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Estep v. Yordy

United States District Court, D. Idaho

March 23, 2017

KEITH YORDY, Warden, Respondent.


          Honorable Candy W. Dale United States Magistrate Judge.

         Petitioner Timothy Eugene Estep filed a Petition for Writ of Habeas Corpus challenging his state court felony conviction and sentence. (Dkt. 3.) Respondent Keith Yordy filed an Answer and Brief in Support of Dismissal (Dkt. 11), and Petitioner filed a Reply. (Dkt. 17.) All 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. 10.) The Court has reviewed and takes judicial notice of the state court record lodged by the parties. Fed.R.Evid. 201(b); Dawson v Mahoney, 451 F.3d 550, 551 (9th Cir. 2006). Having considered the parties' arguments contained in the briefing, the Court concludes that oral argument is unnecessary. Accordingly, the Court enters the following Order.


         This case arises from criminal proceedings in the First Judicial District Court in Kootenai County, Idaho. The Idaho Court of Appeals described the following relevant facts:

In 2006, Estep was charged with lewd conduct with a minor under sixteen for inappropriately touching a developmentally disabled twelve-year-old girl. Estep ultimately pled guilty to felony injury to a child and was sentenced in 2008 to a unified term of six years, with a minimum period of confinement of two years. This sentence was suspended, however, and Estep was placed on probation for five years.
During his probation, Estep [then 53 years old] met and befriended the 18-year-old victim in th[is] case. On August 3, 2010, Estep invited the victim to go swimming with him and a few others, during which time Estep provided the victim with alcohol. The victim eventually became intoxicated and sick. Estep drove the victim to his home, bathed her, and had sexual intercourse with her while she lay unconscious in his bed. The victim awoke during the rape, but pretended to be asleep. After Estep finished, the victim got up, put on some clothing, and ran from the residence. Estep followed her and tried to persuade her to get in his vehicle. After she refused, he threw some of her clothing at her and drove away. The victim contacted police and was taken to a hospital for a rape examination. Police interviewed Estep at his home and later the police station. Estep made several inconsistent and incriminating statements, but denied having sex with the victim. He eventually admitted that he had sex with the victim, although he contended that it occurred while she was vomiting into a toilet because she could not protest.
Estep was charged with rape, I.C. § 18-6101, and with dispensing alcohol to a minor, I.C. § 23-603. During a pretrial process that took over two years, Estep requested to represent himself several times. Judge Benjamin R. Simpson denied each request after finding that Estep was not competent to represent himself.

         (State's Lodging B-4, pp.1-2.)

         At Petitioner's request and against the advice of counsel and the admonition of the trial court, Petitioner was tried in abstentia. The jury found Petitioner guilty of both counts. The trial court sentenced Petitioner to time served for dispensing alcohol to a minor and to a fixed life term of imprisonment for rape. The judgment of conviction was entered on December 12, 2012.

         Petitioner filed an appeal, asserting that the trial court denied him his Sixth Amendment right to represent himself at trial and abused its discretion in sentencing him to a fixed life term for rape. The Idaho Court of Appeals rejected his claims, and the Idaho Supreme Court denied his petition for review. The appeal concluded on December 29, 2014. Petitioner did not file a post-conviction petition. Petitioner brings two claims in his federal Petition for Writ of Habeas Corpus.


         1. Petitioner's Motion for Evidentiary Hearing (Dkt. 16)

         Petitioner asserts that an evidentiary hearing is necessary to “allow for an objective view of the court records, as it pertains to [his] ability to present [his] case, ” and because it would “allow [him] to properly prepare [his] reply and rebuttal (traverse).” (Dkt. 16, p. 2.) He provides the following examples of the State's evidence that he desires to rebut at a hearing: (1) a death threat he allegedly made against Judge Simpson (who recused himself prior to trial); (2) an alleged confession of prior incidents; (3) a psychological evaluation dated November 2010; (4) a quote made by Petitioner taken out of context (“I believe abstentia would be best for me; I can't always be in control of my behavior.”); and (5) a letter from Linda C. Hill. Petitioner argues that an evidentiary hearing is warranted because “some or all of the examples may be considered extrinsic evidence under 2254(d)(2) or 2254(e)(1).” (Id., p. 3.)

         Generally, the merits of the claims in a federal habeas corpus petition are decided on the record that was before the state trial and appellate courts. Cullen v. Pinholster, 563 U.S. 170, 180 (2011). If a petitioner desires to bring new evidence on federal habeas review that has not been presented to the state courts, and he failed to develop the factual basis of the claims in state court because of “lack of diligence or some greater fault, attributable to” him or his counsel, then he must meet the requirements of § 2254(e)(2). Williams v. Taylor, 529 U.S. 420, 432 (2000).

         In Taylor v. Maddox, 366 F.3d 992, 1000 (9th Cir. 2004), the Ninth Circuit determined that state court findings of fact would proceed first to an “intrinsic” review, and then to an “extrinsic review, ” allowing the petitioner to bring new evidence in support of a claim decided by the state courts on the merits. The Ninth Circuit reasoned that “the presumption of correctness and the clear-and-convincing standard of proof only come into play once the state court's fact-findings survive any intrinsic challenge; they do not apply to a challenge that is governed by the deference implicit in the ‘unreasonable determination' standard of section 2254(d)(2).” Id. However, in Cullen v. Pinholster, the United States Supreme Court held that new evidence introduced in federal court “has no bearing” on a merits review of a state court's legal conclusions; therefore, a petitioner cannot receive a federal evidentiary hearing on the merits of any claims that the state court has addressed unless the factual findings of the state court are unreasonable. 563 U.S. at 185. As the Ninth Circuit explained in Murray v. Schriro, 745 F.3d 984, 1000 (9th Cir. 2014), Pinholster “eliminated the relevance of ‘extrinsic' challenges when … reviewing state-court decisions under AEDPA.” Id. at 999.

         The Court has determined that it will decide Petitioner's two claims on the merits. The first claim of denial of the right to self-representation was addressed by the Idaho Supreme Court on the merits, while the second one, an unconstitutionally excessive sentence, is procedurally defaulted but needs no further factual development to be denied on the merits. In addition, the evidence Petitioner desires to present has no bearing on the excessive sentence claim.

         Reviewing the state court record in this matter, the Court finds that Petitioner has not sufficiently shown that he and his counsel are not at fault for failing to develop the facts that he desires to bring forward here. For example, Petitioner has no argument that the state courts improperly denied him the opportunity to develop and present evidence in support of his claims in state court, because he presented his claims on direct appeal, where there was no possibility of developing any further evidence in support of the claims. He did not file a post-conviction action, which is the state court mechanism set aside for claims that need additional factual development.

         Because he was less than diligent in state court, he must meet § 2254(e)(2) to warrant an evidentiary hearing in this action. Section 2254(e)(2) requires that a petitioner show his claims are based either on a new retroactive rule of constitutional law or on a factual predicate that could not have been previously discovered through the exercise of due diligence, and that “the facts underlying the claim would be sufficient to establish by clear and convincing evidence that but for the constitutional error, no reasonable factfinder would have found the applicant guilty of the underlying offense.” See § 2254(e)(2)(A)&(B).

         Petitioner has failed to show how he could not have discovered the factual predicate of his claims during his state court action. As soon as his request for self-representation was denied, he knew the facts upon which the state court made its decision. Because Petitioner has not made a sufficient showing to meet § 2254(e)(2), the Motion for an Evidentiary Hearing will be denied.

         2. Petitioner's Motion for a Rule 35 Mental Examination (Dkt. 20)

         Petitioner filed a motion seeking a mental examination in this action, pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 35(a)(1), which provides that the Court “may order a party whose mental or physical condition . . . is in controversy to submit to a physical or mental examination.” Petitioner's current mental condition is not at issue in this federal habeas corpus case, and he is not permitted to bring forward additional forensic evidence to supplement the record on review of the merits of his claims. Therefore, Petitioner's request will be denied.

         3. Petitioner's Motion for Scheduling a Date for a Hearing and Review and Motion for a Judicial Status Conference

         Because a hearing on Petitioner's motions is unnecessary, the Motion to Schedule a Hearing and Motion for a Status Conference will be denied. (Dkt. 21, 27.) Petitioner's Motion for Review will be granted, to the extent that the Petition and pending motions are now ripe for adjudication, and the Court has reviewed this case, including the state court record.


         1. Standard of Law

         Federal habeas corpus relief may be granted where a petitioner “is in custody in violation of the Constitution or laws or treaties of the United States.” 28 U.S.C. § 2254(a). Where the petitioner challenges a state court judgment in which the petitioner's federal claims were adjudicated on the merits, then Title 28 U.S.C.§ 2254(d), as amended by the Anti-terrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996 (“AEDPA”), applies. Title 28 U.S.C.§ 2254(d) limits relief to instances where the state court's adjudication of the petitioner's 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). A federal habeas court reviews the state court's “last reasoned decision” in determining whether a petitioner is entitled to relief. ...

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