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Coleman v. LeGrand

United States District Court, D. Nevada

September 18, 2017

MELVIN CHAMBERS COLEMAN, JR., Petitioner,
v.
ROBERT LeGRAND, et al., Respondents.

          ORDER

          ROBERT C. JONES, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         Petitioner Melvin Chambers Coleman, Jr., a prisoner in the custody of the State of Nevada, brings this habeas action under 28 U.S.C. § 2254 to challenge his 2008 Nevada state convictions for robbery and sexual assault. (ECF No. 18.) After evaluating his claims on the merits, this Court denies Coleman's petition for a writ of habeas corpus, dismisses this action with prejudice, and denies a certificate of appealability.

         I. BACKGROUND

         On May 3, 2005, Marta Flores was sexually assaulted by a man outside a building in Reno, Nevada. (Exhibit 21, at 50-51.)[1] Her four-year-old son, G.F., was sleeping in her car nearby. (Id. at 50.) The man then struck Flores and demanded money from her, after which G.F. exited the vehicle and shouted at the man to stop hitting his mother. (Id. at 57-59.)

         In August 2009, following the conclusion of a three-day jury trial, Coleman was convicted of robbery and sexual assault. (Exhibits 21, 23.) Coleman was sentenced to four to ten years for the former offense and ten years to life for die latter, to run concurrently. (Exhibit 29.)

         Coleman appealed, raising three claims. (Exhibit 34.) The State responded, but Coleman did not file a reply. (Exhibit 36.) The Nevada Supreme Court denied the appeal on April 8, 2010. (Exhibit 39.) Remittitur issued on May 4, 2010. (Exhibit 40.)

         Coleman filed a petition for a writ of habeas corpus in state court, identifying one ground. (Exhibit 44.) After counsel was appointed, Coleman filed a supplemental petition for a writ of habeas corpus in state court, identifying six additional grounds. (Exhibit 49.) The State responded. (Exhibits 50, 51.) On April 30, 2013, following an evidentiary hearing, the state court denied the petition. (Exhibit 53.) The order was filed on May 22, 2013. (Exhibits 55, 56.)

         Coleman appealed to the Nevada Supreme Court, identifying two core grounds. (Exhibit 59.) The State responded, and Coleman did not file a reply. (Exhibit 60.) On April 10, 2014, the Nevada Supreme Court denied Coleman's appeal. (Exhibit 61.) Remittitur issued on May 5, 2014. (Exhibit 61.)

         Coleman then filed a federal petition for a writ of habeas corpus-the action before this Court. (ECF No. 1.) The Second Amended Petition for a Writ of Habeas Corpus is the operative document. (ECF No. 18.) In it, Coleman asserts three grounds for relief.

         II. FEDERAL HABEAS REVIEW STANDARDS

         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 is "difficult to meet" and "which 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');">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, 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 ...

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