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Stevens v. Grand

United States District Court, D. Nevada

April 13, 2015

THEODORE STEVENS, Petitioner,
v.
ROBERT LE GRAND, et al., Respondents.

ORDER

ROBERT C. JONES, District Judge.

Before the court are the first amended petition for writ of habeas corpus (#15), respondents' answer (#43), and petitioner's reply (#48). The court finds that relief is not warranted on the remaining claims for relief, and the court denies the petition.

After a jury trial, petitioner was convicted in state district court of first-degree murder. Ex. 2 (#17). Petitioner appealed, and the Nevada Supreme Court affirmed. Ex. 30 (#18). Petitioner then filed in state district court a post-conviction habeas corpus petition. Ex. 35 (#19). The state district court denied the petition. Ex. 84 (#21). Petitioner appealed, and the Nevada Supreme Court affirmed. Ex. 93 (#22).

Petitioner then commenced this action. The court appointed counsel, who filed the first amended petition (#15). The first amended petition contained four grounds, designated A through D. Respondents moved to dismiss (#32) most of the grounds because they were procedurally defaulted. The court agreed that grounds B, C, and D, and part of ground A, discussed below, were procedurally defaulted because petitioner did not raise those issues on direct appeal. The court also determined that petitioner did not show cause or prejudice to excuse the procedural defaults. Order (#40). Reasonable jurists would not find the court's conclusions on these matters to be debatable or wrong, and the court will not issue a certificate of appealability on these grounds.

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, 562 U.S. 86, 98 (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, 562 U.S. at 100. "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 are inconsistent with the holding in a prior decision of this Court.

Richter, 562 U.S. at 102.

As a condition for obtaining habeas corpus from a federal court, a state prisoner must show that the state court's ruling on the claim being presented in federal court was so lacking in justification that there was an error well understood and comprehended ...

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