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Dozier v. Neven

United States District Court, D. Nevada

December 11, 2019

ESAU DOZIER, Petitioner,
v.
DWIGHT NEVEN, et al., Respondents.

          ORDER

          KENT J. DAWSON UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         Esau Dozier's 28 U.S.C. § 2254 petition for writ of habeas corpus is before the court for final disposition on the merits (ECF No. 6).

         I. Background & Procedural History

         In December 2004, a jury convicted Dozier of two counts of robbery with a deadly weapon (counts 1 and 2) and burglary (count 3). Exh. 31.[1] The state district court sentenced him as follows: 72 to 180 months each on counts 1 and 2, with a like and consecutive term for the deadly weapon enhancement on each count; 72 to 180 months on count 3, counts 1 and 2 to run consecutively, and count 3 to run concurrently. Exh. 36, p. 24. Judgment was entered in February 2005. Exh. 37.

         The Nevada Supreme Court affirmed Dozier's convictions and subsequently affirmed the denial of his state postconviction petition. Exhs. 56, 85.

         This court originally granted respondents' motion to dismiss this federal petition as time-barred, and judgment was entered (ECF No. 25, 26). Dozier ultimately filed a motion for relief from judgment, which demonstrated that respondents had failed to provide this court with the complete state-court record and that the complete state-court record demonstrated that Dozier's federal petition was in fact timely (ECF No. 36). This court vacated the judgment and directed respondents to answer grounds 1 and 3 (ECF No. 48). Respondents have answered, and petitioner filed a reply (ECF No. 53, 54).

         II. Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act

         28 U.S.C. § 2254(d), a provision of the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act (AEDPA), provides the legal standards for this court's consideration of the petition in this case:

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.

         The AEDPA “modified a federal habeas court's role in reviewing state prisoner applications in order to prevent federal habeas ‘retrials' and to ensure that state-court convictions are given effect to the extent possible under law.” Bell v. Cone, 535 U.S. 685, 693-694 (2002). This Court's ability to grant a writ is limited to cases where “there is no possibility fair-minded jurists could disagree that the state court's decision conflicts with [Supreme Court] precedents.” Harrington v. Richter, 562 U.S. 86, 102 (2011). 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 state court decision is contrary to clearly established Supreme Court precedent, within the meaning of 28 U.S.C. § 2254, “if the state court applies a rule that contradicts the governing law set forth in [the Supreme Court's] cases” or “if the state court confronts a set of facts that are materially indistinguishable from a decision of [the Supreme Court] and nevertheless arrives at a result different from [the Supreme Court's] precedent.” Lockyer, 538 U.S. at 73 (quoting Williams v. Taylor, 529 U.S. 362, 405-06 (2000), and citing Bell, 535 U.S. at 694.

         A state court decision is an unreasonable application of clearly established Supreme Court precedent, within the meaning of 28 U.S.C. § 2254(d), “if the state court identifies the correct governing legal principle from [the Supreme Court's] decisions but unreasonably applies that principle to the facts of the prisoner's case.” Lockyer, 538 U.S. at 74 (quoting Williams, 529 U.S. at 413). The “unreasonable application” clause requires the state court decision to be more than incorrect or erroneous; the state court's application of clearly established law must be objectively unreasonable. Id. (quoting Williams, 529 U.S. at 409).

         To the extent that the state court's factual findings are challenged, the “unreasonable determination of fact” clause of § 2254(d)(2) controls on federal habeas review. E.g., Lambert v. Blodgett, 393 F.3d 943, 972 (9th Cir.2004). This clause requires that the federal courts “must be particularly deferential” to state court factual determinations. Id. The governing standard is not satisfied by a showing merely that the state court finding was “clearly erroneous.” 393 F.3d at 973. Rather, AEDPA requires substantially more deference:

.... [I]n concluding that a state-court finding is unsupported by substantial evidence in the state-court record, it is not enough that we would reverse in similar circumstances if this were an appeal from a district court decision. Rather, we must be convinced that an appellate panel, applying the normal standards of appellate ...

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