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Lynch v. Blades

United States District Court, D. Idaho

May 11, 2017

LESLIE R. LYNCH, Petitioner,
RANDY BLADES, Warden, Respondent.


          Honorable Candy W. Dale United States Magistrate Judge.

         Pending before the Court is a Petition for Writ of Habeas Corpus, filed by Idaho state prisoner Leslie R. Lynch (“Petitioner” or “Lynch”), challenging Petitioner's Gooding County conviction on two counts of sexual abuse of a child under the age of sixteen. (Dkt. 1.) The Petition is now ripe for adjudication. The Court takes judicial notice of the records from Petitioner's state court proceedings, which have been lodged by Respondent. (Dkt. 11.) See Fed. R. Evid. 201(b); Dawson v. Mahoney, 451 F.3d 550, 551 n.1 (9th Cir. 2006).

         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) and Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 73. (Dkt. 8.) Having carefully reviewed the record in this matter, including the state court record, the Court concludes that oral argument is unnecessary. See D. Idaho L. Civ. R. 7.1(d). Accordingly, the Court enters the following Order denying habeas corpus relief.


         In 2008, Petitioner was charged in the Fifth Judicial District Court in Gooding County, Idaho, with crimes related to sexual misconduct with two minors that occurred in 1996 and 1997 and that were the basis of criminal charges filed in 1997. (State's Lodging B-5 at 1-2.) In 1997, the case against Petitioner was dismissed without prejudice “just prior to trial.” (State's Lodging A-7 at 20.) The investigation into the 1996 allegations was reopened after similar sexual abuse allegations against Petitioner surfaced, though Petitioner was not charged on the basis of the later allegations. The 2008 case against Petitioner included new charges, for crimes that occurred in 1996 or 1997, which had not been included in the previous case.

         Pursuant to a plea agreement and an amended information, Petitioner pleaded guilty to two counts of sexual abuse of a child under the age of sixteen. Petitioner was initially sentenced to concurrent unified terms of twenty years in prison with ten years fixed. (State's Lodging B-5 at 3.) Petitioner's sentence was later reduced to concurrent unified terms of fifteen years in prison with ten years fixed because, under the version of the statute in force when the crimes were committed, the maximum sentence for Petitioner's convictions was fifteen years. (Id. & n.3.)

         Petitioner appealed, but the appeal was stayed when Petitioner filed a motion to withdraw his guilty plea. In support of his motion, Petitioner argued, among other things, that his trial counsel was ineffective for failing to file a motion to dismiss based on a claim of pre-accusatory delay under the Due Process Clause. After an evidentiary hearing, the trial court denied the motion. (State's Lodging A-7.)

         On direct appeal, Petitioner contended that the trial court should have granted his motion to withdraw the guilty plea because his trial counsel rendered ineffective assistance by “failing to move to dismiss the complaint on due process ground [sic] for the state's delayed prosecution.” (State's Lodging B-2 at 27.) The Idaho Court of Appeals rejected this argument, holding that Petitioner did not establish that he was prejudiced from the pre-accusatory delay or that the state had an improper motive in delaying the refiling of the charges. (State's Lodging B-5 at 14-15.) The Idaho Supreme Court denied review. (State's Lodging B-11.)

         Petitioner later filed a post-conviction petition, which the state district court denied. (State's Lodging C-1 at 355-61, 409-25.) Petitioner appealed, and the Idaho Court of Appeals affirmed. (State's Lodging D-4.) Petitioner did not file a petition for review with the Idaho Supreme Court, and the Idaho Court of Appeals issued its remittitur. (State's Lodging D-5.)

         In his federal Petition, Petitioner asserts the following claims:

Claim 1: Ineffective assistance of trial counsel based on counsel's failure to discover the correct maximum sentence applicable to Petitioner's crimes, which affected the “original sentence of 20 years” and resulted in the trial court later “reduc[ing] only the indeterminate portion of Lynch's sentence.”
Claim 2: (a) Violation of Petitioner's Sixth Amendment right to a speedy trial, and (b) ineffective assistance of trial counsel in failing to raise a speedy trial issue prior to Petitioner's guilty plea.[1]

(Dkt. 1 at 2-6.) Although Petitioner refers to the Sixth Amendment right to a speedy trial when describing Claims 2(a) and 2(b) (Dkt. 1 at 6), the Speedy Trial Clause of the Sixth Amendment does not apply to pre-arrest, or pre-accusatory, delay. United States v. Marion, 404 U.S. 307, 321 (1971).

         Therefore, the Court will construe Claim 2(a) as asserting a violation of the Due Process Clause based on pre-accusatory delay. See id. at 325-36 (“Nor have appellees adequately demonstrated that the pre-indictment delay by the Government violated the Due Process Clause. . . . Events of the trial may demonstrate actual prejudice, but at the present time appellees' due process claims are speculative and premature.”). Similarly, the Court will construe Claim 2(b) as asserting ineffective assistance of counsel for failing to move to dismiss based on pre-accusatory delay under the Due Process Clause.

         Respondent argues that Petitioner's claims are procedurally defaulted and that they fail on the merits.


         1.Claims 1 and 2(a) Are Subject to Dismissal as Procedurally Defaulted

         A. Procedural Default Standard of Law

         A habeas petitioner must exhaust his or her 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). To do so, 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. “Fair presentation” requires a petitioner to describe both the operative facts and the legal theories upon which the federal claim is based. Gray v. Netherland, 518 U.S. 152, 162-63 (1996).

         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) (per curiam). 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. Lyons v. Crawford, 232 F.3d 666, 669 (9th Cir. 2000), as amended, 247 F.3d 904 (9th Cir. 2001).

         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, 518 U.S. at 161-62. Procedurally defaulted claims include those within the following circumstances: (1) when a petitioner has completely failed to raise a 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).

         B.Claims 1 and 2(a) Are Procedurally Defaulted

         Petitioner did not fairly present Claim 1 or Claim 2(a) to the Idaho Supreme Court. Petitioner raised Claim 1 on appeal from the dismissal of his post-conviction petition. (State's Lodging D-1, D-3.) However, after the Idaho Court of Appeals affirmed (State's Lodging D-4), Petitioner did not file a petition for review in the Idaho Supreme Court. See O'Sullivan, 526 U.S. at 847 (requiring “state prisoners to file petitions for discretionary review when that review is part of the ordinary appellate review procedure in the State”). Because it is now too late for him to do so, Claim 1 is procedurally defaulted. See Gray, 518 U.S. at 161-62.

         Petitioner did not raise Claim 2(a) to any state appellate court. Although he did raise (on direct appeal) the related claim that his trial counsel rendered ineffective assistance in failing to move to dismiss based on pre-accusatory delay as set forth in Claim 2(b), he did not separately present the underlying substantive claim of a violation of the Due Process Clause based on that delay. (State's Lodging B-2 at 27-34.) See Rose v. Palmateer, 395 F.3d 1108, 1112 (9th Cir. 2005) (“Here, although [the petitioner's] Fifth Amendment claim is related to his claim of ineffective assistance, he did not fairly present the Fifth Amendment claim to the state courts when he merely discussed it as one of several issues which were handled ineffectively by his trial and appellate counsel.

         While admittedly related, they are distinct claims with separate elements of proof, and each claim should have been separately and specifically presented to the state courts.” (emphasis added)). Because it is too late for Petitioner to present Claim 2(a) to the state courts, that claim is procedurally defaulted. See Gray, 518 U.S. at 161-62.

         C.Petitioner Has Not Shown Cause and Prejudice, or Actual Innocence, to Excuse the Procedural Default of Claims 1 and 2(a)

         The Court's conclusion that Claims 1 and 2(a) are procedurally defaulted does not end the inquiry. If a claim is procedurally defaulted, a federal court can still hear the merits of the claim if the petitioner meets one of two exceptions: (1) a showing of adequate legal cause for the default and prejudice arising from the default, see Coleman v. Thompson, 501 U.S. 722, 731 (1991), or (2) a showing of actual innocence, which means that a miscarriage of justice will occur if the claim is not heard in federal court, see Schlup v. Delo, 513 U.S. 298, 329 (1995); Murray v. Carrier, 477 U.S. 478, 488 (1986). Neither an assertion of cause and prejudice nor an assertion of actual innocence under Schlup is an independent constitutional claim. Rather, these are federal procedural arguments that, if sufficiently established by the petitioner, allow a federal court to consider the merits of an otherwise procedurally-defaulted constitutional claim.

         i. Cause ...

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