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Williams v. Baker

United States District Court, D. Nevada

June 24, 2019

MATHEW LEE WILLIAMS, Petitioner,
v.
RENEE BAKER, et al., Respondents.

          ORDER

          MIRANDA M. DU UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         I. INTRODUCTION

         This case is a pro se petition for a writ of habeas corpus, under 28 U.S.C. § 2254, by Mathew Lee Williams, an individual incarcerated in a Nevada prison. The case is before the Court for adjudication of the merits of the claims remaining in Williams's amended habeas petition. The Court will deny Williams's habeas petition, will deny him a certificate of appealability, and will direct the Clerk of the Court to enter judgment accordingly.

         II. BACKGROUND

         Williams was convicted on November 29, 2012, in Nevada's Second Judicial District Court, upon a guilty plea, of lewdness with a child under the age of fourteen years, and he was sentenced to life in prison with eligibility for parole after ten years. (ECF No. 39 (Amended Petition for Writ of Habeas Corpus); ECF No. 15-24 (Judgment, Respondents' Ex. 24).)

         Williams appealed from his conviction, and the Nevada Supreme Court affirmed on September 18, 2013. (ECF No. 16-20 (Appellant's Opening Brief, Respondents' Ex. 51); ECF No. 16-26 (Order of Affirmance, Respondents' Ex. 57).)

         Williams then filed a petition for writ of habeas corpus in the state district court, and that court denied the petition on November 12, 2015. (ECF No. 17 (Petition for Writ of Habeas Corpus (Post-Conviction), Respondents' Ex. 61); ECF No. 17-13 (Order of State District Court, Respondents' Ex. 74).) Williams appealed the denial of his petition, and the Nevada Supreme Court affirmed on July 13, 2016. (ECF No. 17-21 (Appellant's Opening Brief, Respondents' Ex. 82); ECF No. 17-28 (Order of Affirmance, Respondents' Ex. 89).)

         Williams initiated this federal habeas corpus action on August 29, 2016. (ECF No. 6 (Petition for Writ of Habeas Corpus).)

         On January 11, 2017, Respondents filed a motion to dismiss Williams's original petition (ECF No. 14). Williams, in turn, filed a motion for stay (ECF No. 21), in which he requested that this case be stayed while he returns to state court to exhaust any unexhausted claims. The Court ruled on those motions on April 18, 2017. (ECF No. 24 (Order entered April 18, 2017).) The Court dismissed a claim based on alleged ineffective assistance of Williams's state post-conviction counsel, and, in all other respects, denied the motion to dismiss. (See id.) The Court denied Williams's motion for stay, as moot, finding that there were no viable claims yet to be exhausted in state court. (See id.) Williams filed a motion for reconsideration, and the Court denied that motion. (ECF No. 38.)

         Williams then filed a motion for leave to amend, and another motion for a stay. (ECF Nos. 31, 32.) The Court granted the motion for leave to amend, and denied the motion for stay, without prejudice, determining that it was premature. (ECF No. 38.)

         Williams then filed his amended petition-the operative petition in this case-on June 30, 2017. (ECF No. 39.) The Court reads the amended petition to contain the following grounds for relief:

1. Williams was denied effective assistance of trial counsel, in violation of his federal constitutional rights, because trial counsel failed to adequately investigate the case before he pled guilty.
2. Williams's federal constitutional rights were violated because the failure to consider his drug addiction in his sentencing amounts to cruel and unusual punishment.
3. Williams's federal and state constitutional rights were violated because the statute under which he was sentenced, and his sentence, violate the constitutional prohibition of cruel and unusual punishment.
4. Williams was denied effective assistance of trial counsel, in violation of his federal constitutional rights, because trial counsel failed to adequately investigate the case before he pled guilty.
5. Williams was denied effective assistance of counsel on his direct appeal, in violation of his federal constitutional rights, because of the claims that his appellate counsel did and did not assert.
6. Williams was denied effective assistance of trial counsel, in violation of his federal constitutional rights, because trial counsel misinformed him about the strength of the State's case, and failed to adequately investigate the case, before he pled guilty.
7. Williams was denied effective assistance of trial counsel, in violation of his federal constitutional rights, because trial counsel failed to present sufficient mitigating evidence at his sentencing.
8. Williams's federal constitutional rights were violated because his guilty plea was not knowing, intelligent, and voluntary, as he did not understand the plea agreement, and he was misled about the strength of the State's case.
9. Williams was denied effective assistance of counsel on his direct appeal, in violation of his federal constitutional rights, because his appellate counsel did not adequately investigate his case and did not assert meritorious claims.

(ECF No. 39 (Amended Petition for Writ of Habeas Corpus).)

         On November 13, 2017, Respondents filed a motion to dismiss Williams's amended petition. (ECF No. 51.) In that motion, Respondents asserted that Grounds 4, 5, 7, 8 and 9 are unexhausted in state court, and that part of Ground 3 is not cognizable in this federal habeas corpus action. (See id.) As part of his response, Williams filed another motion for stay (ECF No. 52). The Court ruled on those motions on July 17, 2018. (ECF No. 63.) The Court granted the motion to dismiss in part and denied it in part, and dismissed Grounds 5 and 9, and parts of Grounds 3 and 8; the Court denied Williams's motion for stay. (See id.)

         Respondents filed an answer (ECF No. 66), responding to the remaining claims in Williams's amended petition, on October 15, 2018, and Williams filed a reply (ECF No. 71) on December 10, 2018.

         III. LEGAL STANDARD

         28 U.S.C. § 2254(d) sets forth the standard of review generally applicable in habeas corpus cases under the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act (“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 ...

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