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Ragland v. Williams

United States District Court, D. Nevada

June 21, 2017

BRIAN WILLIAMS, et al., Respondents.



         This pro se habeas matter under 28 U.S.C. § 2254 is before the court on respondents' motion to dismiss in part the petition brought by Brandon Christopher Ragland (ECF No. 14). Ragland opposed (ECF No. 46), and respondents replied (ECF No. 47).

         I. Procedural History and Background

         On April 30, 2013, a jury convicted Ragland of possession of a firearm by an ex-felon (exhibit 35).[1] The state district court adjudicated Ragland a habitual criminal under the small habitual criminal statute and sentenced Ragland to 60-150 months, with 182 days credit for time served. Exh. 42. The judgment of conviction was filed on November 12, 2013. Id. The Nevada Supreme Court affirmed Ragland's conviction on April 10, 2014, and remittitur issued on May 5, 2014. Exhs. 48, 49.

         On May 12, 2014, Ragland filed a proper person state postconviction habeas corpus petition. Exhs. 50, 54. The state district court denied the petition on September 22, 2014. Exh. 56. The Nevada Court of Appeals affirmed the denial of the petition on February 4, 2015. Nevada Court of Appeals Case No. 66646.[2] Remittitur issued on October 14, 2015. Exh. 68.

         On October 28, 2015, Ragland dispatched his federal habeas petition for filing (ECF No. 6). Now before the court is respondents' motion to dismiss the petition in part (ECF No. 14).

         II. Legal Standards & Analysis

         a. Procedural Default

         Respondents argue that grounds 2, 4, 6, 7 and 8 are procedurally barred (ECF No. 14, pp. 7-8). Generally, “a state prisoner's failure to comply with the state's procedural requirements in presenting his claims bar him or her from obtaining a writ of habeas corpus in federal court under the adequate and independent state ground doctrine.” Schneider v. McDaniel, 674 F.3d 1144, 1152 (9th Cir.2012) (citing Coleman v. Thompson, 501 U.S. 722, 731-32 (1991)). A federal court will not review a claim for habeas corpus relief if the decision of the state court regarding that claim rested on a state law ground that is independent of the federal question and adequate to support the judgment. Coleman v. Thompson, 501 U.S. 722, 730-31 (1991). The Coleman Court stated the effect of a procedural default as follows:

In all cases in which a state prisoner has defaulted his federal claims in state court pursuant to an independent and adequate state procedural rule, federal habeas review of the claims is barred unless the prisoner can demonstrate cause for the default and actual prejudice as a result of the alleged violation of federal law, or demonstrate that failure to consider the claims will result in a fundamental miscarriage of justice.

Coleman, 501 U.S. at 750; see also Murray v. Carrier, 477 U.S. 478, 485 (1986). The procedural default doctrine ensures that the state's interest in correcting its own mistakes is respected in all federal habeas cases. See Koerner v. Grigas, 328 F.3d 1039, 1046 (9th Cir.2003).

         For the procedural default doctrine to apply, “a state rule must be clear, consistently applied, and well-established at the time of the petitioner's purported default.” Wells v. Maass, 28 F.3d 1005, 1010 (9th Cir.1994). See also Calderon v. United States District Court (Bean), 96 F.3d 1126, 1129 (9th Cir.1996).

         In the instant federal petition, Ragland contends in ground 2 that the prosecution improperly influenced the grand jury with evidence of prior bad acts in obtaining his indictment (ECF No. 6, p. 7). As ground 4, Ragland claims that the trial court violated his Fourteenth Amendment due process rights when it erroneously instructed the jury on the definition of ex-felon in possession of a firearm. Id. at 14-15. He argues in ground 6 that the trial court failed to evaluate the issue of corpus delicti under NRS 34.810(1)(b)(2) in violation of his Fourteenth Amendment due process rights. Id. at 24. Ragland asserts in ground 7 that the prosecutors' misconduct in manipulating jury instructions, using evidence of uncharged bad acts, and presenting the State's impression of the evidence during closing arguments violated his due process rights. Id. at 26-27. As ground 8 Ragland contends that several district court errors-including erroneously approving a DNA warrant and not allowing Ragland's witnesses to testify at the suppression hearing-violated his Fourteenth Amendment due process rights. Id. at 29.

         On direct appeal, Ragland raised the following: he claimed that the firearm was seized during a search of his vehicle that violated the Fourth Amendments of the U.S. Constitution and the Nevada Constitution; that the state district court erred by denying the defense motion to suppress; and that the district court erred by failing to give the Las Vegas Police Department's incident log report the ...

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