Recent Martinez-related rulings
Posted on: 6/10/2014 03:52:21 PM by Peoples
The Fifth Circuit (Dennis, with Smith and Haynes) denied a COA to Texas death row inmate Licho Escamilla on his argument that Martinez v. Ryan, 132 S.Ct. 1309 (2012) compelled the federal habeas court to consider evidence that was not presented in state habeas proceedings due to state habeas counsel’s ineffectiveness.  Escamilla v. Stephens, ___ F.3d ___, 2014 WL 1465361 (5th Cir. April 15, 2014).  The evidence at issue related to a claim of ineffective assistance of trial counsel (IAC) for failing to adequately investigate and present mitigating evidence, a claim the panel did  grant Escamilla a COA on.  The panel found that “Martinez does not apply to claims that were fully adjudicated on the merits by the state habeas courts because those claims are, by definition, not procedurally defaulted.”  In so ruling, the panel noted the distinction between the situation in this case and the one in Dickens v. Ryan, 740 F.3d 1302 (9th Cir. 2014) (en banc), where the Ninth Circuit ruled that new evidence could be considered in federal court if such evidence fundamentally altered the claim that was presented in state court.  Here, the new evidence did not fundamentally alter the IAC claim.  Instead, it merely provided additional support for the claim that was adjudicated by the state habeas court.  Therefore, Martinez was inapplicable and Pinholster’s limitation on evidence that can be considered in conducting the § 2254(d) analysis controlled.   See also Henderson v. Carpenter, 06–2050–STA–TMP, 2014 WL 1847925 (W.D. Tenn. May 8, 2014) (“Martinez does not allow Petitioner to circumvent Pinholster and allow consideration of evidence that was not developed and presented in the state courts.”)

On remand from the Fourth Circuit, the district court in Gray v. Davis, 1:11–cv–630 (AJT/TCB). (E.D. Va.) appointed independent habeas counsel to present, if available, potential claims of ineffective assistance of counsel in his state habeas proceedings that could excuse otherwise defaulted claims of ineffective assistance of trial counsel pursuant to Martinez.   The district court granted in part requests for funding for investigation and expert assistance and allowed independent counsel to file an amended petition with allegedly defaulted trial ineffectiveness claims.  On May 13, 2014, the district court issued an order explaining how it interpreted the analysis required under MartinezGray v. Davis, 2014 WL 2002132 (E.D. Va. May 13, 2014). Applying such analysis to a claim involving IAC in failing to develop and present evidence of Gray’s voluntary intoxication at the time of the crime, the district court concluded that the claim was not substantial.   The district court also found that Gray had failed to show prejudice from state habeas counsel’s failure to raise the claim before the Virginia Supreme Court.   A claim that state habeas counsel was ineffective in failing to present a claim of improper jury influence fell outside of Martinez.  Regarding Gray’s claim of IAC in presenting mitigation, the district court ruled that the claim was not procedurally defaulted as it had been presented and rejected in both the state habeas proceeding and the initial federal habeas proceedings.  (In denying relief on the claim, the district court had refused to consider evidence that had not been presented to the state court.)  Finally, as to Gray’s claim of prejudice from the combined errors by trial counsel, the district court stated: “As the Court has concluded that none of Gary's claims have merit, no cumulative analysis is necessary; and no cumulative analysis would therefore result in a finding of error or prejudice.”  Respondent’s motion to dismiss the amended petition was granted.

United States District Court Judge Barbara M.G. Lynn denied respondent’s motion to cancel a Martinez hearing but granted in part his request t to limit the scope of the hearing.  Garcia v. Stephens, 2014 WL 1494024 (N.D. Tex. April 15, 2014).  Judge Lynn reiterated her earlier ruling that the limitations of § 2254(e)(2) do not apply to procedural issues such as a determination of whether ineffective assistance by state habeas counsel provides cause to overcome a procedural default.  “In the event that a claim is found to come within the exception to bar, the Court ‘may’ consider the same evidence for another purpose, but that is a determination that has yet to be made.”