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Crow v. Yordy

United States District Court, D. Idaho

May 13, 2019



          Honorable Candy W. Dale United States Magistrate Judge

         Pending before the Court is a Petition for Writ of Habeas Corpus filed by Idaho state prisoner Lawrence James Crow (“Petitioner” or “Crow”), challenging Petitioner's Bingham County conviction of attempted first-degree murder. (Dkt. 1.) On June 22, 2018, the Court dismissed Claims 1, 2, 3, 4(c), and 4(e) as procedurally defaulted or noncognizable. (Dkt. 19.) The remaining claims in the Petition-Claims 4(a), 4(b), and 4(d)-are now fully briefed and ripe for adjudication on the merits. (Dkt. 20, 21, 22.)

         The Court takes judicial notice of the records from Petitioner's state court proceedings, which have been lodged by Respondent. (Dkt. 10.) See Fed. R. Evid. 201(b); Dawson v. Mahoney, 451 F.3d 550, 551 n.1 (9th Cir. 2006).

         All parties have consented to the jurisdiction of a United States Magistrate Judge to conduct all proceedings in this case in accordance with 28 U.S.C. § 636(c) and Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 73. (Dkt. 8.) Having carefully reviewed the record in this matter, including the state court record, the Court concludes that oral argument is unnecessary.[1]See D. Idaho L. Civ. R. 7.1(d). Accordingly, the Court enters the following Order denying habeas corpus relief.


         The following facts of Petitioner's case, as described by the Idaho Court of Appeals, are presumed correct absent clear and convincing evidence to the contrary:

In July 2010, officers responded to a shooting involving Crow and his ex-girlfriend (victim). Crow and the victim dated for approximately six years and separated around one month prior to the shooting. Crow and the victim had a child together and, at the time, were sharing custody. On the day of the shooting, Crow had custody of the child (at Crow's mother's residence) and was to return the child to the victim around noon. The victim observed Crow pull into her driveway that day. However, instead of dropping off the child, Crow backed up and left. The victim indicated that normally she would have been alone, but that day her mother was at her residence. The victim later surmised Crow had seen her mother's car in the driveway and left.
A short time thereafter, the victim drove to Crow's mother's residence to pick up the child. When the victim arrived, Crow desired to talk about their relationship and the victim agreed. While talking on the front porch, the victim realized Crow had been drinking and decided to leave. The victim attempted to open the front door to retrieve her child, but found the door was locked and so she knocked. Because Crow was acting aggressively, the victim dialed 911 on her cell phone but did not send the call initially. Crow then drew a handgun from his pants and stated to the victim, “If I can't have you, no one can.” Crow also stated “I got this for you” in a threating manner while pointing the gun at the victim. By this time, the front door had been unlocked by someone within the house. The victim fled into the house and dialed 911. Crow pursued her. Crow again pointed the gun into the victim's face and chest, and the victim pushed the gun away. Crow fired the gun, wounding the victim in the arm.
The victim retreated into a bathroom and locked the door. The victim heard one or two additional shots. One of these shots went through the bathroom door, although missing the victim. Crow subsequently gained entry into the bathroom. In desperation, the victim began hugging Crow, telling him that she would come back to him. Crow loosened his grip on the gun and the victim seized it and turned it over to Crow's sister. Police arrived shortly thereafter.

(State's Lodging B-4 at 1-2.) See 28 U.S.C. § 2254(e)(1).

         In the Seventh Judicial District Court in Bingham County, Idaho, Petitioner was charged with attempted first-degree murder and domestic battery involving traumatic injury in the presence of a child, along with two sentencing enhancements for use of a firearm and for infliction of great bodily injury. (Id. at 2.) Petitioner eventually pleaded guilty to attempted first-degree murder. In exchange, the state dismissed the sentencing enhancements, which, by that time, were the only remaining charges.[2] Petitioner was sentenced to a unified term of 15 years in prison, with 9 years fixed, and was ordered to pay a civil fine. (Id.)

         Petitioner appealed his sentence, the civil fine, and the trial court's denial of his motion for reduction of sentence under Idaho Criminal Rule 35. The Idaho Court of Appeals reduced the amount of the fine, but otherwise affirmed the judgment of conviction. (Id. at 2-6.)

         Petitioner filed a state post-conviction petition asserting numerous claims, including claims of ineffective assistance of trial counsel. (State's Lodging C-1 at 4-10.) After holding an evidentiary hearing, the state district court dismissed the petition. (State's Lodging C-4; C-1 at 38-39.) The Idaho Court of Appeals affirmed, denying Petitioner's ineffective assistance claims on the merits, [3] and the Idaho Supreme Court denied review. (State's Lodging D-4; D-6.)

         Petitioner filed the instant habeas corpus petition in March 2017. (Dkt. 1.) Claims 4(a), 4(b), and 4(d)-all of which allege ineffective assistance of counsel-remain for adjudication on the merits. In Claim 4(a), Petitioner argues that his initial trial counsel rendered ineffective assistance when-based on counsel's erroneous belief that Petitioner was facing the death penalty-counsel waived Petitioner's preliminary hearing and told Petitioner he had to plead guilty, presumably to avoid that penalty. (Dkt. 1 at 7.) Claim 4(b) asserts that Petitioner's later trial counsel never spoke to Petitioner about filing an appeal. (Id.) And Claim 4(d) alleges that trial counsel refused to challenge the charging document as duplicative. (Id.) Respondent contends that Petitioner is not entitled to habeas relief on any of these claims.


         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 a 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 both United States Supreme Court as well as circuit precedent, limited only by the non-retroactivity rule of Teague v. Lane, 489 U.S. 288 (1989). Even under de novo review, however, if the factual findings of the state court are not unreasonable under § 2254(d)(2), 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 1167-68. Conversely, if a state court factual determination is unreasonable, the federal court is not limited by § 2254(e)(1) and may consider evidence outside the state court record, except to the extent that § 2254(e)(2) might apply. Murray v. Schriro, 745 F.3d at 1000.


         Respondent asserts that the Idaho Court of Appeals' rejection of Claims 4(a), 4(b), and 4(d) was reasonable under AEDPA. For the following reasons, the Court agrees.

         1. Clearly-Established Federal Law: Ineffective ...

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