United States District Court, N.D. Texas, Dallas Division
SHELTON L. BONDS (TDCJ No. 1953652), Petitioner,
LORIE DAVIS, Director Texas Department of Criminal Justice, Correctional Institutions Division, Respondent.
FINDINGS, CONCLUSIONS, AND RECOMMENDATION OF THE
UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE
L. HORAN UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE
Shelton L. Bonds, a Texas inmate, filed a pro se
application for writ of habeas corpus under 28 U.S.C. §
2254. See Dkt. No. 3. This resulting action has been
referred to the undersigned United States magistrate judge
for pretrial management under 28 U.S.C. § 636(b) and a
standing order of reference from United States District Judge
Ed Kinkeade. The State filed a response opposing relief, Dkt.
No. 13, to which Bonds filed a reply. Dkt. No. 20. Pursuant
to an order from this Court, Dkt. No. 22, the state filed a
supplemental response, Dkt. No. 23, to which Bonds filed a
reply. Dkt. No. 24. For the reasons explained below, the
Court should deny Bonds's federal habeas petition.
finding Bonds guilty of possession with intent to deliver
cocaine in an amount of 400 grams or more, the jury
“assessed punishment at fifty-four years'
imprisonment and a $35, 000 fine.” Bonds v.
State, No. 05-14-01227-CR, 2016 WL 3577343, at *1 (Tex.
App. - Dallas June 27, 2016, pet. ref'd.); see State
v. Bonds, No. 2-12-255 (382nd Jud. Dist. Ct., Rockwall
Cty., Tex.). The Dallas Court of Appeals affirmed the trial
court's judgment. See Bonds, 2016 WL 3577343, at
*1, at *5. The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals
(“CCA”) refused Bonds's petition for
discretionary review on December 14, 2016. See Bonds v.
State, No. PD-859-16, (Tex. Crim. App. 2016).
filed a state application for writ of habeas corpus, claiming
that his trial counsel was constitutionally ineffective on
numerous issues. See Dkt. No. 12-4 at 7-26.
Additionally, Bonds alleged that the cumulative effect of his
counsel's errors denied him a fair trial and effective
assistance of counsel and that his conviction violated the
double jeopardy clause of the Constitution. See Id.
at 18, 23. On March 21, 2018, the CCA denied Bonds's
application without written order. See Ex parte
Bonds, WR-86, 786-01 (Tex. Crim. App. March 21, 2018);
Dkt. No. 11-20.
timely-filed federal habeas application, Bonds raised the
same grounds for relief that he raised in his state
application. See Dkt. No. 3 at 6-8. On the same date
that the Court issued the Magistrate Judge's Findings,
Conclusions, and Recommendation, the Court received
Bonds's Motion for Permission to Refile his Traverse
to the State's Response, in which he averred that he
had previously timely-submitted his Travers, but that it
“ha[d] never been filed by the district clerk.”
See Dkt. No. 18. The Court found that
“although the Court granted Bonds's motion for an
extension of time to file a reply on October 11, 2018 . . .
no reply was filed.” See Dkt.
at 1. However, in the interest of justice, the Court granted
Bonds's request to file a traverse and withdrew the
previously-filed Findings, Conclusions, and
Recommendation of the United States Magistrate Judge.
See Dkt. No. 19. Pursuant to permission by the
Court, the Government filed a supplement response,
see Dkt. No. 23, to which Bonds filed a reply.
See Dkt. No. 24.
Standards and Analysis
raises five claims of ineffective assistance of counsel, a
claim that cumulative errors of his counsel denied him a fair
trial, and a claim that his conviction violates the double
jeopardy clause of the Constitution. See Dkt. No. 3
state court has already rejected a claim on the merits, a
federal court may grant habeas relief on that claim only if
the state court 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;
(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).
court adjudication on direct appeal is due the same deference
under Section 2254(d) as an adjudication in a state
post-conviction proceeding. See, e.g., Dowthitt
v. Johnson, 230 F.3d 733, 756-57 (5th Cir. 2000) (a
finding made by the CCA on direct appeal was an “issue
... adjudicated on the merits in state proceedings, ”
to be “examine[d] ... with the deference demanded by
[the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996
(the “AEDPA”)]” under “28 U.S.C.
court decision is “contrary” to clearly
established federal law if “it relies on legal rules
that directly conflict with prior holdings of the Supreme
Court or if it reaches a different conclusion than the
Supreme Court on materially indistinguishable facts.”
Busby v. Dretke, 359 F.3d 708, 713 (5th Cir. 2004);
see also Lopez v. Smith, 574 U.S.__, 135 S.Ct. 1, 2
(2014) (per curiam) (“We have emphasized, time and time
again, that the AEDPA prohibits the federal courts of appeals
from relying on their own precedent to conclude that a
particular constitutional principle is ‘clearly
established.'” (citation omitted)).
decision constitutes an “unreasonable
application” of clearly established federal law if
“the state court identifies the correct governing legal
principle from [the Supreme] Court's decisions but
unreasonably applies that principle to the facts of the
prisoner's case.” Williams v. Taylor, 529
U.S. 362, 413 (2000); see also Pierre v. Vannoy, 891
F.3d 224, 227 (5th Cir. 2018) (a petitioner's lack of
“Supreme Court precedent to support” a ground for
habeas relief “ends [his] case” as to that
purposes of § 2254(d)(1), an unreasonable application of
federal law is different from an incorrect application of
federal law.... A state court's determination that a
claim lacks merit precludes federal habeas relief so long as
fairminded jurists could disagree on the correctness of the
state court's decision.” Harrington v.
Richter, 562 U.S. 86, 101 (2011) (citations and internal
quotation marks omitted). “Under § 2254(d), a
habeas court must determine what arguments or theories
supported or ...could have supported, the state court's
decision; and then it must ask whether it is possible
fairminded jurists could disagree that those arguments or
theories are inconsistent with the holding in a prior
decision of [the Supreme] Court.” Id. at 102
(internal quotation marks omitted); see Evans v.
Davis, 875 F.3d 210, 216 (5th Cir. 2017) (recognizing
that Section 2254(d) tasks courts “with considering not
only the arguments and theories the state habeas court
actually relied upon to reach its ultimate decision but also
all the arguments and theories it could have relied
upon.” (citation omitted)).
Supreme Court has further explained that “[e]valuating
whether a rule application was unreasonable requires
considering the rule's specificity. The more general the
rule, the more leeway courts have in reaching outcomes in
case-by-case determinations.” Richter, 562
U.S. at 101 (internal quotation marks omitted). And
“even a strong case for relief does not mean the state
court's contrary conclusion was unreasonable.”
Id. at 102. The Supreme Court has explained that,
“[i]f this standard is difficult to meet, that is
because it was meant to be, ” where, “[a]s
amended by AEDPA, § 2254(d) stops short of imposing a
complete bar on federal court relitigation of claims already
rejected in state proceedings, ” but “[i]t
preserves authority to issue the writ in cases where there is
no possibility fairminded jurists could disagree that the
state court's decision conflicts with this Court's
precedents, ” and “[i]t goes no further.”
Id. Thus, “[a]s a condition for obtaining
habeas corpus 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 fairminded
disagreement.” Id. at 103; accord Burt v.
Titlow, 571 U.S. 12, 20 (2013) (“If this standard
is difficult to meet - and it is - that is because it was
meant to be. We will not lightly conclude that a State's
criminal justice system has experienced the extreme
malfunction for which federal habeas relief is the
remedy.” (internal quotation marks, brackets, and
Section 2254(d)(2)'s requirement that a petitioner show
that the state court adjudication “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, ” the Supreme Court has explained
that “a state-court factual determination is not
unreasonable merely because the federal habeas court would
have reached a different conclusion in the first
instance” and that federal habeas relief is precluded
even where the state court's factual determination is
debatable. Wood v. Allen, 558 U.S. 290, 301, 303
(2010). Under this standard, “it is not enough to show
that a state court's decision was incorrect or erroneous.
Rather, a petitioner must show that the decision was
objectively unreasonable, a substantially higher threshold
requiring the petitioner to show that a reasonable factfinder
must conclude that the state court's determination of the
facts was unreasonable.” Batchelor v. Cain,
682 F.3d 400, 405 (5th Cir. 2012) (brackets and internal
quotation marks omitted).
Court must presume that a state court's factual
determinations are correct and can find those factual
findings unreasonable only where the petitioner
“rebut[s] the presumption of correctness by clear and
convincing evidence.” 28 U.S.C. § 2254(e)(1);
Gardner v. Johnson, 247 F.3d 551, 560 (5th Cir.
2001). This presumption applies not only to explicit findings
of fact but also “to those unarticulated findings which
are necessary to the state court's conclusions of mixed
law and fact.” Valdez v. Cockrell, 274 F.3d
941, 948 n.11 (5th Cir. 2001); see also Richter, 562
U.S. at 98 (“[D]etermining whether a state court's
decision resulted from an unreasonable legal or factual
conclusion does not require that there be an opinion from the
state court explaining the state court's
reasoning.”); Pondexter v. Dretke, 346 F.3d
142, 148 (5th Cir. 2003) (“a federal habeas court is
authorized by Section 2254(d) to review only a state
court's ‘decision,' and not the written opinion
explaining that decision” (quoting Neal v.
Puckett, 286 F.3d 230, 246 (5th Cir. 2002) (en banc)
(per curiam))); cf. Evans, 875 F.3d at 216 n.4 (even
where “[t]he state habeas court's analysis [is] far
from thorough, ” a federal court “may not review
[that] decision de novo simply because [it finds the state
court's] written opinion
‘unsatisfactory'” (quoting Neal, 286
F.3d at 246)).
2254 thus creates a “highly deferential standard for
evaluating state court rulings, which demands that
state-court decisions be given the benefit of the
doubt.” Woodford v. Visciotti, 537 U.S. 19, 24
(2002). To overcome this standard, a petitioner must show
that “there was no reasonable basis for the state court
to deny relief.” Richter, 562 U.S. at 98.
is, a Section 2254 petitioner must, in sum, “show,
based on the state-court record alone, that any argument or
theory the state habeas court could have relied on to deny
[him] relief would have either been contrary to or an
unreasonable application of clearly established federal law
as determined by the Supreme Court.” Evans,
875 F.3d at 217.
makes five claims of ineffective assistance of counsel.
Specifically, Bonds argues that his counsel was ineffective
by (1) failing to challenge a veniremember at voir dire, (2)
failing to request the jury be given the definition of
“reasonable suspicion, ” (3) failing to object to
a jury instruction on the illegality of marijuana, (4)
failing to challenge the reason given by the police officer
for the traffic stop, and (5) failing to object to the
State's presentation of evidence of “the drug
epidemic on a national level.” Dkt. No. 3 at 6-8. He
also alleges that the cumulative effect of his counsels
errors denied him a fair trial and effective assistance of
counsel. See Id. at 8.
Court reviews claims concerning the alleged ineffective
assistance of counsel (“IAC”), whether at trial
or on direct appeal, under the two-prong test established in
Strickland v. Washington, 466 U.S. 668 (1984). Under
Strickland, a habeas petitioner must demonstrate
that the performance of his attorney fell below an objective
standard of reasonableness. See Id. at 687-88. A
petitioner must prove entitlement to relief by a
preponderance of the evidence. James v. Cain, 56
F.3d 662, 667 (5th Cir. 1995). To be cognizable under
Strickland, trial counsel's error must be
“so serious that counsel was not functioning as the
‘counsel' guaranteed the defendant by the Sixth
Amendment.” Id. at 687; see also Buck v.
Davis, 580 U.S., 137 S.Ct. 759, 775 (2017) (reaffirming
that “[i]t is only when the lawyer's errors were
‘so serious that counsel was not functioning as the
“counsel” guaranteed ... by the Sixth
Amendment' that Strickland's first prong is
satisfied” (citation omitted)).
petitioner also must prove that he was prejudiced by his
attorney's substandard performance. See
Strickland, 466 U.S. at 687, 692. “This requires
showing that counsel's errors were so serious as to
deprive the defendant of a fair trial, a trial whose result
is reliable.” Id. at 687.
[B]ecause of the risk that hindsight bias will cloud a
court's review of counsel's trial strategy, “a
court must indulge a strong presumption that counsel's
conduct falls within the wide range of reasonable
professional assistance; that is, the defendant must overcome
the presumption that, under the ...