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Certificate of appealability denied; habeas petitioner failed to make substantial showing of denial of constitutional right

Humberto Sanchez-Rengifo v. J.F. Caraway, 7th Circuit Court of Appeals Case No. 14-2876, 8/14/15

Sanchez-Rengifo sought relief from his conviction for sexual assault by filing a habeas petition under 28 U.S.C. § 2241 arguing the evidence was insufficient to prove his guilt. The district court dismissed the petition on the grounds that the petition should have been filed under 28 U.S.C. § 2255 unless that route is “inadequate or ineffective to test the legality of his detention”—a showing Sanchez-Rengifo failed to make. Though the district court applied the wrong statute, it doesn’t matter because Sanchez-Rengifo hasn’t met the standard for getting a certificate of appealability.

As we have noted earlier, “[a] court may grant a certificate if the applicant makes a ‘substantial showing of the denial of a constitutional right.’” Arredondo v. Huibregtse, 542 F.3d 1155, 1165 (7th Cir. 2008) (quoting 28 U.S.C. § 2253(c)(2)). We have explained that “[a]n applicant has made a ‘substantial showing’ where ‘reasonable jurists could debate whether (or, for that matter, agree that) the petition should have been resolved in a different manner or that the issues presented were “adequate to deserve encouragement to proceed further.”’” Id. (quoting Slack v. McDaniel, 529 U.S. 473, 484 (2000)). ….

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When we turn to Mr. Sanchez-Rengifo’s substantive contentions in his brief, we cannot find a substantial constitutional question upon which to premise the grant of a certificate of appealability. He argues that his conviction violated the Due Process Clause because there was no DNA evidence to corroborate the victim’s unreliable identification of him as the perpetrator. We have held, however, that “[c]redible testimony of one identification witness is sufficient to support a conviction.” United States ex rel. Wandick v. Chrans, 869 F.2d 1084, 1089 (7th Cir. 1989). The jury was entitled to believe the victim even in the absence of conclusive physical evidence. (Slip op. at 7, 8-9).

Nor can a certificate of appealability be based on a claim that police used a suggestive “show up” identification procedure, as there is no evidence they did, or a claim that his conviction violated the Double Jeopardy Clause because it involved multiple offenses committed during one course of conduct. (Slip op. at 9-14).

The district court erroneously treated Sanchez-Rengifo to be a federal prisoner governed by § 2255 because he is in a federal prison in Indiana; but he’s serving a sentence for convictions from the District of Columbia, and he’s therefore considered a “state” prisoner for purposes of federal habeas review and must secure a certificate of appealability. (Slip op. at 6).

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