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Hobbs v. Crow

United States District Court, N.D. Oklahoma

January 6, 2020

CHESTER LEE HOBBS, JR., Petitioner,
v.
SCOTT CROW, Director, [1] Respondent.

          OPINION AND ORDER

          CLAIRE V. EAGAN DISTRICT JUDGE.

         Now before the Court is petitioner's 28 U.S.C. § 2254 habeas corpus petition (Dkt. # 1). For the reasons below, the petition will be denied.

         I.

         This cases arises from petitioner's methamphetamine convictions. Oklahoma state troopers discovered the drugs, along with a firearm and digital scales, after petitioner was racing a vehicle in Tulsa, Oklahoma on May 27, 2013. See Dkt. # 13-1, at 7; see also Dkt. # 14-2, at 129, 139. Trooper Callicoat determined that the registration sticker was fake and impounded the vehicle. See Dkt. # 14-2, at 133. The troopers questioned petitioner at the scene, and he admitted to owning the gun, scales, and methamphetamine. Id. at 139. Petitioner later argued that the admission was involuntary, and that he only made the statement to protect his girlfriend, who was on probation. See Dkt. # 1, at 7.

         The State charged petitioner with, inter alia: (count A) trafficking in illegal drugs, Okla. Stat. tit. 63, § 2-415; (count B) possession of controlled drugs without a tax stamp, Okla. Stat. tit. 68, § 450.1; (count C) driving under the influence of drugs, Okla. Stat. tit. 47, § 11-902(A)(3); and (count D) felon in possession of a firearm, Okla. Stat. tit. 21, § 1283. See Dkt. # 14-6, at 38-39; see also Dkt. # 14-5, at 2.[2] After a four-day trial, the jury convicted petitioner of counts A, B, and D and acquitted him of driving under the influence. See Dkt. # 14-3, at 99-100, 111. The state court sentenced petitioner to 40 years imprisonment on count A (trafficking), to run concurrently with a 10-year sentence on count B (tax stamp). See Dkt. # 14-5, at 4. The state court also imposed a consecutive 10-year sentence on Count D (felon in possession), for a total term of 50 years imprisonment. Id.

         Petitioner perfected a direct appeal with the Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals (OCCA). See Dkt. # 13-1. By a summary opinion entered December 23, 2015, the OCCA affirmed. See Dkt. # 13-3. Petitioner filed the instant § 2254 petition (Dkt. # 1) on December 1, 2016. He raises two propositions of error:

(Ground 1): The state court's answer to a jury note rendered the trial fundamentally unfair;
(Ground 2): Ineffective assistance of counsel.

See Dkt. # 1, at 2.

         Respondent filed an answer (Dkt. # 13), along with copies of the state court record (Dkt. # 14). Respondent concedes, and the Court finds, that petitioner timely filed his federal habeas petition and exhausted state remedies as to the above claims. See Dkt. # 13, at 3, 12, and 19; see also 28 U.S.C. §§ 2244(d), 2254(b)(1)(A). However, respondent contends that both claims fail on the merits. The matter is fully briefed and ready for review.

         II.

         The Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act (AEDPA) governs this Court's review of petitioner'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). However, because the OCCA already adjudicated petitioner's claims, this Court may not grant habeas relief unless he demonstrates that the OCCA's ruling: (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);[3] (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).

         “To 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) (quotations omitted). 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. (quotations omitted). 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) (quotations omitted). “[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 state court's factual findings unless petitioner rebuts that presumption “by clear and convincing evidence.” 28 U.S.C. § 2254(e)(1).

         Essentially, 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 ...


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