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LaFlamme v. Davis

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

May 10, 2019

MICHAEL WILFRED LAFLAMME, Petitioner,
v.
LORIE DAVIS, Respondent.

          ORDER

          Marina Garcia Marmolejo United States District Judge

         Now before the Court is Petitioner Michael LaFlamme's pro se petition for a writ of habeas corpus under 28 U.S.C. § 2254. (Dkts. Nos. 1-2). Respondent Lorie Davis has filed a Motion for Summary Judgment (Dkt. No. 33), and Petitioner has filed a Response (Dkt. No. 35). Also pending are Petitioner's Motion for Funding to Secure Investigative Assistance (Dkt. No. 6), Motion for Investigation (Dkt. No. 9), and two Requests for Evidentiary Hearings (Dkt. Nos. 17, 27). Having considered the parties' filings and the applicable law, the Court hereby GRANTS summary judgment for Respondent, DENIES each of Petitioner's motions, and DISMISSES this case WITH PREJUDICE.

         I. Background

         On November 3, 2011, Petitioner struck a pedestrian with his vehicle. (Dkt. No. 34-5 at 1). Although Petitioner was detained at the scene, he was not arrested until toxicology tests returned positive for the presence of morphine and benzoylecgonine, a cocaine metabolite. (Id.). After representing himself at trial in 2015, Petitioner was convicted of intoxication assault with a deadly weapon in Webb County state court and sentenced to sixteen years imprisonment. (Dkt. No. 34-44 at 65-66, 72-73; Dkt. No. 34-25 at 5:21-6:22). Petitioner appealed to Texas' Fourth Court of Appeals on the following grounds:

1. Error in admitting photographs during the sentencing phase;
2. Improper judicial notice as to prior convictions during the sentencing phase;
3. Error by the prosecution in attempting to discuss unadjudicated arrests during the sentencing phase;
4. Ineffective assistance of stand-by counsel during trial; and
5. Failure by the court to sua sponte remove a juror who Petitioner neglected to strike.

(Dkt. No. 34-5). Petitioner's conviction was affirmed on appeal (Dkt. No. 34-4), and the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals (CCA) refused his petition for discretionary review. LaFlamme v. State, No. PD-0692-17 (Tex. Crim. App. 2018). Petitioner then filed an application for a state writ of habeas corpus challenging his conviction on eight grounds:

1. Trial by a partial and biased jury in violation of the Sixth Amendment;
2. Abuse of discretion by the trial judge for failing to correct a mistake in Petitioner's use of peremptory strikes during jury selection;
3. Violation of due process because the conviction was without evidence to support the element of intoxication;
4. Abuse of discretion by the trial judge for failing to grant Petitioner's motion for a new trial;
5. Admission of prejudicial and misleading evidence;
6. Abuse of discretion by the trial judge for twice permitting the amendment of the grand jury indictment;
7. Disobedience of witnesses by failing to produce evidence requested via trial subpoenas duces tecum; and
8. Abuse of discretion by the trial judge in admitting blood evidence through a police officer.

(Dkt. No. 34-44 at 20-40). The CCA denied Petitioner's application without written order on June 13, 2018. (Dkt. No. 34-32).

         II. The Instant Petition

         Petitioner now asserts the same eight claims for federal habeas relief, albeit in a different order:

1. Trial by a partial and biased jury in violation of the Sixth Amendment;
2. Abuse of discretion by the trial judge for failing to correct a mistake in Petitioner's use of peremptory strikes during jury selection;
3. Violation of due process because the conviction was without evidence to support the element of intoxication;
4. Abuse of discretion by the trial judge for twice permitting the amendment of the grand jury indictment;
5. Disobedience of trial witnesses by failing to produce evidence requested via trial subpoenas duces tecum;
6. Abuse of discretion by the trial judge by admitting prejudicial and misleading evidence;
7. Abuse of discretion by the trial judge in admitting blood evidence through a police officer; and
8. Abuse of discretion by the trial judge for failing to grant Petitioner's motion for a new trial.

(Dkt. No. 1 at 6-9).

         Respondent has moved for summary judgment, arguing that Petitioner's claims are without merit and that claim three (insufficiency of evidence) is unexhausted and procedurally barred. (Dkt. No. 33). Respondent further contends that Petitioner has failed to carry his burden of demonstrating that the state-court denials of these claims conflict with established federal law or are based on an unreasonable determination of the facts in light of the evidence. (Id.).

         III. Legal Standards

         A. Habeas Review

         This petition is governed by the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996 (AEDPA). See 28 U.S.C. § 2254. Under AEDPA, federal habeas relief is unavailable for any claim that was adjudicated on the merits in state court unless the 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)(1)-(2). The Supreme Court has explained how § 2254(d) affects the reviewability of claims already adjudicated without a written order:

By its terms § 2254(d) bars relitigation of any claim "adjudicated on the merits" in state court, subject only to the exceptions in §§ 2254(d)(1) and (2).. . . Where a state court's decision is unaccompanied by an explanation, the habeas petitioner's burden still must be met by showing there was no reasonable basis for the state court to deny relief. This is so whether or not the state court reveals which of the elements in a multipart claim it found insufficient, for § 2254(d) applies when a "claim," not a component of one, has been adjudicated. . . . When a federal claim has been presented to a state court and the state court has denied relief, it may be presumed that the state court adjudicated the claim on the merits in the absence of any indication or state-law procedural principles to the contrary.

Harrington u. Richter, 562 U.S. 86, 98-99 (2011) (internal citations omitted). Thus, because there is no indication or state-law procedural principle to the contrary, the CCAs denial of Petitioner's state habeas petition without a written order is an adjudication on the merits of all eight of Petitioner's claims.

         B. Summary Judgment

         Summary judgment is appropriate when the pleadings and evidence show that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact, and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. FED. R. CIV. P. 56(a). Once the movant presents "a properly supported motion for summary judgment, the burden shifts to the nonmoving party to show with significant probative evidence that there exists a genuine issue of material ...


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