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Torres v. State

United States District Court, D. New Mexico

August 5, 2019

JERRY TORRES, Petitioner,
v.
STATE OF NEW MEXICO and THE ATTORNEY GENERAL, Respondents.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

          ROBERT C. BRACK, SENIOR U.S. DISTRICT JUDGE

         THIS MATTER is before the Court under Rule 4 of the Rules Governing Section 2254 Cases on the Petition Under 28 U.S.C. § 2254 for Writ of Habeas Corpus by a Person in State Custody (“Petition”) filed by Petitioner, Mr. Jerry Torres. (Doc. 1.) The Court will dismiss the Petition as barred by the statute of limitations and because Mr. Torres is not entitled to § 2254 relief on the merits of his claims.

         FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

         On March 21, 1996, Petitioner was charged with first degree depraved-mind murder, aggravated battery, aggravated assault, and shooting at a dwelling or occupied building in State of New Mexico, County of Chaves, Fifth Judicial District Court, cause No. D-504-CR-1996-00075.[1]Torres was convicted by a jury and sentenced to life imprisonment on October 10, 1996. Torres appealed his conviction and sentence to the New Mexico Supreme Court, contending that his right to confrontation under the Sixth and Fourteenth Amendments to the United States Constitution were violated by the admission of a statement by a trial witness. In December 1998, the New Mexico Supreme Court affirmed his conviction, holding that his confrontation rights under the United States and New Mexico Constitutions were not violated by the admission of the statement. State v. Torres, 971 P.2d 1267, 1280 (N.M. 1998).

         Almost 18 months later, on June 5, 2000, Torres filed a Motion for Postconviction Full Exculpatory Discovery and a Motion to Require Production of Criminal Records of Witnesses. Those Motions were denied by the State District Court on August 21, 2000.

         In 2004, the U.S. Supreme Court decided Crawford v. Washington, 541 U.S. 36 (2004), setting out standards for the determination of confrontation clause issues. Based on Crawford, the New Mexico Supreme Court expressly overruled Torres “to the extent that Torres held that custodial confessions implicating the accused fall within a firmly rooted hearsay exception and do not violate the federal confrontation clause.” State v. Alvarez-Lopez, 98 P.3d 699, 707 (N.M. 2004) (citing Torres, 971 P.2d at 1280).

         Mr. Torres filed a petition for writ of habeas corpus in State court on September 6, 2013. Torres raised three issues in his State habeas corpus petition:

1. Whether the United States Supreme Court's decision in Crawford v. Washington and the New Mexico Supreme Court's decision in State v. Alvarez-Lopez expressly overruled one of the holdings in State v. Torres apply retroactively to Petitioner's conviction.
2. Whether, even if the decision apply retroactively Petitioner's right to confrontation was violated.
3. Whether even if Petitioner right to confrontation was violated, the error was harmless.

(Doc. 1 at 21.) In a lengthy decision containing findings of fact and conclusions of law, the State court denied the Petition for Writ of Habeas Corpus on April 25, 2017. (Id. at 19-39.) The New Mexico Supreme Court denied certiorari on September 5, 2017. (Id. at 17.)

         Petitioner Torres filed his Petition in this Court on June 28, 2018. In his federal Petition, Torres again raises three issues:

-WHETHER THE U.S. SUPREME COURT'S DECISION IN CRAWFORD V. WASHINGTON AND THE NEW MEXICO SUPREME COURT'S DECISION IN STATE V. ALVAREZ-LOPEZ EXPRESSLY OVERRULLED IN STATE V. TORRES.
-WHETHER EVEN IF THE DECISION APPLY RETROACTIVELY PETITIONER'S RIGHT TO CONFRONTATION WAS VIOLATED
-WHETHER THE PETITIONER'S RIGHT TO CONFRONTATION WAS VIOLATED.

(Id. at 3.) Petitioner seeks a new trial in his criminal case based on Crawford, Alvarez-Lopez, and New Mexico v. Forbes, 119 ...


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