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Fields v. Legrand

United States District Court, D. Nevada

March 6, 2017

MATTHEW ARTHUR FIELDS, Petitioner,
v.
ROBERT LEGRAND, et al., Respondents.

          ORDER

          ROBERT C. JONES United States District Judge.

         Before the court are the petition for a writ of habeas corpus (ECF No. 6) and respondents' answer (ECF No. 48). The court finds that petitioner is not entitled to relief, and the court denies the petition.

         In state district court, petitioner was charged with (I) causing the death of a person by driving a vehicle while under the influence of alcohol, (II) leaving the scene of an accident involving the death of a person, and (III) conspiring to attempt to suborn perjury. The first two charges were felonies, the third charge was a gross misdemeanor. Ex. 2 (ECF No. 10-2). Petitioner agreed to plead guilty as charged. The parties were free to argue whether the sentences for counts I and II would run concurrently or consecutively. The prosecution agreed to recommend that the sentence for count III would run concurrently with the sentences for the other two counts. Ex. 12 (ECF No. 10-12). The state district court sentenced petitioner to a minimum term of six years and a maximum term of eighteen years for count I, a minimum term of six years and a maximum term of fifteen years for count II, to run consecutively to the sentence for count I, and a term of twelve months for count III, to run concurrently with the sentences for counts I and II. Petitioner received thirteen days of credit for time served, because he was out on bail for most of the time between arrest and sentencing. The state district court also recommended that petitioner be placed into the “AB 305 program” for treatment of alcoholism. Ex. 17 (ECF No. 10-16). See also Nev. Rev. Stat. §§ 209.425 et seq. (describing treatment program). Petitioner did not appeal.

         Petitioner then filed a post-conviction habeas corpus petition in the state district court. Ex. 18 (ECF No. 10-17). A different judge was assigned to consider the petition. Ex. 21 (ECF No. 10-20). The state district court held an evidentiary hearing. Ex. 28 (ECF No. 11-3). The state district court denied the petition. Ex. 30 (ECF No. 11-5). Petitioner appealed. The Nevada Supreme Court affirmed summarily. Ex. 42 (ECF No. 11-17).

         Petitioner then commenced this action. The court determined that petitioner had not exhausted his state-court remedies for some of his grounds. ECF No. 19. The court stayed the action while petitioner returned to state court. ECF No. 23.

         The state courts determined that petitioner's subsequent state habeas corpus petition was barred as untimely and successive. Ex. 53 (ECF No. 31-12); Ex. 70 (ECF No. 32-15).

         Petitioner returned to this court. The court dismissed parts of ground 2, parts of ground 4, and all of ground 6 because they were procedurally defaulted. ECF No. 42. The answer followed.

         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 in ...

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