United States District Court, D. Maryland, Southern Division
J. HAZEL UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
Davilla petitions for a Writ of Habeas Corpus pursuant to 28
U.S.C. § 2254. ECF No. 1. Respondents filed an Answer
asserting, in part, that Petitioner's claims are
procedurally defaulted and therefore not subject to
substantive federal habeas corpus review. ECF No. 9; ECF No.
Petitioner Manuel Davilla filed a Reply, addressing the
allegation that his claims are procedurally defaulted. ECF
No. 11. The Reply asserts that Respondents neglected to file
his supplemental Application for Leave to Appeal the denial
of post-conviction relief which Davilla maintains was filed
with the Maryland Court of Special Appeals. ECF No. 12. The
supplemental pleading includes claims raised in the
post-conviction proceedings, but does not bear Davilla's
signature, and is not dated. ECF No. 12-2. This Court finds
that a hearing is not necessary to resolve the matters
pending in this case. For the following reasons, the Petition
is denied and a certificate of appealability shall not issue.
was tried before a jury in the Circuit Court for Montgomery
County on charges of attempted first degree murder, first
degree assault, carrying a deadly weapon with the intent to
injure, and three counts of misuse of a telephone in
connection with an assault on Sonia Calderon, his
ex-girlfriend. ECF No. 13- 1. Davilla stood trial January 14
through 18, 2008. ECF Nos. 13-2-13-6. On April 25, 2008,
Davilla was sentenced to an aggregate sentence of 40 years.
ECF No. 13-7 at 37-46.
Facts Produced at Trial
State produced evidence, mainly through the testimony of
Sonia Calderon, Carlos Mejias, Ms. Calderon's sons, and
two police officers, of the following facts. Ms. Calderon
testified that she and Davilla began dating in November of
2004 and after a brief break up in July of 2006, began dating
again in November 2006. ECF No. 13-3 at 86. Ms. Calderon
ended their relationship in January of 2007, but allowed Mr.
Davilla to remain in the apartment because he was unemployed
and had nowhere to live. Id. at 86-87. Also sharing
the apartment was Mr. Davilla's sister, Gloria Torres.
Id. at 87.
Davilla moved out of the apartment he shared with Ms.
Calderon and his sister, Gloria Torres, at the beginning of
March, 2007. ECF No. 13-3 at 88. According to Ms.
Calderon's testimony, she did not see him after he moved
out, but he called on the phone stating he wanted to come
back; she said these calls increased from two to three times
a week to calls all day long by March 14, 2007. Id.
at 88-89. Mr. Davilla called Ms. Calderon continuously on
March 14, 2007 because he had seen her with Carlos Mejias.
Id. at 90-91. Ms. Calderon twice told Mr. Davilla
she did not want to speak to him, and then simply turned off
her phone to avoid hearing the calls come in. Id.
the defense counsel's continuing objection (see
ECF No. 13-3 at 92-112; 161-62), Ms. Calderon testified that
Mr. Davilla came to her apartment on March 14, 2007, where he
confronted Ms. Calderon and Mr. Mejias about the nature of
their relationship. ECF No. 13-3 at 168-69. Ms. Calderon
testified that she and Mr. Mejias denied they were involved
romantically, but Mr. Davilla appeared agitated. The
conversation took place on the deck outside of the
apartment's kitchen; Mr. Davilla went into the kitchen
and Ms. Calderon observed him approaching Mr. Mejias, whose
back was to the sliding glass door, with a knife. Mr. Mejias
talked Mr. Davilla out of using the knife to hurt Mr. Mejias.
Id. at 171-75, see also ECF No. 13-5 at
16-18 (testimony of Carlos Mejias). Gloria Torres had let Mr.
Davilla into the apartment on that day. Id. at 176.
following day, March 15, 2007, Ms. Calderon was going to work
to return supplies given to her for her house-cleaning job
when she saw Mr. Davilla driving his truck nearby and,
subsequently, parked across the street when she was leaving
to return home. ECF No. 13-3 at 198-200. Concerned, Ms.
Calderon called one of her adult sons to ask that he convince
Mr. Davilla to leave her alone. Id. at 201. Mr.
Davilla then called Ms. Calderon while she was driving home
and asked her what time she would be home because he had
neglected to take some of his property from the apartment
when he moved out. Id. Ms. Calderon informed him
that she was going to the store before returning home.
Id. Before going into the apartment, Ms. Calderon
called her son to ask him to come over and called Gloria
Torres to confirm that she was in the apartment. Id.
at 202. Because Ms. Torres was in the apartment, Ms. Calderon
felt it was safe to go inside with Mr. Davilla there.
Id. at 203. As Ms. Calderon and Mr. Davilla were
walking into the apartment she noticed that Mr. Davilla was
carrying a black bag with a can in it. Id. When
asked, Mr. Davilla claimed the items in the bag belonged to
Ms. Calderon's sons with whom he had worked on occasion.
Id. at 205. Through Ms. Calderon's testimony,
the State introduced a can of paint thinner that looked
similar to the one Mr. Davilla was carrying that day into
evidence, but after defense counsel objected, the label
indicating that it was paint thinner was obscured from the
jury's view. Id. at 207-13.
inside the apartment, Ms. Calderon testified that Mr. Davilla
put the can down on the floor and removed “some kind of
rope” from the bag. Id. at 214. She stated
that he kept the black bag in his hand as he walked back
toward her bedroom. Id. at 215. Ms. Calderon
followed him and asked Mr. Davilla why he was going to the
bedroom as he had no right to do so. Id. at 216. She
stated that Mr. Davilla replied that he did have that right
and that he squatted down to remove something from the bag,
grabbed Ms. Calderon by the arm, and began trying to pull her
into the bedroom. Id. In a defensive move, Ms.
Calderon bent over to prevent Mr. Davilla from pulling her
into the bedroom. Id. at 217. As she did so, Mr.
Davilla hit her on the head with the object he had removed
from the bag. Id. Ms. Calderon screamed for Ms.
Torres to call the police because Mr. Davilla was hitting
her. Id. Ms. Torres came out of her bedroom and Ms.
Calderon went into that room, and closed the door to escape
Mr. Davilla. Id. at 218. As she waited, Ms. Calderon
felt the blood from her wound begin to come down onto her
face. Id. at 219.
convinced that Mr. Davilla had left, Ms. Calderon opened the
door and saw Ms. Torres. ECF No. 13-3 at 220-21. Ms. Torres
provided a compress to Ms. Calderon to apply to the wound to
her head, but did not comply with Ms. Calderon's request
to call the police. Id. at 224-25. Ms.
Calderon's cell phone was in another area of the
apartment, but after she looked at her head wound in the
mirror and saw that it was very deep, she retrieved her phone
and called her son who was on his way to the apartment.
Id. at 225-26. She changed her shirt before going to
the hospital because the one she was wearing was soaked in
blood; the blood-soaked shirt was gone from the apartment
when she returned later. Id. at 232-33. Ms. Calderon
did not call the police because she was undocumented and
afraid that she would face immigration consequences.
Id. at 233.
Calderon testified that when she arrived at the hospital
medical staff administered anesthesia, cauterized a vein, and
closed the wound to her head with staples and sutures. ECF
No. 13-3 at 245. Over objection by defense counsel, pictures
of Ms. Calderon's wound were entered into evidence
despite their graphic nature as the defense intended to argue
that her wound was self-inflicted. Id. at 245-51.
Additional photographs taken of Ms. Calderon's injuries
five days after the assault at a crisis center were
introduced through her testimony. ECF No. 13-4 at 6-10. The
additional photographs depicted bruises in the shape of a
hand to Ms. Calderon's arm, id. at 9; bruising
to her shoulders, id. at 10; and a picture of
bruising and swelling to her face, id. at 11-12.
March 20, 2007, Mr. Davilla left Ms. Calderon eighteen phone
messages, which were authenticated through Ms. Calderon and
played for the jury. ECF No. 13-4 at 14-16. The transcript of
Ms. Calderon's testimony does not provide the content of
examination of Ms. Calderon focused on her credibility. She
lied on her applications for employment and to obtain a
Maryland state identification card regarding both her name
and her immigration status. ECF No. 13-4 at 55-59. At a
hearing outside the presence of the jury, the State objected
to defense counsel's anticipated questions indicating
that Ms. Calderon was a drug dealer in Guatemala prior to
coming to this country. Id. at 74-76. During that
hearing, the State developed that Ms. Calderon's husband
went to prison for dealing drugs in Guatemala before she came
to the United States. Id. at 76. Ms. Calderon denied
fleeing prosecution for offenses similar to her husband's
and denied transporting drugs between Guatemala and the
United States or Mexico. Id. at 76-78. The court
then sustained the State's objection to the line of
questioning. Id. at 78. Defense counsel also focused
on Ms. Calderon's failure to call the police and her
delay in applying for an order of protection as well as the
alleged promise that her immigration status would be changed
to legal status if she pursued and cooperated in charges
against Mr. Davilla. Id. at 97-141.
Mejias testified for the State and provided an account of the
events occurring on March 14, 2007, consistent with Ms.
Calderon's testimony. ECF No. 13-5 at 5-17. Mr. Mejias
also testified that Ms. Calderon called him from the hospital
on March 15, 2007, and that he went with her to the police
station to assist in filing a complaint against Mr. Davilla.
Id. at 20-21. Mr. Mejias acted as an interpreter and
wrote in English what Ms. Calderon told him in Spanish.
Id. at 23.
Cardillo Calderon (Nicholas Cardillo), one of Ms.
Calderon's two adult sons, testified for the State. He
verified that on March 15, 2007, Ms. Calderon called him to
say that Mr. Davilla was at her work place and from the
parking lot of her apartment complex asked him to come there
quickly so he could speak with Mr. Davilla. ECF No. 13-5 at
42-44. During the call from the apartment complex parking
lot, Nicholas Cardillo related that his mother told him she
was going into the apartment because Gloria Torres was
inside. Id. at 45. The third phone call he received
from his mother was after she had been hit. Id.
Cardillo also testified that he never kept any work supplies
at his mother's apartment and that there would be no
reason why Mr. Davilla would bring rope to the apartment for
him to use at work. ECF No. 13-5 at 51-53. While he was at
the police station with his mother, Nicholas testified that
Mr. Davilla messaged him indicating he wanted Nicholas to
call him so he could explain his side of the story.
Id. at 54. Nicholas testified that he called Mr.
Davilla because his mother had asked him to in the hope
Nicholas could convince Mr. Davilla to leave her alone.
Id. at 56. When Nicholas spoke to Mr. Davilla, Mr.
Davilla said that he was going to hit Ms. Calderon until she
couldn't take it anymore; tie her up; pour paint thinner
on her body and burn her because she deserved it.
Id. Mr. Davilla told Nicholas he planned to take
these same actions against Mr. Mejias before then castrating
Mr. Mejias, forcing Ms. Calderon to eat the genitals, and
then killing them both. Id. at 57-62. Mr. Davilla
further explained to Nicholas Cardillo that on March 15,
2007, his plan to beat Ms. Calderon, tie her up, and burn
her, was thwarted because Ms. Calderon ran off and Gloria
Torres stopped him. Id. at 65-67. Cross-examination
of Nicholas Cardillo focused on bias in favor of his mother.
Id. at 67-80.
Calderon's other adult son, Rafael Cardillo, also
testified for the State. During his testimony he recalled
seeing a can, similar to that introduced as demonstrative
evidence during his mother's testimony, inside his
mother's apartment on March 15, 2007. ECF No. 13-5 at
86-89. Rafael also stated that he works as a painter and that
cans similar to the one he saw contain paint thinner.
Id. at 89. He also confirmed that he did not keep
work materials at his mother's apartment. Id. at
final two witnesses for the State were police officers for
Montgomery County. Detective Karen Carvajal testified that
her limited involvement in the case came about because she
works in the Family Crimes Unit and is a certified Spanish
language interpreter. ECF No. 13-5 at 104-09. Detective
Carvajal translated Ms. Calderon's account of what had
occurred for Detective Anthony Chuckeral and confirmed that
Ms. Calderon reported that Mr. Davilla grabbed something out
of the bag and hit her with it. Id. at 112.
Detective Chuckeral also testified, but provided no
additional evidence that differed from what had already been
produced. Id. at 120-31.
only witness to testify during the defense's
case-in-chief was Gloria Torres, Mr. Davilla's sister.
ECF No. 13-5 at 144-51. Ms. Torres testified on direct
examination that she was in the kitchen of the apartment when
Ms. Calderon and Mr. Davilla entered the apartment together
on March 15, 2007. Id. at 146-47. She claimed that
the two of them walked back to Ms. Calderon's bedroom
“very calmly” and that no one screamed while the
two were in that area of the apartment. Id. She
further claimed that Ms. Calderon came back into the kitchen
where Ms. Torres was and that she did not have any blood on
her. Id. Then Ms. Torres testified that Ms. Calderon
went into Ms. Torres's bedroom and Ms. Torres heard a
noise like someone had bumped into something; she claimed Ms.
Calderon stayed in her bedroom for ten minutes. Id.
After her brother left, Ms. Torres said that Ms. Calderon
came into the kitchen and Ms. Torres observed “a little
thread of blood” on her forehead. Id. at 148.
Ms. Torres claimed there was a lot of furniture in the
hallway and that she saw Ms. Calderon on the floor, picking
herself up after falling down. Id. at 149-50.
Torres's testimony did not hold up to cross-examination.
ECF No. 13-5 at 151-70. The State established that if Ms.
Torres had been standing in the kitchen she could not see the
door into the apartment (id. at 153) and that in her
statement to police, she said she was in her bedroom when her
brother and Ms. Calderon entered the apartment. Id.
at 159-70. Ms. Torres was so upset after the State
discredited her on cross-examination that defense counsel
described her as “freaking out, ” and the court
discussed whether she required medical treatment. ECF No.
13-5 at 172-73. During sentencing, the court referred to Ms.
Torres' testimony as “preposterous”, ECF No.
13-7 at 28, and commented that there was “a lot of
evidence” to support a perjury charge, id. at
41. During closing argument, defense counsel conceded that
Ms. Torres' testimony “was disastrous.” ECF
No. 13-6 at 72.
filed a direct appeal of his conviction asserting that it was
error for the trial court to deny a motion to sever and it
was error for the trial court to admit other crimes evidence
regarding an alleged assault that occurred against a
different individual on the day before the Calderon assault.
ECF No. 13-8 (brief of appellant). On January 6, 2010, in an
unreported opinion, the Maryland Court of Special Appeals
affirmed Davilla's conviction. ECF No. 13-10 (opinion and
mandate). Davilla did not seek certiorari ...