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Guyn v. Kent

United States District Court, E.D. Louisiana

January 31, 2019

GLENN GARY GUYN
v.
JASON KENT

         SECTION: “I” (3)

          REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION

          DANA M. DOUGLAS UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.

         Petitioner, Glenn Gary Guyn, a state prisoner incarcerated at the Dixon Correctional Institute in Jackson, Louisiana, filed the instant federal application seeking habeas corpus relief pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254. For the following reasons, it is recommended that his petition be DISMISSED WITH PREJUDICE.

         On October 13, 2015, petitioner was convicted of possession with intent to distribute methamphetamine and operation of a clandestine laboratory for the manufacturing of methamphetamine.[1] On December 7, 2015, he then pleaded guilty to being a fourth offender and was sentenced as such on each conviction to a term of forty years imprisonment without benefit of probation or suspension of sentence.[2] On April 12, 2017, the Louisiana First Circuit Court of Appeal affirmed his convictions, habitual offender adjudication, and sentences, [3] and the Louisiana Supreme Court thereafter denied his related writ application on June 1, 2018.[4]

         On September 18, 2018, petitioner filed the instant federal application seeking habeas corpus relief.[5] The state has filed a response conceding that the application is timely and that petitioner exhausted his remedies in the state courts; however, the state argues that his claims should be denied.[6]

         I. Standards of Review

         The Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996 (“AEDPA”) comprehensively overhauled federal habeas corpus legislation, including 28 U.S.C. § 2254. Amended subsections 2254(d)(1) and (2) contain revised standards of review for pure questions of fact, pure questions of law, and mixed questions of both. The amendments modified a federal habeas court's role in reviewing state prisoner applications in order to prevent federal habeas ‘retrials' and to ensure that state-court convictions are given effect to the extent possible under law.” Bell v. Cone, 535 U.S. 685, 693 (2002).

         As to pure questions of fact, factual findings are presumed to be correct and a federal court will give deference to the state court's decision unless it “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)(2); see also 28 U.S.C. § 2254(e)(1) (“In a proceeding instituted by an application for a writ of habeas corpus by a person in custody pursuant to the judgment of a State court, a determination of a factual issue made by a State court shall be presumed to be correct. The applicant shall have the burden of rebutting the presumption of correctness by clear and convincing evidence.”).

         As to pure questions of law and mixed questions of law and fact, a federal court must defer to the state court's decision on the merits of such a claim unless that decision “was contrary to, or involved an unreasonable application of, clearly established Federal law, as determined by the Supreme Court of the United States.” 28 U.S.C. § 2254(d)(1). Courts have held that the “‘contrary to' and ‘unreasonable application' clauses [of § 2254(d)(1)] have independent meaning.” Bell, 535 U.S. at 694.

         Regarding the “contrary to” clause, the United States Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals has explained:

A state court decision is contrary to clearly established precedent if the state court applies a rule that contradicts the governing law set forth in the [United States] Supreme Court's cases. A state-court decision will also be contrary to clearly established precedent if the state court confronts a set of facts that are materially indistinguishable from a decision of the [United States] Supreme Court and nevertheless arrives at a result different from [United States] Supreme Court precedent.

Wooten v. Thaler, 598 F.3d 215, 218 (5th Cir. 2010) (footnotes, internal quotation marks, ellipses, and brackets omitted).

         Regarding the “unreasonable application” clause, the United States Supreme Court has held: “[A] state-court decision is an unreasonable application of our clearly established precedent if it correctly identifies the governing legal rule but applies that rule unreasonably to the facts of a particular prisoner's case.” White v. Woodall, 572 U.S. 415, 426 (2014). However, the Supreme Court cautioned:

Section 2254(d)(1) provides a remedy for instances in which a state court unreasonably applies this Court's precedent; it does not require state courts to extend that precedent or license federal courts to treat the failure to do so as error. Thus, if a habeas court must extend a rationale before it can apply to the facts at hand, then by definition the rationale was not clearly established at the time of the state-court decision. AEDPA's carefully constructed framework would be undermined if habeas courts introduced rules not clearly established under the guise of extensions to existing law.

Id. (citations and quotation marks omitted). The Supreme Court has also expressly cautioned that “an unreasonable application is different from an incorrect one.” Bell, 535 U.S. at 694.

         Accordingly, a state court's merely incorrect application of Supreme Court precedent simply does not warrant habeas relief. Puckett v. Epps, 641 F.3d 657, 663 (5th Cir. 2011) (“Importantly, ‘unreasonable' is not the same as ‘erroneous' or ‘incorrect'; an incorrect application of the law by a state court will nonetheless be affirmed if it is not simultaneously unreasonable.”).

         While the AEDPA standards of review are strict and narrow, they are purposely so. As the United States Supreme Court has held:

[E]ven a strong case for relief does not mean the state court's contrary conclusion was unreasonable.
If this standard is difficult to meet, that is because it was meant to be. As amended by AEDPA, § 2254(d) stops short of imposing a complete bar on federal court relitigation of claims already rejected in state proceedings. It preserves authority to issue the writ in cases where there is no possibility fairminded jurists could disagree that the state court's decision conflicts with this Court's precedents. It goes no farther. Section 2254(d) reflects the view that habeas corpus is a guard against extreme malfunctions in the state criminal justice systems, not a substitute for ordinary error correction through appeal. As a condition for obtaining habeas corpus from a federal court, a state prisoner must show that the state court's ruling on the claim being presented in federal court was so lacking in justification that there was an error well understood and comprehended in existing law beyond any possibility for fairminded disagreement.

Harrington v. Richter, 562 U.S. 86, 102-03 (2011) (emphasis added; citations omitted); see also Renico v. Lett, 559 U.S. 766, 779 (2010) (“AEDPA prevents defendants - and federal courts - from using federal habeas corpus review as a vehicle to second-guess the reasonable decisions of state courts.”).

         The Supreme Court has expressly warned that although “some federal judges find [28 U.S.C. § 2254(d)] too confining, ” it is nevertheless clear that “all federal judges must obey” the law and apply the strictly deferential standards of review mandated therein. White v. Woodall, 572 U.S. 415, 417 (2014).

         II. Facts

         On direct appeal, the Louisiana First Circuit Court of Appeal summarized the facts of the case as follows:

On the evening of March 4, 2015, several members of the Washington Parish Sheriff's Office drug task force were conducting operations in the area of Mount Hermon. Lieutenant Brent Goings was responding to a call in the area of Porter's Curve when he observed a green Nissan truck cross the center line of the roadway. He alerted Detectives Steven Adcox and Jason Garbo to be on the lookout for the vehicle. Shortly thereafter, Detective Garbo located the suspect vehicle and began to follow it, noticing that the vehicle crossed the center and fog lines of the roadway several times. When the truck approached the area where Detective Adcox had parked his own vehicle, Detective Garbo effected a traffic stop with assistance from Detective Adcox.
Detectives Adcox and Garbo made contact with defendant, who was the driver and sole occupant of the vehicle. Defendant consented to a search of the truck. During the ensuing search, the detectives located an open beer can, multiple small storage bags containing a white substance eventually determined to be methamphetamine, a digital scale, more than one hundred pseudoephedrine pills, empty small storage bags, and lithium batteries. Defendant was not the registered owner of the vehicle. The registered owner of the vehicle arrived later, but he was not arrested.
Following the search of the vehicle, Detective Garbo applied for a search warrant of defendant's home, which was located approximately one-half mile from the scene of the stop, in the direction of defendant's travel. In an ensuing search of defendant's residence, the detectives located several items that are traditionally used in the production of methamphetamine, including a plastic bottle used as an “HCl generator” and several containers of carburetor and starter fluid. Detective Adcox also recovered $513.00 in cash from defendant's person. In a Uniform Financial Data Questionnaire, defendant answered that he was “self-employed, ” had made $1, 800.00 so far during the year, and currently used methamphetamine. Defendant did not testify at trial.[7]

         III. Petitioner's Claims

         A. Sufficiency of the Evidence

         Petitioner's first claim is that there was insufficient evidence to support his convictions. On direct appeal, the Louisiana First Circuit Court of Appeal denied that claim, holding:

[D]efendant contends that the evidence presented at trial was insufficient to support his convictions. Specifically, he argues that the state failed to prove his connection to and ownership of the evidence seized from the truck and his house.
A conviction based on insufficient evidence cannot stand, as it violates due process. See U.S. Const. amend. XIV; La. Const. art. I, § 2. In reviewing claims challenging the sufficiency of the evidence, this court must consider whether, after viewing the evidence in the light most favorable to the prosecution, any rational trier of fact could have found the essential elements of the crime beyond a reasonable doubt. See Jackson v. Virginia, 443 U.S. 307, 319, 99 S.Ct. 2781, 2789, 61 L.Ed.2d 560 (1979). See also La. Code Crim. P. art. 821(B); State v. Ordodi, 2006-0207 (La. 11/29/06), 946 So.2d 654, 660; State v. Mussall, 523 So.2d 1305, 1308-09 (La. 1988). The Jackson standard of review, incorporated in La. Code Crim. P. art. 821(B), is an objective standard for testing the overall evidence, both direct and circumstantial, for reasonable doubt. When analyzing circumstantial evidence, La. R.S. 15:438 provides that the factfinder must be satisfied the overall evidence excludes every reasonable hypothesis of innocence. State v. Patorno, 2001-2585 (La.App. 1st Cir. 6/21/02), 822 So.2d 141, 144.
When a conviction is based on both direct and circumstantial evidence, the reviewing court must resolve any conflict in the direct evidence by viewing that evidence in the light most favorable to the prosecution. When the direct evidence is thus viewed, the facts established by the direct evidence and the facts reasonably inferred from the circumstantial evidence must be sufficient for a rational juror to conclude beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant was guilty of every essential element of the crime. State v. Wright, 98-0601 (La.App. 1st Cir. 2/19/99), 730 So.2d 485, 487, writs denied, 99-0802 (La. 10/29/99), 748 So.2d 1157 & 2000-0895 (La. 11/17/00), 773 So.2d 732.
Under La. R.S. 40:967(A)(1), it shall be unlawful for any person knowingly or intentionally to possess with intent to produce, manufacture, distribute, or dispense, a controlled dangerous substance classified in Schedule II (methamphetamine, in this case). A defendant is guilty of distribution when he transfers possession or control of a controlled dangerous substance to intended recipients. See La. R.S. 40:961(14); State v. Cummings, 95-1377 (La. 2/28/96), 668 So.2d 1132, 1135. To support a conviction for possession with intent to distribute methamphetamine, the state is required to prove both possession and specific intent to distribute it. See State v. Young, 99-1264 (La.App. 1st Cir. 3/31/00), 764 So.2d 998, 1006.
Creation or Operation of a clandestine laboratory for the unlawful manufacture of a controlled dangerous substance includes the purchase, sale, distribution, or possession of any material, compound, mixture, preparation, supplies, equipment, or structure with the intent that it be used for the unlawful manufacture of a controlled dangerous substance. See La. R.S. 40:983(A)(1). Thus, the state can prove a violation of this provision by demonstrating that a defendant possessed materials, supplies, and/or equipment with the intent that they be used to unlawfully manufacture a controlled dangerous substance.
On appeal, defendant does not challenge the intent to distribute element of count two, nor does he challenge the intent element of count three. Rather, he argues simply that the state failed to prove his identity as the owner of the methamphetamine for the purposes of count two or as the owner of the materials, supplies, and equipment for the purposes of count three.
To support a conviction for possession of a controlled dangerous substance, the state must prove that the defendant was in possession of the illegal drug and that he knowingly or intentionally possessed the drug. Guilty knowledge therefore is an essential element of the crime of possession. A determination of whether there is “possession” sufficient to convict depends on the peculiar facts of each case. State v. Harris, 94-0696 (La.App. 1st Cir. 6/23/95), 657 So.2d 1072, 1074-75, writ denied, 95-2046 (La. 11/13/95), 662 So.2d 477.
To be guilty of the crime of possession of a controlled dangerous substance, one need not physically possess the substance; constructive possession is sufficient. In order to establish constructive possession of the substance, the state must prove that the defendant had dominion and control over the contraband. A variety of factors are considered in determining whether a defendant exercised “dominion and control” over a drug, including: a defendant's knowledge that illegal drugs are in the area; the defendant's relationship with any person found to be in actual possession of the substance; the defendant's access to the area where the drugs were found; evidence of recent drug use by the defendant; the defendant's physical proximity to the drugs; and any evidence that the particular area was frequented by drug users. Harris, 675 So.2d at 1075. A determination of whether there is sufficient “possession” of a drug to convict depends on the peculiar facts of each case. State v. Trahan, 425 So.2d 1222, 1226 (La. 1983).
The evidence at trial established that defendant, by virtue of his dominion and control over the Nissan truck as its driver, exercised dominion and control over all of the evidence seized from the vehicle. This seized evidence included small packages of methamphetamine, a digital scale, lithium batteries, and a large quantity of pseudoephedrine pills. Similarly, the evidence established that defendant's home contained several items used in the production of methamphetamine, including at least one item - the “HCl generator” - that had no use besides the production of methamphetamine. Defendant was the sole occupant of the vehicle at the time it was stopped less than one mile from his home. The contents of the vehicle, combined with the evidence found at defendant's home, are strong ...

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