515 F.3d 1097 (10th Cir. 2008), 06-2034, Gonzales v. Tafoya

Docket Nº:06-2034.
Citation:515 F.3d 1097
Party Name:Colin GONZALES, Petitioner-Appellant, v. Lawrence TAFOYA, Warden, Respondent-Appellee.
Case Date:February 05, 2008
Court:United States Courts of Appeals, Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit

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515 F.3d 1097 (10th Cir. 2008)

Colin GONZALES, Petitioner-Appellant,


Lawrence TAFOYA, Warden, Respondent-Appellee.

No. 06-2034.

United States Court of Appeals, Tenth Circuit.

February 5, 2008

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Margaret A. Katze, Assistant Federal Public Defender, Albuquerque, New Mexico, for the Petitioner-Appellant.

M. Victoria Wilson, Assistant Attorney General, State of New Mexico (Patricia A. Madrid, Attorney General of New Mexico, with her on the brief), Albuquerque, New Mexico, for the Respondent-Appellee.

Before HENRY, Chief Judge, ANDERSON and GORSUCH, Circuit Judges.

HENRY, Chief Judge.

Colin Gonzales pleaded guilty in New Mexico state court to committing second-degree murder, aggravated burglary, aggravated battery, and aggravated assault when he was fourteen years old. In determining an appropriate sentence, the state trial court applied N.M. Stat. Ann. § 32A-2-20 (1978, as amended through 1996), which allowed a juvenile who has committed certain serious crimes to be sentenced as an adult if "(1) the child is not amenable to treatment or rehabilitation as a child in available facilities" and (2) "the child is not eligible for commitment to an institution for the developmentally disordered or mentally disabled." The court found that Mr. Gonzales was amenable to neither treatment nor rehabilitation and was not eligible for the statutory commitment. It subsequently sentenced him to a total of twenty-two years' incarceration in an adult prison.

After the New Mexico Court of Appeals affirmed his convictions and sentences, see State v. Gonzales, 130 N.M. 341, 24 P.3d 776 (N.M. App. 2001), and the state trial and appellate courts summarily denied Mr. Gonzales's requests for post-conviction relief, Mr. Gonzales timely filed a 28 U.S.C. § 2254 habeas corpus petition in the district court. As in the state court proceedings, he alleged that (1) the state trial court violated his rights under the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment by finding that he was neither amenable to treatment nor eligible for commitment without submitting those questions to a jury pursuant to Apprendi v. New Jersey, 530 U.S. 466, 120 S.Ct. 2348, 147 L.Ed.2d 435 (2000); (2) his guilty plea was not knowing and voluntary; (3) he received ineffective assistance of counsel, and (4) the evidence was insufficient to support the state trial court's findings regarding amenability to treatment and eligibility for commitment. The district court assigned the case to a magistrate judge, who issued proposed findings and a recommended disposition in a thorough and well-reasoned 107-page decision. The district court adopted the magistrate judge's decision and denied all of Mr. Gonzales's claims.

For the reasons set forth below, we agree with the district court's decision. Although Apprendi holds that "[o]ther than the fact of a prior conviction, any fact that increases the penalty for a crime beyond the prescribed statutory maximum must be submitted to a jury, and proved beyond a reasonable doubt," 530 U.S. at 490, 120 S.Ct. 2348, the Supreme Court's decision did not involve a proceeding to determine whether a juvenile should be sentenced as an adult. As to those proceedings, Supreme Court precedent not

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addressed in Apprendi supports the view that neither Mr. Gonzales's amenability to treatment nor eligibility for commitment need be determined by a jury. See Kent v. United States, 383 U.S. 541, 561-62, 86 S.Ct. 1045, 16 L.Ed.2d 84 (1966). Accordingly, applying the deferential standard of review required by the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act (AEDPA), see 28 U.S.C. § 2254(d)(1), we conclude that the district court did not unreasonably apply federal law in rejecting Mr. Gonzales's Apprendi claim. We also agree with the district court's rejection of Mr. Gonzales's claims challenging his guilty plea, his counsel's performance, and the sufficiency of the evidence.


Most of the relevant facts are not disputed. We begin by describing the offenses committed by Mr. Gonzales, his mental health history, and the New Mexico juvenile justice system. We then summarize the state and federal proceedings below.

A. The murder and the accompanying crimes

On March 13, 1997, Mr. Gonzales and another youth broke into the Trujillo, New Mexico home of Arsenio Lucero and his wife while they were away. The two juveniles shot the Luceros' dog with a rifle that they had stolen from another house. While Mr. Gonzales and his accomplice were still there, Mr. Lucero and his wife returned home. After Mr. Lucero entered the house, Mr. Gonzales shot him in the chest. The accomplice then shot him in the head "to put him out of his misery," 24 P.3d at 779, and Mr. Lucero died at the scene.

When Mrs. Lucero entered the house, she saw her husband's body and begged the two youths not to kill her. One of them told her to give them money and the keys to the family's truck or they would kill her too. Mrs. Lucero responded that she had neither money nor the keys. Mr. Gonzales and his accomplice then searched Mr. Lucero's body and found the keys, and Mrs. Lucero fled. The youths fired eighteen to twenty-two shots toward Mrs. Lucero and several neighbors, injuring one of them. The two then drove away in the Luceros' truck, and New Mexico state police arrested them the next day.

B. Mr. Gonzales's Mental Health History

Mr. Gonzales's mental health history soon became a central issue in the court proceedings. His family had a history of mental illness, including attention deficit disorder, bipolar illness, and depression. From a very early age, by some accounts as young as two, Mr. Gonzales had taken medication for impulsivity, distractibility, and learning difficulties. His parents reported that he had fallen and hit his head twice as a young infant.

In elementary school, Mr. Gonzales had difficulty with math and spelling, as well as with tasks involving motor coordination and dexterity. However, he learned to read and had no difficulties in doing so. According to his mother, when the medication was properly adjusted, Mr. Gonzales made A's and B's, but his grades would drop when he either did not take medication or developed a tolerance for the dosage.

When Mr. Gonzales reached adolescence, he began abusing drugs --drinking alcohol, "huffing paint[,]" smoking marijuana, and experimenting with cocaine and LSD. See State Ct. Rec. vol. I, at 59 (Forensic Evaluation Rpt. by Susan Cave, Ph.D.). He also exhibited many other behavioral problems: fighting, running away, vandalizing, and stealing. During sixth

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grade, school officials placed Mr. Gonzales in special education classes for "difficulties related to attention and behavioral control." Fed. Dist. Ct. Rec. vol. III, doc. 65, at 29 (Proposed Findings and Recommended Disposition, filed Nov. 8, 2005) (citation omitted).

In July 1996, a treating physician diagnosed Mr. Gonzales with attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder and referred him to the Las Vegas Medical Center for psychiatric treatment. A psychiatrist there added diagnoses of dysthymia, a non-specific learning disorder, and a writing disorder. Within a few months, one of Mr. Gonzales's therapists, Ms. Sande Harley-Grano, became concerned that Mr. Gonzales's behavior was becoming increasingly dangerous to himself and his family. In an October 1996 letter, written to justify a residential placement for Mr. Gonzales, Ms. Harley-Grano discussed his substance abuse and his self-destructive behavior (stabbing himself with pencils and being highly provocative with dangerous peers). Ms. Harley-Grano also reported that, in March 1996, Mr. Gonzales had ransacked a house and stolen several items of property, including a gun, and that, in August of that year, he had been arrested by the police for breaking into a neighbor's home.

Despite this assessment, Mr. Gonzales's family declined the recommended residential placement. However, in January 1997, the family followed the recommendation of a juvenile probation officer and placed Mr. Gonzales in another psychiatric facility. Unfortunately, Mr. Gonzales stayed at that facility for only thirteen days. At his mother's request, but against medical advice, he was discharged on February 2, 1997 with a diagnosis of "inhalant abuse, marijuana abuse, major depression, rule out Bipolar Disorder, ADHD, and history of head injury." State Ct. Rec. vol., I, at 59. (Forensic Evaluation Rpt. by Susan Cave, Ph.D.). Less than six weeks later, Mr. Gonzales shot Mr. Lucero.

C. New Mexico's Youthful Offender Disposition Statute

Under New Mexico law, the district court for each county includes a division known as "the Children's Court." N.M. Stat. Ann. § 32A-1-5 (1978, as amended through 1993). Each district must designate one or more of its judges to serve on that court. Unlike the majority of jurisdictions, which authorize juvenile courts to transfer certain cases to an adult court, New Mexico does not have a transfer system. See Gonzales, 24 P.3d at 781-82 (discussing legislative reforms); Daniel M. Vannella, Note, Let the Jury do the Waive: How Apprendi v. New Jersey Applies to Juvenile Transfer Proceedings, 48 WM. & MARY L.REV. 723, 753 (2006) (observing that the "New Mexico legislature had created a unique juvenile transfer system"). Instead, with limited exceptions, juveniles are tried in the Children's Court, and that court is vested with authority to impose both juvenile and adult sentences in various circumstances. See Gonzales, 24 P.3d at 781-82.

New Mexico law creates three classes of juvenile offenders: serious youthful offenders...

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