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Flores v. Holloway

United States District Court, M.D. Tennessee, Nashville Division

January 26, 2018

TRINIDAD MARTINEZ FLORES, # 435145, Petitioner,
v.
WARDEN JAMES HOLLOWAY, Respondent.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          WAVERLY D. CRENSHAW, JR. CHIEF UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         The Respondent has filed a Motion to Strike (Doc. No. 27), to which the Petitioner has responded in opposition (Doc. No. 30).

         I. Introduction

         On February 1, 2017, Petitioner Trinidad Martinez Flores filed a pro se petition under 28 U.S.C. § 2254 for a writ of habeas corpus challenging his 2011 conviction and sentence for conspiracy to sell more than three hundred pounds of marijuana, conspiracy to commit money laundering, possession with intent to deliver three hundred pounds of marijuana, and using proceeds from the sale of marijuana for which he currently is serving a term of imprisonment of fifty-six (56) years with in the Tennessee Department of Correction. (Doc. No. 1). The Petitioner raises the following grounds for federal habeas relief:

1. The State introduced insufficient evidence at trial for a rational factfinder to find the Petitioner guilty beyond a reasonable doubt of his crimes (Id. at 3-4);
2. The state criminal court committed plain error by not recusing itself, violating the Petitioner's federal due process right (Id. at 5);
3. The criminal court erred by sentencing the Petitioner to consecutive sentences (Id. at 6);
4. The Petitioner received ineffective assistance of trial counsel when counsel failed to review discovery with him and to adequately prepare him for trial (Id. at 7-8);
5. The Petitioner's trial counsel was ineffective for failing to move for suppression based on two alleged suppressible issues. (Id. at 8-10.)

         By Order entered on March 3, 2017, the Court conducted a preliminary review of the petition and found that the Petitioner had stated at least one colorable claim for relief. (Doc. No. 7 at 1). The Court ordered the Respondent to file an answer, plead or otherwise respond to the petition. (Doc. No. 7). The Respondent filed his response on April 24, 2017, contending that the Petitioner is not entitled to federal habeas relief. (Doc. No. 20). Specifically, the Respondent contends that the state appellate court's opinions regarding the Petitioner's sufficiency arguments alleged in Ground One do not contradict or unreasonably apply clearly established federal law; the Petitioner has procedurally defaulted Grounds Two and Three and has failed to plead any legally sufficient reason to excuse these defaults; Ground Four is without merit because the Court of Criminal Appeals' decision does not contradict or unreasonably apply clearly established federal law; and both Strickland claims alleged in Ground Five are procedurally defaulted and the Petitioner fails to plead legally sufficient cause pursuant to Martinez v. Ryan, 566 U.S. 1 (2012), to excuse these defaults. (Doc. No. 20 at 1-2). Therefore, according to the Respondent, the petition should be dismissed with prejudice. (Id. at 2).

         By Order and accompanying Memorandum entered on June 29, 2017, the Court denied the Petitioner's motions seeking the appointment of counsel, motion for status conference, and motion for discovery. (Doc. Nos. 24 and 25). With regard to the Petitioner's motion for discovery, the Court found that the Petitioner had failed to meet his burden of showing that he is entitled to discovery of files of unspecified “investigative agencies;” the Petitioner's request was too vague and did not explain how the requested discovery is materially related to a claim or claims raised in his habeas petition and/or how the requested discovery is likely to resolve any factual disputes that could entitle the Petitioner to relief. (Doc. No. 25 at 5). Regarding the Petitioner's request for discovery of trial and appellate counsels' files, the Court found that the Petitioner likewise had not met his burden. (Id. at 6).

         Subsequently, the Petitioner filed a Notice of Filing (Doc. No. 26), entering a disk containing an audio recording of the Petitioner's preliminary hearing into the record. The Respondent filed a timely Motion to Strike the Petitioner's Notice of Filing (Doc. No. 27), which the Respondent construes as a renewed motion for discovery or, alternatively, as a motion to expand the record pursuant to Rules 6 and 7 of the Rules Governing Section 2254 Cases in the United States District Courts. (Id., Attach. 1 at 1). The Respondent moves to strike the Petitioner's Notice and its attachment on the grounds that the Petitioner fails to satisfy the governing standards of Rules 6 and 7 to warrant his submission's incorporation into the record. (Id.)

         II. Analysis

         Habeas petitioners do not have an automatic right to discovery. See Johnson v. Mitchell, 585 F.3d 923, 924 (6th Cir. 2009). Discovery in habeas cases is controlled by Rule 6(a) of the Rules Governing Section 2254 Cases in the United States District Courts, which states in pertinent part that “[a] judge may, for good cause, authorize a party to conduct discovery under the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure and may limit the extent of discovery.” R. 6(a), Rules Gov'g § 2254 Cases. “Good cause” is not demonstrated by “bald assertions” or “conclusory allegations.” Stanford v. Parker, 266 F.3d 442, 460 (6th Cir. 2001). Rather, the requested discovery must be materially related to claims raised in the habeas petition and likely to “resolve any factual disputes that could entitle [the petitioner] to relief.” Williams v. Bagley, 380 F.3d 932, 975 (6th Cir. 2004) (internal quotations omitted) (citing Bracy v. ...


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