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.
PROPOSED FINDINGS AND RECOMMENDED
MATTER comes before the Court on the Petition Under 28 U.S.C.
§ 2254 for Writ of Habeas Corpus by a Person in State
Custody (“Petition”) (Doc. 1), filed by
Sergio T. James (“Petitioner”) on March 22, 2017.
The Honorable Judith C. Herrera 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. On November 13, 2017, the undersigned
entered a Partial Proposed Findings of Fact and Recommended
Deposition (“Partial PF&RD”). Doc.
15. The Court adopted the Partial PF&RD on February
20, 2018, dismissing all but one ground for relief and
ordering supplemental briefing on the remaining ground.
Doc. 20. Having reviewed the supplemental
submissions of the parties and the relevant law, the Court
now recommends that relief be denied on the sole remaining
Background Facts and Procedural
Petition Under 28 U.S.C. § 2254 for Writ of Habeas
Corpus, Petitioner challenged two New Mexico state court
convictions out of the Ninth Judicial District Court of New
Mexico. Doc. 1 at 1. Both convictions are for
trafficking a controlled substance in the first degree based
upon hand-to-hand buys with a confidential informant
(“CI”). The first conviction, docket number
D-0905-CR-2011-00382 (“No. 382”), involved a CI
buy on May 12, 2011 (Doc. 12-2 at 39-40); the second
conviction, docket number D-0905-CR-2011-00383 (“No.
383”), involved a CI buy on May 11, 2011 (Doc.
1-1 at 22).
Petition included four grounds for relief: (1) that
Petitioner was denied the right to confront the CI; (2) the
jury had insufficient evidence to convict Petitioner, 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 his 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. Doc. 1. The undersigned issued a
Partial PF&RD, recommending that habeas relief be denied
for claims raised in Grounds One, Two, and Four of the
Petition. Doc. 15 at 17. After addressing
Petitioner's objections, the presiding judge adopted that
recommendation. Doc. 20.
Ground Three, in No. 382, Petitioner first raised the issue
of an alleged perjured arrest warrant in his second Petition
for Writ of Habeas Corpus to the Ninth Judicial District
Court of New Mexico. Doc. 12-2 at 23-27. The state
district court denied relief pursuant to a New Mexico
procedural rule on second and successive petitions, Rule
5-802(I)(1) NMRA. Id. Petitioner then filed a
petition in federal court, including a claim for relief based
on a perjured arrested warrant. The undersigned magistrate
judge recommended denying relief with respect to No. 382
because the issue was decided in the state court on
independent and adequate state procedural grounds. Doc.
15 at 13-14. After addressing Petitioner's
objections, the presiding judge adopted that recommendation
and dismissed Ground Three, specific to No. 382. Doc.
20 at 6.
No. 382, in No. 383 Petitioner first presented the issue of
the perjured arrest warrant in his only Petition for Writ of
Habeas Corpus to the Ninth Judicial District Court of New
Mexico. Doc. 12-4 at 3-4. Accordingly, the
undersigned recommended, and the presiding judge agreed, that
Ground Three should not be dismissed for procedural default
with respect to No. 383. See Doc. 15 at 14; Doc.
20 at 6. Instead, the Court ordered additional briefing
on Ground Three, specific to No. 383. Doc. 20 at
383, a jury found James guilty on April 21, 2014. Doc.
12-3 at 1. The New Mexico Court of Appeals affirmed his
conviction (id. at 39-46), and the New Mexico
Supreme Court denied his Petition for Writ of Certiorari
(id. at 69). James then filed a Petition for Writ of
Habeas Corpus with the Ninth Judicial District Court of New
Mexico, which the district court denied on November 2, 2014.
Id. at 84-86. The New Mexico Supreme Court again
denied his Petition for Writ of Certiorari (Doc.
12-4 at 26), and James then filed the instant Petition
Under 28 U.S.C. § 2254 for Writ of Habeas Corpus here in
federal district court (Doc. 1).
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,
” subject to only two exceptions. Hooks v.
Workman, 689 F.3d 1148, 1163 (10th Cir. 2012).
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.'” Id. (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. §
determine if a decision was contrary to or involved an
unreasonable application of clearly established Federal law,
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 result 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)).