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Sanchez v. Ryan

United States District Court, D. Arizona

July 6, 2017

Christian Alberto Sanchez, Petitioner,
v.
Charles L. Ryan; et al., Respondents.

          ORDER

          Leslie A. Bowman United States Magistrate Judge.

         Pending before the court is a petition for writ of habeas corpus filed on November 28, 2016, by Christian Alberto Sanchez pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254. (Doc. 1) Sanchez is currently incarcerated in the Arizona State Prison Complex in Florence, Arizona. Id.

         Magistrate Judge Bowman presides over this case pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(c). (Doc. 25)

         The court finds that trial counsel did not render ineffective assistance at the Rule 404 hearing or at trial. Sanchez's due process claim is procedurally defaulted.

         Summary of the Case

         Sanchez was convicted after a jury trial of “one count of molestation of a child, three counts of sexual abuse of a minor under fifteen, and one count of sexual conduct with a minor under fifteen.” (Doc. 14, pp, 3-4) The trial court sentenced Sanchez to an aggregate term of imprisonment of thirty-seven years. (Doc. 14, p. 4)

         At trial, the state introduced evidence that Sanchez sexually abused R.H., the daughter of Sanchez's girlfriend, Shauna Fabian. (Doc. 1, p. 8); (Doc. 18-6, p. 3) The state also introduced “other-act” evidence pursuant to Ariz.R.Evid. 404(c) that Sanchez previously had sexually abused E.R., the daughter of Sanchez's ex-wife, Valerie Villa. (Doc. 1, p. 8); (Doc. 14, p. 5); (Doc. 16, p. 41)

         On direct appeal, Sanchez argued that the trial court “abused its discretion when it allowed other-act evidence from a witness it found not to be credible.” (Doc. 14, p. 5) He also argued that his sentence contained an erroneous twenty-dollar time payment fee. (Doc. 14, p. 7) The Arizona Court of Appeals affirmed his convictions but amended the sentencing order by vacating the time payment fee. (Doc. 14, p. 8) The Arizona Supreme Court denied his petition for review on June 6, 2012. (Doc. 14-10, p. 2)

         On September 20, 2012, Sanchez filed a notice of post-conviction relief (PCR). (Doc. 14, p. 95) He argued trial counsel was ineffective for (1) failing to call a child-memory expert at the Rule 404 hearing and at trial and (2) failing to call certain fact witnesses: (a) Valerie Villa, the mother of the other-acts victim, E.R.; (b) Gerardo Belford, Sanchez's brother; and (c) Danelle Barnett, Sanchez's former girlfriend. (Doc. 16, p. 41) The PCR court conducted an evidentiary hearing where it heard testimony from a forensic psychologist, Paul Simpson, and the trial counsel, Kevin Burke. The PCR court denied the petition on the merits on August 7, 2014. (Doc. 16, pp. 41-45) On March 16, 2015, the Arizona Court of Appeals granted review but denied relief adopting the PRC court's reasoning. (Doc. 16, pp. 72-74) The Arizona Supreme Court denied Sanchez's petition for review on December 1, 2015. (Doc. 16-9, p. 2)

         On November 28, 2016, Sanchez filed the pending petition for writ of habeas corpus pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254. (Doc. 1) He claims (1) trial counsel was ineffective because (a) Valerie Villa should have been called as a witness at the other-acts hearing, (b) Garardo Belford, Sanchez's brother, should have been called to testify that E.R. made “ludicrous” allegations against him, (c) Danelle Barnett should have been called to testify about Villa's unsavory character and her animosity toward Sanchez, and (d) Paul Simpson, forensic psychologist, should have been called to rebut testimony offered by the state's expert, Wendy Dutton. (Doc. 1) He further claims (2) his rights to “due process of law” and “a fair trial” pursuant to “Amendments 5, 6, and 14 of the U.S. Constitution” were violated when the court admitted “other-act” evidence and testimony from the state's expert, Wendy Dutton. (Doc. 1, p. 46)

         The respondents filed an answer in which they argue that Sanchez's due process/fair trial claim is procedurally defaulted while his ineffective assistance claim should be denied on the merits. (Doc. 13) Sanchez filed a reply on May 25, 2017. (Doc. 22)

         Standard of Review

         The writ of habeas corpus affords relief to persons in custody in violation of the Constitution or laws or treaties of the United States. 28 U.S.C. § 2254(a). If the petitioner is in custody pursuant to the judgment of a state court, the writ will not be granted unless prior adjudication of the claim -

(1) resulted in a decision that was contrary to, or involved an unreasonable application of, clearly established Federal law, as determined by the Supreme Court of the United States; 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). The petitioner must shoulder an additional burden if the state court made findings of fact.

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 ...

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