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Jones v. Valdez

September 30, 2010

ROBERT RICHARD JONES, PETITIONER,
v.
PHILLIP VALDEZ, WARDEN, IDAHO CORRECTIONAL INSTITUTION; AND IDAHO ATTORNEY GENERAL, RESPONDENTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Honorable Mikel H. Williams United States Magistrate Judge

MEMORANDUM DECISION AND ORDER

Pending before the Court in this habeas corpus action is Respondent Philip Valdez's Motion for Partial Summary Dismissal. (Dkt. 11.) The Motion is now fully briefed. The parties have consented to the jurisdiction of a United States Magistrate Judge to enter final orders in this case. (Dkt. 7 & 13.) See 28 U.S.C. § 636(c) and Fed. R. Civ. P. 73.

Having fully reviewed the record, including the state court record, the Court finds that the parties have adequately presented the facts and legal arguments in the briefs and record and that the decisional process would not be significantly aided by oral argument. Therefore, in the interest of avoiding further delay, the Court shall decide this matter on the written motions, briefs, and record without oral argument. D. Idaho L. Civ. R. 7.1(d). Accordingly, the Court enters the following Order granting in part and denying in part the Motion to Dismiss.

BACKGROUND

In 1980, the State brought charges against Petitioner and Jose Alfonso Martinez (Martinez) for the murder of Troy Vance (Vance). In 1982, the charges were dismissed.

In 1989, Petitioner's former wife, Sherry Wystrach (Wystrach) came forward with new evidence. As a result, a grand jury issued an indictment against Jones charging him with the first degree murder of Vance.

Third Judicial District Judge Jim A. Doolittle presided over Petitioner's trial. A jury found Petitioner guilty of first degree murder. The State sought the death penalty, but the judge sentenced Petitioner to a fixed life term. Judgment was entered on June 24, 1991.

Through counsel, Petitioner pursued a motion for a new trial. It was denied by the state district court, and no appeal was taken. (A-2, pp. 587-92 & 601-04.)

Through counsel, Petitioner pursued a direct appeal challenging his conviction and sentence, where he did not obtain relief. (State's Lodgings B-1 through B-12.) While his appeal was pending, Petitioner's counsel filed a second motion for new trial. (C-1, pp. 21-31.) It was denied, and an appeal was taken. (D-1.) The denial of the motion was affirmed on appeal. (D-7.)

Petitioner later filed a pro se post-conviction application. He was appointed counsel, and his counsel filed an amended post-conviction application on Petitioner's behalf. The State filed a motion to dismiss, and Third Judicial District Judge Sergio A. Gutierrez issued an order conditionally dismissing the post-conviction relief application on April 29, 1999. In response, Petitioner's counsel filed a "bifurcated response and objection to the state's motion to dismiss and the court's notice of intent to dismiss summarily" on June 11, 1999. Petitioner's counsel simultaneously filed a motion to amend and a second amended application. (E-1 & E-2.)

Judge Gutierrez denied the motion to amend on May 29, 2001. (E-2, pp. 272-81.) No action was taken on Petitioner's bifurcated response and objection for over three years, and the case was closed for inactivity. On December 30, 2004, Petitioner filed a motion to re-open the case, which was granted, and then Third Judicial District Judge Juneal C. Kerrick issued a decision dismissing the case. (E-2, pp. 326-33.) The dismissal and denial were affirmed on appeal by the Idaho Court of Appeals. Petitioner's petition for review with the Idaho Supreme Court was denied. (F-1 through F-18.)

Petitioner subsequently filed this federal habeas corpus action, and Respondent filed a motion for partial summary dismissal, now at issue.

RESPONDENT'S MOTION TO DISMISS

Respondent filed a Motion to Dismiss requesting dismissal of Claims A(3)-(6) and B in Petitioner's Petition for Writ of Habeas Corpus based upon the conclusory nature of the claims. (Dkt. 4.) Respondent also requested dismissal of Claims A(2)-(4) and A(7), B, C, D, and E(1)-(4) and E(7) based upon the procedural default doctrine.After Respondent's Motion for Partial Summary Dismissal was filed, Petitioner filed an Amended Petition to attempt to cure some of the alleged defects in the original Petition.

In this Order, summary dismissal will be addressed in light of the Amended Petition, beginning with the procedural default inquiry.

1. Standard of Law Governing Summary Dismissal and Procedural Default

Rule 4 of the Rules Governing § 2254 Cases authorizes the Court to summarily dismiss a petition for writ of habeas corpus when "it plainly appears from the face of the petition and any exhibits annexed to it that the petitioner is not entitled to relief in the district court." In such case, the Court construes the facts in a light most favorable to the petitioner. It is appropriate for the Court to take judicial notice of court dockets from state court proceedings. Fed. R. Evid. 201(b); Dawson v Mahoney, 451 F.3d 550, 551 (9th Cir. 2006).

Habeas corpus law requires that a petitioner "exhaust" his state court remedies before pursuing a claim in a federal habeas petition. 28 U.S.C. § 2254(b). To exhaust a claim, a habeas petitioner must fairly present it as a federal claim to the highest state court for review in the manner prescribed by state law. See O'Sullivan v. Boerckel, 526 U.S. 838, 845 (1999). Unless a petitioner has exhausted his state court remedies relative to a particular claim, a federal district court cannot grant relief on that claim, although it does have the discretion to deny the claim. 28 U.S.C. § 2254(b)(2).

State remedies are considered technically exhausted, but not properly exhausted, if a petitioner failed to pursue a federal claim in state court and there are no remedies now available. O'Sullivan, 526 U.S. at 848. A claim may also be considered exhausted, though not properly exhausted, if a petitioner pursued a federal claim in state court, but the state court rejected the claim on an independent and adequate state law procedural ground. Coleman v. Thompson, 501 U.S. 722, 731-732 (1991). Under these circumstances, the claim is deemed "procedurally defaulted." Coleman, 501 U.S. at 731.

2. Discussion of Procedural Default Claim A(2)

Claim A(2) is that the prosecutor or his agents suppressed and destroyed evidence that Wystrach was cultivating and using marijuana during and subsequent to the trial. (Dkt. 19, p. 5.) In the state court proceedings, Petitioner arguably raised this issue as part of Claim XIX on direct appeal that "the prosecuting attorney's conduct from the investigative stage through the sentencing hearing constituted prosecutorial misconduct in violation of the appellant's constitutional rights" and that "the prosecuting attorney adduced or allowed testimony by Ms. Wystrack about not being involved with alcohol or drugs when he knew or should have known, that she was growing marijuana in her apartment . . . ." (B-1, pp. 68 & 71.) The claim was not addressed by the Idaho Supreme Court, but that fact does not affect "fair presentation." See O'Sullivan v. Boerckel, 526 U.S. 838, 844 (1999) ("Section 2254(c) requires only that state prisoners give state courts a fair opportunity to act on their claims."); Castille v. Peoples, 489 U.S. 346, 351 (1989) (when a claim is presented as a federal claim but ignored and therefore impliedly rejected by the state court, a claim has been "fairly presented"). Petitioner may proceed on this claim.

Claims A(3)

Claim A(3) is that "the prosecutor and/or his agents suppressed evidence that this same witness (Wystrach) was found to be intoxicated from both alcohol and drugs through the course of the trial and grand jury proceedings involving the petitioner." (Dkt. 19, p. 6.) The Court agrees with Respondent's argument that the claim ...


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