United States District Court, E.D. Missouri, Eastern Division
PAUL C. GARTH, Petitioner,
CINDY GRIFFITH, Respondent.
MEMORANDUM AND ORDER.
RICHARD WEBBER SENIOR UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
matter is before the Court on Petitioner Paul C. Garth's
Petition for Writ of Habeas Corpus. [Doc. 1.] Respondent
Cindy Griffith (Respondent) filed a response. [Doc. 6.] Garth
filed a Reply Brief. [Docs. 13, 14.] For the reasons set
forth below, the Petition will be denied.
state appellate court found the following facts. In 2009, Garth
was living with S.E., as her boyfriend. S.E. broke off their
relationship after Garth wrote “I love you” on a
bullet and gave it to her. On December 17, 2009, Garth sent
S.E. a text message stating, “We over I will get my
boxes and leave your keys.” Garth went to S.E.'s
house that evening and argued into the night. At
approximately 2:00 a.m., the next morning, December 18, 2009,
Garth went to the basement and retrieved a can of gasoline.
Garth poured the gasoline on S.E., stating that if he
couldn't have her, no one could. S.E. tried to run away,
but Garth struck a lighter and set her on fire.
rolled on the floor to put out the fire. Garth got a bathroom
rug to help put out the fire and said he was sorry and
didn't think it would light. However, Garth did not call
for assistance and did not render any first aid. S.E. begged
Garth to take her to the hospital. Garth refused because he
was afraid of going to jail. S.E. finally persuaded Garth to
take her to the hospital by promising that she would tell the
hospital personnel that she injured herself and that Garth
did not do it. Garth took S.E. to the hospital, where S.E.
stated that she tried to kill herself by pouring gasoline on
herself and lighting it because her grandmother had just
died. S.E. then went into shock and lost consciousness. S.E.
suffered burns on her hands, arms, back, torso, neck, and
face. She received skin grafts on her hand.
next day, December 19, 2009, Garth called S.E.'s
ex-mother-in-law, E.E., and told her that they had been
messing with a gas can on the stove and S.E. lit a cigarette
and “blew herself up.” S.E. has an electric
stove. S.E.'s son, C.E., heard about it and called Garth,
asking him what happened. Garth told C.E. that S.E. poured
kerosene on herself and lit herself on fire. C.E. asked Garth
why he did not call 911 or notify family members, to which
Garth responded that he had been trying to extinguish the
fire and had burnt his hands. S.E.'s brother, W.J.,
visited S.E. at the hospital and was informed by hospital
staff that S.E. had said she had done this to herself. W.J.
did not believe that S.E. would do this to herself. S.E. had
tubes down her throat and was unable to speak, but W.J. asked
her to blink her eyes twice if somebody had done this to her
and she blinked twice. W.J. then asked her to blink once if
Garth had done this to her and she blinked once. Hospital
personnel called the police.
S.E.'s house, Officer Patrick Hill observed a large burn
mark on the dining room carpet, burn marks on the bathroom
cabinet and floor, burned clothing in the kitchen trash can,
a burned bathroom rug at the bottom of the basement steps,
and a gasoline can in the basement.
December 22, 2009, after the tubes were removed from
S.E.'s throat, she told Officer Hill that Garth had tried
to kill her by setting her on fire. S.E. then went into
cardiac arrest but survived. On January 5, 2010, S.E. was
discharged from the hospital, but was still being treated
regularly for her injuries at the time of the trial in
November 2010. The State of Missouri charged Garth with
first-degree domestic assault. Before trial, Garth decided to
proceed pro se and represent himself at trial. After the
State presented its case, during trial, Garth requested that
counsel be provided for him. The trial court denied his
request. At the conclusion of the trial, a jury found Garth
guilty as charged in the indictment. The trial court
sentenced Garth to life in prison.
Standard of Review
writ of habeas corpus stands as a safeguard against
imprisonment of those held in violation of the law. Judges
must be vigilant and independent in reviewing petitions for
the writ, a commitment that entails substantial judicial
resources.” Harrington v. Richter, 562 U.S.
86, 91 (2011). “In general, if a convicted state
criminal defendant can show a federal habeas court that his
conviction rests upon a violation of the Federal
Constitution, he may well obtain a writ of habeas corpus that
requires a new trial, a new sentence, or release.”
Trevino v. Thaler, 133 S.Ct. 1911, 1917 (2013). The
Anti-Terrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996, 28
U.S.C. § 2254 (AEDPA) applies to all petitions for
habeas relief filed by state prisoners after this
statute's effective date of April 24, 1996. Lindh v.
Murphy, 521 U.S. 320, 326-29 (1997).
conducting habeas review pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254, a
federal court is limited to deciding whether a claim that was
adjudicated on the merits in state court proceedings (1)
resulted in a decision that is “contrary to, or
involved an unreasonable application of, clearly established
Federal law, as determined by the Supreme Court, or (2)
resulted in a decision that was based on an unreasonable
determination of the facts in light of the evidence presented
at the State court proceedings.” 28 U.S.C. §
2254(d). A determination of a factual issue made by a state
court is presumed to be correct unless the petitioner
successfully rebuts the presumption of correctness by clear
and convincing evidence. 28 U.S.C. § 2254(e)(1).
purposes of § 2254(d)(1), the phrase “clearly
established federal law refers to the holdings, as opposed to
the dicta, of [the Supreme] Court's decisions as of the
time of the relevant state court decision.” Lockyer
v. Andrade, 538 U.S. 63, 71-72 (2003). “In other
words, clearly established federal law under §
2254(d)(1) is the governing legal principle or principles set
forth by the Supreme Court at the time the state court
renders its decision.” Id. To obtain habeas
relief, a habeas petitioner must be able to point to the
Supreme Court precedent which he thinks the state courts
acted contrary to or unreasonably applied. Buchheit v.
Norris, 459 F.3d 849, 853 (8th Cir. 2006).
court's decision is “contrary to” clearly
established Supreme Court precedent “if the state court
either ‘applies a rule that contradicts the governing
law set forth in [Supreme Court] cases' or
‘confronts a set of facts that are materially
indistinguishable from a decision of [the] Court and
nevertheless arrives at a result different from [the]
precedent.'” Penry v. Garth, 532 U.S. 782,
792 (2001) (citing Williams v. Taylor, 529 U.S. 362,
405-406 (2000)). A state court decision is an unreasonable
application of clearly established Supreme Court precedent if
it correctly identifies the governing legal rule but applies
it unreasonably to the facts of a particular prisoner's
case. Id. (citing Williams, 529 U.S. at
407-408). “A federal habeas court making the
unreasonable application inquiry should ask whether the state
court's application of clearly established federal law
was objectively reasonable.” Penry, 532 U.S.
at 793. “A state court decision involves ‘an
unreasonable determination of the facts in light of the
evidence presented in the state court proceedings, ' 28
U.S.C. § 2254(d)(2), only if it is shown that the state
court's presumptively correct factual findings do not
enjoy support in the record.” Evanstad v.
Carlson, 470 F.3d 777, 782 (8th Cir. 2006). A
“readiness to attribute error is inconsistent with the
presumption that state courts know and follow the law.”
Woodford v. Visciotti, 537 U.S. 19, 24 (2002).
AEDPA's highly deferential standard demands that state
court decisions be given the benefit of the doubt.
presents four claims for review. In his first two claims,
Garth asserts that his Sixth Amendment rights were violated
when the trial court allowed him to represent himself at
trial and by allowing W.J. to testify that S.E. told him
through eye blinks that Garth had set her on fire. In his
third claim, Garth asserts that trial court erred in allowing
Dr. David Seltzer to testify that he medically treated Garth
and admitted Garth's medical records. Garth asserts that
the admission of his medical records and testimony of Dr.
Seltzer violated the physician-patient privilege. In his
fourth claim, Garth states that he received ineffective
assistance of appellate counsel who failed to raise the issue
that the trial court violated his right to a speedy trial.
Defaulted Claims- I, II, and III
Respondent asserts that all of Garth's claims are
procedurally defaulted. Garth did not preserve claims I, II,
and III for appellate review. The Missouri Court of Appeals
found that Garth did not properly preserve these claims for
review and reviewed them for plain error. “A federal
habeas court cannot reach an otherwise unpreserved and
procedurally defaulted claim merely because a reviewing state
court analyzed that claim for plain error.” Clark
v. Bertsch, 780 F.3d 873, 874 (8th Cir. 2015) (citing
Hayes v. Lockhart, 766 F.2d 1247, 1253 (8th Cir.
prisoner seeking federal habeas relief must first exhaust the
remedies available in the courts of the state, thereby
affording those courts the first opportunity to address and
correct alleged violations of the prisoner's federal
rights. Walker v. Martin,562 U.S. 307, 315 (2011).
This court is barred from reviewing Garth's claims if the
state court finds that his claims are defaulted under state
law, even if the state court reviewed his claims under plain
error review. Hayes, 766 F.2d at 1252-53. The burden
of justifying federal habeas relief for state prisoners is
greater than the plain error ...