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Bell v. Neven

United States District Court, D. Nevada

September 5, 2017

CORDALE BELL, Petitioner,
v.
DWIGHT NEVEN, et al., Respondents.

          ORDER

          JAMES. C. MAHAN, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         This counseled first-amended 28 U.S.C. § 2254 habeas petition by petitioner Cordale Bell is before the court for adjudication on the merits (ECF No. 7).

         I. Background & Procedural History

         On February 3, 2009, Bell pleaded guilty to one count of kidnapping in the first degree with use of a deadly weapon (exhibits 29, 30).[1] The state district court sentenced him to a term of life with the possibility of parole after five years, with a consecutive term of life with the possibility of parole after five years for the deadly weapon enhancement, with 626 days' credit for time served. Exh. 32. The court entered the judgment of conviction on March 10, 2009. Exh. 33.

         The Nevada Supreme Court affirmed the convictions on March 10, 2010, and remittitur issued on April 7, 2010. Exhs. 42, 43.

         Bell filed a state postconviction habeas corpus petition, and counsel filed a supplemental brief. Exhs. 44, 55. The state district court denied the petition on November 9, 2012. Exh. 67. The Nevada Supreme Court affirmed the denial of the petition on October 17, 2013, and remittitur issued on November 14, 2013. Exhs. 74, 75.

         Bell dispatched his federal habeas petition for mailing on March 29, 2014 (ECF No. 4). This court granted Bell's motion for appointment of counsel (ECF No. 3). Bell filed a counseled, first-amended petition (ECF No. 7). Respondents have now answered the petition, and Bell replied (ECF Nos. 23, 25).

         II. Legal Standards

         a. Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act (AEDPA)

         28 U.S.C. § 2254(d), a provision of the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act (AEDPA), provides the legal standards for this court's consideration of the petition in this case:

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.

         The AEDPA “modified a federal habeas court's role in reviewing state prisoner applications in order to prevent federal habeas ‘retrials' and to ensure that state-court convictions are given effect to the extent possible under law.” Bell v. Cone, 535 U.S. 685, 693-694 (2002). This Court's ability to grant a writ is limited to cases where “there is no possibility fair-minded jurists could disagree that the state court's decision conflicts with [Supreme Court] precedents.” Harrington v. Richter, 562 U.S. 86, 102 (2011). The Supreme Court has emphasized “that even a strong case for relief does not mean the state court's contrary conclusion was unreasonable.” Id. (citing Lockyer v. Andrade, 538 U.S. 63, 75 (2003)); see also Cullen v. Pinholster, 563 U.S. 170, 181 (2011) (describing the AEDPA standard as “a difficult to meet and highly deferential standard for evaluating state-court rulings, which demands that state-court decisions be given the benefit of the doubt”) (internal quotation marks and citations omitted).

         A state 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, 538 U.S. at 73 (quoting Williams v. Taylor, 529 U.S. 362, 405-06 (2000), and citing Bell, 535 U.S. at 694.

         A state 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 74 (quoting Williams, 529 U.S. at 413). The “unreasonable application” clause requires the state court decision to be more than incorrect or ...


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