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Morales v. Butts

United States District Court, S.D. Indiana, Indianapolis Division

February 17, 2017

JASON E. MORALES, Petitioner,
v.
KEITH BUTTS, Warden, Respondent.

          ENTRY DISCUSSING PETITION FOR WRIT OF HABEAS CORPUS AND DENYING CERTIFICATE OF APPEALABILITY

          HON. WILLIAM T. LAWRENCE, JUDGE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT .

         Jason Morales seeks habeas corpus relief. Having considered pleadings and the expanded record, the Court finds for the reasons explained in this Entry that the habeas petition must be denied and this action dismissed with prejudice. In addition, the Court finds that a certificate of appealability should not issue.

         Background

         An Indiana jury convicted Morales of three counts of sexual misconduct. These convictions were affirmed in Morales v. State, 946 N.E.2d 93 (Ind.Ct.App. 2011). The evidence at trial, construed favorable to the verdicts, showed that on the evening of February 8, 2009, Morales was drinking and supplied liquor to V.R., his fiancé's 14-year old cousin, laid V.R. down on the spare bed in which she was to sleep, kissed V.R., put his hand down her pants and into her underwear and stuck his finger in her vagina. The two went out and upon returning

Morales helped V.R. back into the spare bedroom where he “laid [her] down . . . took [her] pants off and then pulled [her] underwear down and lifted [her] shirt up.” Tr. p. 206. Morales “put his hands under [V.R.'s] bra, ” “touched [her] boobs, ” and “tried to have sex with [her].” Tr. p. 206. After Morales was not able to successfully complete sexual intercourse with V.R., he “took his clothes off and . . . [told V.R.] to put [her] mouth on his penis and suck it.” Tr. p. 206. Morales “started pushing [V.R.'s] head towards” his penis and when V.R. objected, told her to “just do it.” Tr. p. 206. Eventually, Morales “pushed [V.R.'s] head down onto [his penis] and . . . made [her] suck it.” Tr. p. 206. In addition, at some point, Morales “put his mouth on [V.R.'s] vagina and started licking.” Tr. p. 207.

Id., at *1. Morales' petition to transfer was denied by the Indiana Supreme Court on October 6, 2011. Morales' petition for post-conviction relief was denied on April 21, 2014. This ruling was affirmed in Morales v. State, No. 82A04-1005-CR-311 (Ind.Ct.App. April 20, 2011). His petition to transfer was denied by the Indiana Supreme Court on June 17, 2015, and the filing of this action followed on November 19, 2015.

         The following table identifies the claims which Morales now presents and shows the point, if at all, at which the corresponding claim was asserted in the Indiana state courts.

STAGE OF CHALLENGE IN THE INDIANA STATE COURTS

HABEAS CLAIM

Direct Appeal

Direct Appeal Transfer Petition

Post-conviction Appeal

Postconviction Transfer Petition

Sufficiency of the Evidence

Yes

Yes

N/A

N/A

Ineffective assistance of counsel as to not objecting to admission of DNA evidence

N/A

N/A

Yes

Yes

Ineffective assistance of counsel as to not objecting to admission of V.R.'s underwear

N/A

N/A

Yes

Yes

Ineffective assistance of counsel as to investigating V.R.'s blackouts and the source of the underwear tested for DNA

N/A

N/A

Yes

Yes

Indiana statute unconstitutional

N/A

N/A

Yes

Yes

         Applicable Law

         Morales now seeks relief pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254(a). This statute authorizes a district court to issue a writ of habeas corpus on behalf of a person in custody pursuant to a state court judgment “only on the ground that he is in custody in violation of the Constitution or laws or treaties of the United States.” Id. His petition is governed by provisions of the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act (“AEDPA”). See Lindh v. Murphy, 521 U.S. 320, 336 (1997).

         “[U]nder AEDPA, federal courts do not independently analyze the petitioner's claims; federal courts are limited to reviewing the relevant state court ruling on the claims.” Rever v. Acevedo, 590 F.3d 533, 536 (7th Cir. 2010). As one court has explained, “[i]t is this Court's obligation to focus “on the state court decision that previously addressed the claims rather than the petitioner's freestanding claims themselves.” McLee v. Angelone, 967 F.Supp. 152, 156 (E.D.Va. 1997). “The AEDPA's standard is intentionally ‘difficult for Petitioner to meet.'” Woods v. Donald, 135 S.Ct. 1372, 1376 (2015) (per curiam) (quoting White v. Woodall, 134 S.Ct. 1702 (2014); Metrish v. Lancaster, 133 S.Ct. 1781, 1786 (2013)). “AEDPA thus imposes a ‘highly deferential standard for evaluating state-court rulings, ' and ‘demands that state-court decisions be given the benefit of the doubt.'” Renico v. Lett, 130 S.Ct. 1855, 1862 (2010) (quoting Lindh v. Murphy, 521 U.S. 320, 333 n.7 (1997)). “[A] state court's determination that a claim lacks merit precludes federal habeas relief so long as ‘fairminded jurists could disagree' on the correctness of the state court's decision.” Harrington v. Richter, 131 S.Ct. 770, 786 (2011) (citing Yarborough v. Alvarado, 541 U.S. 652, 664 (2004)). Pursuant to § 2254(d), “a habeas court must determine what arguments or theories supported or . . . could have supported, the state court's decision; and then it must ask whether it is possible fairminded jurists could disagree that those arguments or theories are inconsistent with the holding in a prior decision” of the Supreme Court. Id.

         “Under the current regime governing federal habeas corpus for state prison inmates, the inmate must show, so far as bears on this case, that the state court which convicted him unreasonably applied a federal doctrine declared by the United States Supreme Court.” Redmond v. Kingston, 240 F.3d 590 (7th Cir. 2001) (citing 28 U.S.C. § 2254(d)(1); Williams v. Taylor, 529 U.S. 362 (2000); Morgan v. Krenke, 232 F.3d 562 (7th Cir. 2000)). “A state-court decision involves an unreasonable application of this Court's clearly established precedents if the state court applies this Court's precedents to the facts in an objectively unreasonable manner.” Brown v. Payton, 544 U.S. 131, 141 (2005) (internal citations omitted). “The habeas applicant has the burden of proof to show that the application of federal law was unreasonable.” Harding v. Sternes, 380 F.3d 1034, 1043 (7th Cir. 2004) (citing Woodford v. Visciotti, 537 U.S. 19, 25 (2002)).

         In addition to the foregoing substantive standard, “[i]t is the rule in this country that assertions of error in criminal proceedings must first be raised in state court in order to form the basis for relief in habeas. Claims not so raised are considered defaulted.” Breard v. Greene, 523 U.S. 371, 375 (1998) (citing Wainwright v. Sykes, 433 U.S. 72 (1977)).

Procedural default can occur in several ways, “but two are paradigmatic.” Richardson v. Lemke, 745 F.3d 258, 268 (7th Cir. 2014). A state prisoner can procedurally default a federal claim if he fails to “fairly present” it “throughout at least one complete round of state-court review, whether on direct appeal of his conviction or in post-conviction proceedings.” Id. Procedural default can also occur if the state court rejects a federal claim based on a state procedural rule ...

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