United States District Court, D. New Mexico
SERGIO T. JAMES, Petitioner,
RAYMOND SMITH, Warden, and HECTOR H. BALDERAS, Attorney General for the State of New Mexico, Respondents.
ORDER OVERRULING PETITIONER'S OBJECTIONS AND
ADOPTING MAGISTRATE JUDGE'S PARTIAL PROPOSED FINDINGS AND
MATTER comes before the Court on the Magistrate
Judge's Partial Proposed Findings and Recommended
Disposition (“PF&RD”) (Doc. 15),
filed November 13, 2017, and on Petitioner's Objections
to that PF&RD (“Objections”) (Doc.
19), filed January 8, 2018. Because they lack merit, the
Court will overrule the objections and adopt the PF&RD.
James (“Petitioner” or “James”) filed
a single Petition Under 28 U.S.C. § 2254 for Writ of
Habeas Corpus (“Petition”), challenging two state
court convictions - in No. 382 and No. 383. Doc. 1.
He asserted four grounds for relief: (1) he was denied the
right to confront the confidential informant
(“CI”); (2) there was insufficient evidence to
convict him, in violation of his right to due process; (3)
the arresting agent obtained the warrant for Petitioner's
arrest on perjured information, in violation of
Petitioner's right to due process; and (4) the trial
court erred in admitting a copy of a video recording without
requiring the State to produce the original recording.
PF&RD, Magistrate Judge Karen B. Molzen recommended
against dismissal of the Petition simply because it
challenged two state court convictions, reasoning that the
convictions were based on virtually identical facts occurring
in a two-day timespan. Doc. 15 at 3-4. However, she
recommended that the Court deny habeas relief on the claims
raised in Grounds One, Two, and Four of the Petition.
Id. at 16-17. Finally, Judge Molzen recommended that
the Court order Respondents to file a supplemental brief as
to the merits of Ground Three that specifically addresses No.
parties had until November 27, 2017, to file objections to
the PF&RD. Doc. 15 at 17. By December 8, 2017,
no objections were filed, and the Court adopted the
PF&RD. Doc. 16. However, ten days later
Petitioner provided notice to the Court that he had not
received a copy of the PF&RD itself and only became aware
of it when he received a copy of the Order that adopted the
PF&RD. Doc. 17. Accordingly, the Court vacated
the Order Adopting Magistrate Judge's Partial Proposed
Findings and Recommended Disposition and allowed Petitioner
additional time to file objections. Doc. 18.
Petitioner then filed his objections within the new time
limit. Doc. 19.
party files timely-written objections to a magistrate
judge's recommendation, the district court will conduct a
de novo review and “may accept, reject, or
modify, in whole or in part, the findings or recommendations
made by the magistrate judge.” 28 U.S.C. §
636(b)(1). De novo review requires the district
judge to consider relevant evidence of record and not merely
to review the magistrate judge's recommendation. In
re Griego, 64 F.3d 580, 583-84 (10th Cir. 1995).
“[A] party's objections to the magistrate
judge's [PF&RD] must be both timely and specific to
preserve an issue for de novo review by the district
court or for appellate review.” United States v.
One Parcel of Real Prop., with Buildings, Appurtenances,
Improvements, & Contents, 73 F.3d 1057, 1060 (10th
courts have statutory authority under Section 2254, as
amended by the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act
of 1996, to issue habeas corpus relief for persons in state
custody. See Harrington v. Richter, 562 U.S. 86,
97-98 (2011). A federal court may grant relief from a state
court decision only where a petitioner demonstrates that the
trial court's resolution of his claims was
“‘contrary to, or involved an unreasonable
application of, clearly established Federal law, as
determined by the Supreme Court of the United States' or
‘was based on an unreasonable determination of the
facts in light of the evidence presented in the State court
proceeding.'” Hooks v. Workman, 689 F.3d
1148, 1163 (2012) (quoting 28 U.S.C. § 2254(d)(1), (2)).
does not object to the Magistrate Judge's findings and
recommendations on Grounds Two and Four (sufficiency of the
evidence and best evidence), but does object to her findings
and recommendations on Grounds One and Three (Confrontation
Clause and perjured arrest warrant). See Doc. 19.
Ground One: Confrontation Clause
trial courts in both of Petitioner's cases admitted a
video which purported to show the CI engaged in a controlled
buy with Petitioner. Docs. 12-1 at 53; 12-3
at 40. Petitioner first asserts that the videos do not
actually show any type of drug transaction. Doc. 19
at 1-2. Therefore, he reasons, “the prejudicial effect
of showing the video outweighs any probative value and the
video should not have been admitted.” Id. at
appears that Petitioner is making an argument under New
Mexico Rule of Evidence 11-403, which allows a trial court to
“exclude relevant evidence if its probative value is
substantially outweighed by a danger of . . . unfair
prejudice.” Rule 11-403 NMRA. However, Petitioner did
not raise this issue in his original Petition and the Court
will not consider it now. See Doc. 1. “Issues
raised for the first time in objections to the magistrate
judge's recommendation are deemed waived.”
Marshall v. Chater, 75 F.3d 1421, 1426 (10th Cir.
Petitioner maintains that both trial courts violated his
right to confront the CI, because the CI was an
“adverse witness” but was not called to testify,
and be subject to cross-examination, at either trial.
Doc. 19 at 4. The New Mexico Court of Appeals, in
contrast, determined that ...