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Miller v. Ramirez

United States District Court, D. Idaho

November 19, 2019

AL RAMIREZ, ISCI Warden, Respondent.



         Petitioner Jody Allen Miller has filed a Petition for Writ of Habeas Corpus challenging Petitioner's state court conviction. See Dkt. 2. The Court now reviews the Petition to determine whether it is subject to summary dismissal pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2243 and Rule 4 of the Rules Governing Section 2254 Cases (“Habeas Rules”).


         1. Standard of Law for Review of Petition

         Federal habeas corpus relief under 28 U.S.C. § 2254 is available to petitioners who show that they are held in custody under a state court judgment and that such custody violates the Constitution, laws, or treaties of the United States. See 28 U.S.C. § 2254(a). The Court is required to review a habeas corpus petition upon receipt to determine whether it is subject to summary dismissal. Habeas Rule 4. Summary dismissal is appropriate where “it plainly appears from the face of the petition and any attached exhibits that the petitioner is not entitled to relief in the district court.”[1] Id.

         2. Discussion

         In the First Judicial District Court in Benewah County, Idaho, Petitioner entered an Alford plea to second-degree murder. The judgment of conviction was entered on February 17, 2012. Petitioner was sentenced to a unified term of 25 years in prison with 12.5 years fixed. Petitioner did not file a direct appeal but did seek state post-conviction relief. Dkt. 2 at 1-4.

         In the instant Petition for Writ of Habeas Corpus, Petitioner brings twelve claims. Claim 1 asserts ineffective assistance of counsel for failing to convey a previous plea offer to Petitioner. Claim 2 asserts that Petitioner's pre-arraignment confession was obtained in violation of the Fifth Amendment. In Claim 3, Petitioner asserts that a minor child's statement was obtained in violation of the Fifth Amendment. Claim 4 asserts a due process violation based on a contaminated knife handle. In Claim 5, Petitioner asserts that his attorney rendered ineffective assistance by failing to adequately explain the waiver of Petitioner's right to a speedy trial. Claim 6 asserts ineffective assistance of counsel for failing to keep Petitioner apprised of counsel's pretrial preparation. Claims 7 and 8 appear to assert ineffective assistance of counsel for failing to adequately investigate lab reports, other scientific evidence, and recordings-perhaps with respect to the discovery process. Claim 9 asserts ineffective assistance based on failure to secure the exclusion of certain evidence. Claim 10 asserts a denial of Petitioner's right to present a defense, apparently as a result of ineffective assistance of counsel. In Claim 11, Petitioner asserts that the prosecutor committed misconduct and also may be intending to assert an equal protection violation based on Petitioner's treatment with respect to his co-defendants. Finally, Claim 12 alleges that Idaho Code § 19-4908, which is Idaho's prohibition on successive post-conviction petitions, violates the Sixth and Fourteenth Amendments. Id. at 6-22.

         Petitioner may proceed on the Petition to the extent that the claims (1) are cognizable in a federal habeas corpus action, (2) were timely filed in this Court, and (3) were either properly exhausted in state court or are subject to a legal excuse for any failure to exhaust in a proper manner. It is necessary for the Court to review portions of the state court record to resolve preliminary procedural issues, and it would also be helpful to receive briefing from Respondent. Therefore, the Court will order the Clerk to serve a copy of the Petition on counsel for Respondent, who may respond either by answer or pre-answer motion and who will provide relevant portions of the state court record to this Court.

         3. Potentially Applicable Standards of Law

         Because Petitioner is pro se and because the Court finds that focused briefing from the parties would be beneficial in this case, the Court provides the following standards of law that might, or might not, be applicable to the Petition.

         A. Statute of Limitations

         The Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act (“AEDPA”) requires a petitioner to seek federal habeas corpus relief within one year from “the date on which the judgment became final by the conclusion of direct review or the expiration of the time for seeking such review.”[2] 28 U.S.C. § 2244(d)(1)(A). However, the one-year statute of limitations can be tolled (or suspended) under certain circumstances. AEDPA provides for tolling for all of “[t]he time during which a properly filed application for State post-conviction or other collateral review ... is pending.” 28 U.S.C. § 2244(d)(2). A motion to reduce a sentence that is not a part of the direct review process and that requires re-examination of the sentence qualifies as a collateral review application that tolls the one- year statute of limitations. Wall v. Kholi, 562 U.S. 545, 555-56 (2011). Thus, to the extent that a petitioner properly filed an application for post-conviction relief or other collateral challenge in state court, the one-year federal limitations period stops running on the filing date of the state court action and resumes when the action is completed.

         The statute of limitations can also be equitably tolled under exceptional circumstances. “[A] petitioner is entitled to equitable tolling only if he shows (1) that he has been pursuing his rights diligently, and (2) that some extraordinary circumstance stood in his way and prevented timely filing.” Holland v. Florida, 560 U.S. 631, 649 (2010) (internal quotation marks omitted). In addition, AEDPA's statute of limitations is subject to an actual innocence exception. A petitioner who satisfies the actual innocence gateway standard may have otherwise time-barred claims heard on the merits. McQuiggin v. Perkins, 133 S.Ct. 1924, 1931-32 (2013); Lee v. Lampert, 653 F.3d 929, 937 (9th Cir. 2011) (en banc). Actual innocence in this context means “factual innocence, not mere legal insufficiency.” Bousley v. United States, 523 U.S. 614, 624 (1998).

         B. Exhaustion and Procedural Default

         A habeas petitioner must exhaust his or her remedies in the state courts before a federal court can grant relief on constitutional claims. O'Sullivan v. Boerckel, 526 U.S. 838, 842 (1999). To do so, the petitioner must invoke one complete round of the state's established appellate review process, fairly presenting all constitutional claims to the state courts so that they have a full and fair opportunity to correct alleged constitutional errors at each level of appellate review. Id. at 845. In a state that has the possibility of discretionary review in the highest ...

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