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Darrel W. Morris v. Randy Blades

March 8, 2011


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


Pending before the Court in this habeas corpus action is Respondent's Motion to Dismiss (Dkt. 13). Both parties have consented to the jurisdiction of a United States Magistrate Judge to enter final orders in this case. See 28 U.S.C. § 636(c) and Fed. R. Civ. P. 73.

Petitioner was provided with an extension of time through November 20, 2010 to file a response to the motion to dismiss. He has not done so in the several months since the extension of time was granted. Accordingly, the Court will reviewed the propriety of dismissal based upon the State's motion and briefing, the record in this matter, the state court record, and its own independent research. Having considered these items, the Court issues the following Order.


Petitioner was charged with felony eluding a police officer in the Fourth Judicial District Court in Ada County, Idaho in Case No. CR-MD-2008-0001589. He was also charged with felony DUI (two or more within the prior ten years) in Case No. CR-FE-2008-0007741. The cases were consolidated for purposes of pleading and sentence. (State's Lodging A-1, p. 32-35.)

On direct appeal, Petitioner presented the following issue: "Did the district court abuse its discretion when it imposed a unified sentence of five years with three years fixed upon Mr. Morris following his conviction for eluding, and a consecutive unified sentence of ten years, with three years fixed for his conviction of driving under the influence?" (State's Lodging D-3, p. 6.) Petitioner did not mention the United States Constitution or any federal law in his briefing. (State's Lodging D-3.) Petitioner's main argument on appeal was that the sentencing court abused its discretion under Idaho Code § 19-2523 when it declined to make findings about, and failed to consider, Petitioner's mental illness before it imposed a sentence. Petitioner further argued that the sentencing court abused its discretion by imposing excessive sentences. Petitioner conceded that the sentence was within statutory limits but relied on state case law for his argument that Petitioner's potential for rehabilitation as a mitigating factor was ignored by the sentencing court. (Id.) The Idaho Court of Appeals affirmed, without any mention of constitutional considerations. (State's Lodging D-6.) Petitioner's petition for review, based on state statute and case law, was denied by the Idaho Supreme Court. (State's Lodging D-9.)

Petitioner then filed his federal Habeas Corpus Petition. He brings four claims: (1) the trial court failed to "consider mandatory § 19-2523 factors regarding medically documented illness and functional impairments as a result of illnesses, recognized as well under [the ADA]" (Fifth Amendment); (2) ineffective assistance of trial counsel for allowing the trial court to fail to "address mandatory § 19-2523 requirements and not presenting medical authorities requested by Defendant," to show his medical and mental limitations as diagnosed in compliance with the ADA (Sixth Amendment); (3) the trial court denied him equal protection by not following mandatory legal standards applicable to sentencing as guaranteed under state and federal constitutions," in that Petitioner has "a disability which has been recognized by state and federal law, yet was intentionally denied by the court, orally, to be considered in sentencing, directly and purposely violating [his] rights" (Fourteenth Amendment); and (4) cruel and unusual punishment in violating I.C. § 19-2523, the ADA, and the Civil Rights Act (Eighth Amendment). (Dkt. 1, pp. 2-4.)


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).

Respondent contends that Petitioner's claims are procedurally defaulted because he failed to raise them as federal claims in the state courts. For the following reasons, the Court agrees that the claims are procedurally defaulted.

1. Standard of Law Governing Procedural Default

A federal habeas petitioner must first exhaust his state court remedies as to all of his constitutional claims before presenting them to the federal court. O'Sullivan v. Boerckel, 526 U.S. 838, 842 (1999). Unless a petitioner has exhausted his state court remedies relative to a particular claim, a federal district court may deny the claim on its merits, but it cannot otherwise grant relief on unexhausted claims. 28 U.S.C. § 2254(b). The petitioner can satisfy the exhaustion requirement by showing that (1) he has "fairly presented" his federal claim to the highest state court with jurisdiction to consider it, or (2) that he did not present the claim to the highest state court, but no state court remedy is available when he arrives in federal court (improper exhaustion). Johnson v. Zenon, 88 F.3d 828, 829 (9th Cir. 1996) (citations omitted).

To exhaust a habeas claim properly, a habeas petitioner must "invok[e] one complete round of the State's established appellate review process," O'Sullivan v. Boerckel, 526 U.S. at 845, giving the state courts a full and fair opportunity to correct the alleged constitutional error at each level of appellate review, see Baldwin v. Reese, 541 U.S. 27, 29 (2004). Improperly exhausted claims are deemed "procedurally defaulted." Procedurally defaulted claims include those within the following circumstances: (1) when a petitioner has completely failed to raise a particular claim before the Idaho courts; (2) when a petitioner has raised a claim, but has failed to fully and fairly present it as a federal claim to the Idaho courts; or (3) when the Idaho courts have rejected a claim on an independent and adequate state procedural ground.*fn1

If a petitioner's claim is procedurally defaulted, the federal district court cannot hear the merits of the claim unless a petitioner meets one of two exceptions: a showing of adequate legal cause for the default and prejudice arising from the default; or a showing of actual innocence, which means that a miscarriage of justice will occur if the claim is not heard in federal ...

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