Garcia v. Quarterman, 05-50382.

CourtUnited States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (5th Circuit)
Citation454 F.3d 441
Docket NumberNo. 05-50382.,05-50382.
PartiesAndrew GARCIA, Petitioner-Appellee, v. Nathaniel QUARTERMAN, Director, Texas Department of Criminal Justice, Correctional Institutions Division, Respondent-Appellant.
Decision Date23 June 2006

John J. Ritenour, Jr. (argued), San Antonio, TX, for Garcia.

Ana Jordan (argued), Austin, TX, for Quarterman.

Appeal from the Unites States District Court for the Western District of Texas.



In this habeas corpus action, the district court granted the petitioner relief. For the reasons that follow, we reverse.


Andrew Garcia ("Garcia") and his brother, Alejandro Garcia ("Alejandro"), entered the car of a young woman while she was stopped at a traffic light in San Antonio, Texas. The Garcia brothers told the woman, at gun point, to drive to a secluded area and forced her to engage in various sex acts with both Alejandro and Garcia. In addition, the Garcia brothers used the victim's debit card to withdraw funds from her account and forced her to purchase merchandise, which they kept. Eventually, the Garcia brothers released the victim.

Garcia and Alejandro, each represented by separate counsel, were charged with aggravated sexual assault, aggravated robbery, and aggravated kidnapping. Both pleaded not guilty, and they were prosecuted in a single trial. The victim testified as the prosecution's primary witness. Each brother also testified on his own behalf, with each implicating the other.1

Garcia essentially confirmed the victim's version of events, except where her testimony implicated his willingness to commit the acts. Garcia's theory of defense was that, while he committed the specific criminal acts alleged, he should not be convicted because he acted under duress. In support of this defense, Garcia testified that Alejandro threatened to kill Garcia and that "something would happen" to Garcia and his family if he did not cooperate with Alejandro.

The jury was given two wholly-separate jury charges. Each charge was complete and self-contained on separate documents, and each charge was identified as applicable to each respective defendant.2 Over the objection of the prosecution and Alejandro's counsel, the trial judge included an accomplice-witness instruction in both Alejandro's and Garcia's jury charges.3 The accomplice-witness instruction, given in Alejandro's charge, described Garcia as an accomplice to Alejandro. And Garcia's jury charge, in a similar instruction, described Alejandro as an accomplice to Garcia. Garcia's jury charge also included instructions related to his duress defense. Garcia's challenge is limited to the accomplice-witness instruction included in Alejandro's jury charge.

The jury convicted both Garcia and Alejandro on all counts. Garcia was sentenced to concurrent terms of sixty years for aggravated sexual assault, twenty years for aggravated robbery, and thirty-five years for aggravated kidnapping. Alejandro was sentenced to concurrent terms of seventy-five years for aggravated sexual assault, thirty-five years for aggravated robbery, and sixty years for aggravated kidnapping. Both Garcia and Alejandro appealed their convictions.4

On direct appeal, Garcia raised only two issues, arguing that the trial court erred (1) by omitting Garcia's requested jury instruction on the issue of the voluntariness of his conduct and (2) in restricting his cross-examination of the prosecution's witnesses. The Texas court of appeals affirmed Garcia's conviction. See Garcia v. State, No. 04-99-832-CR (Tex.App. — San Antonio Aug. 30, 2000). Garcia did not pursue any further direct review.

Garcia filed a habeas petition in state court, alleging four grounds of error: (1) that his conviction was obtained pursuant to a constitutionally prohibited jury instruction; (2) that the jury instruction was harmful; (3) that he received ineffective assistance of counsel at trial; and (4) that he received ineffective assistance of counsel on appeal. The state trial court recommended granting habeas relief, but the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals disagreed and, without opinion, denied Garcia's petition.

Garcia next filed a habeas petition in federal court. Garcia's petition focused on three issues: (1) that the inclusion of the accomplice-witness instructions in Alejandro's jury charge violated the Fourteenth Amendment; (2) that he received ineffective assistance of counsel at trial; and (3) that he received ineffective assistance of counsel on appeal. The district court initially dismissed Garcia's petition as time-barred under 28 U.S.C. § 2244(d). On reconsideration, the district court equitably tolled the one-year statute of limitations and addressed the petition's merits.5 The district court concluded that Garcia's conviction had been obtained pursuant to constitutionally prohibited jury instructions and that the state court's denial of Garcia's writ of habeas corpus was contrary to clearly established federal law as established by the Supreme Court. As a result, the district court granted relief by ordering Garcia's convictions reversed and remanding to the state trial court for a new trial within 120 days of the district court's order. The Director of the Texas Department of Criminal Justice (the "Director"), appeals.6


"`In a habeas corpus appeal, we review the district court's findings of fact for clear error and review its conclusions of law de novo, applying the same standard of review to the state court's decision as the district court.'" Martinez v. Johnson, 255 F.3d 229, 237 (5th Cir.2001) (quoting Thompson v. Cain, 161 F.3d 802, 805 (5th Cir.1998)). If the issue is a mixed question of law and fact, such as the assessment of harmless error, we review the district court's determination de novo. Robertson v. Cain, 324 F.3d 297, 301 (5th Cir.2003) (citing Jones v. Cain, 227 F.3d 228, 230 (5th Cir.2000)).

Garcia filed his habeas petition after the effective date of the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act ("AEDPA"). As a result, the petition is subject to the procedures and standards imposed by AEDPA. See Lindh v. Murphy, 521 U.S. 320, 336, 117 S.Ct. 2059, 138 L.Ed.2d 481 (1997). Under AEDPA, "[a] federal court's collateral review of a state-court decision must be consistent with the respect due state courts in our federal system." Miller-El v. Cockrell, 537 U.S. 322, 340, 123 S.Ct. 1029, 154 L.Ed.2d 931 (2003). Moreover, our circuit precedent provides that "`a federal habeas court is authorized by Section 2254(d) to review only a state court's `decision,' and not the written opinion explaining that decision.'" Pondexter v. Dretke, 346 F.3d 142, 148 (5th Cir.2003) (quoting Neal v. Puckett, 286 F.3d 230, 246 (5th Cir.2002) (en banc)). See also Santellan v. Cockrell, 271 F.3d 190, 193 (5th Cir.2001) ("The statute compels federal courts to review for reasonableness the state court's ultimate decision, not every jot of its reasoning.").

A. Findings of Fact

A state court's factual findings are "presumed to be correct." Hughes v. Dretke, 412 F.3d 582, 589 (citing 28 U.S.C. § 2254(e)(1)). Before a federal court, "a petitioner has the burden of rebutting this presumption with clear and convincing evidence." Id. This deference extends not only to express findings of fact, but to the implicit findings of the state court. Summers v. Dretke, 431 F.3d 861, 876 (5th Cir.2005); Young v. Dretke, 356 F.3d 616, 629 (5th Cir.2004).

B. Conclusions of Law

Our review of a state court's conclusions of law is also deferential. The Supreme Court has determined that § 2254(d)(1) "affords a petitioner two avenues, `contrary to' and `unreasonable application,'" by which to challenge a state court's legal conclusions. Summers, 431 F.3d at 868-69 (discussing Williams v. Taylor, 529 U.S. 362, 405, 120 S.Ct. 1495, 146 L.Ed.2d 389 (2000)). A state court's conclusion of law is "contrary to . . . clearly established Federal law, as determined by the Supreme Court" under two conditions:

(1) "the state court applies a rule that contradicts the governing law set forth in [the Supreme Court's] cases," or (2) "the state court confronts a set of facts that are materially indistinguishable from a decision of [the Supreme] Court and nevertheless arrives at a result different from [Supreme Court] precedent."

Foster v. Johnson, 293 F.3d 766, 776 (5th Cir.2002) (alteration in original) (quoting Williams, 529 U.S. at 405-06, 120 S.Ct. 1495).

With respect to the second avenue, "a state court decision is an unreasonable application of clearly established Supreme Court precedent if the state court correctly identifies the governing legal rule but applies it unreasonably to the facts of a particular prisoner's case." Summers, 431 F.3d at 869 (internal quotations omitted). Federal habeas courts must heed the Supreme Court's explanation that "`unreasonable' does not mean merely `incorrect;'" rather, "an application of clearly established Supreme Court precedent must be incorrect and unreasonable to warrant federal habeas relief." Id. (quoting Foster, 293 F.3d at 776). "Only if a state court's application of federal constitutional law fits within this paradigm may this court grant relief." Id.

A. The accomplice-witness instruction

Garcia contends that the trial court erroneously instructed the jury in violation of Sandstrom v. Montana, 442 U.S. 510, 99 S.Ct. 2450, 61 L.Ed.2d 39 (1979).7 The accomplice-witness instruction in Alejandro's jury charge, Garcia maintains, directed the jury to apply a mandatory conclusive presumption on an essential element of Garcia's charged crime.8 The instruction in Alejandro's jury charge provided:

You are instructed that an accomplice witness, as the term is hereinafter used, means any person connected with the crime charged, as a party thereto, and includes all persons who...

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