Lafferty v. Turley
MEMORANDUM DECISION and ORDER denying 412 Motion to Alter Judgment; denying 414 Motion to Strike. The parties are ordered to provide briefing on whether a certificate of appealability should issue. Signed by Judge Dee Benson on 1/9/2018. (blh)
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE DISTRICT OF UTAH,CENTRAL DIVISION
RONALD WATSON LAFFERTY,
Case No. 2:07-CV-322
SCOTT CROWTHER, Warden, Utah State
Judge Dee Benson
Pursuant to Rule 59(e) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, Petitioner Ronald Watson
Lafferty requests that this court alter or amend the judgment entered on October 5, 2017 (ECF
No. 411), related to the court’s decision issued on October 4, 2017 (ECF No. 410). Lafferty
asserts that the court committed clear error in its denial of claim ten (partial) of his Second
Amended Petition for Writ of Habeas Corpus.1 The State notes in its opposition to the motion,
that Lafferty bases his request on a proffer of juror questionnaires that were not part of the state
court record when the Utah Supreme Court rejected the claim. Lafferty failed to disclose in his
motion that this court has ruled that the extra-record proffer is both inadmissible in this
proceeding and unable to show juror bias in any event. ECF No. 413 at 2. Rather than responding
Lafferty did indeed file a Second Amended Petition (see ECF No. 40 and 42), which included one additional claim
for relief, claim 35.
to the State’s argument, Lafferty filed a motion to strike Respondent’s opposition memorandum,
claiming that neither Rule 59(e) itself nor the local rules provide for a response (opposition) or
reply to a Rule 59(e) motion. ECF No. 414. The court disagrees, and hereby denies both the
Motion to Strike and the Motion to Alter or Amend.
I. Standard for Granting a Motion to Alter or Amend
Under Rule 59(e), a court may alter or amend a judgment it has entered if there is “(1) an
intervening change in the controlling law, (2) new evidence previously unavailable, and (3) the
need to correct clear error or prevent manifest injustice.” Servants of the Paraclete v. Does, 204
F.3d 1005, 1012 (10th Cir. 2000) (citing Brumark Corp. v. Samson Resources Corp., 57 F.3d
941, 948 (10th Cir. 1995)). A Rule 59(e) motion is “appropriate where the court has
misapprehended the facts, a party’s position, or the controlling law.” Servants of the Paraclete,
at 1012. “It is not appropriate to revisit issues already addressed or advance arguments that could
have been raised in prior briefing.” Id. (citing Van Skiver v. United States, 952 F.2d 1241, 1243
(10th Cir. 1991)).
A. The court order was not clearly erroneous in concluding that Lafferty failed to establish
that he was tried by a biased jury.
Lafferty raises only Rule 59(e)’s third ground, arguing that this court committed “clear
error” when rejecting his claim that appellate counsel was ineffective for failing to appeal the
denial of the motion to change venue. In rejecting the claim, the court first noted the Utah
Supreme Court’s holding that Lafferty had pointed to “’no evidence of a tainted jury,’” which
was a prerequisite to establish both elements of his appellate-attorney ineffectiveness claim. ECF
No. 410 at 23. The Utah Supreme Court held the following: “Without evidence of prejudice,
Lafferty cannot show that counsel was deficient for overlooking an obvious argument that
probably would have resulted in reversal on appeal.” Lafferty v. State, 175 P.3d 530, 540 (2008).
Lafferty argues that there were a large number of prospective jurors who had already
determined that he was guilty based upon their exposure to press coverage (ECF No. 39 at 24349), and that jurors who were actually biased served on his jury. He relies principally on juror
questionnaires from Jurors 82, 105, and 213 to argue that biased jurors sat.
These juror questionnaires were an extra-record proffer that Lafferty had not presented to
the state supreme court. In his current motion to alter or amend, he fails to disclose that this court
has already denied his motion to expand the record to include this proffer, holding that it is
inadmissible in this proceeding. ECF No. 399 at 3-4, 7.
He also fails to disclose that this court addressed the substance of the questionnaires
when rejecting his Martinez motion and determined that they refute his claims of bias on their
face. ECF No. 400 at 11 (ruling that questionnaires from Jurors 82 and 105 “on their face refute
Mr. Lafferty’s bias claim” and that “Juror 213’s questionnaire would have dispelled any
concerns counsel had about her religious beliefs”). Even if the juror questionnaires were
admissible in this proceeding, which the court has held they are not, the court has thoroughly
addressed the substance of the questionnaires and why they do not indicate that Lafferty’s jury
was biased. See ECF No. 400 at 8-15 for a detailed discussion.
B. The court’s ruling did not incorrectly interpret clearly established federal law.
In its opinion, the Utah Supreme Court held the following:
[O]n his first appeal, Lafferty’s counsel, the same counsel who represented him
on his second direct appeal, did challenge the denial of his motion to change
venue. [citation omitted] This court rejected that challenge because the totality of
the circumstances provided no basis for concluding that the trial court should
distrust the jurors’ assurances of impartiality. [citation omitted] And Lafferty
provides no reason why counsel was deficient for failing to again pursue this
unsuccessful claim on his second appeal.
Lafferty, 175 P.3d at 540.
Lafferty argues that the Utah Supreme Court’s opinion failed to acknowledge that
different jurors were seated at Lafferty’s second trial than those who were seated during the first
trial, and it also failed to recognize the extensive press that followed Lafferty’s first trial,
including press about the fact that he had already once been convicted of the crimes for which he
was again charged. In federal court, Lafferty argued that the Utah Supreme Court’s decision was
contrary to or an unreasonable application of clearly established law because it failed to consider
the particular facts and circumstances surrounding Lafferty’s second trial. ECF No. 349 at 71
(citing four Supreme Court cases: Irvin v. Dowd, 366 U.S. 717 (1961); Rideau v. Louisiana, 373
U.S. 723 (1963); Estes v. Texas, 381 U.S. 532 (1965); and Sheppard v. Maxwell, 382 U.S. 333
Lafferty oversimplifies and misstates the state court’s holding. As quoted above, the
Utah Supreme Court stated that it rejected his challenge to the denial of his motion to change
venue on his first appeal because “the totality of the circumstances provided no basis for
concluding that the trial court should distrust the jurors’ assurances of impartiality.” Lafferty, 175
P.3d at 540 (emphasis added). The court then said that Lafferty had shown no reason “why
counsel was deficient for failing to again pursue this unsuccessful claim on his second appeal.”
Id. The clear implication of the court’s holding is not that the court failed to consider the
particular facts and circumstances of the second trial, but rather, after considering the totality of
the circumstances, the court once again found no basis for concluding that the trial court should
have distrusted the jurors’ assurances of impartiality, and thus no reason to find counsel deficient
for failing to pursue the claim.
Lafferty has not demonstrated that the Utah Supreme Court failed to consider the entire
record, including the 200 newspaper clippings trial counsel included with his change-of-venue
motion, when it rejected the ineffectiveness claim. Because the “standards created by Strickland
and § 2254(d) are both ‘highly deferential,’ a federal habeas court’s review of an exhausted
ineffective assistance claim must be “‘doubly’ so.” Harrington v. Richter, 562 U.S. 86, 105
(2011) (citation omitted). Under section 2254(d), “the question is not whether counsel’s actions
were reasonable. The question is whether there is any reasonable argument that counsel satisfied
Strickland’s deferential standard.” Id. The federal court must be “exquisitely deferential” to the
state court’s disposition. Black v. Workman, 682 F.3d 880, 891-93 (10th Cir. 2012). Lafferty has
not overcome the presumption that the state supreme court scrupulously reviewed all of the
evidence in the state court record when rejecting his allegation that biased jurors sat for the
Lafferty also fails to address this court’s determination that he misplaced reliance on
Irvin, which stated that “the mere existence of any preconceived notion as to the guilt or
innocence of an accused, without more,” is insufficient “to rebut the presumption of a
prospective juror’s impartiality.” ECF No. 410 (quoting Irwin, 366 U.S. at 723). Jurists of reason
could agree that Lafferty’s proffered evidence in the state courts did not overcome this
presumption of juror impartiality.
For the reasons stated above, the court denies both Mr. Lafferty’s Motion to Alter or
Amend Judgment Pursuant to Rule 59(e) (ECF No. 412), and his Motion to Strike Respondent’s
Memorandum Opposing Motion to Alter or Amend (ECF No. 414).
Pursuant to Rule 11 of the Rules Governing Habeas Cases under Section 2254, the parties
are hereby ordered to provide briefing on whether a certificate of appealability should issue.
Lafferty is ordered to submit his brief on or before February 6, 2018. The State will then have 28
days to respond, after which Lafferty will have 14 days to file a reply.
SO ORDERED this 9th day of January, 2018.
BY THE COURT:
United States District Judge
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