United States District Court, E.D. Louisiana
REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION
JOSEPH C. WILKINSON, Jr., Magistrate Judge.
This matter was referred to a United States Magistrate Judge to conduct hearings, including an evidentiary hearing, if necessary, and to submit proposed findings and recommendations for disposition pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §§ 636(b)(1)(B) and (C) and, as applicable, Rule 8(b) of the Rules Governing Section 2254 Cases. Upon review of the entire record, I have determined that a federal evidentiary hearing is unnecessary. See 28 U.S.C. § 2254(e)(2). For the following reasons, I recommend that the instant petition for habeas corpus relief be DENIED and DISMISSED WITH PREJUDICE.
I. FACTUAL BACKGROUND
The petitioner, Curtis Allen Bridges, is a convicted inmate currently incarcerated in the Allen Correctional Center in Kinder, Louisiana. On December 16, 2011, Bridges was charged by bill of information in St. Tammany Parish with one count of aggravated battery and one count of cruelty to a juvenile. The bill was re-filed on February 28, 2012, to include a third count of possession of cocaine. The Louisiana First Circuit Court of Appeal summarized the facts of the case as determined at trial as follows:
At the time of the offense, the defendant was living in Slidell with his girlfriend (who indicated that she lost her eyesight in 2009 and was considered legally blind) and her twelve-year-old son D.G., the victim (herein identified by initials only pursuant to LSA-R.S. 46:1844(W)). During the early morning hours of Saturday, October 1, 2011, the defendant arrived at home and knocked on the window as the door was locked with a deadbolt. The defendant's girlfriend opened the door and they began arguing over money. Specifically, the defendant wanted her to return a $400.00 money order that he purchased after cashing his disability check. As the money order was originally purchased to use as a deposit on an apartment in New Orleans where they planned to move, unbeknownst to the defendant, his girlfriend asked a friend to hold the money order for them to ensure that it would be saved for the intended purpose. The defendant became hysterical when his girlfriend refused to give him the money order. While they were in their bedroom, the defendant began yelling and cursing and ultimately pushed her to the floor.
The victim heard the commotion and entered the bedroom and observed his mother on the floor. The defendant pushed him out of the room and closed the door. The victim reopened the door and entered the bedroom. At some point, the victim attempted to push the defendant away from his mother. According to the victim, after he pushed the defendant, the defendant got angry and chased him into the hallway. As the defendant and the victim struggled, the victim's mother instructed her sister, who was also present in the home, to call the police. As she complied, the defendant took the telephone. While they were in the hallway, the defendant repeatedly punched D.G., the victim, in the face. The defendant continued to confront the victim's mother over the money order and the victim went into the kitchen and grabbed a knife. The victim brandished the knife and told the defendant to back away from his mother. The defendant grabbed the victim's hand and the victim dropped or lost control of the knife. As a result of the defendant's attack, the victim sustained cuts to his ear and chest. The police ultimately arrived at the home and questioned the occupants.
State v. Bridges, No. 2012-KA-2120, 2013 WL 2484834, at *1 (La.App. 1st Cir. Jun. 7, 2013) (unpub.); State Record Volume 3 of 4, Louisiana First Circuit Court of Appeal Opinion, 2012-KA-2120, pages 2-3, June 7, 2013.
Bridges was tried before a jury on March 5 and 6, 2012, and found guilty as to count one on the lesser offense of simple battery and guilty as charged of cruelty to a juvenile and possession of cocaine. At an October 10, 2010, hearing, the state trial court denied Bridges's motions for a new trial and post-verdict judgment of acquittal.
Bridges thereafter admitted to the court that he was a fourth felony offender as charged by the State in the previously filed multiple bill. After waiver of legal delays, the state trial court sentenced Bridges to six (6) months in the parish jail for simple battery and five years in prison at hard labor on count three, possession of cocaine. As to count two, cruelty to a juvenile, the court sentenced Bridges as a multiple offender to twenty-five (25) years in prison at hard labor without benefit of probation or suspension of sentence. The court ordered each sentence to run concurrently and denied Bridges's motion to reconsider the sentences.
On direct appeal, Bridges's appointed counsel asserted three errors: (1) The state trial court erred when it denied the motion for post-verdict judgment of acquittal. (2) The state trial court erred when it denied the motion for a new trial. (3) The evidence was insufficient to support the conviction for cruelty to a juvenile. On June 7, 2013, the Louisiana First Circuit affirmed Bridges's convictions, multiple offender adjudication and sentences, finding that the evidence was sufficient and there was no basis for the jury to have found that Bridges's acted in self-defense.
The Louisiana Supreme Court denied Bridges's subsequent writ application without stated reasons on January 10, 2014. His convictions became final ninety (90) days later, on April 10, 2014, when he did not file a writ application with the United States Supreme Court. Ott v. Johnson, 192 F.3d 510, 513 (5th Cir. 1999) (period for filing for certiorari with the United States Supreme Court is considered in the finality determination under 28 U.S.C. § 2244(d)(1)(A)), cert. denied, 529 U.S. 1099 (2000); U.S. Sup.Ct. Rule 13(1).
Bridges later submitted an application for post-conviction relief to the state trial court asserting that the Louisiana First Circuit erred in affirming his conviction and the state trial court's denial of his motions for post-verdict judgment of acquittal and for a new trial and arguing again that the evidence was insufficient to support the verdict. The state trial court denied relief on August 11, 2014, because the challenge to the ruling of the Louisiana First Circuit could only be addressed by the Louisiana Supreme Court and was not a proper basis for post-conviction relief under La. Code Crim. P. art. 930.3. The record does not reflect that Bridges sought further review of that order.
II. FEDERAL HABEAS PETITION
On September 12, 2014, the clerk of court filed Bridges's petition for federal habeas corpus relief asserting that the evidence was insufficient to support his conviction for cruelty to a juvenile. The State filed an answer and memorandum in opposition to Bridges's petition conceding that his petition was timely filed and that his claim had been exhausted. The State argued, however, that Bridges failed to prove ...