United States District Court, W.D. Texas, San Antonio Division
SAMUEL CHACON MENCHACA, JR., TDCJ No. 02100131, Petitioner,
LORIE DAVIS, Director, Texas Department of Criminal Justice, Correctional Institutions Division, Respondent.
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
BIERY UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
the court are pro se petitioner Samuel Chacon
Menchaca, Jr.'s Petition for Writ of Habeas Corpus
pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254 (ECF No. 1) and
respondent's Answer (ECF No. 20). Having reviewed the
record and pleadings submitted by both parties, the court
concludes petitioner is not entitled to relief under the
standards prescribed by the Antiterrorism and Effective Death
Penalty Act of 1996 (AEDPA). See 28 U.S.C. §
2254(d). Petitioner is also denied a certificate of
October 2016, petitioner plead guilty to two counts of
delivery of a controlled substance (methamphetamine) in a
drug free zone. (ECF No. 21-11 at 45-50, No. 21-21 at 39-44).
Pursuant to the plea bargain agreement, petitioner pled
"true" to the enhancement paragraphs contained in
the indictment and waived his right to appeal. Id.
As a result, petitioner was sentenced to thirty-five years of
imprisonment in each case, which the sentences to run
concurrently. State v. Menchaca, Jr., Nos. A-15427
and A-15428 (216th Dist. Ct, Kerr Cnty., Tex. Oct. 27, 2016);
(ECF No. 21-11 at 62-63, No. 21-21 at 55-56).
waiving the right to appeal, petitioner was allowed to
proceed on direct appeal and was appointed counsel.
Petitioner's counsel filed an uncontested Anders
brief stating that the record presented no arguably
meritorious grounds for review. (ECF No. 21-13). Following an
independent review of the record, the court of appeals agreed
with counsel that the appeal was frivolous and affirmed the
judgment of the trial court. Menchaca, Jr. v. State,
Nos. 04-16-00775-CR and 04-16-00776-CR (Tex.App.-San Antonio,
Dec. 13, 2017, no pet.) (ECF No. 21-2). Petitioner did not
attempt to appeal this decision by filing a petition for
discretionary review with the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals
petitioner challenged his convictions by filing two state
habeas corpus applications on May 16, 2018, which the TCCA
denied without written order July 25, 2018. Ex parte
Menchaca, Jr., Nos. 88, 626-01, -02 (Tex.Crim.App.) (ECF
Nos. 21-24 through 21-27). Then, on November 25, 2018,
petitioner filed two more state habeas corpus applications
challenging his convictions. Ex parte Menchaca, Jr.,
Nos. 88, 626-03, -04 (Tex.Crim.App.) (ECF Nos. 21-29, 21-31).
In these applications, petitioner raised the same allegations
that are now before this court: (1) his guilty pleas were
involuntary due to counsel's failure to research the law
and maps concerning drug fee zones, (2) the State suppressed
evidence and maps of the drug free zone, (3) counsel failed
to suppress evidence obtained without search warrants, and
(4) counsel failed to file a motion to quash the enhancements
to his sentence. On February 13, 2019, the TCCA dismissed
petitioner's third and fourth state habeas applications
as subsequent writs pursuant to Tex. Code. Crim. Proc. Art.
11.07, Sec. 4(a)-(c). (ECF Nos. 21-28, 21-30).
filed the instant federal habeas petition with this court on
November 30, 2018, shortly after filing his subsequent state
habeas applications. (ECF No. 1). Because of the pendency of
the subsequent state proceedings, the court granted
petitioner's request to hold these proceedings in
abeyance until the TCCA has ruled on the subsequent
applications. (ECF No. 5). Following the dismissal of
petitioner's third and fourth state habeas applications,
the court lifted the stay and ordered respondent to respond
to petitioner's allegations. On May 1, 2019, respondent
filed an answer to petitioner's federal habeas petition,
arguing that each of the claims raised by petitioner are
barred from federal habeas review by the procedural default
doctrine. (ECF No. 20). Respondent did not respond to the
merits of petitioner's allegations. Id.
Standard of Review
federal habeas petition is governed by the heightened
standard of review provided by the AEDPA. 28 U.S.C.A. §
2254. Under § 2254(d), a petitioner may not obtain
federal habeas corpus relief on any claim that was
adjudicated on the merits in state court proceedings unless
the adjudication of that claim either: (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. Brown v. Payton, 544
U.S. 133, 141 (2005). This intentionally difficult standard
stops just short of imposing a complete bar on federal court
relitigation of claims already rejected in state proceedings.
Harrington v. Richter, 562 U.S. 86, 102 (2011)
(citing Felker v. Turpin, 518 U.S. 651, 664 (1996)).
federal habeas court's inquiry into unreasonableness
should always be objective rather than subjective, with a
focus on whether the state court's application of clearly
established federal law was "objectively
unreasonable" and not whether it was incorrect or
erroneous. McDaniel v. Brown, 558 U.S. 120 (2010);
Wiggins v. Smith, 539 U.S. 510, 520-21 (2003). Even
a strong case for relief does not mean the state court's
contrary conclusion was f » unreasonable, regardless of
whether the federal habeas court would have reached a
different conclusion itself. Richter, 562 U.S. at
102. Instead, a petitioner must show that the decision was
objectively unreasonable, which is a "substantially
higher threshold." Schriro v. Landrigan, 550
U.S. 465, 473 (2007); Lockyer v. Andrade, 538 U.S.
63, 75-76 (2003). So long as "fairminded jurists could
disagree" on the correctness of the state court's
decision, a state court's determination that a claim
lacks merit precludes federal habeas relief.
Richter, 562 U.S. at 101 (citing Yarborough v.
Alvarado, 541 U.S. 652, 664 (2004)). In other words, to
obtain federal habeas relief on a claim previously
adjudicated on the merits in state court, petitioner must
show that the state court's ruling "was so lacking
in justification that there was an error well understood and
comprehended in existing law beyond any possibility for
fairminded disagreement." Id. at 103; see
also Bobby v. Dixon, 565 U.S. 23, 24 (2011).
Claims 1, 2, and 4 are Procedurally
first and second state habeas applications, petitioner raised
several allegations concerning the voluntariness of his
guilty plea and the effectiveness of his trial counsel. With
the exception of Claim 3 regarding counsel's failure to
suppress evidence obtained without search warrants, however,
the claims now raised in petitioner's federal habeas
petition all assert different facts and allege different
errors by counsel than the claims raised in petitioner's
first two state habeas applications. In other words,
petitioner did not exhaust Claims 1, 2, and 4 during this
first round of state habeas proceedings. See Wilder v.
Cockrell, 274 F.3d 255, 260 (5th Cir. 2001) ("It is
not enough that all the facts necessary to support the
federal claim were before the state courts or that a somewhat
similar state-law claim was made.") (citation omitted).
Instead, these claims were raised for the first time in
petitioner's third and fourth state habeas f '
application where they were rejected by the TCCA pursuant to
a valid state procedural rule. As such, they are subject to
denial by this court as procedurally defaulted.
default occurs where a state court clearly and expressly
bases its dismissal of a claim on a state procedural rule,
and that state procedural rule provides an independent and
adequate ground for the dismissal. Coleman v.
Thompson,501 U.S. 722, 735 (1991); Canales v.
Stephens,765 F.3d 551, 562 (5th Cir. 2014) (citing
Maples v. Thomas,565 U.S. 266, 280 (2012)). The
"independent" and "adequate" requirements
are satisfied where the state court clearly indicates that
its dismissal of a particular claim rests upon a state ground
that bars relief, and that bar is strictly and regularly
followed by the state courts. Roberts v. Thaler, 681
F.3d 597, 604 (5th Cir. 2012) (citing Finley ...