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Quintana v. Mulheron

United States District Court, D. New Mexico

April 22, 2019

JAMES MULHERON, Warden, and HECTOR H. BALDERAS, Attorney General for the State of New Mexico Respondents.


         THIS MATTER is before the Court on what the Court is considering to be Petitioner's objections to the Magistrate Judge's Proposed Findings and Recommended Disposition (“PFRD”). (Docs. 24, 25). On reference from the undersigned (Doc. 4), United States Magistrate Judge Gregory J. Fouratt recommended that this Court: (1) deny Gabriel Quintana's “Writ of Habeas Corpus pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254” (“Petition”) with prejudice; and (2) deny Quintana's Motion to Supplement. (Doc. 23) at 1. On March 28, 2019, Quintana filed a document entitled “Motion for an Appellate Review Be Allowed and Objections on the Decision Considering the Deniel [sic] and a Request of My Recommendation Stated in this Request” (hereafter “objections”). (Docs. 24, 25). Defendants neither objected to the PFRD nor responded to Petitioner's objections. Concluding that Petitioner's objections fail to preserve appellate review, the Court overrules the objections and adopts the PFRD. Therefore, and as explained below, the Court will deny the Petition as well as the Motion to Supplement (Doc. 21).

         I. BACKGROUND

         Judge Fouratt detailed the procedural and factual background of this case in his PFRD. (Doc. 23) at 3-5. This Court adopts those findings in full.

         In summary, a state court jury convicted Quintana of first degree murder, attempt to commit a violent felony, second degree murder, aggravated battery against a household member, tampering with evidence, and violation of a protective order. On direct appeal, the New Mexico Supreme Court affirmed, except for the aggravated battery conviction, which was held to violate the constitutional protections against double jeopardy. Petitioner then filed a pro se writ of habeas corpus in state court and, subsequently, an amended petition that included an affidavit from defense attorney Cynthia Hill, in which she asserted that she and her co-counsel had provided ineffective assistance as Petitioner's trial counsel. For reasons not relevant to Quintana's Petition, the state district court granted habeas relief.

         The New Mexico Supreme Court, however, reversed the grant of habeas relief and remanded back to the district court with directions to permit the State to file a response and also to hold an evidentiary hearing. The State filed a response supported by defense attorney Damian Horne's affidavit-Quintana's other trial counsel-that pointedly denied any ineffective assistance. The state habeas court held an evidentiary hearing to consider these claims:

From the Pro Se Petition, the following claims survived: Ground Three (regarding victims' family's involvement in drug dealing), Ground Six (that Petitioner wanted to take the stand in his own defense), and Ground Seven (regarding an anonymous letter purportedly identifying the actual perpetrator). From the Amended Petition, the following claims survived- that trial counsel was ineffective for: (1) failure to effectively impeach prosecution witnesses; (2) failure to investigate; (3) failure to retain expert witnesses; and (4) cumulative effect of counsel's errors.

         On February 23, 2018, the district court denied habeas relief. Quintana sought review by the New Mexico Supreme Court on March 22, 2018, but the court denied review on March 30, 2018. On May 18, 2018, Petitioner then sought review in this Court by filing the instant Petition.


         Quintana begins his objections by attacking the strength of the evidence presented at his trial, specifically targeting what he alleges to be the lack of physical and forensic evidence. (Doc. 25) at 1. Next, he urges this Court to accord Ms. Hill's affidavit additional weight. Similarly, Quintana urges this Court to conduct a de novo review of all evidence introduced at trial, and then presumably invalidate his conviction. Id. Lastly, he asks this Court to contact the district attorney's office that prosecuted him and inquire whether Quintana can still accept a plea deal that may or may not have been offered to him in 2005. Id.


         A. Standard for Objections to a Magistrate Judge's Report

         Pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(B) (2012), a district judge may designate a magistrate judge to submit proposed findings of fact and recommendations for the disposition of any case pending before the Court. Where a party timely objects to the magistrate judge's proposed disposition, this Court conducts a de novo review of all portions of the recommendation which have been objected to and “may accept, reject, or modify, in whole or in part, the findings or recommendations.” See Id. § 636(b)(1)(C). 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 583-84 (10th Cir. 1995). “[A] party's objections to the magistrate judge's [PFRD] 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 Cir. 1996).

         B. AEDPA Review

         The “AEDPA requires that [courts] apply a difficult to meet and highly deferential standard in federal habeas proceedings under 28 U.S.C. § 2254; it is one that demands that state-court decisions be given the benefit of the doubt.” Simpson v. Carpenter, 912 F.3d 542 (10th Cir. 2018) (quoting Cullen v. Pinholster, 563 U.S. 170, 181 (2011)) (internal quotation marks omitted). “[T]he standard of review applicable to a particular claim depends upon how that claim was resolved by state courts.” Cole v. Trammel, 735 F.3d 1194, 1199 (10th Cir. 2013). When a petitioner includes in his habeas ...

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