United States District Court, N.D. Oklahoma
OPINION AND ORDER
GREGORY K. FRIZELL, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
the Court is Petitioner David McClellan's 28 U.S.C.
§ 2254 habeas corpus petition. He challenges his Tulsa
County District Court convictions for rape and sodomy, No.
CF-2011-3245. Dkt. 3 at 2. For the reasons discussed below,
the petition is denied.
case arises from allegations that Petitioner had anal and
oral sex with a thirteen year-old girl. The State charged him
with: (Count I) first-degree rape of a victim under 14, Okla.
Stat. tit. 21, § 1115; and (Counts II-III) forcible oral
sodomy, Okla. Stat. tit. 21 § 888. Dkt. 11-1. Petitioner
retained Sharon Holmes as defense counsel. Dkt. 11-7 at 4.
The case was originally set for jury trial on March 12, 2012.
Dkt. 12-2 at 19-20. However, it was continued multiple times
over a period of fifteen months. Id. At the final
trial setting on October 8, 2013, the prosecutor offered
Petitioner a plea bargain of “seven in, five
out.” Dkt. 12-1 at 2. Petitioner would be sentenced to
twelve years imprisonment, with five years suspended.
Id. Petitioner rejected the bargain but entered a
blind guilty plea. Dkt. 11-2; see also Dkt. 12-1 at
16. It appears he hoped to obtain a lower sentence after the
state court ordered a presentence investigation report (PSI).
days later, counsel filed an application to withdraw the
plea. Dkt. 11-3. The application alleges Petitioner was
confused, distraught, and felt pressured by conflicting
advice from his family members. Id. The state court
denied the application and sentenced Petitioner to twelve
years imprisonment, with five years suspended (i.e.,
the sentence specified in the rejected plea bargain). Dkt.
12-3 at 4. Petitioner appealed, but the Oklahoma Court of
Criminal Appeals (OCCA) denied certiorari review. Dkts. 11-5
and 11-6. Petitioner then filed an application for
post-conviction relief, which reiterated his argument that
the plea was involuntary. Dkt. 11-7. Petitioner also argued
plea counsel rendered ineffective assistance. Id.
The state court denied the post-conviction application, and
the OCCA affirmed. Dkts. 11-8 and 11-10.
filed the instant federal habeas petition on May 26, 2016.
Dkt. 3. He raises three propositions of error:
(Ground 1): Ineffective assistance of plea counsel;
(Ground 2): Ineffective assistance of appellate counsel; and
(Ground 3): Involuntary Plea.
Dkt. 3 at 5, 9, and 11. Respondent filed an answer along with
copies of the state court record. Dkts. 11 and 12. Respondent
concedes, and the Court finds, the Petition is timely and
Petitioner exhausted Ground 3. Dkt. 11 at 2; see
also 28 U.S.C. §§ 2244(d)(1) and (b)(1)(A).
However, Respondent argues Grounds 1 and 2 are procedurally
barred, and the Petition otherwise fails on the merits. Dkt.
Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act (AEDPA) governs
this Court's review of Hobson's habeas claims.
See 28 U.S.C. § 2254. Relief is only available
under the AEDPA where the petitioner “is in custody in
violation of the Constitution or laws or treaties of the
United States.” 28 U.S.C. § 2254(a). “Before
addressing the merits of [the] claim, [the petitioner] must
show that he can satisfy [certain] procedural
requirements.” U.S. v. Greer, 881 F.3d 1241,
1245 (10th Cir. 2018). Those requirements generally include
timeliness, exhaustion, and - at issue here - the absence of
a procedural bar. See 28 U.S.C. §§
2244(d)(1) and (b)(1)(A); Fairchild v. Workman, 579
F.3d 1134, 1141 (10th Cir. 2009). If the procedural
requirements are satisfied or excused, the petitioner must
then show the OCCA's adjudication of the claim: (1)
“resulted in a decision that was contrary to ...
clearly established Federal law as determined by Supreme
Court of the United States, ” 28 U.S.C. §
2254(d)(1); (2) “resulted in a decision that ...
involved an unreasonable application of, clearly established
Federal law, ” id.; or (3) “resulted in
a decision that was based on an unreasonable determination of
the facts” in light of the record presented to the
state court, id. § at 2254(d)(2).
determine whether a particular decision is ‘contrary
to' then-established law, a federal court must consider
whether the decision ‘applies a rule that contradicts
[such] law' and how the decision ‘confronts [the]
set of facts' that were before the state court.”
Cullen v. Pinholster, 563 U.S. 170, 182 (2011)
(alterations in original) (quoting Williams v.
Taylor, 529 U.S. 362, 405-6 (2006)). When the state
court's decision “‘identifies the correct
governing legal principle' in existence at the time, a
federal court must assess whether the decision
‘unreasonably applies that principle to the facts of
the prisoner's case.'” Id. (quoting
Williams, 562 U.S. at 413). Significantly, an
“unreasonable application of” clearly established
federal law under § 2254(d)(1) “must be
‘objectively unreasonable,' not merely
wrong.” White v. Woodall, 134 S.Ct. 1697, 1702
(2014) (quoting Lockyer v. Andrade, 538 U.S. 63,
75-76 (2003)). “[E]ven clear error will not
suffice.” Id. Likewise, under §
2254(d)(2), “a state-court factual determination is not
unreasonable merely because the federal habeas court would
have reached a different conclusion in the first
instance.” Wood v. Allen, 558 U.S. 290, 301
(2010). The Court must presume the correctness of the
OCCA's factual findings unless Petitioner rebuts that
presumption “by clear and convincing evidence.”
28 U.S.C. § 2254(e)(1).
the standards set forth in § 2254 are designed to be
“difficult to meet, ” Harrington v.
Richter, 562 U.S. 86, 102 (2011), and require federal
habeas courts to give state-court decisions the
“benefit of the doubt.” Woodford v.
Visciotti, 537 U.S. 19, 24 (2002). A state prisoner
ultimately “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.”
Richter, 562 U.S. at 103.
Ground 3: Involuntary Plea
primarily argues he did not understand the nature or
consequences of his blind plea. Dkt. 3 at 11. According to
Petitioner, he was not competent to plead guilty and was
confused, incoherent, and “mentally broken down”
on the day of the plea hearing. Id. at 11-12. The
state court rejected this argument in an oral ruling,
[T]his case has been set six times in the past…. I
consider [Ms. Holmes] to be one of the best defense attorneys
that you could ever hire…. I gave you hours to be in
here. When you were upset and didn't know what you wanted
to do, sir, I said, ‘No problem. You go talk to your
loved ones and you guys make a choice.' And then when you
came back, I was - you did ask for more time and I said no,
because I had given you plenty of time at that point, not to
even mention the time before that you had to make this
consideration on what you wanted to do. You're a grown
man. I know it was a difficult decision for you and it's
an emotional decision. I have taken all those things into
consideration [in denying the motion to withdraw].
Dkt. 12-3 at 3-4. The OCCA also found the plea was
“knowing and voluntary.” Dkt. 11-6. ...