Bettes v. Lumpkin, Civil Action 6:20-CV-00062

CourtUnited States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (1st Circuit)
Docket NumberCivil Action 6:20-CV-00062
PartiesSTEVEN HAROLD BETTES, Petitioner, v. BOBBY LUMPKIN, Respondent.
Decision Date08 March 2022


BOBBY LUMPKIN, Respondent.

Civil Action No. 6:20-CV-00062

United States District Court, S.D. Texas, Victoria Division

March 8, 2022



Pending before the Court is the March 17, 2021 Memorandum and Recommendation (“M&R”) signed by Magistrate Judge Julie K. Hampton. (Dkt. No. 18). In the M&R, Magistrate Judge Hampton recommends that the Court (1) grant Respondent Bobby Lumpkin's Motion for Summary Judgment; (2) deny pro se Petitioner Steven Harold Bettes's Petition for Writ of Habeas Corpus under 28 U.S.C. § 2254; and (3) deny a certificate of appealability. Bettes did not respond to the Motion for Summary Judgment even though it was filed over a year ago.[1]

The Parties received proper notice and the opportunity to object to the proposed findings and recommendations.[2] See 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1). Bettes filed timely Objections


to the M&R even though he did not respond to the Motion for Summary Judgment.[3] (Dkt. No. 24). As a result, the Court “shall make a de novo determination of those portions of the report or specified proposed findings or recommendations to which objection is made.” 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1). The Court has conducted de novo review of the M&R, the Objections, the record, and the applicable law. After careful review, the Court ACCEPTS the M&R.


Bettes is a prisoner in state custody who is challenging his evading-arrest conviction under Section 2254. When a state court adjudicates a habeas claim on the merits, a federal court cannot grant a habeas petition unless the state court's adjudication of the claim “resulted in a decision that was contrary to, or involved an unreasonable application of, clearly established Federal law, as determined by the Supreme Court of the United States[.]” 28 U.S.C. § 2254(d)(1). Under the “contrary to” clause, a state court decision is contrary to clearly established Federal law “if the state court arrives at a conclusion opposite to that reached by the Supreme Court on a question of law or if the state court decides a case differently than the Supreme Court has on a set of materially indistinguishable facts.” Atkins v. Hooper, 979 F.3d 1035, 1045 (5th Cir. 2020) (quoting Williams v. Taylor, 529 U.S. 362, 413, 120 S.Ct. 1495, 1523, 146 L.Ed.2d 389 (2000)) (cleaned


up). Under the “unreasonable application” clause, there is an unreasonable application of clearly established Federal law if the state court “identifies the correct governing legal principle from the Supreme Court's decisions but unreasonably applies that principle to the facts of the prisoner's case.” Id. (cleaned up). Federal habeas review under Section 2254(d)(1) “is limited to the record that was before the state court that adjudicated the claim on the merits.” Cullen v. Pinholster, 563 U.S. 170, 181, 131 S.Ct. 1388, 1398, 179 L.Ed.2d 557 (2011).

The Section 2254(d) standard is “difficult to meet.” Mays v. Hines, _U.S._, _, 141 S.Ct. 1145, 1149, 209 L.Ed.2d 265 (2021) (per curiam). Indeed, AEDPA “demands that state-court decisions be given the benefit of the doubt.” Guidry v. Lumpkin, 2 F.4th 472, 482 (5th Cir. 2021) (per curiam). As a result, a federal court cannot grant habeas relief under Section 2254(d) “so long as ‘fairminded jurists could disagree' on the correctness of the state court's decision.” Reeder v. Vannoy, 978 F.3d 272, 277 (5th Cir. 2020) (per curiam) (quoting Woods v. Etherton, 578 U.S. 113, 116-17, 136 S.Ct. 1149, 1151, 194 L.Ed.2d 333 (2016) (per curiam)). Relevant here, a court must liberally construe pro se filings. Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 94, 127 S.Ct. 2197, 2200, 167 L.Ed.2d 1081 (2007) (per curiam).


Bettes raises three claims in his habeas petition challenging his state-court conviction: insufficient evidence, prosecutorial misconduct for withholding evidence, and ineffective assistance of counsel. (Dkt. No. 3 at 6); (Dkt. No. 4 at 13-28). Magistrate Judge Hampton concludes that each claim is meritless and recommends that the Court


sua sponte deny a certificate of appealability. (Dkt. No. 18 at 9-15). As best the Court can discern, Bettes raises four objections. First, as to insufficient evidence, Bettes objects that his chronic anxiety means he did not have the requisite intent to commit the crime. (Dkt. No. 24 at 2). Second, as to prosecutorial misconduct, Bettes objects that the State of Texas withheld exculpatory evidence by not calling a specific doctor as a witness and not showing the jury more of the arrest video. (Id. at 2-3). Third, as to ineffective assistance of counsel, Bettes objects that his trial counsel failed to call certain witnesses at trial, failed to show the jury certain evidence, and failed to investigate his mental incompetence. (Id. at 3). Finally, as to the certificate of appealability, Bettes objects that ignoring his claims would “defeat justice.” (Id. at 4).


A. Sufficiency of the Evidence

As to Bettes's sufficiency-of-the-evidence claim, Magistrate Judge Hampton concludes that “Bettes has not established that the state court's denial of his sufficiency of the evidence claim was contrary to, or an unreasonable application of, federal law.” (Dkt. No. 18 at 10). In support, Magistrate Judge Hampton recounts the evidence presented to the jury. (Id.). Instead of addressing these observations, Bettes objects because he claims he did not have the required intent to evade arrest as a result of his chronic anxiety. (Dkt. No. 24 at 2).

When considering a sufficiency-of-the-evidence claim, the evidence is viewed “in the light most favorable to the prosecution to determine whether ‘any rational trier of fact could have found the essential elements of the crime beyond a reasonable doubt.'”


Norris v. Davis, 826 F.3d 821, 833 (5th Cir. 2016) (quoting Hughes v. Johnson, 191 F.3d 607, 619 (5th Cir. 1999)); accord Jackson v. Virginia, 443 U.S. 307, 319, 99 S.Ct. 2781, 2789, 61 L.Ed.2d 560 (1979). In making this determination, the state court jury-not the federal court-weighs the credibility of the witnesses and the weight of the evidence. Hebert v. Rogers, 890 F.3d 213, 225 (5th Cir. 2018). Thus, the “credibility choices and conflicting inferences are to be resolved in favor of the verdict.” Ramirez v. Dretke, 398 F.3d 691, 695 (5th Cir. 2005) (citing United States v. Cyprian, 197 F.3d 736, 740 (5th Cir. 1999)). Moreover, the Court must examine the elements of the criminal offense under state law. Norris, 826 F.3d at 833. Critically, a federal court can disturb a state-court decision rejecting a sufficiency-of-the-evidence claim “only if the state court decision was ‘objectively unreasonable.'” Coleman v. Johnson, 566 U.S. 650, 651, 132 S.Ct. 2060, 2062, 182 L.Ed.2d 978 (2012) (per curiam) (quoting Cavazos v. Smith, 565 U.S. 1, 2, 132 S.Ct. 2, 4, 181 L.Ed.2d 311 (2011) (per curiam)).

Bettes fails to demonstrate that the state-court decision was objectively unreasonable. Bettes was convicted under Section 38.04 of the Texas Penal Code, which provides that a “person commits an offense if he intentionally flees from a person he knows is a peace officer or federal special investigator attempting lawfully to arrest or detain him.” Tex. Penal Code § 38.04(a). The offense becomes a third-degree felony-as was the case here-if “the actor uses a vehicle . . . while the actor is in flight and the actor has been previously convicted under this section[.]” Id. § 38.04(b)(2)(A). During Bettes's state-court trial, the jury considered a variety of evidence as to this charge, including a motive to evade arrest or detention. Bettes was driving erratically. (Dkt. No. 13-4 at 21- 22, 41). Bettes also side-swiped one car and forced another car off the road. (Id. at 22-


23). After a 911 call, a law enforcement officer in his marked patrol vehicle followed Bettes for over a minute and a half with his lights and sirens on before Bettes crashed his car. (Id. at 24, 40-42). Following his arrest, Bettes tested positive for cocaine metabolites. (Id. at 101-02, 111-12, 117, 126-29); (Dkt. No. 13-6 at 20); (Dkt. No. 13-8 at 89). Bettes also tested positive for the anti-anxiety drug alprazolam, which is also known by its brand name Xanax. (Dkt. No. 13-4 at 102-05); (Dkt. No. 13-6 at 20).[4] Thus, despite Bettes's protestations to the contrary, the jury considered evidence pertaining to his anxiety but found that he had the requisite knowledge that the patrol vehicle behind him was attempting to perform a traffic stop.[5] Simply put, Bettes does not show that the state-court decision was objectively unreasonable. See Coleman, 566 U.S. at 651, 132 S.Ct. at 2062. The Court overrules the objection.


B. Prosecutorial Misconduct

As to Bettes's prosecutorial-misconduct claim, Magistrate Judge Hampton concludes that “Bettes has not established that the state suppressed any evidence.” (Dkt. No. 18 at 11-12). Bettes objects because the state prosecutor suppressed evidence by not calling a specific doctor as a witness and not showing the jury more of the video surrounding his arrest. (Dkt. No. 24 at 2-3). Bettes is mistaken. As Magistrate Judge Hampton explains, a prosecutor is not obligated to present potentially mitigating evidence to the jury. Rather, a prosecutor is obligated to provide that evidence to the defense. Halprin v. Davis, 911 F.3d 247, 256-57 (5th Cir. 2018) (per curiam); Brady v. Maryland, 373 U.S. 83, 87, 83 S.Ct. 1194, 1196-97, 10 L.Ed.2d 215 (1963). The Court overrules the objection.

C. Ineffective Assistance of Counsel

As to Bettes's final claim, ineffective assistance of counsel, Magistrate Judge Hampton finds that Bettes fails to show “that the state court's denial of his ineffective assistance of counsel claim was contrary to, or an unreasonable application...

To continue reading

Request your trial

VLEX uses login cookies to provide you with a better browsing experience. If you click on 'Accept' or continue browsing this site we consider that you accept our cookie policy. ACCEPT