United States District Court, D. Nevada
MIRANDA M. DU UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
action is a petition for writ of habeas corpus by Donald
Glenn Estes, a Nevada prisoner. The action is before the
Court with respect to the merits of the claims in Estes'
habeas petition. The Court will deny the petition.
opinion on Estes' direct appeal, the Nevada Supreme Court
summarized the relevant background of Estes' case as
Appellant Donald Estes sexually assaulted a minor, B.C., in a
desert area near Las Vegas. The State charged Estes with six
counts of sexual assault of a minor under the age of 14
years, two counts of lewdness with a child under the age of
14 years, two counts of battery with intent to commit a
crime, two counts of coercion, two counts of preventing or
dissuading a person from testifying or producing evidence,
and one count of first-degree kidnapping. Based upon
preliminary findings that Estes was not competent to stand
trial, the district court twice committed him to Lake's
Crossing Center for Mentally Disordered Offenders. [Footnote:
Lake's Crossing is operated by the Nevada Division of
Mental Health and Development Services.] Relying upon
evaluations provided by Lake's Crossing staff, the
district court eventually found Estes competent to stand
Estes pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity and the case
proceeded to trial. He called no experts and testified as the
sole defense witness. In this, he recounted all of his mental
health problems beginning as a young adult and claimed that
medication (lithium) prescribed for diagnosed bipolar
disorder caused him to abduct and assault B.C. He further
admitted much of the charged misconduct, stating that if
“B.C. said he did it, ” he probably did.
In rebuttal, the State presented the testimony of three
members of the Lake's Crossing staff: Elizabeth
Neighbors, Ph.D., a forensic psychologist and facility
director; Hale Henson, M.D., psychiatrist; and A.J.
Coronella, a licensed clinical social worker. All three
either observed or treated Estes during the evaluation
Dr. Neighbors testified concerning psychological testing of
Estes that revealed occasional malingering, i.e.,
feigned mental illness. She also testified that neither she,
nor members of Estes' treatment team, observed him in a
psychotic state or viewed him as incompetent during his
second commitment. Dr. Henson opined that Estes attempted to
present a history of mental illness to avoid more severe
prosecution, that Estes did not suffer from lithium
poisoning, and that Estes desired to be medicated to support
his claim that he had a disabling medical condition.
Doctors Neighbors and Henson also testified to a reasonable
degree of medical certainty that, under the
M'Naughten standard, [footnote omitted] Estes
knew right from wrong and suffered from no mental condition
that would impair his judgment during the alleged incidents
with B.C. More particularly, Dr. Neighbors stated that
Estes' behavior as reported seemed deliberate and
thoughtful. Both derived their opinions from police reports
and statements to the police made by Estes and B.C.
The social worker, A.J. Coronella, testified to Estes'
interest in preparing an insanity defense, as revealed in a
discussion with him during her “legal process”
class at Lake's Crossing. She also recounted his comment
to her, in an interview, that an affair between his wife and
brother was the underlying reason for his divorce. The State
elicited the latter statement in response to Estes'
testimony that he and his wife divorced because of his mental
The jury convicted Estes on all counts. The district court
imposed a series of concurrent and consecutive sentences
totaling 40 years imprisonment and ordered Estes to register
as a sex offender upon his eventual release. The court
further awarded Estes 898 days' credit for time served in
local custody before sentencing.
Estes v. State, 122 Nev. 1123, 1129-30, 146 P.3d
1114, 1118-19 (2006); (Exh. 47 (ECF No. 18-5) (Except where
otherwise indicated, the Exhibits referred to in this order
were filed by Estes, and are found in the record at ECF Nos.
appeal, in pertinent part relative to his petition in this
case, Estes raised issues regarding the admission of
testimony of the three Lake's Crossing employees, and
regarding the trial court's refusal to instruct the jury
regarding involuntary intoxication. (See
Appellant's Opening Brief, Exh. 41 (ECF No. 17-9).) The
Nevada Supreme Court rejected Estes' claims with respect
to those issues. See Estes v. State, 122 Nev. 1123,
146 P.3d 1114 (2006); (Exh. 47 (ECF No. 18-5).) Ruling on
other issues, the Nevada Supreme Court reversed Estes'
convictions on one count of battery with intent to commit a
crime and two counts of lewdness with a child under the age
of fourteen years, and remanded to the state district court,
for, among other things, further consideration of the two
counts of preventing or dissuading a person from testifying
or producing evidence. (See id.) The Nevada Supreme
Court denied Estes' petition for rehearing on March 1,
2007. (See Order Denying Rehearing, Exh. 52 (ECF No.
18-10).) The United States Supreme Court denied Estes'
petition for a writ of certiorari on October 1, 2007.
(See Notice of Denial of Petition for Writ of
Certiorari, Exh. 56 (ECF No. 18-14).)
remand, in the state district court, the court dismissed the
two counts of preventing or dissuading a person from
testifying or producing evidence, and Estes' sentences on
those convictions were vacated. (See Second Amended
Judgment of Conviction, Exh. 53 (ECF No. 18-11).)
November 28, 2007, Estes filed a petition for writ of habeas
corpus in the state district court. (See Petition
for Writ of Habeas Corpus, Exh. 57 (ECF No. 18-15).) Counsel
was appointed for Estes, and, with counsel, Estes filed
supplemental briefing in support of his habeas petition.
(See Order of Appointment, Exh. 61 (ECF No. 19);
Supplemental Brief in Support of Petition for Writ of Habeas
Corpus, Exh. 63 (ECF No. 19-2); Second Supplemental Brief in
Support of Petition for Writ of Habeas Corpus, Exh. 64 (ECF
No. 19-3).) The state district court held an evidentiary
hearing on April 7, 2011. (See Transcript of
Evidentiary Hearing, Exh. 68 (ECF No. 19-8).) On June 14,
2011, the state district court denied Estes's petition in
a written order. (See Findings of Fact, Conclusions
of Law and Order, Exh. 71 (ECF No. 19-11).) Estes appealed,
and the Nevada Supreme Court affirmed on December 12, 2012.
(See Order of Affirmance, Exh. 76 (ECF No. 19-16).)
initiated this federal habeas corpus action on February 14,
2013, by filing a pro se habeas corpus petition (ECF
No. 4). Counsel was appointed to represent Estes.
(See Order entered April 11, 2013 (ECF No. 3);
Notice of Appearance of Counsel (ECF No. 8).) With counsel,
Estes filed an amended petition for writ of habeas corpus -
the operative petition in the case - on November 12, 2013
(ECF No. 20).)
filed a motion to dismiss on January 15, 2014 (ECF No. 25),
contending that certain of Estes' claims are unexhausted
in state court. The Court denied the motion to dismiss.
(See Order entered July 22, 2014 (ECF No. 28).)
Respondents then filed an answer (ECF No. 29), and Estes
filed a reply (ECF No. 34).
30, 2017, the Court ordered respondents to expand the record,
pursuant to Rule 7 of the Rules Governing Section 2254 Cases
in the United States District Courts, by filing, as an
Exhibit, a copy of the transcript of Estes' statement to
the police, which was admitted into evidence at trial.
(See Order entered May 30, 2017 (ECF No. 35).)
Respondents complied with that order, by filing the
transcript as an Exhibit on June 19, 2017 (ECF No. 36). Estes
responded to that filing (ECF No. 37), stating that he has no
objection to the Court's consideration of the Exhibit,
but stating that his birthdate and Social Security number
should be redacted from the Exhibit. On June 21, 2017, the
Court ordered the June 19, 2017, filing sealed, and ordered
respondents to file a redacted version of the Exhibit.
(See Order entered June 21, 2017 (ECF No. 38).) On
June 22, 2017, respondents filed the Exhibit with Estes'
birthdate and Social Security number redacted out (ECF No.
SUBSTITUTION OF RESPONDENT WARDEN
Court observes that Robert LeGrand, the named respondent
warden, is no longer the warden of Lovelock Correctional
Center, the prison where Estes is incarcerated. Renee Baker
is now the warden. Therefore, pursuant to Federal Rule of
Civil Procedure 25(d), the Court will direct the Clerk of the
Court to substitute Renee Baker for Robert LeGrand as the
respondent warden on the docket for this case.
Standard of Review
U.S.C. § 2254(d) sets forth the standard of review
applicable in this case under the Antiterrorism and Effective
Death Penalty Act (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).
court decision is contrary to clearly established Supreme
Court precedent, within the meaning of 28 U.S.C. § 2254,
“if the state court applies a rule that contradicts the
governing law set forth in [the Supreme Court's]
cases” or “if the state court confronts a set of
facts that are materially indistinguishable from a decision
of [the Supreme Court] and nevertheless arrives at a result
different from [the Supreme Court's] precedent.”
Lockyer v. Andrade, 538 U.S. 63, 73 (2003) (quoting
Williams v. Taylor, 529 U.S. 362, 405-06 (2000), and
citing Bell v. Cone, 535 U.S. 685, 694 (2002)).
court decision is an unreasonable application of clearly
established Supreme Court precedent, within the meaning of 28
U.S.C. § 2254(d), “if the state court identifies
the correct governing legal principle from [the Supreme
Court's] decisions but unreasonably applies that
principle to the facts of the prisoner's case.”
Lockyer, 538 U.S. at 75 (quoting Williams,
529 U.S. at 413). The “unreasonable application”
clause requires the state court decision to be more than
incorrect or erroneous; the state court's application of
clearly established law must be objectively unreasonable.
Id. (quoting Williams, 529 U.S. at 409).
Supreme Court has instructed that “[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.” Harrington v. Richter,
562 U.S. 86, 101 (2011) (citing Yarborough v.
Alvarado, 541 U.S. 652, 664 (2004)). The Supreme Court
has stated “that even a strong case for relief does not
mean the state court's contrary conclusion was
unreasonable.” Id. at 102 (citing
Lockyer, 538 U.S. at 75); see also Cullen v.
Pinholster, 563 U.S. 170, 181 (2011) (describing
standard as “a difficult to meet” and