Roberto Sanchez v. Lorie Davis, Director

IN THE UNITED STATES COURT OF APPEALS FOR THE FIFTH CIRCUIT United States Court of Appeals No. 17-10652 Fifth Circuit FILED April 25, 2018 ROBERTO SANCHEZ, Lyle W. Cayce Clerk Petitioner-Appellant v. LORIE DAVIS, DIRECTOR, TEXAS DEPARTMENT OF CRIMINAL JUSTICE, CORRECTIONAL INSTITUTIONS DIVISION, Respondent-Appellee Appeal from the United States District Court for the Northern District of Texas O R D E R: After a heated exchange Roberto Sanchez stabbed Sergio Gonzalez in the chest, killing him. The jury convicted Sanchez of murder and sentenced him to 70 years in prison. In both his state and federal habeas petitions, Sanchez claimed his trial counsel was ineffective (1) for failing to object when the prosecution asked a witness whether Sanchez was legally present in the United States, which he wasn’t, and (2) for failing to present evidence to support theories of self-defense, defense of third persons, and necessity. The district court held that Sanchez was not entitled to habeas relief and denied a certificate of appealability (COA). Sanchez now seeks a COA on those two issues. No. 17-10652 I. To obtain a COA Sanchez must make “a substantial showing of the denial of a constitutional right.” 28 U.S.C. § 2253(c)(2); see Miller-El v. Cockrell, 537 U.S. 322, 336 (2003). That standard is satisfied if Sanchez shows “that jurists of reason could disagree with the district court’s resolution of his constitutional claims or that jurists could conclude the issues presented are adequate to deserve encouragement to proceed further.” Id. at 327. Whether there is room for disagreement over the district court’s ruling is viewed through the lens of AEDPA deference that a federal habeas court must apply to claims rejected on the merits in state court. Id. at 341 (asking “whether the District Court’s application of AEDPA deference . . . was debatable amongst jurists of reason”). That deference requires a habeas petitioner to establish that the state court decision was an unreasonable application of clearly established Supreme Court law. 28 U.S.C. § 2254(d)(1). So a COA should issue if reasonable federal judges could disagree over whether the state court acted unreasonably. For claims challenging the effectiveness of counsel, there is another layer of deference. The first part of establishing a Sixth Amendment violation is to show that representation “fell below an objective standard of reasonableness.” Strickland v. Washington, 466 U.S. 668, 687–88 (1984). In assessing counsel’s actions, courts must take account of the difficult strategic choices defense lawyers have to make in the pressure cooker of trial. Id. at 689. Applying AEDPA on top of the deference already built into Strickland’s effectiveness inquiry means that the review is “doubly deferential.” Cullen v. Pinholster, 563 U.S. 170, 190 (2011). If a petitioner can overcome these obstacles and show that counsel’s performance fell below constitutional standards, he must then show that there is a “reasonable probability that, but for counsel’s unprofessional errors, the result of the proceeding would have been different.” 2 No. 17-10652 Strickland, 466 U.S. at 694. There is no double deference ...

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