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O'Neal v. Christensen

United States District Court, D. Idaho

January 13, 2020

JIMMIE O'NEAL, Petitioner,


          Ronald E. Bush Chief U.S. Magistrate Judge.

         Petitioner Jimmie O'Neal has filed a Petition for Writ of Habeas Corpus challenging Petitioner's state court conviction. See Dkt. 3. 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 must 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 Fifth Judicial District Court in Gooding County, Idaho, Petitioner pleaded guilty to voluntary manslaughter. The judgment of conviction was entered on May 2, 2017. Petitioner received a unified sentence of twelve years in prison with six years fixed. Petitioner pursued a direct appeal as well as state post-conviction relief. Dkt. 3 at 1-3.

         In the instant Petition for Writ of Habeas Corpus, Petitioner brings four claims, all of which appear to be based on an allegedly “tainted” presentence investigation report (“PSI”). Claim 1 alleges that, in violation of due process, the trial court relied on an unconstitutionally obtained PSI and, as a result, lacked jurisdiction to sentence Petitioner.

         Claim 2 asserts ineffective assistance of trial counsel, in violation of the Sixth and Fourteenth Amendments, based on counsel's “allow[ing] [the] [court to proceed knowingly with sentencing when court would use reliance on a[n] unconstitutionally obtained and tainted PSI.”[2] Id. at 7. In this claim, Petitioner seems to allege that counsel failed to invoke Petitioner's right to remain silent with respect to the PSI. Id. (citing Miranda v. Arizona, 384 U.S. 436 (1966)).

         In Claim 3, Petitioner appears to assert that his Fifth Amendment right to be free from compelled self-incrimination was violated when the sentencing judge relied on the PSI. Id. at 8.

         Claim 4 alleges that various Idaho state courts “abused [their] authority” by continuously “fail[ing] to correct” violations of Petitioner's rights. Id. at 9. This claim is subject to dismissal because it does not assert a violation of a specific federal right. Petitioner's generalized reference to “basic protections” and his citation to United States Supreme Court cases are insufficient to place Respondent or the Court on notice of the specific federal violation asserted in Claim 4. See Id. Therefore, Claim 4 will be dismissed.

         Petitioner may proceed on Claims 1 through 3 of the Petition to the extent that those 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”) generally 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.” 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 ...

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