United States District Court, D. New Mexico
ALREE B. SWEAT, III, Petitioner,
JAMES MULHERON, Warden, Respondent.
PROPOSED FINDINGS AND RECOMMENDED
R. SWEAZEA UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE
Sweat petitions for a writ of habeas corpus under 28 U.S.C.
§ 2254. Earlier in this case, Sweat elected to dismiss
the claims he had not exhausted in the New Mexico courts.
(Doc. 21). Before the Court now are the merits of Sweat's
remaining constitutional challenges: (1) whether sufficient
evidence supported Sweat's convictions for burglary of a
vehicle; and (2) whether trial counsel was ineffective for
(a) not investigating and filing a motion to suppress DNA
results; (b) failing to raise the trial court's denial of
a motion to consolidate in a docketing statement; and (c)
waiving Sweat's speedy trial rights. (Doc. 19). Applying
the deferential standard in the Antiterrorism and Effective
Death Penalty Act (“AEDPA”), the Court concludes
that Sweat has not carried his burden to show the state court
unreasonably applied federal law or determined the facts.
Pursuant to an order of reference from United States District
Judge Judith C. Herrera, see 28 U.S.C. §
636(b)(1)(B); Doc. 9, the Court recommends that Sweat's
petition for a writ of habeas corpus be
April 2013, Las Cruces saw a series of car burglaries. (Doc.
25-1, at 52). DNA collected from the scenes implicated Sweat
some of the offenses. (Id.) As is relevant here,
four of the burglaries occurred at a Motel 6 on April 28,
2013 and three at Buffalo Wild Wings on April 23, 2013. (Doc.
25-1, at 59-60). Of the four vehicles burglarized at the
Motel 6, blood was recovered from a laundry basket in one
car. (Id.). At the restaurant, blood was recovered
from inside two vehicles. (Doc. 25-1, at 52). There were no
eyewitnesses to the crimes. (Id.). On November 14,
2013, a grand jury indicted Sweat in three proceedings,
charging separate counts for each vehicle involved. (Doc.
25-1, at 13).
February 5, 2015, Sweat moved to consolidate the cases.
(Id.). The trial court consolidated two of the
indictments. (Doc. 25-1, at 18-19). A jury trial began
on March 25, 2017 on the combined charges. (Doc. 25-1, at
1-5; 23). Over two days, an investigating detective testified
as well as two DNA experts, one for the State of New Mexico
and one Sweat retained. (Doc. 25-1, at 30- 32). The detective
told jurors that blood was found in or on items removed from
three of the seven vehicles and a warrant was obtained for
Sweat's DNA. (Id.). The State's expert
testified that the DNA from the vehicles matched Sweat's.
(Id.). Sweat's expert balked at the number DNA
samples collected as well as the chain of custody.
(Id.) Sweat's expert raised the possibility of
contamination resulting from the collection process.
the State's presentation, the trial court directed a
verdict on Counts 1-3 and 7 of the consolidated indictment.
(Doc. 25-1, at 23-24). For those charges, the State did not
offer DNA evidence linking Sweat to the subject vehicles.
(Doc. 25-1, at 32). As to the remining counts, the jury
returned a guilty verdict at the end of trial. (Doc. 25-1, at
2). Sweat was subsequently sentenced to a total of eleven
years in prison and a year of parole. (Doc. 25-1, at 1-5). As for
Sweat's third case, which was not consolidated, the jury
hung on the single count that survived a directed verdict.
(Doc. 25-2, at 140-43). The State decided not to retry Sweat
on that charge (Doc. 25-2, at 144).
unsuccessfully appealed his convictions and applied for
postconviction relief in the state courts. (Doc. 25-1, at
25-67). On November 17, 2016, Sweat filed the instant
petition under 28 U.S.C. § 2254 for a writ of habeas
corpus. (Doc. 1). Thereafter, this Court determined that
Sweat did not exhaust his state court remedies for some of
his constitutional challenges as 28 U.S.C. § 2254
requires before a petitioner may seek federal habeas relief.
(Doc. 19) Sweat ultimately elected to dismiss those claims.
AEDPA limits the Court's review of habeas-corpus
petitions brought under 28 U.S.C. § 2254. As a matter of
comity and to safeguard against only “extreme
malfunctions in the state criminal justice systems, ”
the Court may grant relief only “if the state
court's decision was contrary to, or an unreasonable
application of, clearly established federal law” or the
state court's decision “was based on an
unreasonable determination of the facts in light of the
evidence presented.” Smith v. Aldridge, 904
F.3d 874, 880 (10th Cir. 2018) (citations omitted). This
hurdle is necessarily “dauting” in deference to
the state courts. Byrd v. Workman, 645 F.3d 1159,
1172 (10th Cir. 2011). As to the first prong, the petitioner
must show that the state court's decision applied
“a rule that contradicts the governing law set forth in
[Supreme Court] cases [or] if the state court confronts a set
of facts that are materially indistinguishable from a
[Supreme Court] decision and nevertheless arrives at a result
different from [the Court's] precedent.”
Williams v. Taylor, 529 U.S. 362, 405-406 (2000).
state court need not cite or even demonstrate awareness of
Supreme Court precedent if the state court's reasoning
and result do not contradict controlling decisions. See
Early v. Packer, 537 U.S. 3, 8 (2002). To reach the
level of an “unreasonable application, ” the
petitioner must show more than an incorrect conclusion-the
state court must have been objectively unreasonable in its
decision, not a “subjective assessment” of the
“views of the judges on the relevant state court (or,
for that matter, the views of individual federal
judges).” Hooks v. Workman, 606 F.3d 715, 751
(10th Cir. 2010). Under the second prong, the petitioner must
show that “all reasonable minds reviewing the record
would have to agree that the state court's determination
of facts was incorrect.” Smith, 904 F.3d at
880. And the adverse decision must be based on that
unreasonable determination of the facts. See id.
asserts he was convicted in violation of his due-process
rights and contrary to the Constitution's guarantee of
effective assistance of counsel. The Court disagrees with
both of Sweat's assertions.
of the Evidence
process requires a conviction be based “upon proof
beyond a reasonable doubt of every fact necessary to
constitute the crime with which [the petitioner] is
charged.” Parker v. Scott, 394 F.3d 1302, 1314
(10th Cir. 2005) (quoting In re Winship, 397 U.S.
358, 364 (1970)). In assessing a conviction's
sufficiency, the Court must decide “whether, after
viewing the evidence in the light most favorable to the
prosecution, any rational trier of fact could have found the
essential elements of the crime beyond a reasonable
doubt.” Jackson v. Virginia, 443 U.S. 307, 319
(1979). Under the AEDPA, sufficiency challenges benefit from
a “twice-deferential standard” of review: (1)
“[a] reviewing court may set aside the jury's
verdict on the ground of insufficient evidence only if no
rational trier of fact could have agreed with the