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Stevens v. Carlin

United States District Court, D. Idaho

April 2, 2018

TEREMA CARLIN, Respondent.



         On February 7, 2018, this Court granted Claim 1 of Petitioner Edward Stevens's Petition for Writ of Habeas Corpus pursuant to Brady v. Maryland, 373 U.S. 83 (1963). The Court's decision requires the State of Idaho to release Petitioner or to institute new trial proceedings against him within 120 days of the date of that Order-that is, by June 7, 2018. (Dkt. 30.) Respondent has filed a Notice of Appeal and a Motion for Stay Pending Appeal. (Dkt. 32, 33.) Petitioner has opposed the Motion to Stay and filed an alternative Request for Bond, arguing that if the Court issues a stay pending appeal, it should allow Petitioner to be released on bond. (Dkt. 36, 38.) The motions are fully briefed. (Dkt. 33, 36, 38, 39, 40, 42.)

         1. Standard of Law

         If a federal court grants habeas corpus relief, the petitioner must be released from custody “on personal recognizance, with or without surety, ” unless “the court or judge rendering the decision, or the court of appeals, or the Supreme Court, or a judge or justice of either court orders otherwise.” Fed. R. App. P. 23(c). The United States Supreme Court has held that Rule 23(c) “undoubtedly creates a presumption of release from custody in such cases.” Hilton v. Braunskill, 481 U.S. 770, 774 (1987). In Hilton, the Court identified four factors for a court to consider in determining whether release pending appeal is appropriate:

(1) whether the stay applicant has made a strong showing that he is likely to succeed on the merits; (2) whether the applicant will be irreparably injured absent a stay; (3) whether issuance of the stay will substantially injure the other parties interested in the proceeding; and (4) where the public interest lies.

Id. at 776.

         2. Discussion

         For the reasons that follow, the Court concludes that Respondent has not rebutted the Rule 23(c) presumption and that a stay pending appeal is inappropriate in this case.

         First, Respondent has not made a strong showing that he is likely to succeed on the merits of his appeal. Respondent mostly rehashes the same arguments that this Court has already found to be unpersuasive with respect to Petitioner's Brady claim. (Dkt. 33-1 at 5-7.) Further, though Respondent has included some additional speculation as to the evidence of post-embalming removal of the victim's eyes (see Id. at 7), there is nothing in the record to support such speculation.

         This Court has already determined that the Idaho Supreme Court's rejection of Petitioner's Brady claim was objectively unreasonable under § 2254(d)(1). That is, no fairminded jurist could agree with that court's treatment of the Brady claim. See Harrington v. Richter, 562 U.S. 86, 102 (2011). The Court also found that the state post-conviction court's factual finding of pre-embalming removal of the eyes was unreasonable under § 2254(d)(2) and that Petitioner rebutted the presumption of correctness under § 2254(e)(1) by clear and convincing evidence. Given that no fairminded jurist would agree with the state court's resolution of Petitioner's Brady claim, Respondent does not have a substantial likelihood of prevailing on appeal.

         Second, Respondent has failed to satisfy his burden of showing irreparable injury if a stay is denied. The Court agrees that witnesses' memories fade over time (Dkt. 33-1 at 10), but such is the case with all retrials. Respondent's other arguments as to irreparable injury will be discussed below in the context of the public-interest factor.

         Third, although the State likely would not suffer substantial injury if the Court rejects his arguments, Petitioner unquestionably would. He has already been incarcerated for nearly 21 years, and the Court will not extend that period absent extraordinary circumstances, which are simply not present here. See Grube v. Blades, Case No. 1:01-cv-00357-BLW, Dkt. 121 at 2 (Feb. 28, 2006) (finding that a stay pending appeal would substantially injure the petitioner, “who has already been imprisoned for 15 years”). In addition, Petitioner has an especially strong interest in release-his mother has been diagnosed with Stage IV uterine cancer, she has no other relatives in Idaho, and may “pass away before the appeal can be completed.” (Stevens Aff., Dkt. 36-2, at ¶ 12.) Thus, Petitioner will suffer substantial injury if a stay is granted.

         Finally, the public interest weighs against a stay. Respondent argues otherwise, stating that this Court's decision to grant relief on Petitioner's Brady claim “was not based upon a showing of insufficient evidence at [Petitioner's] trial.” (Dkt. 33-1 at 10.) Technically, Respondent is correct. But as Respondent is aware, but does not mention, and as recognized by the state courts as well as this Court, most of the evidence at Petitioner's trial was hotly disputed, and the single most important piece of evidence against Petitioner was the evidence of injuries in the victim's eyes-evidence that has now been called into serious doubt. Further, Petitioner's first trial ended with a hung jury. Thus, this is not a case “where there is overwhelming evidence of guilt” of the murder of the victim. Grube, Case No. 1:01-cv-00357-BLW, Dkt. 121 at 3.

         Indeed, the Brady evidence lends support to Petitioner's claim that the victim was not shaken prior to his death, which theory was necessary to support the State's charge of first-degree murder. Further, though Respondent dismisses the evidence that the victim's skull fracture was more than two times smaller at the time of injury than previously believed (Dkt. 39 at 7), he has not disputed (1) that this evidence “shows whatever caused [the victim's] skull fracture required less force than previously thought by either party because the impact only caused a four-centimeter fracture rather than a nine-centimeter fracture, ” or (2) that the evidence makes the possibility of an ...

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