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Lynn Edward Mecham, A/K/A Lynne Edward Mecham v. Joanna Smith

August 17, 2011


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


Pending before the Court are Petitioner's Motion to Reconsider Appointment of Counsel (Dkt. 7) and Respondent's Motion for Summary Judgment (Dkt. 17.) 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.


Petitioner has filed a Motion to Reconsider Appointment of Counsel. (Dkt. 7.) He has provided a copy of a recent test conducted at the prison, concluding that he has a third-grade reading level and a second-grade language level. Petitioner also provides past briefing from his case showing that Dr. Richard Smith opined that Petitioner had a borderline intelligence level of 71.

While there is no constitutional right to counsel in a habeas corpus action, Coleman v. Thompson, 501 U.S. 722, 755 (1991), counsel may be appointed under certain circumstances. A habeas petitioner has a right to counsel, as provided by rule, if an evidentiary hearing is required in his case. See Rule 8(c) of the Rules Governing Section 2254 Cases. In addition, the Court may exercise its discretion to appoint counsel for an indigent petitioner in any case where required by the interests of justice. 28 U.S.C. § 2254(h); 18 U.S.C. § 3006A(a)(2)(B). Whether counsel should be appointed turns on Petitioner's ability to articulate his claims in light of the complexity of the legal issues and his likelihood of success on the merits. See Weygandt v. Look, 718 F.2d 952, 954 (9th Cir. 1983).

Petitioner has submitted a well-written motion. He has also submitted a brief typewritten response to the pending motion for summary judgment. It appears that Petitioner is receiving some type of aid at the prison to help him articulate his claims and arguments. The Constitution does not mandate that prisoners, literate or illiterate, be ableto conduct generalized research, but only that they be able to present their grievances to the courts. Madrid v. Gomez, 190 F.3d 990 (9th Cir. 1999). Here, it appears that Petitioner's needs have been met.

Respondent currently requests summary judgment on the merits of Petitioner's Miranda claim. The standard for habeas corpus review is extremely high. In addition, a habeas corpus action is a review of the state court proceedings; here, Petitioner's counsel thoroughly briefed the Miranda issues at the state court level. Considering the totality of circumstances, the Court concludes that appointment of counsel is not warranted or necessary to the decision-making process.


1. Standard of Law Governing Habeas Corpus Review

Summary judgment is appropriately granted where "the movant shows that there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(1)(a). The Federal Rules of Civil Procedure apply to habeas corpus actions except where application of the rules would be inconsistent with established habeas practice and procedure. Rule 11, Rules Governing Section 2254 Cases. Accordingly, summary judgment motions are appropriate in habeas corpus proceedings where there are no genuine disputes as to any material facts and the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Blackledge v. Allison, 431 U.S. 63, 80-81 (1977).

Judicial notice will be taken of the court docket in the underlying state court proceedings. Fed. R. Evid. 201(b); Dawson v Mahoney, 451 F.3d 550, 551 (9th Cir. 2006).

Under the Anti-terrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act (AEDPA), the Court cannot grant habeas relief on any federal claim that the state court adjudicated on the merits unless the adjudication of the claim:

1. resulted in a decision that was contrary to, or involved an unreasonable application of, clearly established Federal law, as determined by the Supreme Court of the United States; or

2. resulted in a decision that was based on an unreasonable determination of the facts in light of the evidence presented in the state court proceeding.

28 U.S.C. § 2254(d).

Section 2254(d)(1) has two clauses, each with independent meaning. For a decision to be "contrary to" clearly established federal law, the petitioner must establish that the state court applied "a rule of law different from the governing law set forth in United States Supreme Court precedent, or that the state court confronted a set of facts that are materially indistinguishable from a decision of the Supreme Court and nevertheless arrived at a result different from the Court's precedent." Williams v. Taylor, 529 U.S. 362, 404-06 (2000).

To satisfy the "unreasonable application" clause, the petitioner must show that the state court was "unreasonable in applying the governing legal principle to the facts of the case." Williams, 529 U.S. at 413. A federal court cannot grant relief simply because it concludes in its independent judgment that the decision is incorrect or wrong; the state court's application of federal law must be objectively unreasonable. Lockyer v. Andrade, 538 U.S. 63, 75 (2003); Bell v. Cone, 535 U.S. 685, 694 (2002). The state court need not cite or even be aware of the controlling United States Supreme Court decision to be entitled to AEDPA deference. Early v. Packer, 537 U.S. 3, 8 (2002).

To be eligible for relief under § 2254(d)(2), the petitioner must show that the decision was based upon factual determinations that were "unreasonable in light of the evidence presented in the State court proceeding." Id. As neither party disputes the state court's factual determination as to what was said during the interview or captured on the DVD (State's Exhibit A-5), the Court need not address § 2254(d)(2).

In Harrington v. Richter, 131 S.Ct. 770 (2011), the United States Supreme Court reiterated that the federal courts may not simply re-determine the claim on its merits after the highest state court has done so, just because the federal court would have made a different decision. Rather, the review is necessarily deferential. The United States Supreme Court explained that under § 2254(d), a habeas court (1) "must determine what arguments or theories supported or . . . could have supported, the state court's decision; and (2) then it must ask whether it is possible fairminded jurists could disagree that those arguments or theories are inconsistent with the holding in a prior decision of this Court." Id. at 786. If fairminded jurists could disagree on the correctness of the state court's decision, then a federal court cannot grant relief under § 2254(d). Id. The Supreme Courtemphasized: "It bears repeating that even a strong case for relief does not mean the state court's contrary conclusion was unreasonable." Id. (internal citation omitted).

Under all circumstances, state court findings of fact are presumed to be correct, and the petitioner has the burden of rebutting this presumption by clear and convincing evidence. 28 U.S.C. § 2254(e)(1).

2. Petitioner's Claim

Petitioner brings a two-part claim based upon Miranda v. Arizona, 384 U.S. 436 (1966). He alleges that his Fifth Amendment rights were violated when Gooding County Police Chief Jeffrey Perry (Chief Perry) continued questioning Petitioner after he allegedly requested counsel. (Petition, Dkt. 3, p. 2.) Petitioner also alleges that his waiver was not voluntary because of Petitioner's mental health issues and because Chief Perry "overbore his will" by "downplaying" the importance of Miranda rights. (Id., p. 2; 3-1, ...

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