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Anaya v. Hatch

United States District Court, D. New Mexico

October 6, 2017

ARTURO ANAYA, Petitioner,



         THIS MATTER is before me on Petitioner Arturo Anaya's Petition Under 28 U.S.C. § 2254 for Writ of Habeas Corpus by a Person in State Custody, filed April 22, 2016. [Doc. 1]. Respondents filed an answer on July 17, 2017. [Doc. 19]. Anaya replied on July 27, 2017.[1] [Docs. 21, 22]. The Honorable Robert A. Junell, Senior United States District Judge, referred this matter to me for analysis and a recommended disposition. [Doc. 27]. Having considered the parties' submissions, the record, and the relevant law, and being otherwise fully advised in the premises, I find that Anaya has alleged both exhausted and unexhausted claims and I recommend that he be given the opportunity to withdraw the unexhausted claims and proceed with the exhausted claims.[2]


         On May 23, 2013, Anaya was convicted by a jury in the First Judicial District Court of New Mexico on two counts of murder in the first degree, one count of aggravated burglary, and two counts of intimidation of a witness. [Doc. 19-1] at 1-2. The charges stemmed from an altercation during which Anaya fatally shot two occupants of a trailer on his property following a dispute over rent. See [Doc. 19] at 2. Judgement was entered on June 17, 2013. [Doc. 19-1] at 1-7. He was sentenced to two terms of life imprisonment for the murder convictions and three years for each intimidation-of-a-witness conviction, to run consecutively.[3] Id. at 2-3.

         Anaya, through counsel, appealed his conviction. [Doc. 19-1] at 9. He alleged five errors on appeal: (1) the trial judge's violation of Anaya's statutory right to peremptorily excuse his assigned judge; (2) ineffective assistance of counsel based on defense counsel's failure to timely excuse the assigned judge; (3) insufficiency of the evidence to sustain the conviction for aggravated burglary; (4) the trial judge's failure to give a jury instruction on self-defense; and (5) cumulative error. [Doc. 19-2] at 3-4; [Doc. 19-1] at 32-74 (Anaya's appellate brief-in-chief). Exercising jurisdiction pursuant to Rule 12-102(A)(1) NMRA, [4] the New Mexico Supreme Court affirmed his conviction on May 4, 2105. As to the ineffective-assistance claim, the Court found that only an evidentiary hearing in a post-conviction habeas proceeding would supply the requisite facts, if any, supporting the claim. [Doc. 19-2] at 8-9. As to the other four grounds, the Court ruled against Anaya on the merits. See Id. at 23-40.

         Proceeding pro se, Anaya filed a state habeas corpus petition on June 5, 2015. [Doc. 19-2] at 43-49. His petition was summarily dismissed by the district court on September 18, 2015. Id. at 62-64. The court construed his habeas petition as challenging the sufficiency of the evidence of his aggravated burglary conviction on the basis that his entry into the victims' trailer was lawful because he owned the property. Id. at 62. The court found that it was precluded from addressing that claim because it had already been raised and rejected by the Supreme Court on direct appeal. Id. The court found no fundamental error or lack of an adequate record that would permit the court to consider the claim. Id. at 62-63. While Anaya stated in the instant petition that he filed a writ of certiorari to the New Mexico Supreme Court, which was denied, it appears that he did not file any such petition.[5]

         In the instant petition, filed on April 22, 2016, and in a number of additional supporting documents, Anaya raises several grounds for relief. He raises claims relating to the allegedly false testimony of the State's witnesses, including, most clearly, a claim for ineffective assistance of counsel on the basis of his counsel's failure to discredit the State's witnesses. [Doc. 1] at 5, 7; [Docs. 16-18]. He claims he is “innocent” and that his murder convictions should be overturned because he was not the initial aggressor in the altercation but instead was acting in self-defense. E.g., [Doc. 4] at 1-2; [Doc. 21] at 1. He claims that he was not present unlawfully in the victims' trailer, effectively arguing there was not sufficient evidence to support his aggravated burglary conviction. [Doc. 21] at 1. Finally, he claims the trial judge erred in striking his peremptory excusal of the assigned judge, and, alternately, that his counsel's failure to timely excuse the assigned judge constituted ineffective assistance of counsel. [Doc. 22].

         Respondents construe Anaya's petition as raising a single ground for relief: ineffective assistance of counsel for his counsel's failure to discredit the false testimony of the State's witnesses. [Doc. 19] at 4. Respondents contend that Anaya failed to exhaust this claim and request that his petition be denied on that ground. Id. at 5-8. In the alternative, they argue that Anaya fails to show that his counsel's representation was constitutionally inadequate. Id. at 8- 12.

         Legal Standards

         Petitions Under 28 U.S.C. § 2254

         A petition for habeas corpus under 28 U.S.C. § 2254 attacks the constitutionality of a state prisoner's conviction and continued detention. A federal court cannot grant habeas relief pursuant to § 2254(d) with respect to any claim adjudicated on the merits by a state court unless the petitioner's state court proceeding:

(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.

         § 2254(d). “Even if a state court resolves a claim in a summary fashion with little or no reasoning, [federal courts] owe deference to the state court's result.” Paine v. Massie, 339 F.3d 1194, 1198 (10th Cir. 2003). This standard is “highly deferential” to state courts, and the Supreme Court has noted that it is “difficult to meet, ” as it requires federal courts to give state court decisions the benefit of the doubt. Cullen v. Pinholster, 131 S.Ct. 1388, 1398 (2011) (citing Harrington v. Richter, 562 U.S. 86, 101 (2011); Woodford v. Viscotti, 537 U.S. 19, 24 (2002) (per curiam)); see also Black v. Workman, 682 F.3d 880, 891 ...

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