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Martinez v. Allbaugh

United States District Court, W.D. Oklahoma

April 13, 2018

RALPH THOMAS MARTINEZ JR., Petitioner,
v.
JOE M. ALLBAUGH, Respondent.

          REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION

          CHARLES B. GOODWIN UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.

         Petitioner Ralph Thomas Martinez Jr., appearing pro se, petitions this Court for a writ of habeas corpus, challenging through 28 U.S.C. § 2254 the constitutionality of his criminal conviction by the State of Oklahoma. See Pet. (Doc. No. 1, as amended by the Court's Order of Sept. 12, 2017 (Doc. No. 17)). United States District Judge Robin J. Cauthron has referred the matter to the undersigned Magistrate Judge for initial proceedings in accordance with 28 U.S.C. § 636. Respondent has filed an Answer (Doc. No. 19), Petitioner has replied (Doc. No. 22), and the matter is now at issue.

         I. Relevant Background and Procedural History

         Late in the evening on October 23, 2012, a man named Roderick Townsen was stabbed multiple times in his home. Mr. Townsen identified the attacker as Petitioner, with whom he had been friends. Vol. I Trial Tr. 66-68, 75, 98-99 (State v. Martinez, No. CF-2012-6882 (Okla. Cty. Dist. Ct. Feb. 25-27, 2014)) (Doc. No. 21 (conventionally filed)). On March 21, 2014, following a jury trial in the District Court of Oklahoma County, Oklahoma, Petitioner was convicted of one count of assault and battery with a deadly weapon after two or more felony convictions and sentenced to 27 years' imprisonment. Pet. at 1-2.[1] Petitioner appealed his conviction and sentence to the Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals (“OCCA”). Pet. at 2; see Martinez v. State, No. F-2014-269 (Okla. Crim. App.). The OCCA affirmed Petitioner's conviction and sentence on March 13, 2015. See OCCA Summ. Op. (Doc. No. 11-2) at 1-6.

         On October 7, 2015, Petitioner filed an application for postconviction relief in the trial court. See Pet'r's First Postconviction Appl. (Doc. No. 11-3).[2] Prior to disposition of the first application, Petitioner filed a second application for postconviction relief in the trial court. See Pet'r's Second Postconviction Appl. (Doc. No. 11-7). On March 14, 2016, the trial court denied postconviction relief. See Okla. Cty. Dist. Ct. Order (Doc. No. 11-9) at 1-4. Although Petitioner filed a notice of intent to appeal with the trial court, he did not submit a petition in error or any other document to the OCCA to initiate such a postconviction appeal. See Pet. at 4; State v. Martinez, No. CF-2012-6882; Resp't's Br. at 3; Pet'r's Notice (Doc. No. 11-10). Petitioner instead filed this federal habeas action approximately one month later.

         Petitioner's pleading initially raised four claims for relief (Grounds 1, 2, 3, 4). See Pet. at 5-11. Respondent filed a motion to dismiss on the basis that certain of these claims had not been exhausted in the state courts. See Resp't's Mot. to Dismiss (Doc. No. 10). The undersigned recommended that Respondent's motion be denied and that Petitioner be permitted to delete the unexhausted habeas claims from his pleading. The District Judge adopted this recommendation and, upon Petitioner's request (Doc. No. 16), ordered Grounds 3 and 4 deleted from the Petition. See Martinez v. Allbaugh, No. CIV-16-405-C, 2017 WL 4020439, at *2-6 (W.D. Okla. Aug. 29, 2017) (R. & R.), adopted, 2017 WL 4019444 (W.D. Okla. Sept. 12, 2017).

         Respondent then filed his Answer (Doc. No. 19) to the remaining habeas claims (Grounds 1 and 2), along with the relevant state-court record. Respondent acknowledges that Petitioner's remaining claims are timely and that Petitioner exhausted his state-court remedies with respect to these claims, and the record reflects likewise. See Id. at 3; 28 U.S.C. §§ 2244(d)(1), 2254(b); Pet. at 5-8; Pet'r's Appellate Br. (Doc. No. 11-1) at 9-19; OCCA Summ. Op. at 1, 2-4.

         II. Standard of Review

         When a § 2254 habeas claim has been adjudicated on the merits by the state courts, a deferential standard of review applies:

Under the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996 (AEDPA), we must apply a highly deferential standard in § 2254 proceedings, one that demands that state-court decisions be given the benefit of the doubt. If a claim has been “adjudicated on the merits in State court proceedings, ” we may not grant relief under § 2254 unless the state-court decision “was contrary to, or involved an unreasonable application of, clearly established Federal law, as determined by the Supreme Court of the United States” or “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)(1), (2). The phrase “clearly established Federal law, as determined by the Supreme Court of the United States, ” id. § 2254(d)(1), refers to the holdings, as opposed to the dicta, of the Court's decisions as of the time of the relevant state-court decision.
Under the “contrary to” clause of § 2254(d)(1), we may grant relief only if the state court arrives at a conclusion opposite to that reached by the Supreme Court on a question of law or if the state court decides a case differently than the Court has on a set of materially indistinguishable facts. And under the “unreasonable application” clause, we may grant relief only if the state court identifies the correct governing legal principle from the Court's decisions but unreasonably applies that principle to the facts of the prisoner's case. An unreasonable application of federal law is different from an incorrect application of federal law. Indeed, a federal habeas court may not issue the writ simply because that court concludes in its independent judgment that the relevant state-court decision applied clearly established federal law erroneously or incorrectly.

Dodd v. Trammell, 753 F.3d 971, 982 (10th Cir. 2013) (alterations, citations, and internal quotation marks omitted). Pursuant to AEDPA, factual findings made by a state trial or appellate court are presumptively correct and may be rebutted only by “clear and convincing evidence.” 28 U.S.C. § 2254(e)(1).

         III. Petitioner's Habeas Corpus Claims

         A. Ground 1 1. Background

         Two days before Petitioner's criminal trial was due to commence, a prosecutor for the State informed defense counsel that he had just discovered recordings of two telephone calls in which Petitioner, while detained at the county jail, had essentially admitted to committing the attack against Mr. Townsen. See Mot. Hr'g Tr. 3-5, 7-9 (State v. Martinez, No. CF-2012-6882 (Okla. Cty. Dist. Ct. Feb. 24, 2014)) (Doc. No. 21). Petitioner moved to exclude the recordings, arguing that the State had behaved unfairly in delaying the disclosure of evidence. See Id. at 10-14. The trial court denied Petitioner's request but offered to continue the trial and to impose a lower bond requirement to allow Petitioner to adjust his trial strategy. See Id. Petitioner and his counsel communicated to the court that Petitioner did not wish to continue the proceedings, however, and the trial commenced the next day. See Id. at 14, 16-17, 21. At trial, a recording of both calls was admitted into evidence. See Vol. II Trial Tr. 92-97; State's Ex. 94 (Doc. No. 21).

         2. Discussion

         Petitioner argues that the trial court erred in failing to exclude the evidence in light of the State's “discovery violation.” Pet. at 5-6; see also Pet'r's Appellate Br. at 9-14 (arguing that the calls should have been excluded as a sanction for evidentiary ambush).

         The OCCA rejected this claim on direct appeal:

In his first proposition of error, [Petitioner] claims he was denied a fair trial when the trial court denied his request to exclude from evidence, two phone calls he made from the county jail in which he made several admissions to an undisclosed female. As [Petitioner] has not shown a discovery violation, which was willful, blatant or calculated gamesmanship, we find that the trial court did not abuse its discretion when it refused to exclude the challenged evidence. Andrew v. State, 2007 OK CR 23, ¶ 84, 164 P.3d 176, 196; Rojem v. State, 2006 OK CR 7, ¶ 47, 130 P.3d 287, 296 (holding exclusion of evidence is too severe sanction and alternative sanctions are appropriate where discovery violation is not willful, blatant or calculated gamesmanship); Smallwood v. State, 1995 OK CR 60, ¶ 42, 907 P.2d 217, 230 (recognizing Discovery Code only requires State to disclose statements made by the accused upon request of defense). In ...

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