United States District Court, D. New Jersey
JESUS A. ARAIZA-AVILA, Petitioner,
WARDEN OF NEW JERSEY STATE PRISON Respondent.
A. Araiza-Avila New Jersey State Prison, Petitioner pro se.
Jennifer L. Bentzel Burlington County Prosecutor's Office
New Courts Facility Counsel for Respondents.
L. HILLMAN, DISTRICT JUDGE.
Jesus A. Araiza-Avila ("Petitioner"), a prisoner
presently incarcerated at New Jersey State Prison in Trenton,
New Jersey has filed a petition for a Writ of Habeas Corpus
pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254 (the "Petition").
(ECF No. 1.) By order of the Court, (ECF No. 2), Respondent
the Warden of New Jersey State Prison
("Respondent") filed an answer to the Petition (the
"Answer"), (ECF No. 8). Petitioner filed a reply to
the Answer (the "Reply"). (ECF No. 9.) The Petition
is ripe for disposition. For the reasons stated below, the
Petition will be denied.
Jersey Superior Court, Appellate Division set forth the facts
underlying Petitioner's conviction, as established at a
jury trial, as follows:
The State's evidence revealed the following facts.
Defendant and Autumn Moyer lived together and had a baby
girl. Their relationship ended and Moyer began another
relationship with Gilbert Parra. On August 31, 2007, in a
telephone conversation, defendant threatened to assault
Moyer. Parra then took the phone from Moyer and told
defendant that his child referred to Parra as
"daddy" now. During the early morning hours of
September 1, 2007, defendant and his uncle went to the house
of Moyer's family. Defendant called and spoke to
Moyer's sister. He asked her to come outside. She
complied, but upon seeing defendant, ran back into the house
and told her sister and Parra of defendant's presence in
front of her home.
Parra and Moyer then went outside. Shortly thereafter, both
were shot. Parra was killed and Moyer was shot in the ankle.
Immediately after the shootings, Moyer told her family
"Chaparro shot me" and "He shot me, he shot
Gilbert, why did he shoot us, why did he shoot me?"
Moyer testified at trial that defendant ran from the bushes
and shot Parra first. He then told her in Spanish that it was
her turn before shooting her in the ankle. She also testified
about prior threats made against her by defendant. Shortly
after the shootings, police stopped a pick-up truck in which
defendant and his uncle were traveling with two other
individuals. The uncle was bare-chested and appeared
intoxicated. Defendant was wearing a green shirt. Police
later found a pair of gloves and a .38 caliber revolver
containing six spent cartridges in the truck. Forensic
investigation revealed that the gun fired the bullets that
killed Parra. No. fingerprints were found on the gun, but
defendant's DNA was found on the gloves. Defendant's
cell phone records indicated he called the victim's
residence fourteen times that night.
Moyer's brother, Jonathan, testified that defendant's
uncle, Rafael Nava-Avila, who appeared intoxicated, had
knocked on their door and asked for a beer. Jonathan sent him
away. Shortly thereafter, Parra was killed. Assuming it to be
true, Jonathan told the police that Nava-Avila had killed
State v. Araiza-Nava-Avila, Indictment No.
07-11-1631, 2012 WL 1231888, at *1 ( N.J.Super.Ct.App.Div.
Apr. 13, 2012) (footnote omitted).
defense, Petitioner presented testimony from one of
Moyer's neighbors, who observed some men around the house
and heard gunshots around 3:00 a.m. Id. While the
neighbor had originally told police that the shooter was
wearing a white shirt, he testified at trial that he recalled
the shooter to have worn a green shirt. Id.
Petitioner also called Detective Jayson Abadia of the
Burlington County Prosecutor's Office, who had
interviewed Nava-Avila on the day of the shooting.
Id. at *2. In response to questioning by defense
counsel, "Abadia testified to learning later in the
investigation that Jonathan had stated Nava-Avila was the
shooter. Abadia testified: "But what occurred that
night, the information that was related that evening, we were
confident based on the investigation that the defendant was
the trigger man, was the shooter." Id.
Defendant did not testify on his own behalf and maintained
throughout trial that Nava-Avila was the shooter.
jury convicted Petitioner of first-degree murder, N.J. Stat.
Ann. § 2C:11-3(a)(1), (2), and second-degree aggravated
assault, N.J. Stat. Ann. § 2C:12-1(b)(1). (ECF No. 8-8.)
Petitioner was sentenced to a 30-year prison term on the
murder conviction, with a 30-year mandatory minimum; and a
5-year prison term on the aggravated assault conviction,
subject to the No. Early Release Act, N.J. Stat. Ann. §
2C:43-7. (ECF No. 8-8.)
filed an appeal of his conviction and sentence to the
Appellate Division. (ECF No. 8-14.) In an unpublished,
per curiam decision, issued on April 13, 2012, the
Appellate Division affirmed Petitioner's conviction and
sentence. Araiza-Nava-Avila, 2012 WL 1231888.
Petitioner then filed a petition for certification to the New
Jersey Supreme Court, which was denied on October 25, 2012.
State v. Araiza-Nava-Avila, 54 A.3d 811 (N.J. 2012)
Petitioner filed a petition for post-conviction relief (the
"PCR Petition") in the Superior Court of New
Jersey, Law Division. (ECF No. 8-24.) Petitioner raised one
claim in the PCR Petitioner: that his counsel was ineffective
for failing to provide copies of discovery that had been
translated into Spanish for Petitioner. (ECF No. 8-25, at
9-10.) The PCR Petition was denied without an evidentiary
hearing. (ECF No. 8- 27.) Petitioner appealed that decision
to the Appellate Division, which affirmed the decision of the
PCR Court in an unpublished opinion dated June 23, 2015.
See State v. Araiza- Avila, A-3148-13T3,
2015 WL 3843509 ( N.J.Super.Ct.App.Div. June 23, 2015). The
Supreme Court denied certification on June 3, 2016. State
v. Araiza-Avila, 141 A.3d 297 (N.J. 2016).
about July 1, 2016, Petitioner filed the instant Petition
seeking relief pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254. (ECF No 1.)
In the Petition, Petitioner raises five claims for relief:
Ground One: The Court ordered sequential deliberations which
effectively prevented the jury's consideration of
Ground Two: The Court erred in admitting prior threats
allegedly made by the Defendant because they were highly
prejudicial and should have been excluded under rule 403.
Ground Three: The Defendant was denied a fair trial when the
court failed, sua sponte, to strike the testimony of
Detective Abadia in which he stated that the defendant was
guilty of the shooting.
Ground Four: The Court failed to instruct the jury on the
inherent unreliability of oral statements allegedly made by
Ground Five: Trial counsel was ineffective for failing to
provide [a] translator translated copy of
(ECF No. 1, at 5-9.) Respondent filed an Answer in which he
argues that Petitioner has failed to state a claim upon which
habeas relief may be granted. (ECF No. 8, at 41-44.)
Petitioner filed a timely Reply. (ECF No. 9.)
was advised of his rights pursuant to Mason v.
Meyers, 208 F.3d 414 (3d Cir. 2000). (ECF No. 10).
Petitioner has advised the Court that he would like the
Petition to be ruled on as filed. (ECF No. 11.)
STANDARD OF REVIEW
petition for writ of habeas corpus pursuant to 28 U.S.C.
§ 2254 is the proper mechanism for a state prisoner to
challenge the fact or duration of his confinement where the
petitioner claims his custody is in violation of the
Constitution or the laws of the United States. See
28 U.S.C. § 2254(a); Cullen v. Pinholster, 563
U.S. 170, 181 (2011); Preiser v. Rodriguez, 411 U.S.
475, 498-99 (1973). A habeas petitioner bears the burden of
establishing his entitlement to relief for each claim
presented in the petition. See Harrington v.
Richter, 62 U.S. 86');">562 U.S. 86, 98 (2011).
standard used in reviewing habeas claims under § 2254
depends on whether those claims have been adjudicated on the
merits by the state court. If they have not been adjudicated
on the merits, the Court reviews de novo both legal questions
and mixed factual and legal questions. See Appel v.
Horn, 250 F.3d 203, 210 (3d Cir. 2001). If the state
court adjudicated the claim on the merits, then 2254(d)
limits the review of the state court's decision as
An application for a writ of habeas corpus on behalf of a
person in custody pursuant to the judgment of a State court
shall not be granted with respect to any claim that was
adjudicated on the merits in State court proceedings unless
the 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;
(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 statute is clear. If a claim
has been adjudicated on the merits in state court,
this Court has "no authority to issue the writ of habeas
corpus unless the [state court's] 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 'was based on an
unreasonable determination of the facts in light of the
evidence presented in ...