United States District Court, E.D. Missouri, Eastern Division
MEMORANDUM AND ORDER
NANNETTE A. BAKER UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.
matter is before the Court on Petitioner Ricardo Morales'
Petition for Writ of Habeas Corpus. [Doc. 1.] Respondent
filed a response to the Petition for Writ of Habeas Corpus.
[Doc. 7.] The parties have consented to the jurisdiction of
the undersigned United States Magistrate Judge pursuant to 28
U.S.C. § 636(c)(1). [Doc. 6] For the reasons set forth
below, Robinson's petition for writ of habeas corpus will
state appellate court found the following facts to be
true. Beginning in October 1998, P.L. lived
with her mother, siblings, and Morales. During that time,
Morales statutorily raped P.L. on numerous occasions. Morales
does not contest the factual findings that, during the same
time period and beginning when P.L. was ten years old,
Morales touched P.L.'s vagina and clitoris on multiple
occasions. The abuse took place while P.L. was living with
Morales in a number of different locations.
2009, when she was about twenty years old, P.L. moved out of
the home occupied by Morales and reported the abuse to the
police. After an investigation, the State charged Morales
with thirteen counts of statutory rape in the first and
second degree and statutory sodomy in the first and second
degree. (Resp't Ex. C at 12-15.) Morales moved for a
judgment of acquittal at the close of the trial. The trial
court granted Defendant's motion as to Count XI and
denied it in all other respects. (Resp't Ex. A at 446.) A
jury convicted Morales of twelve counts of the indictment and
the trial court sentenced him to 15 years in counts I, III,
and IV, to run consecutively, and 10 years on counts V, VI,
VII, and VIII to run concurrently, and 7 years on counts IX,
X, XII, and XIII to run concurrently. (Resp't Ex. C. at
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). In 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 in the State
court proceeding. 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 (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. at 72. 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. Johnson, 532 U.S.
782, 792 (2001) (citing Williams v. Taylor, 529 U.S.
362, 405-406 (2000)).
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 unreasonable.” 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 one claim for review. He asserts that the trial
court erred in denying his motion for acquittal, because the
State did not present sufficient evidence upon which a
reasonable jury could have found him guilty beyond a
reasonable doubt of statutory sodomy in Counts I, VIII, X,
and XIII. Morales contends that there was not sufficient
evidence of penetration of the victim's sexual organ to
support his convictions.
Process Clause of the Fifth Amendment provides that no one
can be deprived of liberty without due process of law and the
Sixth Amendment guarantees that “in all criminal
prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right to a speedy
and public trial, by an impartial jury.” U.S. Const.
amend. V, VI. “[These] provisions require criminal
convictions to rest upon a jury determination that the
defendant is guilty of every element of the crime with which
he is charged, beyond a reasonable doubt.” U.S. v.
Gaudin, 515 U.S. 506, 510 (1995).
the interests of finality and federalism, federal habeas
courts are constrained by [AEDPA] to exercise only a limited
and deferential review of underlying state court
decisions.” Sera v. Norris, 400 F.3d 538, 542
(8th Cir. 2005). State law defines the elements of state law
crimes. Fenske v. Thalacker, 60 F.3d 478, 480 (8th
Cir. 1995). “A judgment by a state appellate court
rejecting a challenge to evidentiary sufficiency is of course