Fletcher v. Blades
MEMORANDUM DECISION AND ORDER. IT IS ORDERED: The document Petitioner filed on October 26, 2016, entitled "Finding & Recommendation of Successive Review of Amended Petition for Habeas Corpus; Release on Personal Recognizance" (Dkt. 56 ) is DENIED. Petitioner's Request for Evidentiary Hearing (Dkt. 68 ) is DENIED. Petitioner's Request for Habeas Relief (Dkt. 71 ) is DENIED. Respondent's Motion for Partial Summary Dismissal (Dkt. 61 ) is GRANTED. All of the claims in the Amended Petition-with the exception of claim 4(e)-are DISMISSED with prejudice. Signed by Judge Ronald E. Bush. (caused to be mailed to non Registered Participants at the addresses listed on the Notice of Electronic Filing (NEF) by (km)
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE DISTRICT OF IDAHO
Case No. 1:15-cv-00166-REB
MEMORANDUM DECISION AND
Pending before the Court is an Amended Petition for Writ of Habeas Corpus filed
by Idaho state prisoner William Fletcher, challenging his state court conviction of injury
to a child. (Dkt. 53.) Respondent has filed a Motion for Partial Summary Dismissal (Dkt.
61), which is now ripe for adjudication. Also pending are several motions filed by
Petitioner, including a Request for an Evidentiary Hearing. (Dkt. 68; see also Dkts. 56 &
The 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). (Dkt. 25.)
Having carefully reviewed the record, including the state court record, the Court finds
MEMORANDUM DECISION AND ORDER - 1
that the parties have adequately presented the facts and legal arguments in the briefs and
record and that oral argument is unnecessary. See D. Idaho L. Civ. R. 7.1(d).
Accordingly, the Court enters the following Order granting the Motion and
dismissing with prejudice all of Petitioner’s claims with the exception of Claim 4(e).
The Court takes judicial notice of the records from Petitioner’s state court
proceedings, which have been lodged by Respondent. (Dkt. 13, 55.) See Fed. R. Evid.
201(b); Dawson v. Mahoney, 451 F.3d 550, 551 n.1 (9th Cir. 2006).
In the Fourth Judicial District Court in Ada County, Idaho, Petitioner entered an
Alford plea1 to one count of felony injury to a child, in violation of Idaho Code
§ 18-1501(1) (Dkt. 53 at 1-2; State’s Lodging C-6 at 1.) He was sentenced to a unified
term of ten years in prison with three years fixed, and the trial court retained jurisdiction.
(State’s Lodging A-1 at 91-93; B-4 at 1-2.) After the period of retained jurisdiction
ended, the trial court relinquished jurisdiction and implemented Petitioner’s underlying
sentence. (State’s Lodging A-1 at 107-08.) The trial court also denied Petitioner’s motion
for reduction of sentence under Idaho Criminal Rule 35. (Id. at 138-41.)
On direct appeal, Petitioner argued that the trial court abused its discretion (1) in
sentencing Petitioner and (2) denying Petitioner’s motion for reduction of sentence under
An Alford plea is the equivalent of a guilty plea, the only difference being that the defendant is
not required to expressly admit guilt. See North Carolina v. Alford, 400 U.S. 25, 35 (1970) (holding that it
is constitutionally permissible for a court to accept and sentence an individual upon “a plea by which a
defendant does not expressly admit his guilt, but nonetheless waives his right to a trial and authorizes the
court for purposes of the case to treat him as if he were guilty.”).
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Idaho Criminal Rule 35. (State’s Lodging B-1; B-3.) The Idaho Court of Appeals
affirmed, and the Idaho Supreme Court denied review. (State’s lodging B-4; B-6.)
Petitioner filed a petition for state post-conviction relief, asserting the following
claims: (1) Petitioner’s trial counsel rendered ineffective assistance by failing to conduct
an adequate investigation and by failing to negotiate a misdemeanor plea agreement; (2)
Petitioner’s sentence was disproportionate; and (3) Petitioner’s Alford plea was not
knowing and voluntary because his counsel told Petitioner that he would receive a life
sentence if he did not plead guilty. (State’s Lodging C-1 at 1-18, 92.) The state district
court denied Petitioner’s motion for appointment of counsel and dismissed the postconviction petition. (State’s Lodging C-1 at 91-95, 124-28.)
Petitioner appealed, arguing only that his plea was not knowing, voluntary, and
intelligent because trial counsel “intimated to him that local racial prejudice would make
trying to put on a defense a futile gesture, even though [Petitioner] claimed he was
innocent.” (State’s Lodging C-2 at 8; see also State’s Lodging C-5.) The Idaho Court of
Appeals affirmed the trial court, and the Idaho Supreme Court denied review. (State’s
Lodging C-6; C-8.)
Petitioner filed several other motions in his criminal case, including two motions
for reconsideration of the denial of his first Rule 35 motion and to withdraw his plea, as
well as numerous additional Rule 35 motions. (State’s Lodging E-1 at 9-12, 19-24, 28-30,
34-36, 152-57.) The trial court denied these motions. (Id. at 16-17, 25-26, 31-32, 97-98,
146-47, 149-50, 158-59.) Petitioner appealed, but his appeal was later dismissed for
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failure to pay the fee for preparation of the record. (Id. at 103-05; State’s Lodging D-1;
Petitioner then filed more motions for reduction of sentence and to withdraw his
plea, which the trial court denied. (State’s Lodging E-1 at 162-69, 181-82, 184-87, 18993.) Petitioner appealed the denial of these motions, asserting that his request to withdraw
his plea should have been granted and that his sentence was illegal. (See generally State’s
Lodging F-1; F-4 at 2-3.) The Idaho Court of Appeals turned down the most recent of
Petitioner’s arguments regarding his guilty plea because, under Idaho law, a trial court
lacks jurisdiction to permit withdrawal of a plea after the judgment “has become final by
virtue of its affirmance on appeal.” (State’s Lodging F-4 at 2.) The state appellate court
also held that Petitioner’s sentence was legal on its face and that his remaining arguments
with respect to his sentence were “beyond the scope of a Rule 35 motion.” (Id. at 3.)
Petitioner did not seek review in the Idaho Supreme Court, and the Idaho Court of
Appeals issued its remittitur. (State’s Lodging F-5.)
In the instant federal habeas corpus petition, Petitioner asserts the following
The state breached the plea agreement in
violation of the Due Process Clause.
Petitioner was never given Miranda
warnings in violation of the Fifth
Petitioner’s due process rights were
violated when an Ada County Sheriff’s
Deputy used excessive force against
Petitioner on multiple occasions, filed a
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false disciplinary report against
Petitioner, and punished Petitioner for
his complaints and grievances.
Petitioner was denied the effective
assistance of counsel, in violation of the
Sixth Amendment, based on trial
counsel’s (a) failing to assert a speedy
trial violation, (b) failing to assert a Fifth
Amendment, (c) failing to conduct
adequate research, (d) failing to assert a
due process violation, and (e) informing
Petitioner that “local racial prejudice
would make trying to put on a defense a
futile gesture,” thereby rendering
Petitioner’s plea involuntary and
Petitioner’s rights were violated because
the statute under which Petitioner was
convicted, Idaho Code § 18-1501(1),
“does not fit criteria of a felony but a
Petitioner’s right to be free from
discrimination was violated when the
government has continuously denied him
(See Dkt. 53 at 6-12.)
The Court previously reviewed the Petition and allowed Petitioner to proceed to
the extent such 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 subject
to a legal excuse for any failure to exhaust in a proper manner.” (Dkt. 54 at 1-2.)
Respondent now argues that all claims other than Claim 4(e) are procedurally defaulted
and several others are not cognizable in federal habeas corpus proceedings. (Dkt. 61-1.)
MEMORANDUM DECISION AND ORDER - 5
Petitioner’s Request for an Evidentiary Hearing
In the Request for Evidentiary Hearing, Petitioner argues the merits of his claims.
(Dkt. 68.) However, his request for a hearing is premature, as the Court is considering
only whether some of the claims are cognizable or procedurally defaulted. Further, claims
adjudicated on the merits in state court cannot be the subject of an evidentiary hearing
because federal court “review 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); Murray v. Schriro, 745 F.3d 984, 999-1000 (9th Cir. 2014). A federal
court may hold an evidentiary hearing on whether a petitioner has an adequate excuse for
the default of a constitutional claim; however, such a hearing is not necessary “if the
court determines as a matter of law that [the petitioner] cannot satisfy the standard.”
Clark v. Lewis, 1 F.3d 814, 820 (9th Cir. 1993).
Hence, for the following reasons, an evidentiary hearing is not necessary to decide
whether Claims 1, 2, 3, 4(a)-(d), 5, and 6 are cognizable or procedurally defaulted. The
current record supports summary dismissal of all of these claims as a matter of law.
Therefore, Petitioner’s Request for an Evidentiary Hearing will be denied.
Respondent’s Motion for Partial Summary Dismissal
Standard of Law Governing Summary Dismissal
The Rules Governing § 2254 Cases (“Habeas Rules”) permit summary dismissal
of a petition for writ of habeas corpus when “it plainly appears from the face of the
petition and any attached exhibits,” as well as those records subject to judicial notice,
MEMORANDUM DECISION AND ORDER - 6
“that the petitioner is not entitled to relief in the district court.” Habeas Rule 4; see Fed.
R. Evid. 201(b); Dawson, 451 F.3d at 551 n.1. Where appropriate, a respondent may file
a motion for summary dismissal, rather than an answer. White v. Lewis, 874 F.2d 599,
602 (9th Cir. 1989).
Claim 3 is Not Cognizable on Federal Habeas Review
Claim 3 alleges civil rights violations. Petitioner contends that he was subjected to
excessive force and unconstitutional pretrial punishment and retaliation while he was
incarcerated at the Ada County Jail. However, because such claims do not lie at “‘the
core of habeas corpus,’ [they] may not be brought in habeas corpus but must be brought,
‘if at all,’ under § 1983.” Nettles v. Grounds, 830 F.3d 922, 931 (9th Cir. 2016) (en banc)
(quoting Preiser v. Rodriguez, 411 U.S. 475, 487 (1973), and Skinner v. Switzer. 562 U.S.
521, 535 n.13 (2011)). Therefore, Claim 3 is not cognizable in this action and must be
Respondent also contends that Claims 5 and 6 are not cognizable because they do
not identify a federal basis for relief. It is correct that these claims do not explicitly rely
on federal law, but these claims can be construed as asserting due process or equal
protection violations under the Fourteenth Amendment. Therefore, the Court will assume
that these claims are cognizable and move on to its procedural default analysis.
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Claims 1, 2, 4(a)-(d), 5, and 6 Are Subject to Dismissal as Procedurally
Procedural Default Standards of Law
A habeas petitioner must exhaust his or her remedies in the state courts before a
federal court can consider 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, and fairly present 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 Idaho, where there is
the possibility of discretionary review in the highest appellate court, the petitioner must
have presented all of his federal claims at least in a petition seeking review before that
highest court. Id. at 847. “Fair presentation” requires a petitioner to describe both the
operative facts and the legal theories upon which the federal claim is based. Gray v.
Netherland, 518 U.S. 152, 162-63 (1996).
The mere similarity between a federal claim and a state law claim, without more,
does not satisfy the requirement of fair presentation. See Duncan v. Henry, 513 U.S. 364,
365-66 (1995) (per curiam). General references in state court to “broad constitutional
principles, such as due process, equal protection, [or] the right to a fair trial,” are likewise
insufficient. See Hiivala v. Wood, 195 F.3d 1098, 1106 (9th Cir. 1999). For proper
exhaustion, a petitioner must bring his federal claim before the state court by “explicitly”
citing the federal legal basis for his claim. Lyons v. Crawford, 232 F.3d 666, 669 (9th Cir.
2000), as amended, 247 F.3d 904 (9th Cir. 2001).
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When a habeas petitioner has not fairly presented a constitutional claim to the
highest state court, and it is clear that the state court would now refuse to consider it
because of the state’s procedural rules, the claim is said to be procedurally defaulted.
Gray, 518 U.S. at 161-62. Examples of procedurally defaulted claims include when a
petitioner: (1) has completely failed to raise a claim before the Idaho courts; (2) has
raised a claim, but has failed to fully and fairly present it as a federal claim to the Idaho
courts; and (3) when the Idaho courts have rejected a claim on an adequate and
independent state procedural ground. Id.; Baldwin v. Reese, 541 U.S. 27, 32 (2004);
Coleman v. Thompson, 501 U.S. 722, 750 (1991).
To be an “adequate” state ground, a procedural bar must be one that is “‘clear,
consistently applied, and well-established at the time of the petitioner’s purported
default.” Martinez v. Klauser, 266 F.3d 1091, 1093 (9th Cir. 2001) (quoting Wells v.
Maass, 28 F.3d 1005, 1010 (9th Cir. 1994)). A state procedural bar is “independent” of
federal law if it does not rest on, and if it is not interwoven with, federal grounds. Bennett
v. Mueller, 322 F.3d 573, 581 (9th Cir. 2003).
Claims 1, 2, 4(a)-(d), 5, and 6 Are Procedurally Defaulted
The most straightforward manner in which to resolve the exhaustion and
procedural default status of Petitioner’s federal claims is to review which claims were
raised and addressed on the merits in the state court appellate proceedings. On direct
appeal, Petitioner argued only that his sentence was excessive and that the trial court
abused its discretion in denying Petitioner’s motion for reduction of sentence. (State’s
Lodging B-1.) Neither of these claims is raised in the Amended Petition.
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On appeal from the denial of Petitioner’s post-conviction petition, Petitioner
argued only that he pleaded guilty because of his attorney’s advice that local racial
prejudice would make it futile to present a defense to the charges against him. (State’s
Lodging C-2.) That claim is presented in Claim 4(e) of the Amended Petition.
Although Petitioner pursued two other state court appeals with respect to the
denial of his multiple motions for reduction of sentence and to withdraw his plea, neither
of those appeals were fairly presented to the Idaho Supreme Court. The first was
dismissed prior to briefing based on Petitioner’s failure to comply with the state-law
requirement that he pay for the preparation of the Clerk’s record. (State’s Lodging D-2;
D-3.) Petitioner does not argue that the state law requirement is not adequate and
Petitioner’s other appeal resulted in an affirmance by the Idaho Court of Appeals,
but after that decision Petitioner did not file a petition for review in the Idaho Supreme
Court—a required step in the exhaustion process. See O’Sullivan, 526 U.S. at 847.
Because it is now too late to do so, any of his current claims that were raised in that
appeal are procedurally defaulted. See Gray, 518 U.S. at 161-62.
Petitioner Has Not Established an Adequate Excuse for the
Procedural Default of Claims 1, 2, 4(a)-(d), 5, or 6
The Court’s conclusion that Claims 1, 2, 4(a)-(d), 5, and 6 are procedurally
defaulted does not end the inquiry. If a claim is procedurally defaulted, a federal court
can still consider the merits of the claim if the petitioner meets one of two exceptions: (1)
a showing of adequate legal cause for the default and prejudice arising from the default,
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see Coleman v. Thompson, 501 U.S. 722, 731 (1991), or (2) a showing of actual
innocence, which means that a miscarriage of justice will occur if the claim is not heard
in federal court, see Schlup v. Delo, 513 U.S. 298, 329 (1995); Murray v. Carrier, 477
U.S. 478, 488 (1986). Neither an assertion of cause and prejudice nor an assertion of
actual innocence under Schlup is an independent constitutional claim. Rather, these are
federal procedural arguments that, if sufficiently established by the petitioner, allow a
federal court to consider the merits of an otherwise procedurally-defaulted constitutional
Petitioner has filed numerous briefs in opposition to Respondent’s Motion for
Summary Dismissal (see Dkts. 64, 65, 67, 71, and 75), but none contains an argument
that cause and prejudice exist to excuse the default of his claims. Petitioner does,
however, contend that he is actually innocent.
In the context of the miscarriage-of-justice exception, actual innocence “means
factual innocence, not mere legal insufficiency.” Bousley v. United States, 523 U.S. 614,
623 (1998). In asserting actual innocence, a petitioner must “support his allegations of
constitutional error with new reliable evidence—whether it be exculpatory scientific
evidence, trustworthy eyewitness accounts, or critical physical evidence—that was not
presented at trial.” Schlup v. Delo, 513 U.S. 298, 324 (1995). A procedurally defaulted
claim may be heard under the miscarriage-of-justice exception only if “in light of all of
the evidence, ‘it is more likely than not that no reasonable juror would have found
[Petitioner] guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.’” United States v. Avery, 719 F.3d 1080,
MEMORANDUM DECISION AND ORDER - 11
1083 (9th Cir. 2013) (quoting Schlup, 513 U.S. at 327). Stated another way, it must be
more likely than not that every reasonable juror would vote to acquit.
This extremely demanding standard “permits review only in the ‘extraordinary’
case.” House v. Bell, 547 U.S. 518, 538 (2006). The court must consider “all the
evidence, old and new, incriminating and exculpatory, admissible at trial or not.” Lee v.
Lampert, 653 F.3d 929, 938 (9th Cir. 2011) (en banc) (internal quotation marks omitted).
The actual innocence analysis “does not turn on discrete findings regarding disputed
points of fact, and ‘[i]t is not the district court’s independent judgment as to whether
reasonable doubt exists that the standard addresses.’” House v. Bell, 547 U.S. 518, 53940 (2006) (quoting Schlup, 513 U.S. at 329 (alteration in original)). Rather, the court
must “make a probabilistic determination about what reasonable, properly instructed
jurors would do.” Schlup, 513 U.S. at 329.
When a district court is considering an actual innocence gateway argument, it has
the discretion to assess the reliability and probative force of the petitioner’s proffer,
including making some credibility determinations, if necessary. Schlup, 513 U.S. at 331332. Although “habeas petitioners who assert convincing actual-innocence claims [need
not] prove diligence to cross a federal court’s threshold,” a court “‘may consider how the
timing of the submission and the likely credibility of a petitioner’s affiants bear on the
probable reliability of evidence of actual innocence.’” McQuiggin v. Perkins, 133 S. Ct.
1924, 1935 (quoting Schlup, 513 U.S. at 332) (alterations omitted).
Petitioner has offered no new, reliable evidence that he is actually innocent. His
conclusory statements and his arguments regarding the lack of physical evidence in his
MEMORANDUM DECISION AND ORDER - 12
case are insufficient. Therefore, Petitioner has not established an adequate excuse for the
procedural default of Claims 1, 2, 4(a)-(d), 5, and 6, and those claims will be dismissed
Claim 3 is a civil rights claim that may not be brought in federal habeas corpus
proceedings, and Claims 1, 2, 4(a) through 4(d), 5, and 6 are subject to dismissal as
IT IS ORDERED:
The document Petitioner filed on October 26, 2016, entitled “Finding &
Recommendation of Successive Review of Amended Petition for Habeas
Corpus; Release on Personal Recognizance” (Dkt. 56), construed as a
motion for release pending the Court’s final judgment in this matter, is
DENIED for the reasons stated in the Initial Review Order. (See Dkt. 5 at
Petitioner’s Request for Evidentiary Hearing (Dkt. 68) is DENIED.
Petitioner’s Request for Habeas Relief (Dkt. 71), construed as a request for
relief on the merits of Claims 1, 2, 3, 4(a) through (d), 5, and 6, is
Respondent’s Motion for Partial Summary Dismissal (Dkt. 61) is
GRANTED. All of the claims in the Amended Petition—with the exception
of Claim 4(e)—are DISMISSED with prejudice.
MEMORANDUM DECISION AND ORDER - 13
Respondent’s Motion to Strike (Dkt. 76) is MOOT.
Respondent shall file an answer to the remaining claim within 60 days of
the date of this Order. Petitioner shall file a reply (formerly called a
traverse), containing a brief rebutting Respondent’s answer and brief,
which shall be filed and served within 30 days after service of the answer
and brief. Respondent has the option of filing a sur-reply within 14 days
after service of the reply. At that point, the case will be deemed ready for a
DATED: June 21, 2017
Honorable Ronald E. Bush
United States Magistrate Judge
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