United States District Court, N.D. Oklahoma
CHRISTOPHER S. HOBSON, Petitioner,
CARL BEAR, Warden, Respondent.
OPINION AND ORDER
GREGORY K. FRIZZELL UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
the Court is Christopher Hobson’s 28 U.S.C. § 2254
habeas corpus petition. He challenges his Tulsa County
District Court convictions for assaulting police officers
with a deadly weapon, No. CF-2012-3081. Dkt. 1 at 1. For the
reasons discussed below, the petition is denied.
case arises from a tense police standoff at a Tulsa
café. Hobson entered the café on July 7, 2012
and announced he had no money. Dkt. 11-1 at 117-118. A cook
offered to buy Hobson coffee and food. Id. After the
cook entered the kitchen, Hobson started cutting the
café’s seats with a knife. Id. at 118.
Police arrived and evacuated the building. Id. at
123. Hobson refused to drop the knife, which was tied to his
wrist with string. Id. at 124. He was pacing around
listening to something on MP3 player earbuds, which he
periodically removed from his ears. Id. Hobson
purportedly started gripping his face and clenching his
hands, and officers believed he was “getting psyched
up” to attack. Id. at 125. Police requested
backup from officers with nonlethal equipment such as tasers,
pepper-ball guns, and bean bag guns. Id. at 127.
Tulsa Police Department dispatched a special operations team
to the scene, who arrived with the nonlethal (or less lethal)
equipment. Dkt. 11-1 at 128. According to Corporal Miller,
Hobson made numerous remarks about wanting to hurt the
officers. Id. at 169. Hobson also stated his
intention to “run at [the officers] and make [them]
shoot him.” Id. Sergeant Moudy similarly
stated Hobson wished to be shot and killed with a shotgun,
preferably in the chest or face. Id. at 192.
Sergeant Moudy explained to Hobson they would only use
nonlethal weapons if he attacked. Id. After about an
hour, Hobson put his earbuds in, assumed a determined look on
his face, and said something like “let’s do
this.” Id. at 129-130; 172; 195. Multiple
officers testified Hobson ran at them with the knife in an
attack position. Id. The officers immobilized Hobson
with a pepperball gun and taser. Id. They recall him
gripping the knife as he fell to the ground. Id.
State charged Hobson with: (Count I) assault with a dangerous
weapon after nine prior convictions, Okla. Stat. tit. 21,
§ 645; (Count II) obstructing an officer, Okla. Stat.
tit. 21 § 540; and (Count III) malicious injury to
property, Okla. Stat. tit. 21 § 1760. Dkt. 11-5 at 17.
J. Brian Rayl was appointed to represent Hobson. Dkt. 3 at
13. He later retained Kathy Fry as trial counsel.
Id.; see also Dkt. 10-4. His defense theory
was that he lacked the requisite mens rea and only intended
to commit “suicide by cop.” The jury rejected
this theory and convicted Hobson of all charges. Dkt. 11-2 at
61. The state court sentenced Hobson to a total term of 40
years imprisonment, in accordance with the jury’s
recommendation. Dkt. 11-4.
appealed the decision with the assistance of new counsel,
Laura Arledge. Dkt. 10-1 at 1. He argued: (1) the evidence
was insufficient to demonstrate he intended to assault the
officers (“Ground 1”); and (2) the sentence is
excessive (“Ground 2”). Id. at 2. By a
Summary Opinion entered August 7, 2014, the Oklahoma Court of
Criminal Appeals (OCCA) affirmed the conviction and sentence.
Dkt. 10-3. Hobson then filed a post-conviction application
raising ineffective assistance of trial and appellate counsel
(“Ground 3”). Dkt. 10-4. The state court denied
the application, and the OCCA again affirmed. Dkts. 10-7 at
filed the instant § 2254 Petition on June 3, 2016. Dkt.
3. He raises the three grounds identified above. Id.
Respondent filed an answer (Dkt. 10) along with copies of the
state court record (Dkt. 11). Respondent concedes, and the
Court finds, the Petition is timely and Hobson exhausted
Grounds 1 and 2 by presenting them to the OCCA. Dkt. 10 at 2;
see also 28 U.S.C. §§ 2244(d)(1) and
(b)(1)(A). However, Respondent argues Ground 3 is
procedurally barred and that the claims otherwise fail on the
merits. Petitioner filed a reply (Dkt. 12), and the matter is
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 1: Sufficiency of the Evidence
first argues he was deprived of due process because the
State’s evidence is insufficient to support an assault
conviction. Dkt. 3 at 10. He maintains he did not intend to
hurt anyone and only wanted police to end his life.
Id. The OCCA rejected this argument after
determining “any rational finder of fact could have
found the elements of the crime charged beyond a reasonable
doubt.” Dkt. 10-3 at 2.
courts use the same legal standard. Under the Due Process
Clause, a criminal defendant cannot be convicted of a crime
unless the state proves, beyond a reasonable doubt, every
essential element of the crime charged. See Jackson v.
Virginia, 443 U.S. 307, 316 (1979); In re
Winship, 397 U.S. 358, 364 (1970). On federal habeas
review, “the relevant question is whether, after
viewing the evidence in the light most favorable to the
prosecution, any rational trier of fact could have found the
essential elements of the crime beyond a reasonable
doubt.” Jackson, 443 U.S. at 319.
“Jackson claims face a high bar in federal
habeas proceedings because they are subject to two layers of
judicial deference.” Coleman v. Johnson, 566
U.S. 650, 651 (2012) (per curiam). As the Supreme Court
First, on direct appeal, “it is the responsibility of
the jury-not the court-to decide what conclusions should be
drawn from evidence admitted at trial. A reviewing court may
set aside the jury’s verdict on the ground of
insufficient evidence only if no rational trier of fact could
have agreed with the jury.” Cavazos v. Smith,
565 U.S. 1, 132 S.Ct. 2, 4, 181 L.Ed.2d 311 (2011) (per
curiam). And second, on habeas review, “a federal court
may not overturn a state court decision rejecting a
sufficiency of the evidence challenge simply because the
federal court disagrees with the state court. The federal
court instead may do so only if the state court decision was
‘objectively unreasonable.’” Ibid.
(quoting Renico v. Lett, 559 U.S. 766, 130 S.Ct.
1855, 1862, 176 L.Ed.2d 678 (2010)).
Id. The Court looks to state law to determine the
substantive elements of the crime, “but the minimum
amount of evidence that the Due Process Clause requires to
prove the offense is purely a matter of federal law.”
Coleman, 566 U.S. at 655.
elements of assault-with-a-dangerous-weapon are set forth in
Okla. Stat. tit. 21, § 645. To obtain Hobson’s
conviction, the State had to prove: (1) an assault; (2) upon
another person; (3) with a dangerous weapon; (4) without
justification or excusable cause; and (5) with intent to do
bodily harm. See Okla. Crim. Jury Instruction No.
4-12; Okla. Stat. tit. 21, § 645. At issue here is the
fifth element, which requires “either direct or
circumstantial evidence which might infer intent from the act
done.” James v. State, 599 P.2d 411, 412
(Okla. App. 1979).
reviewing the record, the Court agrees any rational
factfinder could have inferred Hobson intended to inflict
harm. Several officers testified Hobson made comments about
hurting them before running towards them with a knife. Dkt.
11-1 at 129-130, 169. There is nothing in the record to