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Schult v. Cox

United States District Court, D. Nevada

February 13, 2018

DAVID K. SCHULT, Petitioner,
v.
BRIAN COX, et al., Respondents.

          ORDER

         Before the court for a decision on the merits is an application for a writ of habeas corpus filed by David K. Schult, a Nevada prisoner. ECF No. 6.

         I. PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND[1]

         In January 2009, Schult was convicted, pursuant to jury verdicts, of sexual assault with a minor under fourteen years of age, lewdness with a child under the age of fourteen, and child abuse and neglect. He was sentenced to twenty years to life on the assault count, a concurrent term of ten years to life on the lewdness count, and a consecutive term of 96 to 240 months on the child abuse count. Schult was further sentenced to lifetime supervision and ordered to register as a sex offender. The judgment of conviction was filed on April 21, 2009.

         Schult filed a direct appeal. The judgment of conviction was affirmed by the Nevada Supreme Court on May 10, 2010. On November 19, 2010, Schult filed a petition for writ of habeas corpus in the state district court. The court entered an order denying relief on December 19, 2013. Schult appealed. On January 15, 2015, the Nevada Supreme Court entered an order affirming the lower court's denial of relief.

         Schult initiated this habeas proceeding in July 2015 and, on September 5, 2015, filed the petition now before this court for decision. In screening the petition under Habeas Rule 4, the court concluded that Grounds One, Three, Four, Five, Six and Seven of the petition fail to state a claim for which habeas relief may be granted. ECF No. 7. Pursuant to respondents' motion to dismiss (ECF No. 13), the court dismissed a portion of Ground Two. ECF No. 23.

         II. STANDARDS OF REVIEW

         This action is governed by the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act (AEDPA). 28 U.S.C. § 2254(d) sets forth the standard of review under 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; 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.

28 U.S.C. § 2254(d).

         A decision of a state court is "contrary to" clearly established federal law if the state court arrives at a conclusion opposite that reached by the Supreme Court on a question of law or if the state court decides a case differently than the Supreme Court has on a set of materially indistinguishable facts. Williams v. Taylor, 529 U.S. 362, 405-06 (2000). An "unreasonable application" occurs when "a state-court decision unreasonably applies the law of [the Supreme Court] to the facts of a prisoner's case." Id. at 409. "[A] federal habeas court may not "issue the writ simply because that court concludes in its independent judgment that the relevant state-court decision applied clearly established federal law erroneously or incorrectly." Id. at 411.

         The Supreme Court has explained that "[a] federal court's collateral review of a state-court decision must be consistent with the respect due state courts in our federal system." Miller-El v. Cockrell, 537 U.S. 322, 340 (2003). The "AEDPA thus imposes a 'highly deferential standard for evaluating state-court rulings, ' and 'demands that state-court decisions be given the benefit of the doubt.'" Renico v. Lett, 559 U.S. 766, 773 (2010) (quoting Lindh v. Murphy, 521 U.S. 320, 333, n. 7 (1997); Woodford v. Viscotti, 537 U.S. 19, 24 (2002) (per curiam)). "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 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] federal court may not second-guess a state court's fact-finding process unless, after review of the state-court record, it determines that the state court was not merely wrong, but actually unreasonable." Taylor v. Maddox, 366 F.3d 992, 999 (9th Cir. 2004); see also Miller-El, 537 U.S. at 340 ("[A] decision adjudicated on the merits in a state court and based on a factual determination will not be overturned on factual grounds unless objectively unreasonable in light of the evidence presented in the state-court proceeding, § 2254(d)(2)."). Because de novo review is more favorable to the petitioner, federal courts can deny writs of habeas ...


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