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Guardado v. Nevada Attorney General

United States District Court, D. Nevada

August 25, 2017

NEVADA ATTORNEY GENERAL, et al., Respondents.



         Petitioner Manuel Steven Guardado, a prisoner in the custody of the State of Nevada, brings this habeas action under 28 U.S.C. § 2254 to challenge his 2004 Nevada state convictions for burglary, possession of burglary tools, possession of stolen property, and arson. After evaluating his claims on the merits, this Court denies Guardado's petition for a writ of habeas corpus, dismisses this action with prejudice, and denies a certificate of appealability.

         I. BACKGROUND

         Around 5:00 am on June 9, 2003, the Reno Police Department received word that telephone lines were cut around Spiro's Sports Bar-which was a common theme in a string of sports bar burglaries.[1] Earlier in the day, as part of a multi-day surveillance to catch the perpetrators of the burglaries, the detectives saw the petitioner and his brother, Ernest Jord Guardado (“Ernest”)-the lead suspects in their investigation at that point- loading up a green Saturn at Ernest's apartment. (See Exh. 2 at 21-22.) Responding to the scene of the potential burglary, the detectives saw the green Saturn parked a few hundred feet away from the bar and noticed a figure in dark clothes, Ernest, standing in front of the bar. (Exh. 23 at 4.)

         After a silent alarm was triggered, detectives saw another figure in dark clothes, Guardado, emerging from between two buildings across the street and approaching the car. (See id.) When the detectives identified themselves as police officers and ordered Guardado to surrender, he fled and threw a two-way radio onto the top of a nearby building but was nonetheless apprehended. (See id.) Ernest also fled, and was ultimately found hiding in the crawl space in a home. (See Id. at 5.) Along his flight path, the detectives found gloves, a knit cap, a black sweatshirt, tools, a two-way radio, and a gaming-machine cash box. (See id.) During a search of the bar, the police noticed that the rear door had been forced open and a gaming machine had been broken open and its cash box removed. (See Id. at 4-5.)

         After being apprehended but not Mirandized, Guardado made a number of statements to the arresting officers. (See Exh. 2 at 10.) He first asked Detective Reed why they were chasing him, and when told that it was for robbery of Spiro's bar, Guardado said that he didn't burgle anything and that he was standing by another building that was across the street from the bar. (See Id. at 11-12.) To another officer, he said that he ran “because [they] were chasing [him]” and he “didn't know who [they] were. Then [he] turned around, and [he] saw the black vest with the RPD patch on the front. And [he] thought at that point [he] might as well keep running because [he had] already started.” (Id. at 20.) He also said that he “didn't do the burglary, but [he was] the lookout.” (Id. at 85.)

         On February 11, 2004, Guardado was indicted on eight counts: burglary of Spiro's bar on June 9, 2003, see NRS §§ 195.020, 205.060(1) (count 1); possession of tools for the commission of burglary on June 9, 2003, see Id. § 205.080 (count 2); burglary of another sports bar on May 20, 2003, see Id. § 205.060(1) (count 3); first-degree arson of that sports bar on May 20, 2003, see Id. § 205.010 (count 4); conspiracy to commit first-degree arson, see Id. §§ 199.480, 205.010 (count 5); and possession of stolen property from the May 20, 2003, sports bar burglary, see Id. § 205.275 (count 6); possession of stolen property for possessing a gun belonging to someone else, see Id. § 205.275 (count 7); and possession of stolen property for possessing other items owned by the same person, see Id. (count 8). (See Exh. 7 at 1-4.) On September 15, 2004, Guardado signed a plea deal pleading guilty to counts 1, 3, 4, 6, 7, and 8 in exchange for the State dismissing counts 2 and 5 and not pursuing giving Guardado habitual criminal status. (Exh. 32 at 1-2, 8; see also Exh. 31 at 7-8.) On November 5, 2004, the state district court found him guilty of the same and sentenced him to confinement for 48 to 120 months for counts 1 and 3, 72 to 180 months for count 4, and 24 to 60 months for counts 6, 7, and 8, each to run consecutively, in addition to monetary payments. (Exh. 34 at 1- 2; see also Exh. 33 at 15-16.)

         Guardado appealed on April 21, 2005. (Exh. 48.) The Supreme Court of Nevada affirmed on August 18, 2005, with remittitur issuing on September 14, 2005. (Exhs. 52, 53.) He filed a habeas petition in state court on October 12, 2005. (Exh. 54; see also Exhs. 60, 65.) The state district court ordered an evidentiary hearing on the petition. (Exh. 71.) After the evidentiary hearing, the state district court denied the petition on October 8, 2008. (Exh. 87.) Guardado filed a motion for reconsideration, but it was denied on November 13, 2008. (Exhs. 92, 98.) He then appealed to the Supreme Court of Nevada. (Exh. 103.) The Supreme Court of Nevada affirmed on February 3, 2010, with remittitur issuing on March 2, 2010. (Exhs. 107, 108.)

         Guardado filed his first petition for a writ of habeas corpus in federal court on April 26, 2010. (ECF No. 9.) The State filed a motion to dismiss, Guardado responded, and the State replied. (ECF Nos. 15, 26, 27.) This Court granted the motion in part and denied it in part, holding that all grounds except for Ground 2 failed to state a claim or were unexhausted in state court, thus creating a “mixed petition” of exhausted and unexhausted claims. (ECF No. 31 at 8-9.) At this Court's invitation, Guardado moved for a stay and abeyance under Rhines v. Weber, 544 U.S. 269 (2005). (ECF No. 32; see ECF No. 31 at 8 & n.4.) The State opposed, and Guardado replied. (ECF Nos. 33, 34.) This Court granted Guardado's motion for a stay and abeyance on December 27, 2011. (ECF No. 35 at 4.)

         On February 2, 2012, Guardado filed his second petition for a writ of habeas corpus in state district court. (Exh. 116.) On March 28, 2012, the court denied his petition because it was procedurally barred by the one-year statute of limitations. (Exh. 118 (citing Nev. Rev. Stat. § 34.726).) Guardado appealed. The Supreme Court of Nevada affirmed on November 14, 2012, and remittitur issued on December 14, 2012. (Exhs. 131, 133.)

         On December 13, 2012, Guardado filed a motion to lift the stay that this Court issued on December 27, 2011. (ECF No. 36.) This Court granted the motion on November 21, 2013. (ECF No. 38.) Guardado filed an amended petition for a writ of habeas in federal court on March 12, 2014. (ECF No. 47.) The State filed a motion to dismiss the amended petition, and Guardado responded. (ECF Nos. 48, 51.) This Court granted the motion to dismiss and issued judgment dismissing the entire petition. (ECF No. 56 at 8-9; ECF No. 57.) On February 27, 2015, Guardado filed a motion to amend the judgment, arguing that this Court erroneously dismissed Ground 2 for being procedurally barred in state court and procedurally defaulted in federal court in light of its previous order that Ground 2 was ripe for review on the merits. (ECF No. 58; see ECF No. 31 at 7-9.) This Court reopened the action, noted that it would resolve Ground 2 on the merits, and ordered the State to file an Answer as to Ground 2. (ECF No. 64 at 3.) The State did so, and Guardado filed a Reply. (ECF Nos. 71, 75.)


         When a state court has adjudicated a claim on the merits, the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act (AEDPA) imposes a “highly deferential” standard for evaluating the state court ruling; that standard is “difficult to meet” and “demands that state-court decisions be given the benefit of the doubt.” Cullen v. Pinholster, 563 U.S. 170 (2011). Under this highly deferential standard of review, a federal court may not grant habeas relief merely because it might conclude that the state court decision was incorrect. Id. at 202. Instead, under 28 U.S.C. § 2254(d), the court may grant relief only if the state court decision: (1) was either contrary to or involved an unreasonable application of clearly established law as determined by the United States Supreme Court or (2) was based on an unreasonable determination of the facts in light of the evidence presented at the state court proceeding. Id. at 181-88. The petitioner bears the burden of proof. Id. at 181.

         A state court decision is “contrary to” law clearly established by the Supreme Court only if it applies a rule that contradicts the governing law set forth in Supreme Court case law or if the decision confronts a set of facts that are materially indistinguishable from a Supreme Court decision and nevertheless arrives at a different result. See, e.g., Mitchell v. Esparza, 540 U.S. 12, 15-16 (2003). A state court decision is not contrary to established federal law merely because it does not cite the Supreme Court's opinions. Id. The Supreme Court has held that a state court need not even be aware of its precedents, so long as neither the reasoning nor the result of its decision contradicts them. Id. And “a federal court may not overrule a state court for simply holding a view different from its own, when the precedent from [the Supreme] Court is, at best, ambiguous.” Id. at 16. A decision that does not conflict with the reasoning or holdings of Supreme Court precedent is not contrary to clearly established federal law.

         A state court decision constitutes an “unreasonable application” of clearly established federal law only if it is demonstrated that the state court's application of Supreme Court precedent to the facts of the case was not only incorrect but “objectively unreasonable.” See, e.g., id. at 18; Davis v. Woodford, 384 F.3d 628, 638 (9th Cir. 2004). When a state court's factual findings based on the record before it are challenged, the “unreasonable determination of fact” clause of 28 U.S.C. § 2254(d)(2) controls, which requires federal courts to be “particularly deferential” to state court factual determinations. See, e.g., Lambert v. Blodgett, 393 F.3d 943, 972 (9th Cir. 2004). This standard is not satisfied by a mere showing that the state court finding was “clearly erroneous.” Id. at 973. Rather, as the Ninth Circuit explained, AEDPA requires substantially more deference:

[I]n concluding that a state-court finding is unsupported by substantial evidence in the state-court record, it is not enough that we would reverse in similar circumstances if this were an appeal from a district court decision. Rather, we must be convinced that an appellate panel, applying the normal standards of appellate review, could not reasonably conclude that the finding is supported by the record.

Taylor v. Maddox, 366 F.3d 992, 1000 (9th Cir. 2004); see also Lambert, 393 F.3d at 972.

         Under 28 U.S.C. § 2254(e)(1), a state court's factual findings are presumed to be correct and the petitioner must rebut that presumption by “clear and convincing evidence.” In this inquiry, federal courts may not look to any factual basis not developed before the state court unless the petitioner both shows that the claim relies on either (a) “a new rule of constitutional law, made retroactive to cases on collateral review by the Supreme Court, that was previously unavailable” or (b) “a factual predicate that could not have been previously discovered through the exercise of due diligence, ” and shows that “the facts underlying the claim would be sufficient to establish by clear and convincing evidence that but for constitutional error, no reasonable factfinder would have found the applicant guilty of the underlying offense.” 28 U.S.C. § 2254(e)(2).

         When a state court summarily rejects a claim, it is the petitioner's burden to show that “there was no reasonable basis for the state court to deny ...

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