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Sanders v. Nevens

United States District Court, District of Nevada

January 26, 2015

TIMOTHY L. SANDERS, Petitioner,
v.
DWIGHT NEVENS, et al., Respondents.

ORDER

ANDREW P. GORDON, District Judge

Before the court are the petition for a writ of habeas corpus pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254 (#5) and respondents’ answer (#10). The court finds that relief is not warranted, and the court denies the petition.

After a jury trial with co-defendant Kevin Rodriguez, petitioner was found guilty of conspiracy to commit robbery, conspiracy to commit kidnapping, conspiracy to commit sexual assault, burglary while in possession of a deadly weapon, robbery with the use of a deadly weapon, first degree kidnapping with the use of a deadly weapon, sexual assault with the use of a deadly weapon, coercion with the use of a deadly weapon, possession of a credit or debit card without the cardholder’s consent, and obtaining or using personal identifying information of another. The jury found petitioner not guilty of grand larceny of an automobile and another count of sexual assault with the use of a deadly weapon. Ex. 36 (#13). The state district court entered judgment accordingly. Ex. 42 (#13). Petitioner appealed, and the Nevada Supreme Court affirmed. Ex. 54 (#13). Petitioner then commenced this action. A post-conviction habeas corpus petition is proceeding in the state courts, but petitioner raises in his federal petition (#5) only the grounds that he raised on direct appeal.

Congress has limited the circumstances in which a federal court can grant relief to a petitioner who is in custody pursuant to a judgment of conviction of a state court.

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.

28 U.S.C. § 2254(d). “By its terms § 2254(d) bars relitigation of any claim ‘adjudicated on the merits’ in state court, subject only to the exceptions in §§ 2254(d)(1) and (d)(2).” Harrington v. Richter, 131 S.Ct. 770, 784 (2011).

Federal habeas relief may not be granted for claims subject to § 2254(d) unless it is shown that the earlier state court’s decision “was contrary to” federal law then clearly established in the holdings of this Court, § 2254(d)(1); Williams v. Taylor, 529 U.S. 362, 412 (2000); or that it “involved an unreasonable application of” such law, § 2254(d)(1); or that it “was based on an unreasonable determination of the facts” in light of the record before the state court, § 2254(d)(2).

Richter, 131 S.Ct. at 785. “For purposes of § 2254(d)(1), ‘an unreasonable application of federal law is different from an incorrect application of federal law.’” Id. (citation omitted). “A state court’s determination that a claim lacks merit precludes federal habeas relief so long as ‘fairminded jurists could disagree’ on the correctness of the state court’s decision.” Id. (citation omitted).

[E]valuating whether a rule application was unreasonable requires considering the rule’s specificity. The more general the rule, the more leeway courts have in reaching outcomes in case-by-case determinations.

Yarborough v. Alvarado, 541 U.S. 652, 664 (2004).

Under § 2254(d), a habeas court must determine what arguments or theories supported or, as here, could have supported, the state court’s decision; and then it must ask whether it is possible fairminded jurists could disagree that those arguments or theories ...

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