Butler v. Quarterman, Civil Action No. H-07-2103.

CourtUnited States District Courts. 5th Circuit. United States District Courts. 5th Circuit. Southern District of Texas
Writing for the CourtSim Lake
Citation576 F.Supp.2d 805
Docket NumberCivil Action No. H-07-2103.
Decision Date04 September 2008
PartiesSteven Anthony BUTLER, Petitioner, v. Nathaniel QUARTERMAN, Director, Texas Department of Criminal Justice-Correctional Institutions Division, Respondent.
576 F.Supp.2d 805
Steven Anthony BUTLER, Petitioner,
v.
Nathaniel QUARTERMAN, Director, Texas Department of Criminal Justice-Correctional Institutions Division, Respondent.
Civil Action No. H-07-2103.
United States District Court, S.D. Texas, Houston Division.
September 4, 2008.

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COPYRIGHT MATERIAL OMITTED

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Richard H. Burr, III, Burr & Welch, Houston, TX, for Petitioner.

Baxter Morgan, Akin & Almanza, Gena Blount Bunn, Katherine D. Hayes, Texas Attorney General, Austin, TX, for Respondent.

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

SIM LAKE, District Judge.


Petitioner, Steven Anthony Butler, currently in the custody of the Texas Department of Criminal Justice ("TDCJ"), filed this federal habeas corpus application pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254. Butler was convicted of capital murder and sentenced to death for the murder of Velma Clemons during the course of a robbery. This case is before the court on Butler's Amended Petition for Writ of Habeas Corpus (Docket Entry No. 9) and Respondent Nathaniel Quarterman's Motion for Summary Judgment (Docket Entry No. 15). Having carefully considered the Petition, the Summary Judgment Motion, and the arguments and authorities submitted by counsel, the court is of the opinion that Quarterman's Motion for Summary Judgment should be granted, and Butler's Amended Petition for Writ of Habeas Corpus should be denied.

I. Background

The facts of the underlying capital crime are not in dispute. On August 27, 1986, Butler, armed with a handgun, entered a dry cleaning store and demanded that the cashier give him the store's money. The cashier, Velma Clemons, resisted. Butler threw Clemons to the floor and shot her to death. During the penalty phase of Butler's trial, the State proved that Butler committed seven extraneous offenses. See Butler v. State, 872 S.W.2d 227, 231 (Tex. Crim.App.1994), cert. denied, 513 U.S. 1157, 115 S.Ct. 1115, 130 L.Ed.2d 1079 (1995). The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals ("TCCA") affirmed Butler's conviction and sentence, Butler v. State, 790 S.W.2d 661 (Tex.Crim.App.1990) (remanding for findings of fact and conclusions of law on the voluntariness of Butler's confession) and 872 S.W.2d 227 (Tex.Crim.App. 1994) (opinion after remand), and denied Butler's first state application for habeas corpus, Ex parte Butler, No. 41,121-01 (Tex.Crim.App. Apr. 28, 1999).

On October 23, 2000, Butler moved this court for appointment of counsel. This court appointed counsel on December 21, 2000, and Butler filed his federal habeas corpus petition on March 1, 2002. On January 27, 2003, this court dismissed Butler's petition without prejudice so that he could return to state court to exhaust a claim that he is mentally retarded and therefore exempt from the death penalty under Atkins v. Virginia, 536 U.S. 304, 122 S.Ct. 2242, 153 L.Ed.2d 335 (2002).

On June 19, 2003, Butler filed his second state habeas application raising his Atkins claim and several other claims. On September 15, 2004, the TCCA remanded the Atkins claim to the trial court for findings of fact and conclusions of law and dismissed the remaining claims as an abuse of the writ. Ex parte Butler, No. 41,121-02, at page 2. On March 30, 2007, the trial court entered findings of fact and conclusions of law and recommended denying relief on Butler's Atkins claim. On June 27, 2007, the TCCA adopted those findings and conclusions and denied relief. The same day Butler filed his federal habeas petition; and on August 30, 2007, he filed an amended petition.

II. The Applicable Legal Standards

A. The Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act

This federal petition for habeas relief is governed by the applicable provisions of the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act ("AEDPA"), which became effective

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April 24, 1996. See Lindh v. Murphy, 521 U.S. 320, 335-36, 117 S.Ct. 2059, 138 L.Ed.2d 481 (1997). Under the AEDPA federal habeas relief based upon claims that were adjudicated on the merits cannot be granted unless the state court's decision (1) "was contrary to, or involved an unreasonable application of, clearly established federal law, as determined by the Supreme Court of the United States" or (2) "was based on an unreasonable determination of the facts in light of the evidence presented in the State court proceeding." 28 U.S.C. § 2254(d); Kitchens v. Johnson, 190 F.3d 698, 700 (5th Cir.1999). For questions of law or mixed questions of law and fact adjudicated on the merits in state court, this court may grant federal habeas relief under 28 U.S.C. § 2254(d)(1) only if the state court decision "was contrary to, or involved an unreasonable application of, clearly established [Supreme Court precedent]." See Martin v. Cain, 246 F.3d 471, 475 (5th Cir.), cert. denied, 534 U.S. 885, 122 S.Ct. 194, 151 L.Ed.2d 136 (2001). Under the "contrary to" clause, this court may afford habeas relief only 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.'" Dowthitt v. Johnson, 230 F.3d 733, 740-41 (5th Cir. 2000), cert. denied, 532 U.S. 915, 121 S.Ct. 1250, 149 L.Ed.2d 156 (2001) (quoting Williams v. Taylor, 529 U.S. 362, 406, 120 S.Ct. 1495, 146 L.Ed.2d 389 (2000)).

The "unreasonable application" standard permits federal habeas relief only if a state court decision "identifies the correct governing legal rule from [the Supreme Court] cases but unreasonably applies it to the facts of the particular state prisoner's case" or "if the state court either unreasonably extends a legal principle from [Supreme Court] precedent to a new context where it should not apply or unreasonably refuses to extend that principle to a new context where it should apply." Williams, 529 U.S. at 406, 120 S.Ct. 1495. "In applying this standard, we must decide (1) what was the decision of the state courts with regard to the questions before us and (2) whether there is any established federal law, as explicated by the Supreme Court, with which the state court decision conflicts." Hoover v. Johnson, 193 F.3d 366, 368 (5th Cir.1999). A federal court's "focus on the `unreasonable application' test under Section 2254(d) should be on the ultimate legal conclusion that the state court reached and not on whether the state court considered and discussed every angle of the evidence." Neal v. Puckett, 239 F.3d 683, 696 (5th Cir.2001), aff'd, 286 F.3d 230 (5th Cir.2002) (en banc), cert. denied sub nom. Neal v. Epps, 537 U.S. 1104, 123 S.Ct. 963, 154 L.Ed.2d 772 (2003). The sole inquiry for a federal court under the `unreasonable application' prong becomes "whether the state court's determination is `at least minimally consistent with the facts and circumstances of the case.'" Id. (quoting Hennon v. Cooper, 109 F.3d 330, 335 (7th Cir.1997)); see also Gardner v. Johnson, 247 F.3d 551, 560 (5th Cir.2001) ("Even though we cannot reverse a decision merely because we would reach a different outcome, we must reverse when we conclude that the state court decision applies the correct legal rule to a given set of facts in a manner that is so patently incorrect as to be `unreasonable.'").

The AEDPA precludes federal habeas relief on factual issues unless the state court's adjudication of the merits was based on an unreasonable determination of the facts in light of the evidence presented in the state court proceeding. See 28 U.S.C. § 2254(d)(2); Hill v. Johnson, 210 F.3d 481, 485 (5th Cir.2000), cert. denied, 532 U.S. 1039, 121 S.Ct. 2001, 149 L.Ed.2d 1004 (2001). The state court's factual determinations

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are presumed correct unless rebutted by "clear and convincing evidence." 28 U.S.C. § 2254(e)(1); see also Jackson v. Anderson, 112 F.3d 823, 824-25 (5th Cir.1997), cert. denied, 522 U.S. 1119, 118 S.Ct. 1059, 140 L.Ed.2d 120 (1998).

B. The Standard for Summary Judgment in Habeas Corpus Cases

"As a general principle, Rule 56 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, relating to summary judgment, applies with equal force in the context of habeas corpus cases." Clark v. Johnson, 202 F.3d 760, 764 (5th Cir.), cert. denied, 531 U.S. 831, 121 S.Ct. 84, 148 L.Ed.2d 46 (2000). In ordinary civil cases a district court considering a motion for summary judgment is required to construe the facts in the case in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party. See Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, 477 U.S. 242, 255, 106 S.Ct. 2505, 91 L.Ed.2d 202 (1986) ("The evidence of the nonmovant is to be believed, and all justifiable inferences are to be drawn in his favor."). Where, however, a state prisoner's factual allegations have been resolved against him by express or implicit findings of the state courts, and the prisoner fails to demonstrate by clear and convincing evidence that the presumption of correctness established by 28 U.S.C. § 2254(e)(1) should not apply, this court may not resolve the facts of the case in the petitioner's favor. See Marshall v. Lonberger, 459 U.S. 422, 432, 103 S.Ct. 843, 74 L.Ed.2d 646 (1983); Sumner v. Mata, 449 U.S. 539, 547, 101 S.Ct. 764, 66 L.Ed.2d 722 (1981). In reviewing factual determinations of the Texas state courts, this court is bound by such findings unless Butler shows that an exception to 28 U.S.C. § 2254 applies.

III. Analysis

Butler's Amended Petition raises 10 claims for relief, but he withdraws three of them (claims 8-10) in his response to respondent's summary judgment motion. The remaining seven claims are addressed below.

A. Statute Of Limitations

As a threshold matter, respondent argues that all of Butler's claims, with the exception of his Atkins claim, are timebarred. Under the AEDPA a state prisoner has one year in which to file a federal habeas corpus petition. Fierro v. Cockrell, 294 F.3d 674, 679 (5th Cir.2002), cert. denied, 538 U.S. 947, 123 S.Ct. 1621, 155 L.Ed.2d 489 (2003). Because petitioner's...

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7 practice notes
  • State v. Nelson, No. 2010-KO-1724
    • United States
    • Louisiana Supreme Court
    • March 13, 2012
    ...and defense counsel regarding the application of Batson is set forth in the Unpublished Appendix. 12. See, e.g., Butler v. Quarterman, 576 F. Supp. 2d 805, 830-31 (S.D. Tex. 2008) (finding that the trial court's dismissal of the venire panel was a proper remedy); United States v. Stewart, 6......
  • Goodin v. State, No. 2010–CA–01762–SCT.
    • United States
    • Mississippi Supreme Court
    • December 13, 2012
    ...7. Other courts have soundly rejected Dr. Keyes's determination that a defendant is mentally retarded. Butler v. Quarterman, 576 F.Supp.2d 805, 822–24 (S.D.Tex.2008) (stating that “the adversarial slant to [Dr. Keyes's] testimony gave the state trial judge ample reasons to reject many of hi......
  • Ex parte Butler, No. WR–41,121–02.
    • United States
    • Court of Appeals of Texas. Court of Criminal Appeals of Texas
    • June 27, 2012
    ...told to get on the ground. 12. We did not expressly adopt the trial judge's factual findings or conclusions. 13.Butler v. Quarterman, 576 F.Supp.2d 805 (S.D.Tex.2008). 14. The Settlement Agreement does not specify the basis for the agreement except to say that Dr. Denkowski had “provided fo......
  • Butler v. Stephens, No. 09-70003
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (5th Circuit)
    • September 9, 2015
    ...Texas Department of Criminal Justice. Butler appeals the district court's order denying him habeas relief, see Butler v. Quarterman, 576 F. Supp. 2d 805, 810 (S.D. Tex. 2008) ("District Court's 2008 Order" or "Butler"). In that order, the district court noted that Butler must prove three th......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
7 cases
  • State v. Nelson, No. 2010-KO-1724
    • United States
    • Louisiana Supreme Court
    • March 13, 2012
    ...and defense counsel regarding the application of Batson is set forth in the Unpublished Appendix. 12. See, e.g., Butler v. Quarterman, 576 F. Supp. 2d 805, 830-31 (S.D. Tex. 2008) (finding that the trial court's dismissal of the venire panel was a proper remedy); United States v. Stewart, 6......
  • Goodin v. State, No. 2010–CA–01762–SCT.
    • United States
    • Mississippi Supreme Court
    • December 13, 2012
    ...7. Other courts have soundly rejected Dr. Keyes's determination that a defendant is mentally retarded. Butler v. Quarterman, 576 F.Supp.2d 805, 822–24 (S.D.Tex.2008) (stating that “the adversarial slant to [Dr. Keyes's] testimony gave the state trial judge ample reasons to reject many of hi......
  • Ex parte Butler, No. WR–41,121–02.
    • United States
    • Court of Appeals of Texas. Court of Criminal Appeals of Texas
    • June 27, 2012
    ...told to get on the ground. 12. We did not expressly adopt the trial judge's factual findings or conclusions. 13.Butler v. Quarterman, 576 F.Supp.2d 805 (S.D.Tex.2008). 14. The Settlement Agreement does not specify the basis for the agreement except to say that Dr. Denkowski had “provided fo......
  • Butler v. Stephens, No. 09-70003
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (5th Circuit)
    • September 9, 2015
    ...Texas Department of Criminal Justice. Butler appeals the district court's order denying him habeas relief, see Butler v. Quarterman, 576 F. Supp. 2d 805, 810 (S.D. Tex. 2008) ("District Court's 2008 Order" or "Butler"). In that order, the district court noted that Butler must prove three th......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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