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McKnight v. Baker

United States District Court, D. Nevada

May 21, 2018

DERRICK LAMAR MCKNIGHT, Petitioner,
v.
WARDEN BAKER, et al., Respondents.

          ORDER

          MIRANDA M. DU UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         I. SUMMARY

         Petitioner has paid the filing fee. The Court has reviewed the petition pursuant to Rule 4 of the Rules Governing Section 2254 Cases in the United States District Courts. The Court will dismiss some grounds. The Court will serve the petition upon respondents for a response to the remaining grounds.

         II. BACKGROUND

         Petitioner and a co-defendant were tried in state district court. The jury found petitioner guilty of burglary, conspiracy to commit robbery, robbery with the use of a deadly weapon, and first-degree murder with the use of a deadly weapon. Under NRS § 175.552(1)(a), the jury set the penalty for first-degree murder at life imprisonment without eligibility for parole.[1] The state district court judge set the remaining penalties. (ECF No. 1-1 at 28.) Petitioner's direct appeal and state post-conviction habeas corpus petition were unsuccessful.

         III. DISCUSSION

         For grounds 1 through 11, petitioner has copied his opening brief on direct appeal.

         Ground 4 is a claim that the trial court erred when it denied petitioner's motion to impanel a separate jury and alternative motion to sever his trial from the co-defendant's trial. A joint trial with petitioner, for whom the prosecution was not seeking the death penalty, and the co-defendant, for whom the prosecution was seeking the death penalty, does not violate the Sixth Amendment's right to trial by an impartial jury. See Buchanan v. Kentucky, 483 U.S. 402 (1987).[2] Ground 4 is without merit on its face.

         Ground 7 contains three claims that the trial court gave erroneous instructions. Two claims are without merit.

         Ground 7(1) is a claim that the trial court instructed the jury that robbery was a general intent crime, and he argues that robbery should be considered a specific intent crime.[3] This is purely a matter of state law that does not implicate either the Constitution or the laws of the United States. See 28 U.S.C. § 2254(a). Ground 7(1) is without merit on its face.

         Ground 7(3) is a claim that the jury instruction defining reasonable doubt is unconstitutional. The Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit has held that it is constitutional. Ramirez v. Hatcher, 136 F.3d 1209 (9th Cir. 1998). Ground 7(3) is without merit on its face.

         Ground 8 contains three claims that the trial court gave erroneous instructions. One claim is without merit.

         Ground 8(B) claims that the instruction defining premeditation and deliberation blurred the distinction between the two elements of first-degree murder. Petitioner alleges that this instruction was given:

Premeditation is a design, a determination to kill distinctly formed in the mind by the ...

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