United States District Court, D. Nevada
MIRANDA M. DU UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
the Court for decision is a habeas corpus petition under 28
U.S.C. § 2254 brought by Robert Charles Jones, a Nevada
challenges his Nevada state conviction for the first-degree
murder of Rayfield Brown on September 29, 1978. The Nevada
Supreme Court recounted the circumstances of the crime and
the guilt phase of Jones' trial as follows:
In the early morning hours of September 29, 1978, an argument
erupted in the Chy Inn Bar between Jones and Rayfield Brown.
Another bar patron, Bobby Lee Robinson, testified that he
tried to put an end to the argument by buying everybody a
drink. Jones picked up the bottle of vodka Robinson had
purchased for him, drank the contents, and then handed the
bottle to Robinson. Robinson put the bottle back on the bar
counter and moved away to play some records. Approximately
three minutes later Jones walked out of the bar, returned
with a handgun, pointed it to Brown's head and fired the
gun. Brown died shortly thereafter of the gunshot wound to
Jones left the bar before police arrived. He returned to his
uncle's house, where he resided, and told a cousin that
he had shot a man at a bar. Jones attempted to flee to
Massachusetts by bus but was arrested enroute [sic] in Vail,
The degree of Jones' intoxication was disputed during the
trial. Defense counsel argued that Jones could not be guilty
of first degree murder because he was severely intoxicated at
the time of the shooting. Jones' uncle testified that
Jones was intoxicated at 12:30 a.m., several hours before the
confrontation at the bar. Another defense witness testified
that Jones was stumbling over shrubbery and appeared to be
drunk at about 6:00 a.m., approximately one to two hours
after the shooting. Eyewitnesses to the murder testified that
Jones' gait and speech were normal, and that he did not
appear drunk. The evidence also indicated that Jones managed
to bury the gun and walk home via an inconspicuous route,
indicating that Jones was capable of premeditating the
Jones v. State, 707 P.2d 1128, 1129-30 (Nev. 1985).
case was pursued by the State as a capital murder case. After
a first trial ended in a mistrial, Jones was convicted of
first-degree murder in a second trial and sentenced to death
pursuant to the jury's penalty phase verdict. On October
17, 1985, the Nevada Supreme Court issued a decision that
affirmed Jones' first degree murder conviction, but set
aside his death sentence based on a finding that the jury was
misled into thinking that death sentences could not be
remand to the state district court, the State sought the
death penalty, and a penalty hearing was set for March 23,
1987. At that hearing, the parties informed the court that
Jones had agreed to stipulate to a sentence of life without
possibility of parole. The court canvassed Jones and, on
April 10, 1987, entered a judgment of conviction with the
agreed upon sentence.
1988, Jones, proceeding pro se, initiated a state
post-conviction proceeding in state district court. The court
denied relief. Jones did not appeal.
April 1997, Jones filed a habeas proceeding in this Court
that was assigned case number CV-S-97-00600-JBR-RJJ. In
December 1998, the Court dismissed the action because the
pleadings before the Court presented only unexhausted claims.
Jones' motion for reconsideration was denied on February
9, 1999. Jones did not appeal the dismissal.
November 28, 2000, Jones filed a second state post-conviction
petition in the state district court. Then, on January 30,
2001, he filed a motion to withdraw guilty plea. The state
district court denied relief, and the Supreme Court of Nevada
affirmed in consolidated appeals. Between 2008 and 2010,
Jones filed numerous additional state court challenges to his
conviction and sentence, all unsuccessful.
initiated this proceeding in June 2011. On November 23, 2011,
this Court entered an order directing Jones to show cause why
his petition should not be denied as untimely under 28 U.S.C.
§ 2244(d). The Court subsequently appointed counsel for
Jones and issued another order to show cause. On January 5,
2015, the Court made an initial finding that Jones may be
entitled to equitable tolling and directed him to file an
amended petition was filed on June 16, 2015. In response to
the petition, respondents filed a motion to dismiss, which
was denied. The parties have now fully briefed the petition
on the merits.
STANDARDS OF REVIEW
action is governed by the Antiterrorism and Effective Death
Penalty Act (AEDPA). 28 U.S.C. § 2254(d) sets forth the
standard of review under AEDPA:
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;
(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).
decision of a state court is “contrary to”
clearly established federal law if the state court arrives at
a conclusion opposite that reached by the Supreme Court on a
question of law or if the state court decides a case
differently than the Supreme Court has on a set of materially
indistinguishable facts. Williams v. Taylor, 529
U.S. 362, 405-06 (2000). An “unreasonable
application” occurs when “a state-court decision
unreasonably applies the law of [the Supreme Court] to the
facts of a prisoner's case.” Id. at 409.
“[A] federal habeas court may not “issue the writ
simply because that court concludes in its independent
judgment that the relevant state-court decision applied
clearly established federal law erroneously or
incorrectly.” Id. at 411.
habeas claim that has not been adjudicated on the merits by
the state court, the federal court reviews the claim de
novo without the deference usually accorded state courts
under 28 U.S.C. § 2254(d)(1). Chaker v. Crogan,
428 F.3d 1215, 1221 (9th Cir. 2005); Pirtle v.
Morgan, 313 F.3d 1160, 1167 (9th Cir. 2002).
See also James v. Schriro, 659 F.3d 855, 876
(9th Cir. 2011) (noting that federal court review
is de novo where a state court does not ...