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Ramon Valerio Garcia v. Douglas Weber

November 3, 2011

RAMON VALERIO GARCIA,
PETITIONER,
v.
DOUGLAS WEBER, WARDEN, SOUTH DAKOTA STATE PENITENTIARY RESPONDENT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Karen E. Schreier Chief Judge

ORDER DENYING PETITION FOR WRIT OF HABEAS CORPUS

Petitioner, Ramon Valerio Garcia, has filed a petition for writ of habeas corpus pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254. Respondent opposes Garcia's petition, asserting that Garcia failed to exhaust state remedies. Garcia's petition is subject to dismissal because he failed to exhaust state remedies and his petition is barred by the one-year statute of limitations applicable to federal petitions for writ of habeas corpus.

FACTS

Garcia was convicted of rape in the first degree and sexual contact with a child under sixteen years in a South Dakota state court on March 1, 2006. He was sentenced to seventy-two years in prison for the rape conviction, and there was no pronouncement of sentence for the sexual contact with a child under sixteen years charge because both counts arose from the same circumstances.

Garcia and his wife babysat the victim, V.S.S., and were acquainted with her mother. V.S.S. testified that Garcia had her suck Garcia's penis until something came out into her mouth. Garcia then had V.S.S. continue to suck on his penis. V.S.S. testified she was not wearing pants but remained in her panties during the incident. Garcia pleaded not guilty, but did not testify at his trial.

Garcia filed a direct appeal alleging several grounds for relief. These grounds were: (1) the trial court should have granted a mistrial with regard to an improper jury instruction; (2) there was prosecutorial misconduct by the prosecutor putting her experience into issue and labeling a witness as an expert; (3) hearsay statements from a prosecution witness should have been excluded; and (4) the trial court should have vacated the sexual contact with a child count as it arose out of the same interaction as the rape conviction on February 21, 2007. The South Dakota Supreme Court affirmed the conviction and the sentence on the rape in the first degree charge but remanded with orders to vacate the conviction on the sexual contact with a child under sixteen years.

Garcia then filed a petition for writ of habeas corpus on April 2, 2008, in the Second Judicial Circuit of South Dakota. Garcia alleged various grounds for relief. These grounds were: (1) the prosecutor and judge improperly vouched for the credibility of V.S.S.; (2) there was improper contact between a juror and the bailiff; (3) the court erred in not ordering a psychosexual evaluation; and (4) defense counsel failed to object to prosecutorial vouching for V.S.S. The state circuit court denied Garcia's petition for a writ of habeas corpus on July 31, 2009. The circuit court granted a certificate of probable cause, but the South Dakota Supreme Court denied a certificate of probable cause on December 4, 2009.

On October 8, 2010, Garcia filed a pro se petition for a writ of habeas corpus with this court pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254. Garcia advances several grounds for relief: (1) his Fifth through Fourteenth Amendment Due Process rights were violated by the refusal to admit other acts evidence under SDCL 19-12-5; (2) trial counsel were ineffective for not making a motion for a directed verdict based on the insufficiency of evidence and for not challenging any of the "elements of evidence" admitted by the prosecutor; (3) his Fifth through Fourteenth Amendment due process rights were violated when the court admitted into evidence the statement that Garcia had "gone to see a lawyer;" and (4) his Fifth through Fourteenth Amendment rights were violated because of bias with regard to the admission of evidence by the circuit court.

On October 26, 2010, Garcia filed an amended petition adding a fifth ground. His fifth claim is that his Fifth and Fourteenth Amendment due process rights were violated because the court proceedings went past the 180-day speedy trial rule without Garcia's consent. On February 2, 2011, Garcia filed a motion to amend his habeas corpus petition to add a sixth ground for relief. Garcia seeks relief because DNA evidence was not admitted at trial.

Specifically, Garcia argues that he was diagnosed with Hepatitis C in 1997 and that his "Hepatitus [sic] C virus can be contacted [sic] through bodily fluids" and the victim "does not have this same virus strain." Docket 14 at 2. Garcia contends that the DNA sample was not used as evidence, and if the DNA sample had been admitted into evidence during the trial, "this finding would and will exonerate" him. Docket 14 at 2. On February 18, 2011, Garcia's motion to amend was granted.

STANDARD OF REVIEW

Section 2254 of Title 28, as amended by the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act (AEDPA), governs a district court's authority to grant writs of habeas corpus to state prisoners. Section 2254 provides that a writ of habeas corpus should "not be granted with respect to any claim that was adjudicated on the merits in state court proceedings unless" the state court decision was "contrary to, or involved an unreasonable application of, clearly established Federal law, as determined by the Supreme Court of the United States" or unless the state court decision "was based on an unreasonable determination of the facts in light of the evidence presented. . . ." 28 U.S.C. § 2254(d). Under the AEDPA, it is not enough to find that the state court applied clearly established federal law erroneously or incorrectly--the application must also be unreasonable. Williams v. Taylor, 529 U.S. 362, 411 (2000) ("an unreasonable application is different from an incorrect one"). Thus, a federal court applies a deferential standard of review when assessing a state court's disposition of a state habeas petition. See Barnett v. Roper, 541 F.3d 804, 814 (8th Cir. 2008).

DISCUSSION I. Exhaustion

This court may not consider a claim for relief in a habeas corpus petition if the petitioner has not exhausted his state remedies. 28 U.S.C. § 2254(b). "The exhaustion requirement of § 2254(b) ensures that the state courts have the opportunity to fully consider federal-law challenges to a state custodial judgment before the lower federal courts may entertain a collateral attack upon that judgment." Duncan v. Walker, 533 U.S. 167, 178-79 (2001). "[T]he state prisoner must give the state courts an opportunity to act on his claims before he presents those claims to a federal court in a habeas petition." O'Sullivan v. Boerckel, 526 U.S. 838, 842 (1999). If a ground for relief in the petitioner's claim makes factual or legal arguments that were not present in the petitioner's state claim, then the ground is not exhausted. See Kenley v. Armontrout, ...


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