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Hairston v. Blades

United States District Court, D. Idaho

August 16, 2016

JAMES H. HAIRSTON, Petitioner,
RANDY BLADES, Warden, Respondent.



         The United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit granted Respondent's motion for a limited remand (see Dkt. 209), to permit the District Court to reconsider the certified aspect of Claim 21 in light of Martinez v. Ryan, 132 S.Ct. 1309 (2012), which held that "[i]nadequate assistance of counsel at initial-review collateral proceedings may establish cause for a prisoner's procedural default of a claim of ineffective assistance at trial." Id. at 1315. Having considered the briefing of the parties, the Court enters the following Order.


         Because the parties are familiar with the factual and procedural background of this case, the Court will not recite that background in detail here. Rather, the Court sets forth only those facts necessary to resolve the Martinez issue. The Court incorporates the factual description set forth in its Memorandum Decision and Order dated March 30, 2011. (Dkt. 192.)

         James H. Hairston’s state criminal case was adjudicated in the Sixth Judicial District Court, in Bannock County, Idaho. Hairston was represented at trial by attorneys Randall Schulties and Thomas Eckert. Early in the case, Hairston’s attorneys sought and received funding for an investigator (Wayne Millward) and a psychologist (Dr. Mark Corgiat) for trial and sentencing preparation.

         On October 23, 1996, two days before the scheduled sentencing hearing, counsel sought funding for a mitigation specialist (Mary Goody) and an extension of time so that the expert could testify at sentencing. District Judge Peter D. McDermott granted a brief continuance, to November 7, 1996, but denied the expert funding request, concluding:

[An] adequate defense will certainly be available to the defendant without the so-called mitigation specialist. The defendant is represented by competent counsel and they’re fully capable of presenting whatever mitigation evidence they deem appropriate to the Court. I don’t think the motion is timely, either, but for these reasons, I’m doing to deny your request.

(State’s Lodging A-8, p. 2629-30.)

         Despite the absence of a mitigation specialist, significant mitigating evidence was put before the trial court, both from the defense and from the material in the presentence investigation report. Based on this information, the trial court found that Hairston was underdeveloped as child, was sexually abused on at least two occasions, and that he was raised by a strong and domineering woman who did not show love or affection. His father abandoned the family when Hairston was a small boy, and Hairston believed that his father could not be located, but his life changed significantly when he learned that his father simply chose not to contact him. The trial court also considered that Hairston was young when the crimes occurred, had previously successfully completed juvenile probation, had no adult criminal record, had expressed remorse for his crimes and behaved well in the county jail. Finding that “[a]ll of the mitigating circumstances . . . weigh as pebbles in comparison to a boulder with respect to the cold-blooded, calculated, premediated murders of Duke and Dahlma Fuhriman, ” the trial court sentenced Hairston to death. (State’s Lodging A-5, p. 880.)

         In his first state post-conviction application, Hairston raised a claim that the trial court violated Hairston’s constitutional rights by denying funding for a mitigation expert for sentencing and a claim that his trial attorneys were ineffective in failing to procure necessary expert defense assistance and use of a mitigation specialist or expert at sentencing. These claims were denied by the state district court. (State’s Lodging B-10, p. 336.) The trial court error mitigation claim was included among issues for appeal, but the ineffective assistance mitigation claim was not. (State’s Lodging C-13.) The trial court’s decision was affirmed on appeal. State v. Hairston, 988 P.2d 1170 (Idaho 1999).

         Hairston filed his initial federal Petition for Writ of Habeas Corpus in 2000. Currently, Petitioner’s Second Amended Petition is the operative pleading in this case. (Dkt. 99.) In the midst of his federal habeas action, Hairston returned to state court with a second post-conviction application to re-assert his claim that the trial court violated his constitutional rights by denying funding for a mitigation expert for sentencing, augmenting the application with expert testimony that Hairston suffered from brain damage. In particular, Hairston submitted affidavits from Dr. Ricardo Weinstein and Dr. Maurice B. Sterman and argued that new brain tests showed prejudice resulting from the trial court’s denial of resources to hire a mitigation expert.

         On appeal of denial of the second post-conviction application, the Idaho Supreme Court determined that (1) Hairston’s claim was subject to res judicata, as the court had addressed the claim in the first post-conviction proceeding; and (2) because Hairston knew of the claim within the statutory time limits, it did not satisfy the narrow exception of Idaho Code § 19-2719(5) and could not be raised in a second or successive application. Hairston v. State, 156 P.3d 552 (Idaho 2007), cert. granted, judgment vacated, 552 U.S. 1227 (2008) (remanded to the Idaho Supreme Court to consider retroactivity of Ring v. Arizona, 536 U.S. 584 (2002), in light of Danforth v. Minnesota, 552 U.S. 264 (2008)).[1]

         This federal case was stayed from 2001 to 2007 during Hairston’s pursuit of his second post-conviction action. After the Idaho Supreme Court rejected Hairston’s attempts to revisit mitigation to allow new evidence of brain damage to be considered, Hairston requested an evidentiary hearing in this federal habeas action to present four additional experts’ testimony. This Court denied the request for an evidentiary hearing as unnecessary to decide the claim Hairston had presented in his pleadings:

Hairston emphasizes evidence of his alleged brain dysfunction, which he contends establishes prejudice from the denial of a mitigation specialist. This contention assumes too much; that is, Hairston has not drawn a persuasive causal link between the absence of a mitigation specialist- primarily an investigative expert-and the lack of evidentiary development on whether he has brain damage, which would be supplied by psychological, psychiatric, or medical experts. Beyond requesting the appointment of Dr. Corgiat, who apparently did not find evidence of brain damage, Hairston did not ask for funding for those types of additional mental health experts in state court.
Accordingly, the Court concludes that the new facts do not place the issue in such a different light that Hairston would be able to establish that the state court’s adjudication of this constitutional claim, based on its determination that he was given adequate tools and resources for his defense, was an unreasonable one. Hairston is not entitled to an evidentiary hearing.

(Order, Dkt. 192, p. 60.)

         Judgment was entered in this case on March 3, 2011, eleven years after it began. (Dkt. 193.) A certificate of appealability was issued over several claims. While the case was on appeal to the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, the State requested and was granted a limited remand for reconsideration of the certified aspect of Claim 21 (the mitigation subclaim only) in light of Martinez v. Ryan.

         Martinez was an unprecedented and unusual development in habeas corpus law. Rather than occupying their usual positions, petitioners’ lawyers now often argue that their clients’ claims are procedurally defaulted to take advantage of Martinez, while state attorneys counter that the claim was decided on the merits, putting it beyond the scope of the Martinez exception.[2] Further, Martinez has created the anomaly that procedurally defaulted claims may be heard at a substantial advantage over properly exhausted claims, because Martinez claims can be heard de novo on federal habeas ...

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