argues in his first habeas claim that the evidence was insufficient to support his conviction of possession with intent to deliver a controlled substance. He argues in his second claim that the evidence was insufficient to affirmatively link him to the methamphetamine found in the truck he ...


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