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Puckett v. Davies

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

August 2, 2019

JONATHAN PUCKETT, Petitioner,
v.
LORIE DAVIES, Director, TDCJ- CID, Respondent.

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

          REBECCA RUTHERFORD UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.

         Petitioner Jonathan Puckett, 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. For the following reasons, the petition should be denied.

         I.

         In May 2017, Petitioner was tried on the charge of aggravated assault on a public servant, which resulted in a mistrial. State of Texas v. Jonathan D. Puckett, No. F-1461028-K (4th Crim. Dist. Ct., Dallas County, Tex., May 30, 2017). (See ECF No. 29-10 at 12). Immediately thereafter, Petitioner entered into a plea agreement and pleaded nolo contendere to the charge. (Id. at 7-11, 13). He did not file an appeal. (See ECF No. 3 at 2). Petitioner filed a state habeas petition, Ex parte Puckett, No. 87, 314-01, which the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals (“CCA”) denied without written order on the findings of the trial court without a hearing. (See ECF No. 29- 1). The CCA subsequently denied, without written order, Petitioner's second state habeas petition, Ex parte Puckett, No. 87, 314-02. (See ECF No. 29-12).

         Petitioner then filed the instant § 2254 petition, in which he argues:

(1) His plea agreement was violated.
(2) The State violated his “mental health rights.”
(3) His conviction violates the Interstate Agreement on Detainers because he was tried over 180 days after he submitted written notice and request for final disposition of his case.
(4) His attorneys provided ineffective assistance in numerous respects.
(5) The State had an “excessive conflict of interest” in this case because the victim was a Dallas police officer.

(ECF No. 3).

         II.

         A. Standard of Review

         The role of federal courts in reviewing habeas corpus petitions by prisoners in state custody is exceedingly narrow. A person seeking federal habeas corpus review must assert a violation of a federal constitutional right. Lowery v. Collins, 988 F.2d 1364, 1367 (5th Cir. 1993). Federal habeas corpus relief will not issue to correct errors of state constitutional, statutory, or procedural law, unless a federal issue is also present. Estelle v. McGuire, 502 U.S. 62, 67-68 (1991); West v. Johnson, 92 F.3d 1385, 1404 (5th Cir. 1996). When reviewing state proceedings, a federal court does not sit as a super state appellate court. Dillard v. Blackburn, 780 F.2d 509, 513 (5th Cir. 1986).

         Federal habeas corpus relief for state prisoners has been further limited by the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996 (the “AEDPA”). The pertinent terms of the AEDPA, 28 U.S.C. § 2254 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. As a condition for obtaining habeas corpus relief from a federal court, a state prisoner must show that the state court's ruling on the claim being presented in federal court was so lacking in justification that there was an error well understood and comprehended in existing law beyond any possibility for fair-minded disagreement. Harrington v. Richter, 562 U.S. 86, 105 (2011). A petitioner must show that there was no reasonable basis for the state court to deny relief. Id., at 98.

         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 reasons unrelated to the claims merits.”). Because the CCA denied Petitioner's claims on the merits, the deferential AEDPA standard of review applies to this petition.

         B. Violation ...


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