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Bunker v. Palmer

United States District Court, D. Nevada

July 7, 2014

BRANDON J. BUNKER, Petitioner,
v.
JACK PALMER, et al., Respondents.

ORDER

MIRANDA M. DU, District Judge.

This action is a pro se petition for a writ of habeas corpus filed pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254, by a Nevada state prisoner. This matter comes before the Court on the merits of the petition.

I. PROCEDURAL HISTORY

On September 16, 2009, petitioner was charged with failure to stop upon signal of a police officer in the Eighth Judicial District Court for the State of Nevada, in Case No. C257971. (Exh. 1.[1]) Earlier, on April 20, 2009, petitioner was charged with possession of a stolen vehicle in the Eighth Judicial District Court for the State of Nevada, in Case No. C253642. (Exh. 2.) Petitioner negotiated the charges and agreed to plead guilty in both cases. A guilty plea agreement in Case No. C253642 was signed and filed on April 28, 2009. (Exh. 3.) A guilty plea agreement in Case No. C257971 was signed and filed on September 21, 2009. (Exh. 5.) The plea agreement in Case No. C257971 stated that petitioner would serve a sentence of ten years to life as a habitual criminal, that the sentence in Case No. C257971 would run concurrent to the sentence in Case No. C253642, and that the State would dismiss two other pending cases against petitioner. (Exh. 5.) Petitioner admitted the facts supporting the charges and was advised of his right to a direct appeal. (Exhs. 4 & 6.) At the sentencing hearing, the prosecutor submitted the required prior judgments of conviction for the stipulated habitual criminal sentence. Id. Petitioner was sentenced to ten years to life as a habitual criminal, with the sentence in Case No. C257971 running concurrent to the sentence in Case No. C253642. (Exh. 7.)

Petitioner did not file a direct appeal, but he did file a post-conviction habeas petition on November 3, 2010. (Exh. 8.) The state district court denied relief by order filed March 25, 2011. (Exh. 9.) The Nevada Supreme Court affirmed the denial of the post-conviction habeas petition, by order filed June 8, 2011. (Exh. 10.)

Petitioner dispatched his federal habeas petition to this Court on June 21, 2011. (Dkt. no. 8, at p. 1.) The federal petition asserts the same grounds as petitioner asserted in his post-conviction habeas petition filed in state district court. ( Compare Exh. 8 to dkt. no. 8.) Respondents have filed an answer to the federal petition. (Dkt. no. 11.) Despite being given the opportunity to file a reply to the answer, petitioner has filed no reply. ( See dkt. no. 7, at p. 2.)

II. FEDERAL HABEAS CORPUS STANDARDS

The Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act ("AEDPA"), at 28 U.S.C. § 2254(d), provides the legal standard for the Court's consideration of this habeas petition:

An application for a writ of habeas corpus on behalf of a person in custody pursuant to the judgment of a State court shall not be granted with respect to any claim that was adjudicated on the merits in State court proceedings unless the adjudication of the claim -
(1) resulted in a decision that was contrary to, or involved an unreasonable application of, clearly established Federal law, as determined by the Supreme Court of the United States; or
(2) resulted in a decision that was based on an unreasonable determination of the facts in light of the evidence presented in the State court proceeding.

The AEDPA "modified a federal habeas court's role in reviewing state prisoner applications in order to prevent federal habeas retrials' and to ensure that state-court convictions are given effect to the extent possible under law." Bell v. Cone, 535 U.S. 685, 693-694 (2002). A state court decision is contrary to clearly established Supreme Court precedent, within the meaning of 28 U.S.C. § 2254, "if the state court applies a rule that contradicts the governing law set forth in [the Supreme Court's] cases" or "if the state court confronts a set of facts that are materially indistinguishable from a decision of [the Supreme Court] and nevertheless arrives at a result different from [the Supreme Court's] precedent." Lockyer v. Andrade, 538 U.S. 63, 73 (2003) ( quoting Williams v. Taylor, 529 U.S. 362, 405-406 (2000) and citing Bell v. Cone, 535 U.S. at 694). The formidable standard set forth in section 2254(d) reflects the view that habeas corpus is "a guard against extreme malfunctions in the state criminal justice systems, ' not a substitute for ordinary error correction through appeal." Harrington v. Richter, 562 U.S. ___, ___, 131 S.Ct. 770, 786 (2011) ( quoting Jackson v. Virginia, 443 U.S. 307, 332 n.5 (1979)).

A state court decision is an unreasonable application of clearly established Supreme Court precedent, within the meaning of 28 U.S.C. § 2254(d), "if the state court identifies the correct governing legal principle from [the Supreme Court's] decisions but unreasonably applies that principle to the facts of the prisoner's case." Lockyer v. Andrade, 538 U.S. at 75 ( quoting Williams, 529 U.S. at 413). The "unreasonable application" clause requires the state court decision to be more than merely incorrect or erroneous; the state court's application of clearly established federal law must be objectively unreasonable. Id. ( quoting Williams, 529 U.S. at 409). In determining whether a state court decision is contrary to, or an unreasonable application of federal law, this Court looks to the state courts' last reasoned decision. See Ylst v. Nunnemaker, 501 U.S. 797, 803-04 (1991); Shackleford v. Hubbard, 234 F.3d 1072, 1079 n.2 (9th Cir. 2000), cert. denied, 534 U.S. 944 (2001).

In a federal habeas proceeding, "a determination of a factual issue made by a State court shall be presumed to be correct, " and the petitioner "shall have the burden of rebutting the presumption of correctness by clear and convincing evidence." 28 U.S.C. § 2254(e)(1). If a claim has been adjudicated on the merits by a state court, a federal habeas petitioner must overcome the burden set in § 2254(d) ...


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