United States District Court, D. New Mexico
PROPOSED FINDINGS OF FACT AND RECOMMENDED
MATTER comes before the Court on the Petition Under 28 U.S.C.
§ 2254 for Writ of Habeas Corpus
(“Petition”) (Doc. 1), filed by
Cornelius Renteria (“Petitioner”) on September
25, 2017, and fully briefed December 29, 2017 (Docs. 9,
11). The Honorable M. Christina Armijo referred this
case to me to conduct hearings, if warranted, including
evidentiary hearings, and to perform any legal analysis
required to recommend to the Court an ultimate disposition of
the case. Doc. 4. Having reviewed the submissions of
the parties and the relevant law, the Court finds that it is
able to make a decision based on the current
record. The Court recommends that relief be
Background Facts and Procedural
March 27, 2013, Petitioner attacked his ex-girlfriend in her
home and pointed a gun at her daughter. Doc. 9-1 at
20-22. The Doña Ana County Magistrate Court issued a
criminal complaint for attempted first degree murder, willful
and deliberate, on March 28, 2013, and Petitioner was
arrested. Doc. 9-1 at 18-24. On April 11, 2013, the
grand jury returned an indictment, charging Petitioner with
seven counts: Count 1, attempted first degree, felony murder;
Count 2, aggravated burglary, armed after entry; Count 3,
aggravated assault, with a firearm enhancement; Count 4,
negligent child abuse, with a firearm enhancement, a third
degree felony; Count 5, possession of a firearm or
destructive device by a felon; Count 6, tampering with
evidence; and Count 7, tampering with evidence. Doc.
9-1 at 13-15. On April 29, 2014, the State filed a
Notice of Intent to Seek Firearm Enhancements on Counts 1, 3
and 4. Doc. 9-1 at 26-27. Further, on
April 30, 2014, the State filed a Motion to Amend the Grand
Jury Indictment, adding alternative theories on Counts 1 and
2. Doc. 9-1 at 28-29. The State sought to add the
alternative theories of attempted willful and deliberate
murder to Count 1 (indicted as attempted felony murder) and
armed upon entry to Count 2 (indicted as armed after entry).
Doc. 9-1 at 28.
trial began on May 5, 2014. Doc. 9-1 at 47. Shortly
after the jury was selected and sworn in, the trial judge
heard arguments and allowed the State to amend the grand jury
indictment, adding alternative theories on Counts 1 and 2 and
a firearm enhancement to Count 1. Doc. 9-1 at 65,
49-50, 51-52. On May 8, 2014, the jury returned a verdict,
convicting Petitioner on four counts: Count 1, attempted
first degree murder, willful and deliberate, with a firearm
enhancement (Doc. 9-1 at 1, 7, 43); Count 2,
aggravated burglary, armed upon entry (Doc. 9-1 at
1, 7, 44); Count 4, negligent child abuse with a firearm
enhancement (Doc. 9-1 at 7, 42, 45); and Count 5,
possession of a firearm by a felon (Doc. 9-1 at 1,
trial, the State filed a Supplemental Criminal Information of
Petitioner's prior convictions, in support of a habitual
offender enhancement. Doc. 9-1 at 53-54. The
information included Petitioner's prior conviction of
child abuse. Doc. 9-1 at 54. Petitioner admitted the
allegations in the supplemental information, Doc.
9-1 at 58, and the sentencing judge enhanced Count 4,
negligent child abuse, from a third degree felony (as
indicted) to a second degree felony. Doc. 9-1 at 1,
7, 65-66. The trial court entered its judgment and sentence
on August 6, 2014, sentencing Petitioner to 34.5 years of
imprisonment. Doc. 9-1 at 1-6.
appealed to the New Mexico Court of Appeals on August 28,
2014. Doc. 9-1 at 59-60. He argued that the trial
court erred by allowing the amended indictment, which
included alternative theories on Counts 1 and 2 and the
firearm enhancement on Count 1, and by sentencing him to
intentional, third degree child abuse, instead of negligent,
second degree child abuse. Doc. 9-1 at 66. The New
Mexico Court of Appeals remanded for the limited purpose of
correcting a clerical error in the judgment (intentional to
negligent child abuse), but otherwise affirmed
Petitioner's conviction. Doc. 9-2 at 30. The New
Mexico Supreme Court denied Petitioner's Petition for
Writ of Certiorari on June 11, 2015. Doc. 9-2 at
27, 2016, Petitioner sought collateral relief and filed a
Petition for Writ of Habeas Corpus to the Third Judicial
District Court of New Mexico. Docs. 9-3 at 1-23; 9-4
at 7-15. The trial court dismissed the petition (Doc.
9-4 at 43), and the New Mexico Supreme Court again
denied certiorari (Doc. 9-4 at 79). Petitioner then
filed this federal Petition pursuant to Section 2254.
courts have statutory authority under Section 2254, as
amended by the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act
of 1996 (“AEDPA”), to issue habeas corpus relief
for persons in state custody. See Harrington v.
Richter, 562 U.S. 86, 97-98 (2011). AEDPA
“circumscribes our review of federal habeas claims that
were adjudicated on the merits in state-court
proceedings.” Hooks v. Workman, 689 F.3d 1148,
1163 (10th Cir. 2012). AEDPA does not require that a state
court provide a statement of reasons. “The statute
refers only to a ‘decision, ' which resulted from
an ‘adjudication.'” Harrington, 562
U.S. at 98. Therefore, even if the state court failed to
provide an opinion stating its reasoning, as long as the
state court has made a determination on the merits, Section
2254(d) bars relitigation of that claim in a federal habeas
action, subject to only two exceptions. Id.
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, 689 F.3d at 1163
(quoting 28 U.S.C. § 2254(d)(1), (2)). In analyzing the
state court's decision, this Court may only review the
record that was before the state court and all factual
findings are presumed correct unless rebutted by “clear
and convincing evidence.” Id. (quoting 28
U.S.C. § 2254(e)).
Section 2254(d)(1), the threshold question asks whether the
applicant is seeking to invoke a rule of law that was clearly
established by the Supreme Court at the time the conviction
became final. Byrd v. Workman, 645 F.3d 1159, 1165
(10th Cir. 2011) (citation omitted); see also Williams v.
Taylor, 529 U.S. 362, 390 (2000). If the law was clearly
established, then the court determines whether the state
court decision was “contrary to or involved an
unreasonable application of that clearly established
law.” Byrd, 645 F.3d at 1165 (quoting
Turrentine v. Mullin, 390 F.3d 1181, 1189 (10th Cir.
2004) (internal quotations omitted)).
a state-court decision is “contrary to” clearly
established law “if the state court applies a rule
different from the governing law set forth” by the
Supreme Court or “if it decides a case differently than
[the Supreme Court has] done on a set of materially
indistinguishable facts.” Hooks, 689 F.3d at
1163 (quoting Bell v. Cone, 535 U.S. 685, 694
(2002)). The state court is not required to cite to, or even
be aware of, Supreme Court decisions, “so long as
neither the reasoning nor the results of the state-court
decision contradicts them.” Early v. Packer,
537 U.S. 3, 8 (2002).
“[a] state-court decision is an ‘unreasonable
application' of clearly established federal law when the
state court ‘identifies the correct governing legal
principle from th[e Supreme] Court's decisions but
unreasonably applies that principle to the facts of
petitioner's case.'” Hooks, 689 F.3d
at 1163 (quoting Wiggins v. Smith, 539 U.S. 510, 520
(2003)). AEDPA precludes issuance of a writ simply because
the federal court concludes in its independent judgment that
the state court applied the federal law erroneously or
incorrectly. Byrd, 645 F.3d at 1166. Instead, the
application must also be “objectively
unreasonable.” Id. As long as
“fairminded jurists could disagree” as to the
correctness of the state court's decision, Yarborough
v. Alvarado, 541 U.S. 652, 664 (2004), this
“‘highly deferential standard for evaluating
state-court rulings[ ]' . . . demands that state-court
decisions be given the benefit of the doubt.”
Hooks, 689 F.3d at 1163 (quoting Woodford v.
Visciotti, 537 U.S. 19, 24 (2002)).
even if a federal habeas court finds that the state court
decision was contrary to or an unreasonable application of
clearly established federal law, habeas relief may not issue
unless the violation is of a sort that warrants such relief.
See e.g., Williams, 529 U.S at 375 (“It is, of
course, well settled that the fact that constitutional error
occurred in the proceedings that led to a state-court
conviction may not alone be sufficient reason for concluding
that a prisoner is entitled to the remedy of habeas.”);
Wilson v. Sirmons, 536 F.3d 1064, 1073 (10th Cir.
2008) (“If we find that the state court erred, we still
must determine whether the error is a structural defect
‘in the constitution of the trial mechanism, which
def[ies] analysis by “harmless-error”
standards.'”) (quoting Arizona v.
Fulminante, 449 U.S. 279, 309 (1991)), rehearing en
banc granted on separate issue, 549 F.3d 1267 (10th Cir.
federal habeas claims not adjudicated on the merits in the
state courts, the court must review the claim de
novo and the deferential standards of Section 2254(d) do
not apply. ...