Godinez v. Williams, Civil Action 21-cv-00695-RBJ

CourtUnited States District Courts. 10th Circuit. United States District Court of Colorado
PartiesOMAR RICARDO GODINEZ, Applicant, v. DEAN WILLIAMS, Executive Director, Colorado Department of Corrections, TERRY JAQUES, Warden, Limon Correctional Facility, and PHIL WEISER, Attorney General, State of Colorado, Respondents.
Docket NumberCivil Action 21-cv-00695-RBJ
Decision Date24 May 2022


DEAN WILLIAMS, Executive Director, Colorado Department of Corrections, TERRY JAQUES, Warden, Limon Correctional Facility, and PHIL WEISER, Attorney General, State of Colorado, Respondents.

Civil Action No. 21-cv-00695-RBJ

United States District Court, D. Colorado

May 24, 2022



Applicant Omar Ricardo Godinez is a prisoner in the custody of the Colorado Department of Corrections (“CDOC”). Applicant has filed, through counsel, an Application for a Writ of Habeas Corpus Pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254 (ECF No. 1) (“the Application”), challenging the validity of his sentence in Arapahoe County District Court case number 2011CR2537. On May 28, 2021, Respondents filed an Answer to the Application for Writ of Habeas Corpus. (ECF No. 21). Mr. Godinez filed a Reply on July 21, 2021. (ECF No. 24). Mr. Godinez has also filed a Motion for Discovery and to Expand the Record. (ECF No. 27).

After reviewing the record before the Court, including the Application, the Answer, the Reply, and the state court record, the Court FINDS and CONCLUDES that the Application should be denied and the case dismissed with prejudice.


Additionally, Mr. Godinez's Motion for Discovery and to Expand the Record (ECF No. 27) will also be denied. Rule 6(a) of the Rules Governing Section 2254 Cases in the United States District Courts provides that “[a] judge may, for good cause, authorize a party to conduct discovery under the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure and may limit the extent of discovery.” Pursuant to Rule 6(b), “[a] party requesting discovery must provide reasons for the request.” As discussed below, the Court has determined that the Application can be resolved based on the existing record, so additional discovery is not warranted.


In 2014, Mr. Godinez was convicted by a jury of multiple offenses, including two counts of second degree kidnapping, two counts of sexual assault, and two counts of conspiracy to commit sexual assault. (ECF No. 1 at 4); see also State Court Record, Court File at 963. At the time he committed the offenses, Mr. Godinez was 15 years old. The Colorado Court of Appeals summarized the relevant factual background of Applicant's criminal case as follows:

In 2011, a male approached the victim, S.R., from behind held a gun to her head, and forced her into an SUV with three other male occupants. They drove her to a house, walked her through the kitchen, directed her downstairs to a basement bedroom, and told her to remove her clothes. She pleaded with them to use a condom, so one of the males left to buy condoms. They then took turns sexually assaulting her
A similar incident occurred the next month. The second victim, fifteen year-old A.H., said a male grabbed her from behind as she walked down the street and told her not to scream. He then forced her into a gold SUV containing
other males. She believed the male who abducted her was approximately her age.... They drove her to a house, took her into a basement bedroom, and told her that they “had to rape her, ” which they then did.

People v. Godinez, 457 P.3d 77, 82 (Colo. Ct. App. 2018), (ECF No. 1-1 at 7). Mr. Godinez, who was tried as an adult, was sentenced under Colorado's Sex Offender Lifetime Supervision Act (“SOLSA”). He was sentenced to consecutive and concurrent terms, totaling an aggregate indeterminate sentence of “32 years to life.” Id. at 81; (ECF No. 1-1 at 6).

After sentencing, the state district court held a multi-day hearing to consider numerous arguments related to Applicant's sentence, including Applicant's argument that the sentence was unconstitutional under Graham v. Florida, 560 U.S. 48 (2010). See State Court Record, Court Transcripts of Evidentiary Hearing Feb. 25, Feb. 26, and March 11, 2014. In Graham, the United States Supreme Court held that the Eighth Amendment prohibits the imposition of a life-without-parole sentence on a juvenile offender for a non-homicide offense. Graham, 560 U.S. at 82. The Supreme Court stated that juvenile offenders must be given “some meaningful opportunity to obtain release based on demonstrated maturity and rehabilitation.” Id. at 75.

During the evidentiary hearing, Applicant argued that his indeterminate sentence was unconstitutional as applied to juveniles based on Graham. First, he argued that his sentence was unconstitutional under Graham because the parole board was not allowed to consider his maturity and rehabilitation. He further argued that even if his sentence would technically allow him to reach parole eligibility during his lifetime, his chance of actually being paroled once eligible would be insufficiently meaningful under


Graham because under state law he cannot be paroled until he has progressed in a Sex Offender Treatment and Monitoring Program (“SOTMP”), which is approved by the Colorado Sex Offender Management Board (“SOMB”), but there is no guarantee he will be allowed to participate in the treatment program because of waitlists and other administrative issues.

Following the evidentiary hearing, the state district court issued a lengthy written order denying Applicant's challenges to his sentence. See Order - Re: Defendant's Motions Challenging the Constitutionality of His Sentence, 2011 CR 2537 (Arapahoe County D. Ct. Mar. 21, 2014) at State Court Record, Court File at 963-89. As to the constitutionality of Applicant's indeterminate sentence, the Court found and concluded that: (1) under state law, Mr. Godinez will be approximately 38 years old when he is first eligible for parole (id. at 964 & 975); (2) the defendant's anticipated life span (which was reduced based on long incarceration in the CDOC) is 69.68 years (id. at 975); (3) under state law, the parole board may consider Mr. Godinez's maturity and rehabilitation and given the Graham mandate, the Court presumes that the parole board will consider such factors (id. at 980); (4) the Court must rely on both the statutory requirement for SOMB-approved treatment and the SOMB standards and guidelines, which anticipate that such treatment “can, will and must be provided to incarcerated sex offenders” (id. at 982); (5) CDOC's practice of deferring SOMB-approved treatment to the last four years prior to release on parole does not jeopardize the defendant's eligibility for parole or the effectiveness of the treatment - there was expert testimony to the effect that treatment is most effective when provided shortly before release and that age does not significantly affect treatment efficacy (id.); and (6) when Mr. Godinez is eligible for


SOMB-approved treatment, he will no longer be a juvenile, so he will not need juvenile-certified treatment providers (id.).

On direct appeal, Applicant asserted numerous claims, including arguing that his sentence was unconstitutional based on Graham. The Colorado Court of Appeals (“CCA”) affirmed Applicant's conviction and sentence on December 13, 2018. People v. Godinez, 457 P.3d 77 (Colo. Ct. App. 2018), (ECF No. 1-1). The CCA upheld his indeterminate sentence on a different basis than the district court because by the time the CCA issued its opinion, the Colorado Supreme Court had ruled that Graham did not apply to aggregate sentences consisting of consecutive terms for multiple crimes. See id. at 95 (citing Lucero v. People, 394 P.3d 1128 (Colo. 2017), and Estrada-Huerta v. People, 394 P.3d 1139 (Colo. 2017)). Applicant filed a petition for a writ of certiorari to the Colorado Supreme Court, but it was denied. (ECF No. ECF No. 1-5). Applicant did not file a petition for a writ of certiorari with the United States Supreme Court. (See ECF No. 1 at 7).

Mr. Godinez filed, through counsel, his § 2254 Application in this Court on March 8, 2021. (ECF No. 1). He asserts a single claim, titled: “Mr. Godinez's mandatory indeterminate sentence of 32-years to life for offenses committed when he was only fifteen violates the Eighth Amendment.” (Id. at 2). Respondents concede that the Application is timely, and that Mr. Godinez exhausted his state court remedies. (ECF No. 8).


Title 28 U.S.C. § 2254(d) provides that a writ of habeas corpus may not be issued with respect to any claim that was adjudicated on the merits in state court unless


the state court adjudication:

(1) 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; or
(2) resulted in a decision that 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). Mr. Godinez bears the burden of proof under § 2254(d). See Cullen v. Pinholster, 563 U.S. 170, 181 (2011).

The Court's inquiry is straightforward “when the last state court to decide a prisoner's federal claim explains its decision on the merits in a reasoned opinion.” Wilson v. Sellers, 138 S.Ct. 1188, 1192 (2018). “In that case, a federal habeas court simply reviews the specific reasons given by the state court and defers to those reasons if they are reasonable.” Id. When the last state court decision on the merits “does not come accompanied with those reasons, . . . the federal court should ‘look through' the unexplained decision to the last related state-court decision that does provide a relevant rationale [and] presume that the unexplained decision adopted the same reasoning.” Id. The presumption may be rebutted “by showing that the unexplained affirmance relied or most likely did rely on different grounds than the lower state court's decision, such as alternative grounds for affirmance that were briefed or argued to the state supreme court or obvious in the record it...

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