Errasti v. Bowersox
OPINION MEMORANDUM AND ORDER IT IS HEREBY ORDERED that the Petition of Pelayo Errasti for Writ of Habeas Corpus, [Doc. No. 1], pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254 is denied. IT IS FURTHER ORDERED that a Certificate of Appealability will notissue as Pet itioner has not made a substantial showing of the denial of a federal constitutional right. A separate judgment in accordance with this Memorandum and Order is entered this same date. 1 Signed by District Judge Henry E. Autrey on 1/17/14. (CLA)
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
EASTERN DISTRICT OF MISSOURI
Case No. 4:10CV2120 HEA
OPINION, MEMORANDUM AND ORDER
This matter is before the Court on the Report and Recommendation, of
Magistrate Judge Lewis M. Blanton that Pelayo Errasti’s Petition for
Writ of Habeas Corpus pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254, [Doc. No. 1], be denied.
Petitioner has filed written objections to the Report and Recommendation. When
a party objects to the magistrate judge's report and recommendation, the Court
must conduct a de novo review of the portions of the report, findings, or recommendations to which the party objected. See United States v. Lothridge, 324
F.3d 599, 600 (8th Cir.2003) (citing 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)). Pursuant to 28 U.S.C.
§ 636, the Court will therefore conduct a de novo review of those portions of the
Report and Recommendation to which petitioner objects.
Standard of Review
The Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996, 28 U.S.C. §
2254 (AEDPA) applies to all petitions for habeas relief filed by state prisoners
after the statute’s effective date of April 24, 1996. When reviewing a claim that
has been decided on the merits by a state court, AEDPA limits the scope of
judicial review in a habeas proceeding as follows:
An application for writ of habeas corpus on behalf of a person in
custody pursuant to the judgment of a state court shall not be granted
with respect to any claim that was adjudicated on the merits in state
court proceedings unless the adjudication of the claim –
(1) resulted in a decision that was contrary to, or
involved an unreasonable application of, clearly
established federal law, as determined by the Supreme
Court of the United States; or
(2) resulted in a decision that 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).
In construing AEDPA, the United States Supreme Court, in Williams v.
Taylor, 529 U.S. 362 (2000), held that:
Under the ‘contrary to’ clause, a federal habeas court may grant the
writ if the state court arrives at a conclusion opposite to that reached
by [the U.S. Supreme Court] on a question of law or if the state court
decides a case differently than [the U.S. Supreme Court] has on a set
of materially indistinguishable facts. Under the ‘unreasonable
application’ clause, a federal habeas court may grant the writ if the
state court identifies the correct governing legal principle from [the
U.S. Supreme Court’s] decisions but unreasonably applies that
principle to the facts of the prisoner’s case.
Williams, 529 U.S. at 412-13. Furthermore, the Williams Court held that “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.” Williams, 529 U.S. at 409.
Petitioner objects to Judge Blanton’s Report and Recommendation based on
his arguments that he was having a reaction to psychiatric medications that were
given to him by the medical staff at the jail. Petitioner claims that his reaction to
these drugs was so severe that he was not even able to walk on his own and that he
was barely conscious at the plea hearing.
Petitioner also claims that his understanding of the range of punishment is
shown by the court by selective use of the records available to all the courts that
have adjudicated his claim. Petitioner argues that
[e]van a close examination of the portion of the transcript used by the
State (Respondent) will show that Errasti did not engage in an active
conversation with the plea court that would irrefutable show that he
understood the range of punishment. The record instead shows that
Errasti gave monosyllabic answers of “yes,” and “yes Sir” to every
question posed by the court to him.
The Procedural History and Factual Background are set forth in the Report
and Recommendation. Petitioner’s objections are without merit. The record, as
discussed by Judge Blanton, establishes that the State Court asked specific
questions of Petitioner, and that they were yes or no questions. Petitioner’s
answers were responsive to the questions posed. The State Court observed
Petitioner’s demeanor and was aware of the fact that he was in a wheelchair.
Petitioner has presented no evidence that he was incapable of understanding the
proceedings. With regard to Petitioner’s claim that the record was selectively
discussed to support the validity of his plea, Petitioner fails to present any
evidence whatsoever that there exists other parts of the record that would negate
the validity and voluntary nature of his plea.
Both the State Court and Judge Blanton recognize that a knowing and
intelligent guilty plea forecloses any prior claims of deprivation of constitutional
rights. Petitioner cannot satisfy the Strickland two pronged standard of counsel’s
representation falling below an objective standard of reasonableness and
prejudice. Judge Blanton carefully details the basis for his recommendation that
the Petition be denied. As Judge Blanton reports, the state court determined that
Petitioner himself entered into the plea of his own free will:
In the present case, [petitioner] was informed that he could receive a
life sentence if he pled guilty. During the plea hearing, the prosecutor,
at the court’s direction, stated the range of punishment for the six
counts. The prosecutor said that for the class A felony assault count
and the three armed criminal action counts the sentence could be life
imprisonment. [Petitioner] acknowledged that he knew the range of
punishment, including that he could receive consecutive sentences.
The court also told [petitioner] that his sentence could be better,
worse or the same as the State’s offered recommended sentence.
[Petitioner] again acknowledged that he understood that his sentence
could be within the range of punishment. [Petitioner] also agreed that
no one had forced, threatened or coerced him to plead guilty. Further,
at the sentencing hearing, [petitioner] asserted that he knew the court
would determine his sentence and that he had not been promised any
particular sentence for his pleas. [Petitioner]’s claim is conclusively
refuted by the record. See Martin v. State, 187 S.W.3d 335, 341-42
(Mo. App. E.D. 2006). [Petitioner]’s point is denied
Without question, Petitioner’s objections are without merit.
While the Court is required to review the record de novo, this role and
function is limited in scope. This Court is not at liberty to substitute its rulings for
those of the state court. The standard by which the Court reviews the record on a
habeas petition, as set forth above, is that relief may only be granted if the decision
by the state court (1) resulted in a decision that was contrary to, or involved an
unreasonable application of, clearly established federal law, as determined by the
Supreme Court of the United States; or (2) resulted in a decision that 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).
In reviewing whether the State Court’s decision involved an unreasonable
application of clearly established federal law, the Court examines the ultimate
legal conclusion reached by the Court, id. at 784, not simply the statement of
reasons explaining the State Court’s decision. See Gill v. Mecusker, 633 F.3d
1272, 1291–92 (11th Cir.2011) Wright v. Sec'y for Dep't of Corr., 278 F.3d 1245,
1255 (11th Cir.2002); Neal v. Puckett, 239 F.3d 683, 696 (5th Cir.2001); Hennon
v. Cooper, 109 F.3d 330, 335 (7th Cir.1997). At least where there is no
“conspicuous misapplication of Supreme Court precedent” that makes the state
court's decision “contrary to” clearly established law, Wright, 278 F.3d at 1256 n.
3, the proper question is whether there is “any reasonable argument” that the State
Court’s judgment is consistent with Strickland. Richter, 131 S.Ct. at 788; see
Premo v. Moore, ––– U.S. ––––, 131 S.Ct. 733, 740, 178 L.Ed.2d 649 (2011). If
the State Court “reasonably could have concluded that [the petitioner] was not
prejudiced by counsel’s actions,” then federal review under AEDPA is at an end.
Moore, 131 S.Ct. at 744. Williams v. Roper, 695 F.3d 825, 831 -832 (8th Cir. 2012).
Judge Blanton’s discussion of the applicable state law is very thorough and
is correct in all aspects. The Court agrees that the state court findings are not
contrary to, nor were they an unreasonable application of, federal law.
This Court has conducted a de novo review of those portions of the Report
and Recommendation to which Petitioner objects. The Court has reviewed the
trial record, the Missouri court rulings, opinions and decisions. It has further
reviewed all pleadings, motions and memoranda before it. The Court finds that
the Report and Recommendation sets forth a very thorough and correct analysis of
the issues raised in the Petition. Petitioner’s objections to the Report and
Recommendation are without merit and are denied in their entirety. The Court,
concluding its review under AEDPA, will adopt the Recommendation of Judge
Baker that the Petition be denied.
Certificate of Appealablity
The federal statute governing certificates of appealability provides that “[a]
certificate of appealability may issue . . . only if the applicant has made a
substantial showing of the denial of a constitutional right.” 28 U.S.C. §
2253(c)(2). A substantial showing of the denial of a constitutional right requires
that “issues are debatable among reasonable jurists, a court could resolve the
issues differently, or the issues deserve further proceedings.” Cox v. Norris, 133
F.3d 565, 569 (8th Cir. 1997). This Court finds that Petitioner has not made a
substantial showing of the denial of a constitutional right. A Certificate of
Appealability will therefore not be issued.
IT IS HEREBY ORDERED that the Petition of Pelayo Errasti for Writ of
Habeas Corpus, [Doc. No. 1], pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254 is denied.
IT IS FURTHER ORDERED that a Certificate of Appealability will not
issue as Petitioner has not made a substantial showing of the denial of a federal
A separate judgment in accordance with this Memorandum and Order is
entered this same date.
Dated this 17th day of January, 2014.
HENRY EDWARD AUTREY
UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
Disclaimer: Justia Dockets & Filings provides public litigation records from the federal appellate and district courts. These filings and docket sheets should not be considered findings of fact or liability, nor do they necessarily reflect the view of Justia.
Why Is My Information Online?