United States District Court, D. Nevada
J. DAWSON, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
counseled habeas matter under 28 U.S.C. § 2254 comes
before the court on respondents' motion to dismiss
certain claims in petitioner Jessica Williams' amended
petition (ECF No. 113). Williams opposed (ECF No. 114), and
respondents replied (ECF No. 115).
Procedural History and Background
February 16, 2001, a jury convicted Williams of six counts of
driving with a prohibited substance in the blood or urine
resulting in death; one count of use of a controlled
substance; and one count of possession of a controlled
substance (exhibit 3). The convictions arose from the deaths of
six teenagers assigned to a roadside cleanup crew who were
struck and killed on March 19, 2000, when the vehicle that
Williams was driving veered off the road into the median. As
this court has recounted previously, according to the factual
summary by the Supreme Court of Nevada, Williams had stayed
up all night the prior evening. Williams admitted that she
had smoked marijuana approximately two hours before veering
off the road and that she had used the designer drug
“ecstasy” the prior evening. Williams had a pipe
with marijuana residue and a plastic bag with marijuana.
Blood tests returned positive results for the presence of the
active ingredient of marijuana and a metabolite thereof.
Williams maintained that she had fallen asleep at the wheel.
See Williams v. State, 118 Nev. 536, 50 P.3d 1116,
1126-27 (2002)(Williams I).
state district court sentenced Williams to what amounted to
six consecutive terms of 36 to 96 months. Exh. 3. Judgment of
conviction was filed on April 6, 2001. Id. The
Nevada Supreme Court affirmed her convictions in a published
opinion on August 2, 2002. Exh. 9; Williams I, 50
state district court granted Williams' state
postconviction habeas petition on March 4, 2003, reasoning
that the plain language of NRS 484.379 did not include
marijuana metabolite as a prohibited substance. Exh. 14. The
Nevada Supreme Court reversed, concluding that the claim was
procedurally barred and that Williams failed to demonstrate
good cause and actual prejudice to excuse the default. Exh.
for the purposes of the current federal habeas petition,
Williams, through counsel, filed a petition to commence this
action (ECF No. 1), the Federal Public Defender was appointed
and original counsel withdrew, and this court granted a stay
and abeyance in order to exhaust unexhausted claims (ECF No.
91). Williams filed a second state postconviction petition in
state court (ECF No. 100-1, pp. 98-103; ECF No. 100-2, pp.
1-22). The Nevada Supreme Court affirmed the denial of the
petition, concluding that the claims were procedurally barred
(ECF No. 98-4).
court subsequently granted Williams' motion to lift stay
(ECF No. 97, 111) and granted her motion to file an amended
petition (ECF No. 111). Williams filed the amended petition
(ECF No. 110), and respondents now move to dismiss grounds
8A, 8B and 9 as procedurally defaulted, grounds 1B, 3 and 6
for failure to state a claim, and ground 9 as time barred
(ECF No. 113).
Legal Standards & Analysis a. Relation Back
argue that ground 9 does not relate back to a timely-filed
petition and should thus be dismissed as untimely (ECF No.
113, pp. 17-18). A new claim in an amended petition that is
filed after the expiration of the Antiterrorism and Effective
Death Penalty Act (“AEDPA”) one-year limitation
period will be timely only if the new claim relates back to a
claim in a timely-filed pleading under Rule 15(c) of the
Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, on the basis that the claim
arises out of “the same conduct, transaction or
occurrence” as a claim in the timely pleading.
Mayle v. Felix, 545 U.S. 644 (2005). In
Mayle, the United States Supreme Court held that
habeas claims in an amended petition do not arise out of
“the same conduct, transaction or occurrence” as
claims in the original petition merely because the claims all
challenge the same trial, conviction or sentence. 545 U.S. at
655-64. Rather, under the construction of the rule approved
in Mayle, Rule 15(c) permits relation back of habeas
claims asserted in an amended petition “only when the
claims added by amendment arise from the same core facts as
the timely filed claims, and not when the new claims depend
upon events separate in ‘both time and type' from
the originally raised episodes.” 545 U.S. at 657. In
this regard, the reviewing court looks to “the
existence of a common ‘core of operative facts'
uniting the original and newly asserted claims.” A
claim that merely adds “a new legal theory tied to the
same operative facts as those initially alleged” will
relate back and be timely. 545 U.S. at 659 and n.5; Ha
Van Nguyen v. Curry, 736 F.3d 1287, 1297 (9th
the parties do not dispute that ground 9 must relate back to
a timely filed petition in order to be deemed timely (ECF
Nos. 113, 114). In ground 9, Williams argues that her trial
and appellate counsel rendered ineffective assistance (IAC)
in violation of her Sixth and Fourteenth Amendment rights
when they failed to raise available constitutional challenges
to the application of the driving under the influence
statutes to her case (ECF No. 110, pp. 51-53).
Nguyen, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals
recognized that the petitioner's claims of double
jeopardy, cruel and unusual punishment, and IAC, while they
were different in the “time and type” as claims,
were supported by a common core of facts, because the failure
to raise the substantive claim of double jeopardy was the
basis for the IAC claim. Nguyen, 736 F.3d at 1297.
Here, ground 9 asserts an IAC claim that is based on
counsel's failure to raise the constitutional attacks on
the Nevada prohibited substance statutes that were raised in
ground 8 of the initial petition (ECF No. 1, pp. 39-42).
Accordingly, ground 9 relates back to the original timely
petition filed in 2004.
Procedural Default 28 U.S.C. § 2254(d), a
provision of the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty
Act (AEDPA), provides that this court may grant habeas relief
if the relevant state court decision was either: (1) contrary
to clearly established federal law, as determined by the
Supreme Court; or (2) involved an unreasonable application of
clearly established federal law as determined by the Supreme
default” refers to the situation where a petitioner in
fact presented a claim to the state courts but the state
courts disposed of the claim on procedural grounds, instead
of on the merits. Coleman v. Thompson, 501 U.S. 722,
730-31 (1991). A federal court will not review a claim for
habeas corpus relief if the decision of the state court
regarding that claim rested on a state law ground that is
independent of the federal question and adequate to support
the judgment. Id.
Coleman Court explained the effect of a procedural
In all cases in which a state prisoner has defaulted his
federal claims in state court pursuant to an independent and
adequate state procedural rule, federal habeas review of the
claims is barred unless the prisoner can demonstrate cause
for the default and actual prejudice as a result of the
alleged violation of federal law, or demonstrate that ...