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Melton v. Reinke

United States District Court, D. Idaho

November 7, 2014

RAYMOND JULIUS MELTON, Petitioner,
v.
BRENT REINKE, Director of the Idaho Department of Correction, Respondent.

MEMORANDUM DECISION AND ORDER

CANDY W. DALE, Magistrate Judge.

Pending before the Court is Petitioner Raymond Julius Melton's Amended Petition for Writ of Habeas Corpus. (Dkt. 47.) This case was stayed for a time while Petitioner pursued state postconviction remedies and has now been reopened.

On February 19, 2014, the Court dismissed Claims Five, Seven, and Nine of the Petition with prejudice as non-cognizable. (Dkt. 50.) Respondent has filed a Motion for Summary Dismissal with respect to Petitioner's remaining claims. (Dkt. 60.) Petitioner has filed a response to the Motion, and Respondent has filed a Reply. (Dkt. 67, 69.) The Court takes judicial notice of the records from Petitioner's state court proceedings, lodged by Respondent on March 14, 2011; October 19, 2012; June 6, 2013; and May 20, 2014. (Dkt. 13, 30, 37, 59.) See Fed.R.Evid. 201(b); Dawson v. Mahoney, 451 F.3d 550, 551 (9th Cir. 2006).

The parties have consented to the jurisdiction of a United States Magistrate Judge to conduct all proceedings in this case in accordance with 28 U.S.C. § 636(c). (Dkt. 12.) Having carefully 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 oral argument is unnecessary. See D. Idaho L. Civ. R. 7.1(d). Accordingly, the Court enters the following Order granting Respondent's Motion and dismissing this habeas case with prejudice.

BACKGROUND

Petitioner pleaded guilty in the Fifth Judicial District Court, in Gooding County, Idaho, to one count of lewd conduct with a minor child under 16 years of age, in violation of Idaho Code § 18-1508. He was sentenced to a unified term of life imprisonment with 25 years fixed. (State's Lodging B-4 at 1.) Petitioner appealed his sentence, arguing that his sentence was an abuse of discretion under Idaho law. (State's Lodging B-1.) The Idaho Court of Appeals affirmed, and the Idaho Supreme Court denied review. (State's Lodging B-4, B-7.)

While his direct appeal was still pending, Petitioner filed an initial petition for postconviction relief, which he later amended through counsel. (State's Lodging C-1 at 1-5, 36-38.) The amended petition alleged that Petitioner's guilty plea was not knowing and voluntary and that trial counsel rendered ineffective assistance by (a) pressing Petitioner to plead guilty, (b) advising Petitioner that a guilty plea was the only way to resolve the matter, (c) failing to advise Petitioner of any defenses, (d) failing to prepare pre-trial or to file motions to suppress, (e) failing to take the time or make the effort required to take Petitioner's case to trial, (f) failing to investigate the case, and (g) failing to explain the true nature of the charge and the consequences of pleading guilty. (State's Lodging C-1 at 37.) At the evidentiary hearing on the petition, Petitioner claimed that his trial counsel was also ineffective for failing to move for a reduction of sentence under Idaho Criminal Rule 35 and for failing to procure a plea agreement that was binding as to sentencing. (State's Lodging C-2 at 72-73, 127.)

The state district court denied postconviction relief on all claims, including the Rule 35 claim and the claim regarding a binding sentencing agreement. (State's Lodging C-1 at 42-55; C-2 at 131, 134-35, 140.) Petitioner appealed with the aid of the State Appellate Public Defender's Office; however, postconviction appellate counsel later moved to withdraw after concluding that the appeal was frivolous. (State's Lodging D-4, D-5.) The Idaho Supreme Court granted the motion, and Petitioner proceeded without counsel. His appeal was dismissed when he did not file a timely opening brief. (State's Lodging D-10.)

Shortly thereafter, Petitioner returned to the trial court and filed a second postconviction petition, arguing that his initial postconviction counsel rendered ineffective assistance by failing "to submit any evidence or lagimate [sic] argument at my evidentiary hearing." (State's Lodging E-1 at 2.) The trial court summarily dismissed the petition without addressing Petitioner's motion for appointment of counsel, and the Idaho Court of Appeals affirmed. ( Id. at 89-104; State's Lodging F-6.) The Idaho Supreme Court granted review and affirmed, concluding that, "although the district court erred in not considering [Petitioner's] motion for appointment of counsel" before dismissing the petition, that error was not prejudicial. (State's Lodging F-13 at 9.)

Petitioner later filed a third postconviction petition in state court. (State's Lodging G-1 at 1-7.) Petitioner argued that his postconviction appellate counsel rendered ineffective assistance by (1) not raising a claim of ineffective assistance of previous postconviction counsel, and (2) not "federaliz[ing]" Petitioner's claims. ( Id. at 3-6.) The trial court denied Petitioner's motion to appoint counsel and dismissed the petition. ( Id. at 33-42, 44-45.)

Petitioner was appointed counsel to represent him on appeal from the dismissal of his third postconviction petition, but counsel later withdrew after Petitioner decided to represent himself. (State's Lodging H-4 to H-7.) The Idaho Court of Appeals affirmed, concluding that the petition was untimely. (State's Lodging H-9.) The Idaho Supreme Court denied review. (State's Lodging H-12.)

DISCUSSION

Because the Court previously dismissed Claims Five, Seven, and Nine of the Petition, the following seven claims remain at issue in this case:

Claim One: Ineffective assistance of trial counsel for failing to advise Petitioner that he was not required to participate in the court-ordered psychosexual evaluation (Dkt. 47-1 at 1);
Claim Two: Ineffective assistance of trial counsel for failing to move to suppress the psychosexual evaluation ( id. );
Claim Three: Ineffective assistance of trial counsel for failing to ensure that Petitioner's allegedly binding plea agreement was enforced ( id. at 5);
Claim Four: Ineffective assistance of trial counsel for (a) pressing Petitioner to plead guilty and failing to ensure his guilty plea was knowing and voluntary, (b) failing to advise Petitioner of any defenses, (c) failing to prepare pretrial or to file motions to suppress, (d) failing to take the time or make the effort to take the case to trial, (e) failing to investigate the case, and (f) failing to explain the true nature of the charge and the consequences of pleading guilty ( id. at 10);
Claim Six: Prosecutorial misconduct based on the prosecutor allegedly eliciting false testimony from the victim at the preliminary and sentencing hearings ( id. at 16);
Claim Eight: Ineffective assistance of direct appeal counsel for raising a sentencing claim instead of federal constitutional claims, particularly his claim of prosecutorial misconduct ( id. at 41); and
Claim Ten: Ineffective assistance of trial counsel for failing to move for a reduction of sentence under Idaho Criminal Rule 35 ( id. at 47).

Respondent now seeks dismissal of all of these remaining claims on the ground that they are procedurally defaulted. (Dkt. 60-1.)

1. Standard of Law Governing Summary Dismissal

Rule 4 of the Rules Governing Section 2254 Cases ("Habeas Rules") authorizes the Court to summarily dismiss a petition for writ of habeas corpus or claims contained in the petition when "it plainly appears from the face of the petition and any attached exhibits that the petitioner is not entitled to relief in the district court." The Court may also deny a habeas petition on the merits even if it otherwise procedurally barred. See 28 U.S.C. § 2254(b)(2) ("An application for a writ of habeas corpus may be denied on the merits, notwithstanding the failure of the applicant to exhaust the remedies available in the courts of the State.")

2. Standard of Law Governing Procedural Default

A habeas petitioner must exhaust his remedies in the state courts before a federal court can grant relief on constitutional claims. O'Sullivan v. Boerckel, 526 U.S. 838, 842 (1999). This means that the petitioner must invoke one complete round of the state's established appellate review process, fairly presenting all constitutional claims to the state courts so that they have a full and fair opportunity to correct alleged constitutional errors at each level of appellate review. Id. at 845. In a state that has the possibility of discretionary review in the highest appellate court, like Idaho, the petitioner must have presented all of his federal claims at least in a petition seeking review before that court. Id. at 847.

The mere similarity between a federal claim and a state law claim, without more, does not satisfy the requirement of fair presentation. See Duncan v. Henry, 513 U.S. 364, 365-66 (1995). General references in state court to broad constitutional principles, such as due process, equal protection, or the right to a fair trial, are likewise insufficient. See Hiivala v. Wood, 195 F.3d 1098, 1106 (9th Cir. 1999). The law is clear that, for proper exhaustion, a petitioner must bring his federal claim before the state court by "explicitly" citing the federal legal basis for his claim, "regardless of whether the petitioner [is] proceeding pro se." Lyons v. Crawford, 232 F.3d 666, 669 (9th Cir. 2000), as amended, 247 F.3d 904 (9th Cir. 2001) (emphasis omitted).

When a habeas petitioner has not fairly presented a constitutional claim to the highest state court, and it is clear that the state court would now refuse to consider it because of the state's procedural rules, the claim is said to be procedurally defaulted. Gray v. Netherland, 518 U.S. 152, 161-62 (1996). 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; and (3) when the Idaho courts have rejected a claim on an adequate and independent state procedural ground. Id .; Baldwin v. Reese, 541 U.S. 27, 32 (2004); Coleman v. Thompson, 501 U.S. 722, 750 (1991).

To be an "adequate" state ground, a state court's procedural bar must be one that is "clear, consistently applied, and well-established' at the time of the petitioner's purported default." Martinez v. Klauser, 266 F.3d 1091, 1093-94 (9th Cir. 2001) (quoting Wells v. Maass, 28 F.3d 1005, 1010 (9th Cir. 1994)). A state procedural bar is "independent" of federal law if it does not rest on federal grounds and is not intertwined with federal grounds. Bennett v. Mueller, 322 F.3d 573, 581 (9th Cir. 2003).

A. General Standard of Law for Cause and Prejudice under Coleman v. Thompson

Even if a claim is a procedurally defaulted, that claim may still be heard on the merits if a petitioner establishes cause and prejudice to excuse the default.[1] Coleman v. Thompson, 501 U.S. 722, 750 (1991). To show "cause" for a procedural default, a petitioner must ordinarily demonstrate that some objective factor external to the defense impeded his or his counsel's efforts to comply with the state procedural rule at issue. Murray v. Carrier, 477 U.S. 478, 488 (1986). To show "prejudice, " a petitioner generally bears "the burden of showing not merely that the errors [in his proceeding] constituted a possibility of prejudice, but that they worked to ...


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