United States District Court, D. Idaho
MEMORANDUM DECISION AND ORDER
Lynn Winmill, Judge
before the Court in this capital habeas corpus matter are
Petitioner's Motion to Stay and Motion for Access to
Grand Jury Transcript. (Dkts. 3, 7.) The motions are fully
briefed and ripe for adjudication. Having reviewed the record
and considered the argument of the parties, the Court enters
the following Order.
OF MOTION TO STAY
was convicted of first-degree murder and other related crimes
arising from an incident of arson at Petitioner's
residence, all in a state criminal action in the Fourth
Judicial District Court in Ada County, Idaho.
Petitioner's sentence of death on the murder charge was
imposed on March 4, 2005. Ten years later, on March 2, 2015,
the Idaho Supreme Court affirmed Petitioner's convictions
and sentences and affirmed dismissal of his post-conviction
action. Counting the currently-pending successive
post-conviction case, Petitioner's case has been pending
in state court for thirteen years.
first federal habeas corpus filings in this Court were on
August 25, 2015. He was permitted to file his federal habeas
corpus petition at any time within the statutory one-year
time frame. He filed his Petition on February 24, 2017.
Petitioner now requests that this Court stay this
two-and-a-half-year-old action until his successive
post-conviction petition is adjudicated, through the level of
the Idaho Supreme Court, if necessary. (Dkt. 3.) The case is
currently in state district court.
Petition for Writ of Habeas Corpus is the first new capital
habeas case filed in the District of Idaho for many years.
During those years, the Court has changed many of its
procedures to keep up with the evolution of habeas procedural
rules. For example, recent case law allows habeas petitioners
the opportunity to have de novo evidentiary hearings in
federal court on procedurally-defaulted claims, whereas
petitioners who properly exhausted their claims in state
court are denied that opportunity. Cf. Martinez v.
Ryan, 566 U.S. 1 (2012), with Cullen v.
Pinholster, 563 U.S. 170 (2011). Habeas corpus procedure
is as confusing as it is complex. Not surprisingly, the
United States Supreme Court has suggested that the merits of
non-defaulted claims should be heard ahead of other claims
where difficult procedural hurdles must be cleared before the
merits of those other claims can be addressed. See Dretke
v. Haley, 541 U.S. 386, 393-94 (2004) (“[A]
federal court faced with allegations of actual innocence,
whether of the sentence or of the crime charged, must
first address all non-defaulted claims for comparable
relief and other grounds for cause to excuse the
procedural default.”) (emphasis added). Accordingly,
this Court has, in some habeas corpus cases, required
merits-based claims to be briefed and adjudicated ahead of
complex procedural issues that would require evidentiary
another procedural front, in an effort to treat petitioners
equitably in the face of habeas procedural rules requiring
both complete exhaustion of claims and the
filing of the federal petition within one year of finality of
the state court judgment, the federal courts have crafted
what has become, but was not intended to be, a tangled web of
procedural exceptions involving the question of stays-the
current issue in Petitioner's case. As a matter of
comity, a federal court will not entertain a habeas corpus
petition unless the petitioner has exhausted the available
state judicial remedies on every ground presented in a
petition. Rose v. Lundy, 455 U.S. 509, 518-22
(1982). The habeas statute explicitly provides that a habeas
petition brought by a person in state custody “shall
not be granted unless it appears that … the applicant
has exhausted the remedies available in the courts of the
State.” 28 U.S.C. § 2254(b)(1)(A).
after Rose v. Lundy, Congress's imposition of a
one-year statute of limitations and a successive-petitions
bar in the Anti-Terrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of
1996 (“AEDPA”) made federal courts scramble to
carve out procedural paths to provide habeas petitioners with
every opportunity to both exhaust their state court remedies
and file their petitions on time. The stay is one of these
Ryan v. Gonzales, the United States Supreme Court
considered the very difficult issue of whether two
petitioners' incompetence warranted an indefinite stay of
their habeas corpus actions. 568 U.S. 57 (2013). There, the
Neither petitioner disputes that “[d]istrict courts ...
ordinarily have authority to issue stays, where such a stay
would be a proper exercise of discretion.” Rhines
v. Weber, 544 U.S. 269, 276, 125 S.Ct. 1528, 161 L.Ed.2d
440 (2005) (citation omitted); see also Enelow v. New
York Life Ins. Co., 293 U.S. 379, 382, 55 S.Ct. 310, 79
L.Ed. 440 (1935) (explaining that a district court may stay a
case “pending before it by virtue of its inherent power
to control the progress of the cause so as to maintain the
orderly processes of justice”). Similarly, both
petitioners agree that “AEDPA does not deprive district
courts of [this] authority.” Rhines, supra, at
276, 125 S.Ct. 1528. Petitioners and respondents disagree,
however, about the types of situations in which a stay would
be appropriate and about the permissible duration of a
competency-based stay. We do not presume that district courts
need unsolicited advice from us on how to manage their
dockets. Rather, the decision to grant a stay, like the
decision to grant an evidentiary hearing, is “generally
left to the sound discretion of district courts.”
Schriro v. Landrigan, 550 U.S. 465, 473, 127 S.Ct.
1933, 167 L.Ed.2d 836 (2007). For purposes of resolving these
cases, it is unnecessary to determine the precise contours of
the district court's discretion to issue stays.
Id. at 73-74.
Rhines v. Weber, the Court held that federal
district courts could use a stay-and-abeyance procedure in
“limited circumstances” where the petitioner
shows good cause for failing to exhaust, the unexhausted
claim is potentially meritorious, and the petitioner has not
engaged in abusive litigation tactics or intentional delay.
544 U.S. at 277-78.
Pace v. DiGuglielmo, 544 U.S. 408, 416 (2005), the
United States Supreme Court authorized prisoners seeking to
“avoid th[e] predicament” of a potentially late
filing while they continued trying to exhaust some of their
federal claims in state court to use the stay-and-abeyance
procedure to file a “protective” petition in
federal court to meet the statute of limitations deadline.
These “protective” petitions, which have
historically been used in other types of cases, put an
element of delay back into federal habeas corpus procedure
that the Anti-Terrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act was
intended to eliminate. Further, the United States Court of
Appeals for the Ninth Circuit has declared that (1) the
petition in Pace v. DiGuglielmo was “not
mixed, ” (2) “the [Supreme] Court gave no
indication that its statement applied only to mixed
petitions, ” and (3) therefore, a petitioner now can
file an entirely premature protective petition containing
only unexhausted claims. Mena v. Long, 813
F.3d 907, 910 (9th Cir. 2016).
has two purposes. One is to “reduce delays in the
execution of state and federal criminal sentences,
particularly in capital cases.” Woodford v.
Garceau, 538 U.S. 202, 206 (2003). The other is to
“balance the interests served by the exhaustion
requirement and the limitation period by protecting a state
prisoner's ability later to apply for federal habeas
relief while state remedies are being pursued.”
Rhines, 544 U.S. at 276 (internal quotation marks
omitted). The Supreme Court has come right out and said that
“[s]taying a federal habeas ...