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Mora v. Yordy

United States District Court, D. Idaho

August 2, 2017

PETER TREJO MORA, Petitioner,
v.
KEITH YORDY, Respondent.

          MEMORANDUM DECISION AND ORDER

          Edward J. Lodge United States District Judge.

         This case has been reassigned to this Court for final adjudication of Petitioner Peter Trejo Mora's Petition for Writ of Habeas Corpus challenging his state court conviction. (Dkt. 1.) Respondent has filed a Response asserting that Petitioner's claims are procedurally defaulted, noncognizable, or fail on the merits. (Dkt. 10.) Petitioner has elected not to file a reply. Accordingly, the Petition is now fully briefed and ripe for adjudication.

         The Court takes judicial notice of the record from Petitioner's state court proceedings, lodged by the parties. See Fed. R. Evid. 201(b); Dawson v. Mahoney, 451 F.3d 550, 551 (9th Cir. 2006).

         Having carefully reviewed the record and having considered the arguments of the parties, the Court finds that the parties have adequately presented the facts and legal arguments in the briefs and that oral argument is unnecessary. See D. Idaho L. Civ. R. 7.1(d). Accordingly, the Court enters the following Order.

         REVIEW OF PETITION

         1. Standard of Law

         A. Preliminary Procedural Requirements

         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 like Idaho, that has the possibility of discretionary review in the highest appellate court, with assignment of most criminal cases to the intermediate court of appeals, the petitioner must have presented all of his federal claims 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).

         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).

         Even if a petitioner's claim is procedurally defaulted, a federal district court may still hear the merits of the claim if the petitioner meets one of two exceptions: (1) a showing of actual innocence, which means that a miscarriage of justice will occur if the constitutional claim is not heard in federal court, Schlup v. Delo, 513 U.S. 298, 329 (1995); or (2) a showing of adequate legal cause for the default and prejudice arising from the default, Murray v. Carrier, 477 U.S. 478, 488 (1986).

         B. Review of the Merits of the Claims

         i. AEDPA Standard

         A federal habeas corpus action challenging a state court judgment is governed by Title 28 U.S.C.§ 2254(d), as amended by the Anti-terrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996 (“AEDPA”). 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 court cannot grant habeas relief simply because it concludes in its independent judgment that the state court's decision is incorrect or wrong; rather, the state court's application of federal law must be objectively unreasonable to warrant relief. Lockyer v. Andrade, 538 U.S. 63, 75 (2003); Bell, 535 U.S. at 694. If fairminded jurists could disagree on the correctness of the state court's decision, then relief is not warranted under § 2254(d)(1). Harrington v. Richter, 131 S.Ct. 770, 786 (2011). The Supreme Court emphasized that “even a strong case for relief does not mean the state court's contrary conclusion was unreasonable.” Id. (internal citation omitted).

         Though the source of clearly established federal law must come only from the holdings of the United States Supreme Court, circuit precedent may be persuasive authority for determining whether a state court decision is an unreasonable application of Supreme Court precedent. Duhaime v. Ducharme, 200 F.3d 597, 600-01 (9th Cir. 1999). However, circuit law may not be used “to refine or sharpen a general principle of Supreme Court jurisprudence into a specific legal rule that th[e] [Supreme] Court has not announced.” Marshall v. Rodgers, 133 S.Ct. 1446, 1450 (2013).

         ii. De Novo Standard

         If the state appellate court did not decide a properly-asserted federal claim, if the state court's factual findings are unreasonable under § 2254(d)(2), or if an adequate excuse for the procedural default of a claim exists, then § 2254(d)(1) does not apply, and the federal district court reviews the claim de novo. Pirtle v. Morgan, 313 F.3d 1160, 1167 (9th Cir. 2002). In such a case, as in the pre-AEDPA era, a district court can draw from both United States Supreme Court and well as circuit precedent, limited only by the non-retroactivity rule of Teague v. Lane, 489 U.S. 288 (1989).

         Under de novo review, if the factual findings of the state court are not unreasonable, the Court must apply the presumption of correctness found in 28 U.S.C. § 2254(e)(1) to any facts found by the state courts. Pirtle, 313 F.3d at 1167. Contrarily, if a state court factual determination is unreasonable, or if there are no state court factual findings, the federal district court is not limited by § 2254(e)(1), but may consider evidence outside the state court record, except to the extent that § 2254(e)(2) might apply. Murray v. Schriro, 745 F.3d 984, 1000 (9th Cir. 2014).

         2. Background

         On January 1, 2012, Petitioner raped his 21-year-old niece. He was indicted by a grand jury on charges of rape and of being a persistent violator. In a criminal action prosecuted in the Third Judicial District Court in Canyon County, Idaho, Petitioner pleaded guilty to the rape charge, and the State ...


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