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Donaldson v. Davis

United States District Court, N.D. Texas, Fort Worth Division

November 6, 2019

RICHARD DEMON DONALDSON, Applicant,
v.
LORIE DAVIS, Director, Texas Department of Criminal Justice, Correctional Institutions Division, Respondent.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

          JOHN MCBRYDE UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         Before the court is a petition for a writ of habeas corpus pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254 filed by applicant, Richard Demon Donaldson, a state prisoner, against Lorie Davis, director of the Texas Department of Criminal Justice, Correctional Institutions Division (TDCJ), respondent. After having considered the pleadings and relief sought by applicant, the court has concluded that the petition should be denied.

         I. FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY

         A jury in Tarrant County, Texas, No. 1293976D, found applicant guilty of continuous sexual assault of Ann, [1] a child under the age of 14, and assessed his punishment at 25 years' confinement. (Clerk's R. 128.) His conviction was affirmed on appeal and the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals refused his petition for discretionary review. (Docket Sheet 2.) Applicant also sought postconviction state habeas-corpus relief, to no avail. (SHR 2-18.[2]) This federal habeas-corpus petition challenging his conviction followed.

         II. ISSUES

         In one ground for relief, applicant asserts that his trial counsel was ineffective by failing to object to the trial court's response to a jury note during deliberation in the guilt/ innocence phase of trial. (Pet. 6.)

         III. RULE 5 STATEMENT

         Respondent believes that applicant has exhausted his state court remedies as to the claim raised and that the application is neither barred by limitations nor the successive-petition bar. (Resp't's Answer 3.)

         IV. STANDARD OF REVIEW

         A § 2254 habeas application is governed by the heightened standard of review provided for by the Anti-Terrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act (AEDPA). 28 U.S.C. § 2254. Under the Act, a writ of habeas corpus should be granted only if a state court arrives at a decision that is contrary to or an unreasonable application of clearly established federal law as determined by the United States Supreme Court or that is based on an unreasonable determination of the facts in light of the record before the state court. 28 U.S.C. § 2254(d) (1)-(2); Harrington v. Richter, 562 U.S. 86, 100-01 (2011).

         The statute also requires that federal courts give great deference to a state court's factual findings. Hill v. Johnson, 210 F.3d 481, 485 (5th Cir. 2000). Section 2254(e)(1) provides that a determination of a factual issue made by a state court shall be presumed to be correct. An applicant has the burden of rebutting the presumption of correctness by clear and convincing evidence. 28 U.S.C. § 2254(e)(1); Miller-El v. Cockrell, 537 U.S. 322, 340 (2003); Williams v. Taylor, 529 U.S. 362, 399 (2000).

         Additionally, where, as here, the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals, the state's highest criminal court, denies relief on a state habeas-corpus application without written order, typically it is an adjudication on the merits, which is likewise entitled to this presumption. .Richter, 562 U.S. at 100; Ex parte Torres, 943 S.W.2d 469, 472 (Tex. Crim. App. 1997). In such a situation, a federal court "should `look through' the unexplained decision to the last related state-court decision providing" particular reasons, both legal and factual, "presume that the unexplained decision adopted the same reasoning," and give appropriate deference to that decision. Wilson v. Sellers, 138 S.Ct. 1188, 1191-92 (2018).

         V. DISCUSSION

         A criminal defendant has a constitutional right to the effective assistance of counsel at trial. U.S. Const, amend. VI, XIV; Strickland v. Washington,466 U.S. 668, 688 (1984). To establish ineffective assistance of counsel, an applicant must show (1) that counsel's performance fell below an objective standard of reasonableness, and (2) that but for counsel's deficient performance the result of the proceeding would have been different. Strickland, 466 U.S. at 688. In applying this test, a court must indulge a strong presumption that counsel's conduct fell within the wide range of reasonable professional assistance. Id. at 668, ...


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