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West v. Williams

United States District Court, D. Nevada

March 1, 2017

HYRUM JOSEPH WEST, Petitioner,
v.
BRIAN WILLIAMS, et al., Respondents.

          ORDER

         This is an action for habeas relief under 28 U.S.C. § 2254 brought by Hyrum Joseph West, a Nevada prisoner. Respondents have filed a motion to dismiss West's petition for writ of habeas corpus. ECF No. 12. As the bases for their motion, respondents contend that all the grounds for relief in West's petition should be dismissed as procedurally barred and/or as not cognizable in a federal habeas proceeding.

         Having considered the parties' arguments and relevant portions of the record, the court concludes as follows.

         I. Procedural History[1]

         In April 2011, the State charged West in the Fifth Judicial District Court, Nye County, Nevada, in Case No. CR 6693, with one count of sale of a controlled substance, third offense, within 1000 feet of a park, and one count of trafficking in a schedule I controlled substance. In November 2011, the State filed a second-amended information charging West with one count of sale of a controlled substance, third offense. On November 15, 2011, West presented argument in support of motions filed in Case No. CR 6429, including a motion to dismiss in which he argued the State violated double jeopardy by charging West with the same crime in Case No. CR 6429 and the present case, Case No. CR 6693.

         The court denied West's motion. West then changed his plea in Case No. CR 6693, entering a conditional guilty plea to the single count contained in the second-amended information, but reserving the right to challenge the denial of his pretrial motion to dismiss. The court sentenced West to 72-180 months, to run concurrent to the sentence received in Case No. CR 6429.

         The court filed the judgment of conviction on November 29, 2011. West appealed., arguing that the "[p]rosecution of the instant case contravened the Double Jeopardy Clause and the related piecemeal doctrine; thus, the district court erred by denying the motion to dismiss." On December 13, 2012, the Nevada Supreme Court affirmed West's conviction.

         In December 2013, West filed a proper person state habeas petition and supporting memorandum. In Ground 1, he alleged vindictive prosecution, a violation of his speedy trial rights, and ineffective assistance of trial and appellate counsel. In Ground 2, he alleged insufficient evidence to support the conviction, a break in the chain of custody, and ineffective assistance of appellate counsel. In Ground 3, he alleged a violation of the Double Jeopardy Clause and issue preclusion/collateral estoppel based upon West's conviction in Case No. CR 6429, and ineffective assistance of appellate counsel.

         In May 2015, the state district court entered an order dismissing West's entire petition on procedural grounds. West appealed. On November 19, 2015, the Nevada Court of Appeals affirmed the lower court's result, but found the state district court erred in rejecting West's ineffective assistance of appellate counsel claims on procedural grounds. The court addressed those claims on the merits and denied them.

         On or about December 18, 2015, West mailed to this court his federal habeas petition containing three grounds. That petition was filed herein on January 15, 2016, and is the subject of respondents' motion to dismiss.

         II. Cognizability

         Respondents assert that grounds for relief contained in Grounds 1, 2, and 3 of West's petition are not cognizable in a federal habeas proceeding.

         First, respondents argue that West's guilty plea serves as a bar to several of his substantive allegations. In Tollett v. Henderson, the United States Supreme Court held that "when a criminal defendant has solemnly admitted in open court that he is in fact guilty of the offense with which he is charged, he may not thereafter raise independent claims relating to the deprivation of constitutional rights that occurred prior to the entry of the guilty plea." 411 U.S. 258, 267 (1973). A petitioner may only attack the voluntary and intelligent nature of the guilty plea. Id.

         In Ground 1, West raises a claim that delays in the prosecution of his case violated his constitutional right to a speedy trial. This claim is barred under Tollett. See United States v. Bohn, 956 F.2d 208, 209 (9th Cir. 1992) (holding that defendant's guilty plea waived claims for violation of the Speedy Trial Act). In addition, his plea forecloses any claim that his trial counsel was ineffective for not invoking his right to a speedy trial. See Moran v. Godinez, 57 F.3d 690, 700 (9th Cir. 1994) (holding that guilty plea forecloses claims of ineffective assistance of counsel unrelated to the plea itself).

         Ground 1 also includes a claim that West was vindictively prosecuted. Tollett does not necessarily bar such a claim. See Blackledge v. Perry,417 U.S. 21, 30-31 (1974). However, none of West's allegations come close to stating a cognizable vindictive prosecution claim. See United States v. Goodwin,457 U.S. 368, 372 (1982) (explaining that the constitutional violation based on vindictive prosecution arises from punishing an individual for exercising a protected statutory or constitutional right). Thus, that portion of Ground 1 shall also be dismissed. See O'Bremski v. Maass,915 ...


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