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Winn v. Blades

United States District Court, D. Idaho

January 4, 2018

MELVIN WINN, Petitioner,
RANDY BLADES, Respondent.



         Pending before the Court is a Petition for Writ of Habeas Corpus filed by Idaho state prisoner Melvin Winn (“Petitioner” or “Winn”), challenging Petitioner's Ada County conviction of sexual abuse of a minor under the age of sixteen. (Dkt. 1.) Respondent has filed a Motion for Summary Dismissal, arguing that Petitioner's claims are procedurally defaulted. (Dkt. 12.) Respondent has also filed a Motion to Strike Petitioner's multiple unauthorized sur-replies. (Dkt. 18.) Both Motions are 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. 8.) See Fed. R. Evid. 201(b); Dawson v Mahoney, 451 F.3d 550, 551 n.1 (9th Cir. 2006).

         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 the Motion for Summary Dismissal and dismissing this case with prejudice.


         The Idaho Court of Appeals described the facts of Petitioner's case as follows:

In 2008, Melvin Winn's granddaughter (J.H.) reported to her mother that Winn touched her vagina. The mother relayed this information to law enforcement and an officer interviewed Winn. During the interview, Winn asserted that he may have accidently touched J.H.'s vagina while playing with her. Winn was not prosecuted at that time. In 2011, J.H.'s brother, M.H., reported that he witnessed Winn molesting J.H. Officers again interviewed Winn, who acknowledged the allegations were “possible, ” but denied any independent recollection due to use of methamphetamine. Winn requested and was scheduled for a polygraph. During the pre-test interview, Winn revealed to the examiner that he sexually abused J.H. by touching her vagina “on 5 or 6 different occasions.” He also admitted to performing oral sex on J.H. “on 2 or 3 different occasions.” Winn explained these incidents occurred around December 2008.

(State's Lodging B-4 at 1.)

         In the Fourth Judicial District Court in Ada County, Idaho, Petitioner was charged with one count of lewd conduct with a minor under the age of sixteen, as well as a sentencing enhancement based on a prior conviction for a registrable sex offense. (State's Lodging D-8 at 1.) Petitioner pleaded guilty to the lesser offense of sexual abuse of a minor under the age of sixteen, and the State dismissed the sentencing enhancement charge. Petitioner filed a motion to withdraw his guilty plea, but the trial court denied that motion. (State's Lodging A-2 at 24-26.) Petitioner received a unified sentence of twenty-five years in prison with twelve years fixed. (State's Lodging D-8 at 1.)

         Petitioner filed a direct appeal, initially arguing, under Idaho law, that the trial court abused its discretion when in denying the motion to withdraw Petitioner's guilty plea and that Petitioner's sentence was excessive. (State's Lodging B-1.) However, Petitioner's counsel conceded in Petitioner's reply brief that Petitioner had not met the standard for a motion to withdraw a guilty plea. (State's Lodging B-3 at 1.) The Idaho Court of Appeals affirmed Petitioner's sentence, and the Idaho Supreme Court denied review. (State's Lodging B-4, B-6.)

         Petitioner then filed a petition for state post-conviction relief. (State's Lodging C-1 at 4-9, 28-40.) The state district court dismissed the petition, and Petitioner appealed. (Id. at 96-101.) Petitioner was initially appointed post-conviction appellate counsel, but counsel later withdrew, with court approval. (State's Lodging D-1, D-2, D-3.) Petitioner continued the appeal pro se, submitting a one-page brief asserting ineffective assistance of trial counsel and a violation of due process. (State's Lodging D-6.) The Idaho Court of Appeals affirmed. The court held that Petitioner had not submitted any admissible evidence to support his ineffectiveness claim and that Petitioner had waived his due process claim by failing to support it with argument or authority. (State's Lodging D-8 at 5 and n.1.) The decision of the court of appeals was issued on March 25, 2016.

         Petitioner then petitioned the Idaho Supreme Court for review of the decision of the court of appeals. (State's Lodging D-9.) Pursuant to the Idaho Appellate Rules, a petition for review must be filed within 21 days of the decision of the Idaho Court of Appeals-making Petitioner's request for review due on April 15, 2016. See Idaho App. R. 118. In his petition, Petitioner certified that he “mailed a true and correct copy of the [petition for review] via the prison mail system for processing” on April 14, 2016. (State's Lodging D-9.) This certification was not signed under penalty of perjury, nor was it notarized.

         The petition was not received by the Idaho Supreme Court until April 18, 2016- three days after the due date. (State's Lodging D-10.) Noting that the petition for review appeared to be untimely, the Idaho Supreme Court conditionally dismissed the appeal and ordered Petitioner to file a response within 14 days, “showing why this Petition for Review should not be dismissed.” (Id.) Petitioner did not respond to that order. Therefore, the Idaho Supreme Court issued a final order of dismissal. (State's Lodging D-11.)

         In the instant habeas action, Petitioner does not include any claims within the Petition itself. Rather, he has attached his post-conviction appellate brief to the Petition, thereby asserting the same claims as he asserted in that appeal: (1) ineffective assistance of counsel under the Sixth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, as well as under Article I, Section 13 of the Idaho Constitution, and (2) a due process violation. (Dkt. 1 at 6.)


         1. Respondent's Motion to Strike

         Petitioner has filed several sur-replies in opposition to Respondent's Motion for Summary Dismissal. (See Dkts. 14-17.) Respondent moves to strike these briefs as unauthorized. (Dkt. 18.)

         Sur-replies (i.e., briefs filed in response to a reply brief) to motions are not expressly permitted by the Local Rules or by the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, and this Court previously ordered that “[n]o party shall file supplemental responses, replies, affidavits or other documents not expressly authorized by the Local Rules without first obtaining leave of Court.” (Dkt. 4 at 4.) Petitioner did not seek leave of Court before filing his multiple sur-replies.

         Although pro se filings are liberally construed, pro se litigants must follow the same rules of procedure that govern other litigants. Ghazali v. Moran, 46 F.3d 52, 54 (9th Cir. 1995) (per curiam). ...

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