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Sample v. Superintendent

United States District Court, N.D. Indiana, Hammond Division

April 16, 2018

CURTIS F. SAMPLE, JR., Petitioner,



         Curtis F. Sample, Jr., a prisoner without a lawyer, filed a habeas corpus petition to challenge his convictions for attempted murder and criminal confinement under Cause No. 45G02-602-FA-10. Following a jury trial, on October 22, 2008, the Lake Circuit Court sentenced Sample as a habitual offender to ninety-five years of incarceration.


         In deciding this habeas petition, the court must presume the facts set forth by the state courts are correct unless they are rebutted with clear and convincing evidence. 28 U.S.C. § 2254(e)(1). The Court of Appeals of Indiana summarized the evidence presented at trial:

In the summer of 2005, C.W. began taking care of her daughter's Gary apartment while her daughter worked in another state. By January of 2006, C.W. had vacated her own apartment and moved into her daughter's apartment. During that time, Sample, who was known to C.W. by his nickname, B.C., possessed a key to the apartment. C.W.'s daughter, who had been dating Sample, had given him the key before she moved.
Before moving into the apartment, C.W. had met Sample on several occasions while visiting her daughter. After moving into her daughter's apartment, C.W. twice encountered him. The first time, he let her into the apartment after she had locked herself out. The second time, she came home and discovered him with a woman in one of the bedrooms. C.W. made Sample leave the apartment. Although she later asked her daughter and son to get the key back from Sample, he never returned it.
During the early morning of January 9, 2006, C.W. “was awakened by the presence of BC in the apartment.” When asked what he was doing there, he replied that he needed somewhere to stay. C.W. informed him that he could not stay there and began following him down the hallway to the living room, “thinking he's going to go on out the door.” He, however, turned and “back handed” her, cutting her face with his ring. He then pulled out a large pocket knife and ordered her to go in the living room and lie down on the floor. She did as she was ordered, lying near the front door. Sample then went into the kitchen and retrieved a butcher knife.
As Sample was examining the knife, running “his thumb and forefinger ... up and down the blade as if to examine how sharp it was, ” C.W. fled the apartment. As she fled down a common hallway, C.W. “could feel the knife going in [her] back.” She fell outside a neighbor's door and started screaming. After she fell, Sample “went to jab at [her] with the knife.” C.W., however, grabbed the blade. As she was still holding onto the blade, Sample “pulled [her] hair back, took the knife, and went around [one] ear and tried to go to the other side of [her] ear” with the knife. After the knife's blade broke, Sample began hitting C.W.'s head with his fist. He then pulled the pocket knife out of his pocket and began cutting her with it. During the attack, C.W. was screaming “and fighting with him.”
At approximately 1:30 a.m., Gary Police Officer Anthony Hawkins received a dispatch for “a rape and stabbing in progress.” When he arrived at the main entrance to the apartment building, he “saw two people inside, one person ran towards the back, the other one was a black female. She was standing there, completely naked, covered in blood, huddled in the corner of the hallway.” Officer Hawkins radioed to fellow officers that the suspect had fled toward the back of the building.
Officer Mark Davis observed Sample run out of the rear of the apartment building. He noticed that Sample's clothing “was heavily stained in blood, in what appeared to be blood.” After a brief foot chase, Officer Davis cornered Sample in an alley and took him into custody. A search of Sample revealed “a folding knife stained with blood” in his pocket.
Once officers took Sample into custody, Officer Hawkins went back to the apartment building and followed the route taken by Sample, “looking for anything that might have been dropped or thrown out” because he had seen Sample discarding items during the chase. Officer Hawkins discovered “parts to a knife” lying in “a large area of blood in the hallway.”
Paramedics transported C.W. to the hospital, where she received several stitches to the wounds on her face, neck, chest, and hands. Subsequently, C.W. identified Sample from a photographic array.

(DE # 9-5 at 2-4; Sample v. State, 910 N.E.2d 1290 (Ind.Ct.App. 2009).)

         Sample argues that he is entitled to habeas corpus relief, alleging that: (1) his trial counsel failed to challenge the charging information; (2) the trial court improperly denied him jury instructions on self-defense; (3) the prosecution introduced evidence in violation of the trial court's order; (4) the evidence did not support the criminal confinement conviction; (5) the jury instructions did not advise the jury of their right to determine the law; (6) his sentencing on both convictions violates double jeopardy principles; (7) the admission of 911 tapes violated his rights under the Confrontation Clause; and (8) the trial court improperly admitted prejudicial photographs of Sample.


         Before considering the merits of a habeas petition, the court must ensure that the petitioner has exhausted all available remedies in state court. 28 U.S.C. § 2254(b)(1)(A); Lewis v. Sternes, 390 F.3d 1019, 1025 (7th Cir. 2004). To avoid procedural default, a habeas petitioner must fully and fairly present his federal claims to the state courts. Boyko v. Parke, 259 F.3d 781, 788 (7th Cir. 2001). Fair presentment “does not require a hypertechnical congruence between the claims made in the federal and state courts; it merely requires that the factual and legal substance remain the same.” Anderson v. Brevik, 471 F.3d 811, 814-15 (7th Cir. 2006) (citing Boyko, 259 F.3d at 788). It does, however, require “the petitioner to assert his federal claim through one complete round of state-court review, either on direct appeal of his conviction or in post-conviction proceedings.” Lewis, 390 F.3d at 1025 (internal quotations and citations omitted). “This means that the petitioner must raise the issue at each and every level in the state court system, including levels at which review is discretionary rather than mandatory.” Id. “A habeas petitioner who has exhausted his state court remedies without properly asserting his federal claim at each level of state court review has procedurally defaulted that claim.” Id.

         Sample did not present any of his claims to the Indiana Supreme Court. (DE # 9-17, 9-15.) Though he raised objections to the admission of evidence and jury instructions in his petitions for transfer, these objections related solely to the determination that he was a habitual offender, and Sample does not challenge that particular determination here. Because he did not fully and fairly present his claims through one full round of State court review, his claims are procedurally defaulted.

         A habeas petitioner can overcome a procedural default by showing both cause for failing to abide by state procedural rules and a resulting prejudice from that failure. Wainwright v. Sykes, 433 U.S. 72, 90 (1977); Wrinkles v. Buss, 537 F.3d 804, 812 (7th Cir. 2008), cert. denied, 129 S.Ct. 2382 (2009). Cause sufficient to excuse procedural default is defined as “some objective factor external to the defense” which prevented a petitioner from pursuing his constitutional claim in state court. Murray v. Carrier, 477 U.S. 478, 492 (1986). A habeas petitioner can also overcome a procedural default by establishing that the court's refusal to consider a defaulted claim would result in a fundamental miscarriage of justice. House v. Bell, 547 U.S. 518, 536 (2006). To meet this exception, the petitioner must establish that “a constitutional violation has resulted in the conviction of one who is actually innocent of the crime.” Schlup v. Delo, 513 U.S. 298, 324 (1995). Sample does not argue that he was prevented from pursuing the procedurally defaulted claims in State court nor does he assert actual innocence to excuse procedural default. He thus cannot overcome procedural default.

         Nevertheless, the respondent does not assert procedural default with respect to Sample's claims that the evidence did not support the criminal confinement conviction and the admission of 911 tapes violated his rights under the Confrontation Clause. (DE # 9 at 11-16.) The court will thus consider these two claims.[1]


         “Federal habeas review . . . exists as a guard against extreme malfunctions in the state criminal justice systems, not a substitute for ordinary error correction through appeal.” Woods v. Donald, 135 S.Ct. 1372, 1376 (2015) (quotations and citation omitted).

An application for a 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).

[This] standard is intentionally difficult to meet. We have explained that clearly established Federal law for purposes of §2254(d)(1) includes only the holdings, as opposed to the dicta, of this Court's decisions. And an unreasonable application of those holdings must be objectively unreasonable, not merely wrong; even clear error will not suffice. To satisfy this high bar, a habeas petitioner is required to show that the state court's ruling on the claim being presented in federal court was so lacking in justification that there was an error well understood and comprehended in existing law beyond any possibility for fairminded disagreement.

Woods, 135 S.Ct. at 1376 (quotation marks and citations omitted). Criminal defendants are entitled to a fair trial but not a perfect one. Rose v. Clark, 478 U.S. 570, 579 (1986). To warrant relief, a state court's decision must be more than incorrect or erroneous; it must be objectively unreasonable. Wiggins v. Smith, 539 U.S. 510, 520 (2003). A state court's determination that a claim lacks merit will not be disturbed unless no fairminded jurist could agree on the correctness of the state court's decision. Harrington v. Richter, 562 U.S. 86, 101 (2011) (quotation marks omitted).

         IV. ANALYSIS

         A. Sufficiency ...

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