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Wilson v. Yordy

United States District Court, D. Idaho

February 13, 2019

JARED J. WILSON, Petitioner,
v.
KEITH YORDY, Warden, Respondent.

          MEMORANDUM DECISION AND ORDER

          David C. Nye Chief District Judge

         Pending before the Court is a Petition for Writ of Habeas Corpus filed by Idaho state prisoner Jared J. Wilson (“Petitioner” or “Wilson”), challenging Petitioner's Gem County convictions on two counts of lewd conduct with a minor under the age of sixteen. Dkt. 3. The Petition is now fully briefed and ripe for adjudication. Dkt. 11, 13. The Court takes judicial notice of the records from Petitioner's state court proceedings, which have been lodged by Respondent. See Dkt. 10; Fed.R.Evid. 201(b); Dawson v. Mahoney, 451 F.3d 550, 551 n.1 (9th Cir. 2006).

         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.

         BACKGROUND

         In the Third Judicial District Court in Gem County, Idaho, Petitioner was charged with two counts of violating Idaho's Sexual Offender Registration Notification and Community Right-to-Know Act by (1) failing to register as a sex offender and (2) failing to provide a notice of a change of address.

         In a separate case, Petitioner was also charged with two counts of lewd conduct with a minor under the age of sixteen. One of the lewd conduct counts alleged that Petitioner molested the victim at his home in Emmett. The other count alleged that Petitioner molested her while driving the victim between her home in Twin Falls and his home in Emmett. The state alleged that both lewd conduct crimes were committed “on or between the years 2006 and 2007, ” when the victim was seven and eight years of age. State's Lodging A-3 at 416.

         The cases were consolidated, with the agreement of Petitioner's trial counsel. Counsel's agreement was based on his belief that, if the cases were consolidated, Petitioner could not be charged with a persistent violator, or habitual offender, enhancement. That belief was incorrect, as the parties learned shortly before trial. Because Petitioner had other qualifying convictions, he was subject to the habitual offender enhancement regardless of whether the cases were consolidated or were tried separately. Petitioner's counsel later stated that his initial agreement to consolidate the cases might have been different if he had known about Petitioner's previous convictions.

         After the prosecution ran a criminal history check and discovered the previous convictions, it suggested that it might consider dismissing the charges, then refiling them in new informations that included a habitual offender enhancement in each case. At a pretrial hearing, the prosecution agreed not to do so if Petitioner agreed to keep the cases consolidated and to go to trial as scheduled. Petitioner's counsel so agreed.

         The jury convicted Petitioner on all four counts. He was sentenced to terms of ten years in prison on each of the registration/notification counts, and concurrent unified terms of life imprisonment, with ten years fixed, on each lewd conduct count. The Idaho Court of Appeals vacated the conviction for failing to register but affirmed the other convictions.[1] State's Lodging B-8.

         Petitioner then pursued state post-conviction relief, asserting claims of ineffective assistance of counsel, as well as other claims that he does not raise in his federal Petition. State's Lodging C-1 at 4-54. The state district court dismissed the post-conviction petition. Id. at 163-67.

         On appeal from the dismissal of that petition, Petitioner raised two claims of ineffective assistance of trial counsel. First, he alleged that his trial counsel rendered ineffective assistance by failing to investigate Petitioner's criminal history before agreeing to consolidate the lewd conduct case with the registration/notification case. State's Lodging B-3. Such an investigation would have revealed that Petitioner could be charged with a habitual offender enhancement regardless of whether the cases were consolidated. This claim is asserted as Claim 1 of the instant Petition.

         Second, Petitioner alleged that his counsel rendered ineffective assistance by failing to call certain witnesses and present certain other evidence. Id. This claim is presented as Claim 2 of the Petition.

         The Idaho Court of Appeals affirmed the dismissal of the post-conviction petition. State's Lodging D-6. With respect to Claim 1, the court concluded that trial counsel's (1) initial agreement to consolidate the cases, and (2) later agreement to keep the cases consolidated, were tactical decisions and that, although the initial decision was based on ignorance, Petitioner had not shown that this initial decision played a role in the second strategic decision to keep the cases consolidated so as to avoid refiling of the charges with the addition of habitual offender enhancements. Id. at 5-6. As for Claim 2, the court determined that (1) counsel's decision not to present the evidence identified by Petitioner was a reasonable strategic decision, and (2) even if the evidence had been presented, it would not have altered the jury's verdicts. Id. at 6-9.

         The instant Petition challenges the Idaho Court of Appeals' rejection of Claims 1 and 2.

         HABEAS CORPUS STANDARD OF LAW

         Federal habeas corpus relief may be granted when a federal court determines that the petitioner “is in custody in violation of the Constitution or laws or treaties of the United States.” 28 U.S.C. § 2254(a). If the state court has adjudicated a claim on the merits, habeas relief is further limited by § 2254(d), as amended by the Anti-terrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996 (“AEDPA”). Under AEDPA, federal habeas relief may be granted only 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). “Deciding whether a state court's decision involved an unreasonable application of federal law or was based on an unreasonable determination of fact requires the federal habeas court to train its attention on the particular reasons- both legal and factual-why state courts rejected a state prisoner's federal claims and to give appropriate deference to that decision.” Wilson v. Sellers, 138 S.Ct. 1188, 1191-92 (2018) (internal quotation marks and citations omitted).

         When a party contests the state court's legal conclusions, including application of the law to the facts, § 2254(d)(1) governs. That section consists of two alternative tests: the “contrary to” test and the “unreasonable application” test.

         Under the first test, a state court's decision is “contrary to” clearly established federal law “if the state court applies a rule different from the governing law set forth in [the Supreme Court's] cases, or if it decides a case differently than [the Supreme Court] [has] done on a set of materially indistinguishable facts.” Bell v. Cone, 535 U.S. 685, 694 (2002). Under the second test, to satisfy the “unreasonable application” clause of § 2254(d)(1), the petitioner must show that the state court-although identifying “the correct governing legal rule” from Supreme Court precedent-nonetheless “unreasonably applie[d] it to the facts of the particular state prisoner's case.” Williams (Terry) v. Taylor, 529 U.S. 362, 407 (2000). “Section 2254(d)(1) provides a remedy for instances in which a state court unreasonably applies [Supreme Court] precedent; it does not require state courts to extend that precedent or license federal courts to treat the failure to do so as error.” White v. Woodall, 134 S.Ct. 1697, 1706 (2014) (emphasis omitted).

         A federal court cannot grant habeas relief simply because it concludes in its independent judgment that the 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 there is any possibility that fair-minded jurists could disagree on the correctness of the state court's decision, then relief is not warranted under § 2254(d)(1). Harrington v. Richter, 562 U.S. 86, 102 (2011). The Supreme Court has emphasized that “even a strong case for relief does not mean the state court's contrary conclusion was unreasonable.” Id. To be entitled to habeas relief under § 2254(d)(1), “a state prisoner must show that the state court's ruling on the claim being presented in federal court was so lacking in justification that there was an error well understood and comprehended in existing law beyond any possibility for fairminded disagreement.” Id. at 103.

         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. 2000). 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] Court has not announced.” Marshall v. Rodgers, 569 U.S. 58, 64 (2013).

         “[R]eview under § 2254(d)(1) is limited to the record that was before the state court that adjudicated the claim on the merits.” Cullen v. Pinholster, 563 U.S. 170, 180 (2011). Therefore, evidence that was not presented to the state court cannot be introduced on federal habeas review if a claim was adjudicated on the merits in state court and if the underlying factual determinations of the state court were reasonable. See Murray v. Schriro, 745 F.3d 984, 999-1000 (9th Cir. 2014); (“After Pinholster, a federal habeas court may consider new evidence only on de novo review, subject to the limitations of § 2254(e)(2).”); Hurles v. Ryan, 752 F.3d 768, 778 (9th Cir. 2014) (“If we determine, considering only the evidence before the state court, that the adjudication of a claim on the merits ... was based on an unreasonable determination of the facts, we evaluate the claim de novo, and we may consider evidence properly presented for the first time in federal court.”).

         To be eligible for relief under § 2254(d)(2), the petitioner must show that the state court decision was based upon factual determinations that were “unreasonable ... in light of the evidence presented in the State court proceeding.” A “state-court factual determination is not unreasonable merely because the federal habeas court would have reached a different conclusion in the first instance.” Wood v. Allen, 558 U.S. 290, 301 (2010); see also Schriro v. Landrigan, 550 U.S. 465, 473 (2007) (“The question under AEDPA is not whether a federal court believes the state court's determination was incorrect but whether that determination was unreasonable-a substantially higher threshold.”). State court factual findings are presumed to be correct and are binding on the federal court unless the petitioner rebuts this presumption by clear and convincing evidence. 28 U.S.C. § 2254(e)(1).

         If a petitioner satisfies § 2254(d)-either by showing that the state court's adjudication of the claim was contrary to, or an unreasonable application of, Supreme Court precedent or by establishing that the state court's factual findings were unreasonable-then the federal habeas court must review the petitioner's claim de novo, meaning without deference to the state court's decision. Hurles, 752 F.3d at 778. When considering a habeas claim de novo, a district court may, as in the pre-AEDPA era, draw from circuit precedent as well as Supreme Court precedent, limited only by the non-retroactivity rule of Teague v. Lane, 489 U.S. 288 (1989). Even on de novo review, however, so long as the state courts' factual findings are not unreasonable under § 2254(d)(2), the federal habeas court still must apply § 2254(e)(1)'s presumption of correctness to any such findings. Pirtle v. Morgan, 313 F.3d 1160, 1167-68 (9th Cir. 2002).

         DISCUSSION

         1. Clearly-Established Law Governing Claims of Ineffective Assistance of Counsel

          The Sixth Amendment to the United States Constitution provides that a criminal defendant has a right to the effective assistance of counsel in his defense. The standard for ineffective assistance of counsel (“IAC”) claims was set forth by the Supreme Court in Strickland v. Washington, 466 U.S. 668 (1984). A petitioner asserting ineffective assistance of counsel must show that (1) “counsel made errors so serious that counsel was not functioning as the ‘counsel' guaranteed the defendant by the Sixth Amendment, ” and (2) those errors “deprive[d] the defendant of a fair trial, a trial whose result is reliable.” Id. at 687. A petitioner must establish both deficient performance and prejudice to prove an IAC claim. Id. at ...


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