Castillo v. Stephens

Decision Date12 November 2014
Docket NumberCIVIL NO. SA-12-CA-924-XR
CourtU.S. District Court — Western District of Texas
PartiesJUAN EDWARD CASTILLO, TDCJ No. 999502, Petitioner, v. WILLIAM STEPHENS, Director, Texas Department of Criminal Justice, Correctional Institutions Division, Respondent.

Petitioner Juan Edward Castillo filed this federal habeas corpus action pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254 challenging his 2005 Bexar County conviction for capital murder and sentence of death.

For the reasons set forth below, Petitioner is entitled to neither federal habeas corpus relief nor a Certificate of Appealability from this Court.

I. Background
A. The Offense

The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals published an opinion affirming Petitioner's conviction and summarized the pertinent guilt-innocence phase testimony from Petitioner's capital murder trial. See Castillo v. State, 221 S.W.3d 689, 691-93 (Tex. Crim. App. 2007).

B. The Indictment

A Bexar County grand jury indicted Petitioner on February 24, 2004 in cause no. 2004-CR-1461 on a single count of capital murder, to wit, intentionally and knowingly causing the death ofTommy Garcia by shooting Garcia with a deadly weapon in the course of committing and attempting to commit the offense of robbery of Garcia.1

C. Guilt-Innocence Phase of Trial

The guilt-innocence phase of Petitioner's capital murder trial commenced on August 23, 2005. The jury heard evidence from prosecution witnesses establishing (1) Debra Espinosa frantically beat on the door of a nearby residence immediately after Garcia was shot until the residents let her in,2 (2) Espinosa called Garcia's friend Jimenez and police to notify them of the shooting but fled the scene before police arrived,3 (3) Robert Jimenez and Frank Russell arrived at the scene of Garcia's murder and gave San Antonio police officers information which allowed them to locate Espinosa, whom the police arrested on an outstanding, unrelated, warrant,4 (4) FrankGonzales was arrested on foot a short distance from the location of the fatal shooting on an unrelated warrant,5 (5) both Espinosa and Gonzales initially denied any knowledge of the identity of Garcia's shooter and any involvement in the robbery-murder of Garcia,6 (6) Espinosa subsequently admitted her and Gonzales' involvement in what she described as a planned robbery of Garcia, but only later identified Petitioner as Garcia's murderer,7 (7) eventually, both Espinosa and Gonzales admitted their involvement in the planned robbery of Garcia and identified Petitioner as Garcia's fatal shooter,8 and (8) Garcia died as a result of seven gunshot wounds, most of which would have beenfatal individually.9 The defense called a single witness at the guilt-innocence phase of trial, a jail house informant who testified he overheard Francisco Gonzales make the statement "That's the guy I killed" after watching a local television news story about Garcia's murder.10

On August 30, 2005, the jury returned its verdict, finding Petitioner guilty of capital murder as charged in the indictment.11

D. Punishment Phase of Trial

The punishment phase commenced on August 31, 2005, with Petitioner advising the state trial court he wished to represent himself throughout the remainder of trial.12 The prosecution presented testimony from the mother of Petitioner's son Juan, Jr. about (a) numerous instances of physical violence Petitioner inflicted upon her, (b) an instance in which Petitioner forced her and Juan, Jr. to accompany him to California and remain there for a month, © an incident in which Petitioner pointed a gun at her sister while her sister was holding Juan, Jr.,13 and (d) an incident inwhich Petitioner pointed a rifle or large pistol at her and fired a shot through the ceiling.14 A South San Antonio resident testified about an incident in September, 2002 in which Petitioner fired multiple shots into the vehicle driven by this witness in an unprovoked assault which (a) shattered the passenger window in the victim's truck, (b) left three bullet holes in the passenger door of the victim's truck, and (c) struck the windshield of the victim's truck.15 A San Antonio Police Officer testified about an incident in February, 1998 in which he arrested Petitioner and found Petitioner was carrying a knife, cork screw, a plastic bag containing a white powder, and nineteen small zip lock baggies which he explained were used on the street to subdivide cocaine.16 Debra Espinosa testified about the many criminal activities in which she and Petitioner jointly engaged or made plans to engage in before Garcia's robbery-murder, including (a) a planned robbery of a convenience store, (b) a planned robbery of an IHOP restaurant, (c) a home invasion of a South Side drug dealer's residence in which Petitioner tied up and stabbed the victims, and (d) an incident in which Petitioner and Petitioner's friend, Gilbert, beat an old man who had attempted to run off with their money without furnishing the marijuana he had promised to sell them.17 Petitioner's wife testified regarding (a) her joint arrest with Petitioner and others for attempting to pass a forged, stolen, check and (b)her purchase of guns and a bullet proof vest for Petitioner while Petitioner was on parole.18 A San Antonio Police patrol officer and crime scene investigator testified regarding (a) a traffic stop of Petitioner on July 20, 2002, (b) Petitioner's arrest on an outstanding warrant, (c) an inventory search of the vehicle Petitioner was driving, and (d) the subsequent arrest of Petitioner for possession of two fully loaded semi-automatic handguns, a pair of bullet proof vests, and additional ammunition, all of which were illegal given Petitioner's status as a convicted felon.19 Francisco Gonzales testified regarding (a) the multiple incidents in which he and Petitioner jointly robbed inebriated bar patrons (identified by Gonzales as illegal immigrants) as the victims exited a bar late at night, (b) Petitioner's admission to having shot a drug dealer in the face during a robbery, © Petitioner's admission to having stabbed someone in a bar, and (d) the fact Petitioner never had a job other than robbing people.20 A records custodian from the Bexar County Adult Detention Center testified regarding Petitioner's multiple arrests.21 Petitioner did not cross-examine any of these witnesses and offered no evidence or jury argument during the punishment phase of trial.22

On September 1, 2005, the jury returned its verdict at the punishment phase of Petitioner's capital murder trial, finding (1) beyond a reasonable doubt there was a probability Petitioner would commit acts of violence that would constitute a continuing threat to society and (2) unanimously, taking into consideration all of the evidence, including the circumstances of the offense and the defendant's background, character, and personal moral culpability, there was not a sufficient mitigating circumstance to warrant that a sentence of life imprisonment rather than a death sentence be imposed.23 The state trial court imposed the sentence of death.24

E. Direct Appeal

Petitioner filed his appeal June 27, 2006, challenging the factual and legal sufficiency of the evidence of guilt, arguing Petitioner's death sentence violated the Eighth Amendment, and arguing the trial court erred in overruling Petitioner's pretrial motion to exclude the testimony of Petitioner's accomplices Debra Espinosa and Francisco Gonzales. The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals affirmed Petitioner's conviction and sentence in a published opinion issued May 2, 2007. Castillo v. State, 221 S.W.3d 689 (Tex. Crim. App. 2007). Petitioner did not thereafter seek further review of his conviction from the United States Supreme Court through a petition for writ of certiorari.

F. State Habeas Corpus Proceeding

Petitioner filed his application for state habeas corpus relief on November 13, 2009,25 urging therein a number of ineffective assistance complaints against Petitioner's trial and appellate counsel and arguing the state trial court erred in granting Petitioner's request for self-representation at the punishment phase of trial and in failing to hold a Faretta hearing after Petitioner wrote the trial judge prior to trial to express dissatisfaction with the performance of his trial counsel.26 The state habeastrial court held an extended evidentiary hearings on July 8, 2010, January 20-21, 2011, and February 1, 2011, at the conclusion of which the state habeas trial court found no deficient performance by Petitioner's trial or appellate counsel.27 In an Order issued April 2, 2012, the state habeas trial court issued its formal findings of fact and conclusions of law and recommended denial of Petitioner's state habeas corpus application.28 The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals adopted the state trial court's findings and conclusions and denied state habeas corpus relief in an unpublished Order in which that court separately concluded Petitioner's second claim for relief, i.e., Petitioner's complaints about the trial court's handling of his request for self-representation, was procedurallybarred. Ex parte Juan Edward Castillo, WR-70,510-01, 2012 WL 3999797 (Tex. Crim. App. Sept. 12, 2012).

G. Proceedings in this Court

Petitioner filed his federal habeas corpus petition in this Court on June 28, 2013 (ECF no. 12), reasserting the ineffective assistance complaints he urged in his state habeas corpus proceeding, along with his claim the state trial court erroneously granted his request for self-representation during the punishment phase of trial (and failed to hold a Faretta hearing on Petitioner's pretrial expressions of dissatisfaction with his trial counsel) and a wholly new claim that a prosecution witness (Gerardo Gutierrez) committed perjury during Petitioner's trial.

On January 23, 2014, Respondent filed his answer to Petitioner's federal habeas corpus petition (ECF no. 22), arguing (1) the state courts reasonably rejected Petition...

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