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Sivak v. Christensen

United States District Court, D. Idaho

August 12, 2019




         Pending before the Court is a second-in-time Petition for Writ of Habeas Corpus filed by Petitioner Lacey Mark Sivak, challenging Petitioner's amended judgment of conviction for first-degree murder. Petitioner was initially sentenced to death. “After numerous appeals, several capital resentencings and years of litigation, ” State's Lodging R-5 at 1, Petitioner obtained sentencing relief through federal habeas corpus proceedings. Sivak v. Hardison, 658 F.3d 898 (9th Cir. 2011). The Ninth Circuit affirmed this Court's denial of Petitioner's guilt-phase claims in his first habeas petition. Id. Petitioner was resentenced to life imprisonment without the possibility of parole, and the trial court issued an amended judgment of conviction.[1] State's Lodging Q-3 at 529-30.

         The Court previously dismissed numerous claims asserted in the Petition, including (1) civil rights claims challenging the conditions of Petitioner's confinement, see Nettles v. Grounds, 830 F.3d 922, 931 (9th Cir. 2016) (en banc); (2) claims challenging Petitioner's previously-vacated death sentence; and (3) claims that did not assert a freestanding, cognizable, federal constitutional claim. Dkt. 13 at 9 n.3, 12-14. On September 27, 2018, the Court also dismissed Petitioner's resentencing claims as procedurally defaulted without excuse. Dkt. 116.

         As a result, the only claims remaining for adjudication are Petitioner's guilt-phase claims challenging his murder conviction.[2] Having carefully reviewed the record in this matter, including the available 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 dismissing Petitioner's remaining claims.

         1. Background

         The Court takes judicial notice of the records from Petitioner's state court proceedings that occurred after Petitioner's first federal habeas case, which have been lodged by Respondent.[3] Dkt. 19, 85. See Fed. R. Evid. 201(b); Dawson v. Mahoney, 451 F.3d 550, 551 n.1 (9th Cir. 2006). The Court need not repeat the factual or procedural history of this case except as necessary to explain its decision.

         On August 28, 2013, after Petitioner's latest resentencing hearing, the trial court entered an amended judgment of conviction. State's Lodging Q-3 at 529-30. That amended judgment-rather than the initial judgment with respect to which Petitioner obtained habeas relief from his death sentence-is the judgment challenged in the instant Petition. See Magwood, 561 U.S. at 339-40; Wentzell, 674 F.3d at 1127. As the Court has already explained, the only claims that Petitioner raised when he challenged the amended judgment, on direct appeal, were that the sentencing court abused its discretion, under Idaho law, by (1) sentencing Petitioner to fixed life and (2) denying Petitioner's motion for reduction of sentence under Idaho Criminal Rule 35. Dkt. 82 at 16-17, citing State's Lodging R-1. The Idaho Court of Appeals rejected these claims, and the Idaho Supreme Court denied review.

         Petitioner did not pursue any other appeal with respect to the amended judgment of conviction.

         2. Claims at Issue

         Given the Court's previous dismissals, the following claims remain-but only to the extent the claims challenge Petitioner's guilt-phase proceedings:

Claim 1: Petitioner was subjected to excessive force during arrest and denied medical care, which might have affected Petitioner's 1981 trial….
Claim 2: Petitioner asserts he was secretly trained by the U.S. government, but that training was kept secret. As a result, (a) Petitioner received ineffective assistance of trial counsel when counsel failed pursue a defense related to this training, and (b) the trial judge was biased against Petitioner….
Claim 3: The trial judge “tamper[ed] with [Petitioner's] ability to seek redress” in violation of the Eighth and Fourteenth Amendments….
Claim 4: Petitioner was denied the effective assistance of counsel with respect to an affidavit that “vanished from the files.”…
Claim 5: Several witnesses were not excluded from trial prior to their testimony….
Claim 6: Petitioner's trial counsel knew that an individual had threatened certain witnesses into silence, yet “covered it up.”…
Claim 7: Petitioner's attorney blackmailed Petitioner's family into paying for an evaluation of Petitioner by stating that if the family did not pay, Petitioner would receive the death penalty….
Claim 8: (a) The trial judge prohibited Petitioner “from being able to address matters, ” (b) Petitioner received ineffective assistance of counsel, [and] (c) Petitioner was denied DNA testing ….
Claim 9: (a) Ineffective assistance of trial counsel on various grounds, (b) police misconduct, and (c) bias against Petitioner based on the marriage between a prosecutor and a lab technician….
Claim 10: (a) Unconstitutional jury instructions or verdict form, and (b) a double jeopardy violation based on the jury's ...

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