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Autumn Pauls v. Brent Reinke

March 14, 2011


The opinion of the court was delivered by: U. S. District Judge Honorable Edward J. Lodge


Currently pending in this habeas corpus matter is Respondent's Motion for Summary Judgment. (Dkt. 28.) The Court finds that the decisional process will not be aided by oral argument, and it shall resolve this matter on the parties' written submissions and the record. D. Idaho L. Civ. R. 7.1(d). For the reasons set forth more fully below, Respondent's Motion will be granted, and this case will be dismissed with prejudice.


In September 1999, Petitioner, who was then 15 years old, assisted her aunt in killing the girlfriend of her aunt's estranged husband. (State's Lodging B-1, p. 1.) The State charged Petitioner with first degree murder and conspiracy to commit murder, and it notified Petitioner that it intended to seek the death penalty. (State's Lodging A-1, pp. 42-45, 47.) Before trial, Petitioner entered a guilty plea to one count of first degree murder in exchange for the State's agreement to dismiss the conspiracy charge, recommended a life sentence with a 15-year fixed portion, and to recommend further that Petitioner serve her sentence in a juvenile facility until she was 21 years old. (State's Lodging C-4, Exhibit B, p. 4.)

At the sentencing hearing, the district court found that it would not be appropriate to place Petitioner solely in the custody of the Idaho Department of Juvenile Correction (IDJC) because IDJC would be required to release her by age 21, and "the outrageous nature of this crime demands more." (State's Lodging A-2, p. 71.) The court also found that it would be equally inappropriate for Petitioner to begin serving a prison sentence in an adult facility at her young age and in light of certain mitigating factors that suggested possible rehabilitation. (State's Lodging A-2, pp. 71-72.) Therefore, the court attempted to impose a "blended" juvenile and adult sentence under Idaho Code § 20-509(4). Specifically, the court sentenced Petitioner to life in prison, with the first 12 years fixed, but then suspended the prison sentence and placed Petitioner on probation in the custody of juvenile corrections officials, conditional upon Petitioner's agreement that she comply with all reasonable programming requirements and that, upon her release, she would "be sentenced for the remainder of [her] determine term in the custody of the Idaho State Department of Corrections." (State's Lodging A-2, pp. 72-73, 75-76.) Petitioner accepted those terms. (State's Lodging A-2, p. 73.)

Petitioner successfully completed certain programs while in residential custody, and after two years the IDJC issued a final progress report to the district court declaring that Petitioner "has demonstrated that she is prepared to return to the community and resume the responsibilities of a productive member of society." (State's Lodging A-5; April 7 2003 Progress Report, p. 1.) The district court then set a hearing to clarify Petitioner's remaining sentence. (State's Lodging A-1, p. 148.) At that hearing, Petitioner's counsel argued that because Petitioner had not violated any terms of her probation, the district court did not have the authority under state law to re-impose a previously suspended prison sentence. (State's Lodging A-3, pp. 8-14.) The court disagreed, noting that its intent was for Petitioner to serve 12 years to life, and it remanded her to the custody of the Idaho Department of Correction. (State's Lodging A-3, pp. 33-37.)

Petitioner appealed and argued that the district court erred in revoking her probation. (State's Lodging B-1, pp. 2-6.) The Idaho Court of Appeals concluded that the district court lacked the authority to suspend the original prison sentence in the first place or to place Petitioner on probation. (State's Lodging B-3, p. 5.) In reaching that conclusion, the Court of Appeals found that while Idaho Code § 20-509(4) allows for a "blended sentence," that statutory provision was also subject to Idaho Code § 2601, which prohibits a district court from suspending any prison sentence upon a conviction of murder or treason. (State's Lodging B-3, p. 5.) Because Petitioner pled guilty to a charge of first degree murder, the suspension of her prison sentence and placement on probation created an illegal sentence. The Idaho Court of Appeals vacated the judgment of conviction and remanded the case for resentencing. (State's Lodging B-3, p. 5.)

On remand, Petitioner filed a motion to withdraw her guilty plea, alleging that a material element of the plea agreement called for the prosecutor's recommendation of a blended sentence, which included the possibility that she would be released from custody on or before she turned 21 years old. (State's Lodgings C-1, C-3.) The district court issued a written memorandum decision denying the motion after concluding that the record did not support Petitioner's allegations. (State's Lodging C-11.)

Petitioner was again sentenced to 12 years determinate, followed by an indeterminate period of life, in the custody of the Idaho Department of Correction. (State's Lodging C-14, p. 99.) The judgment of conviction was entered on July 22, 2005. (State' Lodging A-7.) Petitioner did not appeal from the judgment, nor did she submit an application for post-conviction or other collateral relief until she filed a "Motion to Clarify Sentence" over three years later, in November 2008.*fn1

On December 1, 2008, Petitioner initiated the present habeas action, alleging that she (1) was deprived of her Sixth Amendment right to the effective assistance of counsel during the state criminal process, (2) was deprived of her Eighth Amendment right against cruel and unusual punishment because a correctional officer sexually abused her, and (3) was retaliated against by other correctional officials for complaining of the sexual abuse, in violation of the First and Fourteenth Amendments. (Dkt. 3.) In its Initial Review Order, the Court dismissed the second and third claims without prejudice as not cognizable in a habeas proceeding, but allowed Petitioner to proceed on her claim of ineffective assistance of counsel. (Dkt. 5, p. 7.)

In compliance with the Court's Order, Respondent has filed an Answer and a Motion for Summary Judgment. Respondent argues that the Petition must be dismissed either as untimely or because Petitioner did not properly exhaust the remaining (or any) federal claim in the Idaho Supreme Court. (Dkt. 28-1, pp. 3-11.) Respondent also contends that Petitioner is not entitled to relief on the merits. (Dkt. 28-1, pp. 11-19.) Petitioner has filed a Response (Dkt. 31) and an "Answer to Respondent's Answer to Petition for Writ of Habeas Corpus" (Dkt. 32), which the Court construes as a traverse.

The Court has carefully considered the parties' filings, together with the record herein, and is now prepared to issue its ruling. The Court is persuaded that the Petition is untimely, and it will dismiss this case on that basis.


Habeas petitions filed after the enactment of the 1996 Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act (AEDPA) are subject to a one-year statute of limitations. 28 U.S.C. § 2244(d). The one-year period begins to run from the date of one of four triggering events, as specified in 28 U.S.C. § 2244(d)(1)(A)-(D). The most common event is the date upon which the judgment became final in state court, either after the ...

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