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Sartin v. Allbaugh

United States District Court, N.D. Oklahoma

August 21, 2017

CODY KEITH SARTIN, Petitioner,
v.
JOE M. ALLBAUGH, Director, [1]Respondent. Respondent.

          OPINION AND ORDER

          Jakes H. Payne United States District Judge

         Before the Court is Petitioner's amended petition for writ of habeas corpus (Dkt. # 10). Petitioner is a state inmate and appears pro se. Respondent filed a response (Dkt. # 12) to the amended petition and provided supporting state court records (Dkt. ## 6, 7, 8). Petitioner filed a reply (Dkt. # 13) to the response. For the reasons discussed below, the amended petition for writ of habeas corpus shall be denied.

         BACKGROUND

         On June 16, 2010, three-year-old J.B. died after sustaining multiple injuries, including a subdural hematoma, brain swelling, retinal hemorrhages, and bruises on his ears, head, face, arms, and legs, during the June 12-13, 2010, time period. J.B. was in the care of his mother's boyfriend, Petitioner Cody Keith Sartin, at a residence located in Tulsa, Oklahoma, when Sartin placed a 911 call, at approximately 1:30 a.m. on June 13, 2010, requesting emergency medical care for J.B. When paramedics arrived, J.B. was “posturing, ” indicating a serious head or spinal injury, and did not react to any stimuli. The paramedics transported J.B. to St. Francis Hospital. A CT scan showed subdural bleeding and massive swelling on the left side of J.B.'s brain. Medical efforts to save J.B. were unsuccessful. The Medical Examiner performed an autopsy and found that the cause of J.B.'s death was blunt head trauma and the manner of death was homicide.

         As a result of those events, Petitioner was charged in Tulsa County District Court, Case No. CF-2010-2330, with First Degree Child Abuse Murder. Prior to the commencement of trial, the trial judge conducted a hearing on the admissibility of other crimes evidence under Okla. Stat. tit. 12, § 2404(B). See Dkt. # 6-2, Tr. Vol. II at 37-180. The other crimes evidence presented at the hearing demonstrated that, in September 2002, the six-month old daughter of Allicia Fowble, I.F., suffered a subdural hematoma, a skull fracture, retinal hemorrhages, and bruising to her ears, face, and chest. Fowble's boyfriend at the time was Petitioner. When I.F. was injured, both Fowble and Petitioner were present in the family home located in Payne County, Oklahoma. At the time, Fowble was in the bathroom changing the dressing on an infection in her leg. When she went into the bathroom, Petitioner was trying to give I.F. a bottle. When Fowble came out of the bathroom a few minutes later, I.F. was limp and non-responsive. Fowble and Petitioner took I.F. to Stillwater Regional Hospital, but due to the nature and seriousness of her injuries, she was airlifted to Children's Hospital in Oklahoma City for treatment. I.F. was eventually discharged from the hospital. Although I.F. was temporarily removed from Fowble's custody based on a finding of failure to protect, no criminal charges were filed against either Petitioner or Fowble.

         After hearing the testimony of Allicia Fowler; Amy Baum, a social worker at Children's Hospital; and John Stuemky, a physician board certified in pediatrics, pediatric emergency medicine, and child abuse, who provided treatment for I.F., the trial judge heard argument from the parties concerning the admissibility of the evidence. Counsel for Petitioner argued that the evidence was prejudicial and that it would be “virtually impossible” for the jurors to consider the testimony for its limited purpose. See Dkt. # 6-2, Tr. Vol. II at 174. The prosecutor argued that a common factor between I.F. and J.B. is that they were both in the care of Petitioner at the time of their injuries, see id. at 168. Further, the prosecutor noted that both I.F. and J.B. suffered unusual bruising to their ears and described the injury as Petitioner's “signature.” Id. at 175. The trial judge ruled that the evidence was admissible for the purposes of proving absence of accident, identity, intent, and knowledge. Id. at 178-80. Prior to admission of the evidence concerning the child abuse suffered by I.F., the Court instructed the jury from the bench that:

[t]he evidence . . . that you're going to be hearing relating to the Fowble event is allowed by the Court not for the purpose of demonstrating the guilt or innocence of the defendant for the specific charge in the Information, but this evidence is being received by you solely on the issue of the defendant's alleged common scheme or plan, knowledge, identity, absence of mistake, or absence of accident.
The evidence should be considered by you only for that limited purpose or for those limited purposes. Thank you.

See Dkt. # 6-4, Tr. Vol. VI at 568. The jury also received the limiting instruction in writing prior to deliberating. See Dkt. # 6-9, O.R. Vol. II at 260 (Instruction No. 14).

         At the conclusion of trial, Petitioner's jury found him guilty as charged and recommended a sentence of life imprisonment and a $10, 000 fine. On April 16, 2012, the trial judge sentenced Petitioner in accordance with the jury's recommendation. During trial proceedings, Petitioner was represented by attorneys Julie Ann Ball and Mark Cagle.

         Petitioner appealed his conviction to the Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals (OCCA). Represented by attorney Wyndi Thomas Hobbs, Petitioner raised four (4) propositions of error, as follows:

Proposition 1: The trial court co1mmitted reversible error by refusing to allow the defense to present the complete testimony of Dr. Benjamin Benner. The court's actions violated Mr. Sartin's rights under the Sixth and Fourteenth Amendments to the United States Constitution and Article II, Sections 7 and 20 of the Oklahoma Constitution.
Proposition 2: Mr. Sartin was denied a fair trial due to prosecutorial misconduct.
Proposition 3: Mr. Sartin received ineffective assistance of counsel in violation of the Sixth and Fourteenth Amendments to the United States Constitution and Article II, §§ 7 and 20 of the Oklahoma Constitution.
Proposition 4: The accumulation of errors deprived Mr. Sartin of a fair trial.

(Dkt. # 12-1). On May 2, 2013, in an unpublished summary opinion filed in Case No. F-2012-368 (Dkt. # 12-3), the OCCA denied relief and affirmed the Judgment and Sentence of the trial court. Petitioner did not file a petition for writ of certiorari at the United States Supreme Court.

         On October 31, 2013, Petitioner filed his first application for post-conviction relief in state district court. See Dkt. # 12-4. On December 4, 2013, the trial judge denied the requested relief. See Dkt. # 12-5. Petitioner appealed, raising two (2) propositions of error, as follows:

Proposition 1: Petitioner received ineffective assistance of appellate counsel when counsel failed to raise a claim that the trial court erred when it admitted other-crimes evidence through the testimony of Allicia Fowble.
Proposition 2: Petitioner received ineffective assistance of appellate counsel when counsel failed to raise a claim that Ms. Fowble was not a credible witness.

(Dkt. # 12-6 at 9, 15). On May 12, 2014, in Case No. PC-2014-74, the OCCA declined jurisdiction and dismissed the appeal because Petitioner failed to file the petition in error within thirty (30) days from the filing date of the district court's final order, as required by Rule 5.2(C)(2), Rules of the Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals. See Dkt. # 12-7.

         On May 30, 2014, Petitioner filed his second application for post-conviction relief (Dkt. # 12-8). By Order filed August 12, 2014 (Dkt. # 12-9), the trial judge denied the requested relief. Petitioner appealed, raising two (2) propositions of error, as follows:

Proposition 1: Appellant received ineffective assistance of appellate counsel when counsel failed to raise a claim of ineffective assistance of trial counsel, when trial counsel failed to object in trial to the use of other-crimes evidence admitted through the testimony of Alicia Fowble.
Proposition 2: Petitioner received ineffective assistance of appellate counsel when it [sic] failed to raise a claim of ineffective assistance of trial counsel. Both were ineffective when they failed to raise a claim that, after the expert testimony of Dr. Sorrels, the State could not establish the charged offense beyond a reasonable doubt as required by the Fifth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.

(Dkt. # 12-10 at 2, 3). On October 22, 2014, in Case No. PC-2014-0730 (Dkt. # 12-11), the OCCA affirmed the denial of Petitioner's second application for post conviction relief.

         On August 13, 2014, during the pendency of his second post-conviction proceeding, Petitioner filed his federal petition for writ of habeas corpus (Dkt. # 1). After Respondent filed a response (Dkt. # 5), Petitioner filed an amended petition (Dkt. # 10) raising the following grounds of error:

Ground 1: Petitioner received ineffective assistance of appellate counsel when it [sic] failed to raise a claim of ineffective assistance of trial counsel when trial counsel failed to offer Dr. Benner as an expert witness. Appellate counsel's error violated ...

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