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Stanton v. Director, TDCJ

United States District Court, E.D. Texas, Sherman Division

August 22, 2019




         Petitioner Luke Adam Stanton, Sr., an inmate confined in the Texas prison system, filed the above-styled and numbered petition for a writ of habeas corpus pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254. For reasons set forth below, the Court finds that the petition is not well-taken and that it will be denied.

         Procedural History of the Case

         Stanton is challenging his Denton County convictions for multiple sex-based offenses against K.B., R.B., and A.A. in three cases tried together: cause numbers F-2011-1911-C (Counts I-IV committed against K.B.), F-2011-1912-C (Counts I-IV committed against R.B.), and F-2011-1913-C (a single count committed against A.A.). After a jury trial, he was sentenced on the various counts on August 24, 2012. In F-2011-1911-C, he was sentenced to fifteen years of imprisonment for sexual assault (Count I) and fifteen years of imprisonment on each count of indecency with a child (Counts II-IV), with the sentences running consecutively. In F-2011-1912-C, he was sentenced to forty years of imprisonment for continuous sexual abuse of a young child (Count I) and fifteen years on each count of indecency with a child (Counts II-IV), with the sentences running consecutively. In F-2011-1913-C, he was sentenced to ten years of imprisonment for indecency with a child. The convictions were affirmed. Stanton v. State, No. 08-12-00293-CR, 2014 WL 5100102, 08-12-00294-CR, 2014 WL 5100106, 08-12-00295-CR, 2014 WL 5100107 (Tex. App. - El Paso Oct. 10, 2014, pet. ref'd). The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals refused his petition for discretionary review on March 4, 2015.

         Stanton filed an application for a writ of habeas corpus in state court. SHCR[1] at 1. The trial court issued findings of fact and conclusions of law. Id. at 333-340. On January 13, 2016, the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals denied the applications without written order on findings of the trial court without a hearing.

         The present petition (Dkt. #1) was filed on August 18, 2016. Stanton attached a memorandum of law in support of the petition. He brings the following grounds for relief:

1. Brady[2] violations by investigative agencies;
2. Prosecutor misrepresented the physical evidence;
3. Bad faith destruction of potentially exculpatory evidence;
4. Prosecutor used perjured testimony; and
5. Ineffective assistance of counsel.

         The Director filed an answer (Dkt. #23) on February 11, 207. Stanton filed a response (Dkt. #36) on March 30, 2017.

         Factual Background of the Case

         The Eighth Court of Appeals discussed the facts of this case as follows:

         A jury found [Stanton] guilty of multiple sex-based offenses committed against K.B., R.B., and A.A. in three cases tried together.

R.B. and K.B. were [Stanton's] stepdaughters at the time these offenses were committed. R.B., who was sixteen years of age when this case was tried in August 2012, testified that [Stanton] touched her vagina “almost daily” both before and after she turned fourteen years of age. The first incident occurred when she was 10 or 11 years of age. [Stanton] rubbed ointment on mosquito bites on her legs and he gradually moved his hand until he was touching her vagina over her clothes. R.B. reported the incident to her mother, K.S., and K.S. replied that she would talk to [Stanton]. When K.S. asked [Stanton] about R.B.'s statement, [Stanton] denied any wrongdoing. [Stanton] continued to assault R.B. by touching her genitals both on top of and under her clothing on many other occasions. She explained that he often began by rubbing her feet and legs, but he eventually moved his hand so that he was touching her vagina. R.B. also testified that [Stanton] touched and squeezed her breast with his hand. R.B. told her mother what [Stanton] was doing to her, but K.S. did not believe her.
K.B. was twenty years old at the time of trial. K.B. testified that when she was in the fourth grade, [Stanton] came into her bedroom at night, reached under the covers, and squeezed her vagina with his hand. K.B. kicked him and pulled away from him. [Stanton] then left the room. On another occasion when K.B. was about to enter the fifth grade, she and R.B. were having a water gun fight in the pool. [Stanton] was also in the pool and he got behind K.B. and pulled her onto his lap. [Stanton] moved K.B.'s hands under the water and made her touch his penis. He also moved her swimsuit bottom and tried to penetrate her with his penis. She tried to pull away because it hurt but he would not let go of her. K.B. did not cry out because she did not want to scare R.B. who was only five or six years of age at the time. [Stanton] finally let her go and she got out of the pool. In another incident, [Stanton] pulled down K.B.'s pants and underwear and touched her genitals with his mouth and tongue. K.B. tried to kick him and get away but he held her down. K.B. testified that [Stanton] continued to touch her genitals with his hands and mouth on many other occasions when her mother was at work. These incidents occurred at least twice a week for six years or, in the words of K.B., “[t]oo many times to count.” K.B. recalled that whenever she rejected [Stanton's] advances completely, he would be mean to her and R.B. When K.B. was in elementary school, she tried to tell her mother that [Stanton] had touched her genitals, but K.S. responded by questioning whether K.B. was confused or mistaken about what had happened. K.B. insisted she was not mistaken and her mother talked to [Stanton] about it. He denied it.
In 2008, R.B. told her school counselor what [Stanton] had done. K.S. took both R.B. and K.B. to the Children's Advocacy Center in Lewisville. Prior to the interview, K.S. asked R.B. if she could be mistaken or if it could have been an accident. K.B. described her mother as being “panicky” prior to the interviews and she told K.B. that they could be taken away from her and they might never see one another again. R.B. and K.B. did not tell the truth during their interviews because they were scared. [Stanton] continued to touch both of them inappropriately. In 2009, they were interviewed again but this time reported what [Stanton] had been doing to them. Nothing happened and [Stanton] returned home. He also continued to molest them.
In May of 2011, thirteen-year-old A.A. visited at R.B.'s home. [Stanton] got onto the bed where R.B. and A.A. were watching television and began rubbing A.A.'s feet. A.A. thought it was weird but she trusted him. [Stanton] moved from A.A.'s feet to her legs and he gradually moved his hand higher until he was touching her butt and vagina. He suddenly stopped when R.B.'s mother got home from work and walked into the room. A.A. told R.B. what had happened when they went to A.A.'s house. A.A. reported the assault to a school counselor a week later. On June 1, 2011, R.B. used her cellphone to secretly record [Stanton] touching her inappropriately. After K.B. saw the video, she took R.B. to the Sheriff's Office rather than telling their mother because she was afraid that her mother or [Stanton] would delete the videos. Law enforcement conducted an investigation and a grand jury returned three indictments against [Stanton].

Stanton, 2014 WL 5100102 at *1-2; Stanton, 2014 WL 5100106 at *1-2; Stanton, 2014 WL 5100107 at *1-2.

         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). In the course of reviewing state proceedings, a federal court does “not sit as a super state supreme court to review error under state law.” Wood v. Quarterman, 503 F.3d 408, 414 (5th Cir. 2007) (citations omitted); Porter v. Estelle, 709 F.2d 944, 957 (5th Cir. 1983).

         The petition was filed in 2016, thus review is governed by the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act (“AEDPA”). See Lindh v. Murphy, 521 U.S. 320, 327 (1997). Under AEDPA, a petitioner who is in custody “pursuant to the judgment of a State court” is not entitled to federal habeas corpus relief 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 the State court proceedings.

28 U.S.C. § 2254(d). “By its terms § 2254 bars relitigation of any claim ‘adjudicated on the merits' in state court, subject only to the exceptions in §§ 2254(d)(1) and (d)(2).” Harrington v. Richter, 562 U.S. 86, 98 (2011). AEDPA imposes a “highly deferential standard for evaluating state-court rulings, and demands that state-court decisions be given the benefit of the doubt.” Renico v. Lett, 559 U.S. 766, 773 (2010) (citation and internal quotation marks omitted). With respect to the first provision, a “state court decision is ‘contrary to' clearly established federal law if (1) the state court ‘applies a rule that contradicts the governing law' announced in Supreme Court cases, or (2) the state court decides a case differently than the Supreme Court did on a set of materially indistinguishable facts.” Nelson v. Quarterman, 472 F.3d 287, 292 (5th Cir. 2006) (en banc) (quoting Mitchell v. Esparza, 540 U.S. 12, 15-16 (2003)). “[R]eview under § 2254(d)(1) is limited to the record that was before the state court that adjudicated the claim on the merits.” Cullen v. Pinholster, 563 U.S. 170, 180-81 (2011). As such, “evidence later introduced in federal court is irrelevant.” Id. at 184. “The same rule necessarily applies to a federal court's review of purely factual determinations under § 2254(d)(2), as all nine Justices acknowledged.” Blue v. Thaler, 665 F.3d 647, 656 (5th Cir. 2011). With respect to § 2254(d)(2), a Texas court's factual findings are presumed to be sound unless a petitioner rebuts the “presumption of correctness by clear and convincing evidence.” Miller-El v. Dretke, 545 U.S. 231, 240 (2005) (citing ยง 2254(e)(1)). The ...

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