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Rangel v. Davis

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

June 28, 2019

Jerry Rangel, Petitioner,
Lorie Davis, Respondent.


          Gray H. Miller Senior United States District Judge

          Petitioner, a state inmate proceeding pro se, filed this section 2254 habeas lawsuit challenging his conviction for aggravated sexual assault of a child. Respondent filed a motion for summary judgment. (Docket Entry No. 17). The Court served petitioner a copy of the motion at his address on record on February 19, 2019. Despite expiration of a reasonable period of time in excess of eighty-five days, 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 aggravated sexual assault of a child in 2007 and sentenced to life imprisonment. The conviction was affirmed on appeal in 2009, Rangel v. State, No. 10-07-00247-CR, 2009 WL 540780 (Tex. App.-Waco 2009, pet. ref'd), and the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals refused discretionary review on June 3, 2009. Petitioner's petition for writ of certiorari was denied by the United States Supreme Court on October 13, 2009. Rangel v. Texas, 558 U.S. 952 (2009).

         Petitioner's application for state habeas relief, filed with the state trial court in September 2010, was denied by the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals on June 13, 2018. Petitioner filed the instant federal habeas petition no earlier than June 25, 2018. Despite the passage of eleven years between petitioner's conviction and his instant petition, this federal petition appears timely filed.

         Petitioner raises the following grounds for federal habeas relief:

(1) His confrontation rights were violated because a DNA analyst testified and read directly from a lab report prepared by a different DNA analyst.
(2) Trial counsel was ineffective in failing to
(a) investigate and object to evidence of a diaper and trash;
(b) object to irrelevant physical evidence of petitioner's shirt and pants; and
(c) object to the prosecutor's improper closing arguments.
(3) The State failed to disclose or give proper notice of its blood splatter expert witness.

         Respondent argues that petitioner's claims should be summarily dismissed as they are without merit.

         Factual Background

          The intermediate state court of appeals set forth the following statements of fact in its opinion affirming petitioner's conviction:

Inez, the grandmother of 13-month-old E.A., [the female complainant], and the person paying the apartment's rent, found her in the early afternoon on a bed naked, unconscious, and bleeding vaginally. Rangel, who stayed overnight in the apartment a couple of nights a week with E.A.'s mother, was asleep on the bedroom floor with his belt buckle undone after being out all night with E.A.'s mother, whom Inez had taken to work early that morning. Inez relayed that information to her employer, who relayed it to the police just before they entered the apartment and found Rangel still asleep.
* * * *
[Inez] woke Rangel up and asked him what he had done. Rangel told [Inez] that he had not done anything and he “passed out” asleep.
[Inez] stated that she picked the victim up and drove to St. Joseph Hospital for medical treatment. When she arrived at the scene she told the medical staff there what had happened and one of the nurses in the emergency room called 911. Detective Loup learned from medical personnel that the victim had trauma and bleeding to her vagina, her left leg was broken, she had a fractured skull, and bruising to her face, foot, and hand. The victim was treated and later taken to Scott White Hospital in Temple Texas by Life-Flight.
* * * *
The jury heard that Inez found E.A. on the bed, bleeding and unconscious, with Rangel asleep on the floor with his belt unbuckled, zipper down, and the front of his pants wet. Blood on Rangel's pants belonged to E.A., and DNA on a diaper suspiciously discovered the next day in the same bedroom belonged to both E.A. and Rangel. E.A. suffered severe injuries, including multiple bruises and abrasions, multiple skull fractures, a fractured femur, and a vaginal laceration. In his post-arrest statement to Detective Loup, Rangel admitted to drinking beer and ingesting cocaine the night before.

Rangel, at *2-5.

         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 ...

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