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Bryant v. Neven

United States District Court, D. Nevada

April 23, 2018

CHRISTIAN BRYANT, Petitioner,
v.
DWIGHT NEVEN, et al., Respondents.

          ORDER

         Before the court for a decision on the merits is a habeas corpus petition filed by Christian Bryant, a Nevada prisoner. ECF No. 5.

         I. BACKGROUND

         In October 2011, a jury in the state district court for Clark County, Nevada, found Bryant guilty of robbery, battery with use of a deadly weapon, two counts of possession of a controlled substance, and escape. After a sentencing hearing, the state district court entered a judgment of conviction in December 2011, sentencing Bryant to concurrent terms ranging from 12 to 120 months on the first four counts with a consecutive sentence of 12 to 60 months on the escape count. An amended judgment of conviction was entered in March 2012.

         Bryant appealed. In September 2012, the Nevada Supreme Court entered an order affirming the lower court's judgment.

         In February 2013, Bryant filed a state habeas corpus petition in the state district court. After appointment of counsel, Bryant filed a supplemental petition. The court held an evidentiary hearing in March 2014, then entered an order denying the petition in April 2014. Bryant appealed. In December 2014, the Nevada Supreme Court entered an order affirming the lower court's judgment.

         In March 2015, Bryant initiated this federal habeas corpus proceeding. In May 2015, this court screened Bryant's habeas petition under Rule 4 of the Rules Governing Habeas Corpus Cases Under Section 2254 and ordered service on the respondents. Respondents filed a motion to dismiss, alleging that Bryant failed to exhaust state court remedies for two of his four habeas claims.

         This court granted the motion. Bryant subsequently abandoned the unexhausted claims. Respondents filed an answer to Bryant's remaining claims, which are now before the court for a decision on the merits.

         II. STANDARDS OF REVIEW

         Title 28 U.S.C. § 2254(d) provides as follows:

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.

         A state court acts “contrary to” clearly established Federal law if it applies a rule contradicting the relevant holdings or reaches a different conclusion on materially indistinguishable facts. Price v. Vincent, 538 U.S. 634, 640 (2003). A state court “unreasonably appli[es]” clearly established Federal law if it engages in an “objectively unreasonable” application of the correct governing legal rule to the facts at hand; however, Section 2254(d)(1) “does not require state courts to extend that precedent or license federal courts to treat the failure to do so as error.” White v. Woodall, 134 S.Ct. 1697, 1705-07 (2014). “And an ‘unreasonable application of' [the Supreme Court's] holdings must be ‘objectively unreasonable, ' not merely wrong; even ‘clear error' will not suffice.” Wood v. McDonald, 135 S.Ct. 1372, 1376 (2015) (per curiam) (citation omitted). “The question . . . is not whether a federal court believes the state court's determination was incorrect but whether that determination was unreasonable-a substantially higher threshold.” Schriro v. Landrigan, 550 U.S. 465, 473 (2007).

         Habeas relief may not issue unless “there is no possibility fairminded jurists could disagree that the state court's decision conflicts with [the Supreme Court's] precedents.” Harrington v. Richter, 562 U.S. 86, 102 (2011). As “a condition for obtaining habeas relief, ” a petitioner “must show that” the state decision “was so lacking in justification that there was an error well understood and comprehended in existing law beyond any possibility for fairminded disagreement.” Id. at 103. This standard is “difficult to meet, ” Metrish v. Lancaster, 569 U.S. 351, 357-58 (2013), as even a “strong case for relief does not mean the state court's contrary conclusion was unreasonable, ” Richter, 562 U.S. at 102. “[S]o long as ‘fairminded jurists could disagree' on the correctness of the state court's decision, ” habeas relief is precluded by Section 2254(d). Id. at 101 (citation omitted). “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) (citations omitted).

         The federal habeas court may deny a claim based on de novo review, because if the claim fails under a de novo standard, it must also fail under AEDPA's more deferential standard. See Berghuis v. Thompkins,560 U.S. 370, 390 (2010) (where claim fails under de novo review, state court's denial of ...


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