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Albores v. Superintendent

United States District Court, S.D. Indiana, Terre Haute Division

September 28, 2017

ROBERT L. ALBORES, JR., Petitioner,
v.
SUPERINTENDENT, Respondent.

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

          Hon. Jane Magntts-Stinson, United States District Court Chief Judge

         For the reasons explained in this Entry, the petition of Robert L. Albores, Jr., for a writ of habeas corpus must be denied and the action dismissed with prejudice. In addition, the Court finds that a certificate of appealability should not issue.

         The Petition for Writ of Habeas Corpus

         I. Applicable Law

         “[I]n all habeas corpus proceedings under 28 U.S.C. § 2254, the successful petitioner must demonstrate that he ‘is in custody in violation of the Constitution or laws or treaties of the United States.'” Brown v. Watters, 599 F.3d 602, 611 (7th Cir. 2010) (quoting 28 U.S.C. § 2254(a)). “As amended by [the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996 (“AEDPA”)], 28 U.S.C. § 2254 sets several limits on the power of a federal court to grant an application for a writ of habeas corpus on behalf of a state prisoner.” Cullen v. Pinholster, 563 U.S. 170, 181 (2011).

         “When a federal district court reviews a state prisoner's habeas petition pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254, it must decide whether the petitioner is ‘in custody in violation of the Constitution or laws or treaties of the United States.'” The court does not review a judgment, but the lawfulness of the petitioner's custody simpliciter.Coleman v. Thompson, 501 U.S. 722, 730 (1991) (citations omitted). “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, 559 U.S. 766, 773 (2010) (quoting Lindh v. Murphy, 521 U.S. 320, 333 n.7 (1997); Woodford v. Viscotti, 537 U.S. 19, 24 (2002) (per curiam)).

         “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)).[1] An “unreasonable” application of federal law is one “‘so lacking in justification that there was an error well understood and comprehended in existing law beyond any possibility for fairminded disagreement.'” Harper v. Brown, 865 F.3d 857, 860 (7th Cir. 2017) (citing Ward v. Neal, 835 F.3d 698, 703 (7th Cir. 2016), and quoting Harrington v. Richter, 562 U.S. 86, 103 (2011)).

         “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)). Under this demanding standard, a petitioner's claim fails if “fairminded jurists could disagree on the correctness of the state court's decision.” Harrington v. Richter, 562 U.S. 86, 101 (2011) (internal citation and quotations omitted). A habeas petitioner should be denied relief as long as it is within the “realm of possibility” that fairminded jurists could find the state court decision to be reasonable. See Woods v. Etherton, 136 S.Ct. 1149, 1152 (2016). In short, the standard of § 2254(d) is “difficult to meet . . . because it was meant to be.” Burt v. Titlow, 134 S.Ct. 10, 16 (2013) (internal quotation marks omitted); see also Cavazos v. Smith, 132 S.Ct. 2, 7-8 (2011) (per curiam) (citing Supreme Court jurisprudence “highlighting the necessity of deference to state courts in § 2254(d) habeas cases”).

         The Supreme Court has described AEDPA as “a formidable barrier to federal habeas relief for prisoners whose claims have been adjudicated in state court” and has emphasized that courts must not “lightly conclude that a State's criminal justice system has experienced the ‘extreme malfunction' for which federal habeas relief is the remedy.” Burt v. Titlow, 134 S.Ct. 10, 16 (2013) (quoting Harrington v. Richter, 562 U.S. 86 (2011)); see also Renico v. Lett, 559 U.S. 766, 773 (2010) (“AEDPA . . . imposes a highly deferential standard for evaluating state-court rulings, and demands that state court decisions be given the benefit of the doubt.”) (internal quotation marks, citations, and footnote omitted).

         II. Background

         An Indiana jury convicted Albores of murder and found him not guilty of criminal gang activity. He was sentenced to a term of 55 years. His conviction and sentence were affirmed in Albores v. State, 987 N.E.2d 98 (Ind.Ct.App. 2013), trans. denied (Albores I). The trial court's denial of Albores's petition for post-conviction relief was affirmed in Albores v. State, 2016 WL 4703454 (Ind.Ct.App.), transfer denied, 65 N.E.3d 595 (Ind. 2016) (Albores II).

         The circumstances associated with Albores's offense and aspects of his prosecution were described in his direct appeal:

Albores and the victim in this case, Michael Miranda, got along with no problems for several years. However, in 2008, Albores' cousin was shot and killed. Albores believed Miranda was involved in the shooting. On July 22, 2010, Albores and Miranda found themselves stopped at an intersection at the same time. Albores fired several shots at Miranda and drove away. Miranda died five days later.
Albores was charged with murder and criminal gang activity. During the jury trial, the State presented evidence that Albores and Miranda were members of rival street gangs and argued that Albores shot Miranda in retaliation for his cousin's death in 2008. Albores testified at trial and denied being part of a gang. He did not deny he shot Miranda, but claimed he did so out of fear for his life. He described a turbulent relationship between the parties and a history of shootings that had allegedly occurred during the two years prior to the shooting that led to Miranda's death. The jury was instructed on both self-defense and the lesser included offense of reckless homicide.

Albores I, 987 N.E.2d at 99.

         Albores makes eight claims in his habeas petition: (1) the trial court's instruction on the presumption of innocence resulted in reversible error because it was incomplete; (2) trial counsel was ineffective for failing to object or request an admonishment to evidence that Albores shot at Nola Willis' house in 2008; (3) trial counsel was ineffective for failing to object to a late amendment to the charging information that would not have changed Albores' defense; (4) trial counsel was ineffective for failing to object to statements from the victim, Miranda, that he thought Albores would kill him and that Miranda did not kill Mercado; (5) trial counsel was ineffective for failing to request an admonishment to evidence of Albores's motive; (6) trial counsel was ineffective for failing to offer a jury instruction on self-defense that included language regarding the right to retreat and that force could be used to prevent a forcible felony; (7) trial counsel was ineffective for ...


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