Pierce v. Dir., TDCJ-CID, CIVIL ACTION NO. 4:06cv258

CourtUnited States District Courts. 5th Circuit. United States District Court of Eastern District Texas
Docket NumberCIVIL ACTION NO. 4:06cv258
Decision Date26 April 2013


CIVIL ACTION NO. 4:06cv258


SIGNED: April 26, 2013


Petitioner William Boyd Pierce, a prisoner confined in the Texas prison system, proceeding in forma pauperis and pro se, filed the above-styled and numbered petition for writ of habeas corpus pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254. The parties have consented to proceed before the Honorable Don D. Bush, United States Magistrate Judge.


Petitioner is complaining about his Denton County convictions for two counts of sexual assault, The State of Texas v. William Boyd Pierce, Cause Number F2003-0377-C. On August 12, 2003, a jury found Petitioner guilty as charged. At the punishment hearing, Petitioner's prior conviction for aggravated robbery was admitted into evidence. The trial court judge sentenced him to sixty (60) years of confinement on November 6, 2003. On April 28, 2006, the trial court entered a nunc pro tunc order to correct a clerical error, showing that the enhancement (conviction of aggravated robbery) was found to be true. The Second Court of Appeals affirmed his conviction on August 12, 2004. Pierce v. State, No. 02-03-0517-CR (Tex. App.-Fort Worth, Aug. 12, 2004, pet.

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ref'd). The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals then refused his petition for discretionary review (PDR) on November 10, 2004. PDR No. 1343-04. His first application for state writ of habeas corpus, filed on April 14, 2005, was remanded to the trial court for an evidentiary hearing and affidavits. Ex parte Pierce, Application No. 20,263-08, at cover. After the trial court entered findings of fact and conclusions of law, the Court of Criminal Appeals denied Petitioner's state writ without written order on June 7, 2006, based on the findings of the trial court. Id. at cover. Petitioner then filed the present federal petition. However, based on the initial Response filed by the Director, he asked that his case be stayed pending his return to the State to exhaust his remedies. This Court granted his motion. After returning to the State court, the Court of Criminal Appeals denied his second state writ. Ex parte Pierce, Application No. 20,263-09, at cover. Petitioner then asked that the present federal petition be returned to the active docket. He also asked that he be allowed to amend his petition, which this Court allowed. Respondent filed a supplemental Response based on Petitioner's amended petition. Petitioner filed a Reply.

In the present federal petition, Petitioner alleges that he is entitled to relief based on numerous issues:

1. His sentence was illegally enhanced;
2. The trial court abused its discretion by continuing the trial in his absence;
3. The trial court abused its discretion by admitting an illegally-obtained letter that Petitioner wrote to the complainant;
4. The trial court improperly admitted the victim's testimony concerning uncharged extraneous sexual offenses;
5. Petitioner was denied the right to confront the witnesses who testified against him;

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6. His trial counsel had a conflict of interest, thereby denying him effective assistance of counsel, and the trial court erred in failing to grant a continuance based on counsel's conflict of interest;
7. Trial counsel was ineffective for failing go conduct pre-trial investigation or file any pre-trial motions;
8. Trial counsel was ineffective for failing to correct the bond amount on the jail computer in a timely manner, which prolonged the period in which he had to stay in jail;
9. Trial counsel failed to interview witnesses who could have testified in his defense;
10. Trial counsel told the court, "I don't think I can beat this case," which showed the court that he did not have a firm command of the facts;
11. Trial counsel failed to object and ask for a continuance when the court determined that Petitioner had voluntarily absented himself from trial and continued the trial without him;
12. Trial counsel failed to object to hearsay evidence when the victim testified about a letter she received from Petitioner;
13. Trial counsel failed to object to the court's charge;
14. There was no evidence to support his conviction;
15. The visiting judge did not have jurisdiction to hear the case;
16. Appellate counsel failed to raise several issues on appeal; and
17. Petitioner has been unable to obtain a copy of the jury charge.

In his amended petition, Petitioner raised this issue:

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18. The prosecutor committed a Brady violation by failing to make available a Children's Advocacy Center document to his attorney prior to trial.

Statement of Facts

The State, on direct appeal, provided the following statement of facts (citations omitted):

The complainant in the case, T.S. was sixteen when she first met Appellant (hereinafter Pierce), who was a friend of complainant's mother. Pierce and her mother had coffee several times a week and sometimes T.S. and her brother would join them. Around December of 2002, the mother sought help from Pierce in getting T.S. and her brother to school and daycare in the mornings. Pierce was supposed to drop off the brother at daycare and then bring T.S. back to the house to go to school. T.S. testified that sometimes Pierce would take her out to breakfast and then take her to school and they became friends. Pierce bought T.S. gifts and inexpensive jewelry and allowed her to drive his car. On more than one occasion, Pierce brought T.S. to the trailer where he lived.
In January, while T.S. was a passenger in Pierce's car, Pierce asked T.S. to give him a "hand job." T.S. stated that Pierce grabbed her hand and placed it on his penis but that she immediately yanked her hand away. Pierce also touched T.S. on her breasts on another occasion. T.S. testified that sometime thereafter, Pierce began asking her to have sex with him.
T.S. testified that Pierce actually had sex with her on two separate occasions. The first time was on the 28th of January. Pierce took T.S. to breakfast but did not take her to school. They rode around for awhile and then went to Pierce's trailer. T.S. testified that Pierce took her pants off and lay on top of her on the bed. T.S. stated that she could feel Pierce's penis on her vagina. T.S. testified that Pierce had sex with her on one other occasion, where Pierce again took T.S. to his trailer, removed her pants, and lay on top of her on the bed. When questioned at trial, T.S. stated that she knew what sex was, that it was when a penis came in contact with a vagina, and that was what Pierce had done with her.
At trial the State called several witnesses who testified that they had seen Pierce behave inappropriately toward T.S. Through the testimony of these witnesses, the State was able to show that Pierce had admitted in engaging in sexual activity with T.S. and that he had bragged about it. The State also introduced as evidence a letter

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written by Pierce to T.S. in which he declare his love for her and asks her to help him get out of jail. In the letter Pierce essentially asked T.S. to recant her statements to police and to her mother.

Federal Habeas Corpus Relief

The role of federal courts in reviewing habeas corpus petitions by prisoners in state custody is exceedingly narrow. A person seeking federal habeas corpus review must assert a violation of a federal constitutional right. Lowery v. Collins, 988 F.2d 1354, 1367 (5th Cir. 1993). Federal habeas corpus relief will not issue to correct errors of state constitutional, statutory, or procedural law, unless a federal issue is also present. Estelle v. McGuire, 502 U.S. 62, 67-68, 112 S. Ct. 475, 479-80, 116 L. Ed.2d 385 (1991); West v. Johnson, 92 F.3d 1385, 1404 (5th Cir. 1996). In the course of reviewing state proceedings, a federal court does not sit as a super state appellate court. Dillard v. Blackburn, 780 F.2d 509, 513 (5th Cir. 1986).

The prospect of federal courts granting habeas corpus relief to state prisoners has been further limited by the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996. The new provisions of Section 2254(d) provide that an application for a writ of habeas corpus "shall not be granted with respect to any claim that was adjudicated on the merits in state court proceedings unless the adjudication of the claim: (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." See Williams v. Taylor, 529 U.S. 362, 402-03, 120 S. Ct. 1495, 1517-18, 146 L. Ed.2d 389 (2000); Childress v. Johnson, 103 F.3d 1221, 1224-25 (5th Cir. 1997). The statutory provision requires federal courts to be deferential to habeas

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corpus decisions on the merits by state courts. Moore v. Cockrell, 313 F.3d 880, 881 (5th Cir. 2002).

A decision by a state court is "contrary to" the Supreme Court's clearly established law if it "applies a rule that contradicts the law set forth in" the Supreme Court's cases. Williams, 529 U.S. at 405-06, 120 S. Ct. at 1519-20. A federal court's review of a decision based on the "unreasonable application" test should only review the "state...

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