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Sanders v. Ryan

United States District Court, D. Arizona

September 11, 2014

Edward John Sanders, Petitioner,
Charles L. Ryan, et al. Respondents.


BRUCE G. MacDONALD, Magistrate Judge.

Currently pending before the Court is Petitioner Edward John Sanders's Second Amended Petition Under 28 U.S.C. § 2254 for a Writ of Habeas Corpus by a Person in State Custody ("Petition") (Doc. 24). Respondents have filed a Limited Answer to Petitioner for Writ of Habeas Corpus ("Answer") (Doc. 30) and Petitioner has filed a Response to Respondent's [sic] Limited Answer to Petition for Writ of Habeas Corpus ("Reply") (Doc. 31). Also pending are Petitioner's Motion to Dismiss Cases (Doc. 49), Motion to Dismiss Case on Error D-N-A Results (Doc. 50), Motion for a New Trial (Doc. 55), Motion for to [sic] Appoint New Counsel (Doc. 56), Motion for Case Status Acknowledge Back To Petitioner (Doc. 57), Motion for a New Trial (Doc. 58), Motion for to [sic] Appoint New Counsel (Doc. 59), Motion for a New Trial (Doc. 61), Motion for to [sic] Appoint New Counsel (Doc. 62).


The Arizona Superior Court, Pima County stated the facts[1] as follows:

On July 23, 2000, Irene Johnson, an eighty-eight year old, asked her neighbor to pick up some items at the grocery story [sic]. When the neighbor attempted to deliver the groceries the next day, Ms. Johnson did not answer the door. In the evening of July 24, the neighbor used his key to enter Ms. Johnson's apartment, where he found Ms. Johnson dead on the ground in her bedroom doorway.
The suspect gained entry to the house by cutting through a screen on a kitchen window. Ms. Johnson suffered severe head trauma, had bruising over her arms, chest, and breasts, and blood was found on a pair of underwear. Ms. Johnson also had bruising on her sternum and marks showing that she may have been strangled, and defensive wounds were found on her body. The sternum bruising had a distinctive flower pattern in it. The cause of death was determined to be primarily from the strangulation with the blunt force injuries as a secondary factor.
Detectives thought the bruising on Ms. Johnson's breasts may have been made by the suspect's teeth. Saliva was taken from the bruises on Ms. Johnson's breasts. After further investigation, detectives believed the Petitioner may have killed Ms. Johnson. Samples of the Petitioner's head and pubic hair were taken, as well as his clothing. Investigation further revealed that the Petitioner was in possession of a black belt that had a buckle with a flower pattern on it. The Petitioner also had two pairs of gloves and a cutting tool.
The crime lab determined that the DNA in the saliva sample found on Ms. Johnson's breast matched the Petitioner's DNA, although no fingerprints were found in the home. An unknown hair sample found in Ms. Johnson's home was not a match to any available DNA sample. Based primarily on this evidence, a jury found the Petitioner guilty of the murder and rape of Ms. Johnson. The Petitioner was sentenced to consecutive natural life and life sentences of imprisonment.

Petition (Doc. 24) at 37-38; Answer (Doc. 30), In Chambers Ruling, Re: Petition for Post Conviction Relief 2/10/2011 (Exh. "K") at 1-2.

A jury convicted Edward John Sanders of one count each of first degree murder, burglary in the second degree committed with sexual motivation, sexual assault with serious physical injury, sexual abuse, and kidnapping. See Answer (Doc. 30), Sentence of Imprisonment 8/18/2005 (Exh. "C"). Petitioner was sentenced natural life for first degree murder, with concurrent sentences of 3.5 years for second degree burglary, 1.5 years for sexual abuse, and 5 years for kidnapping. Id. Petitioner was also sentenced to life imprisonment to run consecutively with the natural life sentence for sexual assault with serious physical injury. Id.

A. Direct Appeal

Petitioner appealed his convictions to the Arizona Court of Appeals, raising the single claim that the trial court erred "in finding that the Y-STR technology and the ReliaGene kit were generally accepted in the relevant scientific community for forensic analysis." Answer (Doc. 30), Appellant's Opening Brief (Exh. "D") at 1.

On December 26, 2006, the Arizona Court of Appeals affirmed Petitioner's convictions. See Answer (Doc. 30), Arizona Court of Appeals Mem. Decision 12/26/2006 (Exh. "A"). The Arizona Court of Appeals found as an initial matter that Petitioner had waived any argument regarding whether the Y-STR typing method "passed muster under Frye [.]" Answer (Doc. 30), Exh. "A" at 3. The court noted that the Frye test did not apply to a "commercially manufactured kit[, ]" but rather to the scientific methodologies. Id. at 4. Because "the trial court expressly found that Y-STR typing had been widely accepted by the scientific community based on evidence it had been used significantly in United States courts in paternity determinations and the science behind that methodology is identical to that of PCR, ' a methodology [the Arizona] supreme court specifically accepted... [the court of appeals found] no error in the trial court's admission of Reliagene's DNA test results." Id. at 4-5. Furthermore, the court found that "Reliagene's test results were merely cumulative to the police crime laboratory test results[.]" Id.

On May 22, 2007, Petitioner's petition for review with the Arizona Supreme Court was denied without comment.

B. Post-Conviction Relief Proceeding

"On November 6, 2009, the Petitioner's Rule 32 counsel filed a brief pursuant to Montgomery v. Sheldon, 181 Ariz. 256, 889 P.2d 614 (1995), stating that he could not find any colorable claims under Rule 32 of the Arizona Rules of Criminal Procedure and asked for time for the Petitioner to file a petition pro se." Answer (Doc. 30), Exh. "K" at 2. On January 28, 2010, Petitioner filed his pro se petition for post-conviction relief ("PCR"). Petition (Doc. 24) at 7; Answer (Doc. 30), Exh. "L." Petitioner claimed, inter alia, "1) actual innocence; 2) the admission of DNA testing using unproven methods; 3) speedy trial violations; 4) that police planted evidence; 5) that a similar crime was committed in the community since the Petitioner's trial; 6) that he was mauled by a police dog when he was arrested; 7) use of his juvenile record; 8) that news coverage may have influenced jurors and that a juror harassed him; 9) that police harassed his friends; 10) that he was harassed by a juror and by other inmates at the Arizona State Hospital while being restored to competency; 11) Miranda violations; and 12) ineffective assistance of counsel, including claims that Mr. Higgins flirted with the prosecutor, that Mr. Mussman confused him, that Mr. Higgins gave him money, and a failure to investigate DNA issues." Answer (Doc. 30), Exh. "K" at 2; Petition (Doc. 1) at 7-36; see also Answer (Doc. 30), Exh. "L."

On February 10, 2011, the trial court dismissed Petitioner's post-conviction relief petition. See Answer (Doc. 30), Exh. "K." The court carefully analyzed each of the claims presented, and denied relief because "Petitioner ha[d] failed to present a material issue of fact or law that would entitle him to an evidentiary hearing and failed to state a colorable claim for relief on any basis." Id. at 7. The trial court analyzed Petitioner's claims under state law, with the exception of the alleged Miranda violations and ineffective assistance of counsel. See id. Regarding Miranda, the court noted that "Petitioner does not show which statements were presented in violation of Miranda, the Petitioner never raised the issue at trial on or appeal, and the Petitioner has failed to provide the Court with a legal basis for granting relief on this issue." Id. at 5. The court analyzed Petitioner's ineffective assistance of counsel claim pursuant to Strickland v. Washington, 466 U.S. 668, 687 (1984) and state law. Id. In addition to finding that "[n]one of the[] accusations are backed up with any sort of evidence that would give the Court reason to grant Rule 32 relief." Answer (Doc. 30), Exh. "K" at 6. The court further stated that "[t]hese claims would not have caused the Petitioner to suffer actual prejudice, nor does he claim as much." Id. Finally, the court noted that "DNA was a central element at this case and was heavily litigated in court, at trial, and on appeal. [Therefore, ] [i]f there were any potential DNA issues that were missed, they would have been so minuscule and remote as to preclude any defense attorney from being ineffective for failing to follow through." Id.

On March 10, 2011, Petitioner filed a petition for review by the Arizona Court of Appeals. Answer (Doc. 30), Pet. for Review 3/11/2010 (Exh. "N"). On June 28, 2011, the Arizona Court of Appeals granted review, but denied relief. Answer (Doc. 30), Mem. Decision 6/28/2011 (Exh. "O"). Upon review of the trial court's minute entry, the court of appeals approved and adopted the trial court's "detailed and thorough minute entry order[.]" Id. at 3. Petitioner did not seek review with the Arizona Supreme Court. On September 22, 2011, the Arizona Court of Appeals issued its mandate. Answer (Doc. 30), Mandate 9/22/2011 (Exh. "P").

C. The Instant Habeas Proceeding

On September 1, 2011, Petitioner filed his Petition Under 28 U.S.C. § 2254 for a Writ of Habeas Corpus by a Person in State Custody (Doc. 1). On October 5, 2011, the Court dismissed Petitioner's petition with leave to amend for lack of personal jurisdiction. Order 10/5/2011 (Doc. 9). On November 7, 2011, Petitioner filed an Amended Petition Under 28 U.S.C. § 2254 for a Writ of Habeas Corpus by a Person in State Custody (Doc. 14). On January 11, 2012, the Court again dismissed Petitioner's petition with leave to amend for failure to state a claim "that he is in custody in violation of the Constitution or the laws or treaties of the United States." Order 1/11/2012 (Doc. 20). On February 27, 2012, Petitioner filed his Second Amended Petition Under 28 U.S.C. § 2254 for a Writ of Habeas Corpus by a Person in State Custody (Doc. 24). Petitioner claims three (3) grounds for relief. First, Petitioner asserts a claim for a "[d]enial of due process and equal protection under the laws as per U.S. Constitution Fourteenth Amendment[, ]... [regarding the denial of his] request for DNA testing of fingernail scrapings from deceased victim[.]" Petition (Doc. 24) at 47 (emphasis in original). Second, Petitioner asserts the denial of due process and equal protection regarding his "request for re-testing Body Fluid Evidence from deceased victim... even though the [sic] were admissions by State's witnesses that the technical equipment used to test the body fluid evidence was apparently not operating properly." Id. at 48 (emphasis in original). Third, Petitioner claims "[i]neffective assistance of counsel in violation of the Sixth and Fourteenth Amendments of the U.S. Constitution[, ] [for] fail[ure] to raise at trial, the fact that the 310 machine' which analyzes DNA samples, was not working properly." Id. at 50. Respondents filed their Limited Answer to Petition for Writ of Habeas Corpus (Doc. 30), and Petitioner replied (Doc. 31).

Additionally, Petitioner has filed several untitled, supplemental pleadings with the Court. See Docs. 41, 42, 43, 44, 45, 46, 47, 48 & 52. These documents contain previous court filings, documents apparently contained within his attorneys' files, and Petitioner's continued stream of consciousness proclamations of innocence. See id. Petitioner continues to accuse Tucson Police Department ("TPD") Officer Taylor of lying and planting evidence; question the DNA evidence; and assert "new evidence" in the form of sheer speculation regarding the sufficiency of the evidence presented in the state courts. See id.


A. In General

The federal courts shall "entertain an application for a writ of habeas corpus in behalf of a person in custody pursuant to the judgment of a State court only on the ground that he is in custody in violation of the Constitution or laws or treaties of the United States. " 28 U.S.C. § 2254(a) (emphasis added). Moreover, a petition for habeas corpus by a person in state custody:

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.

28 U.S.C. § 2254(d); see also Cullen v. Pinholster, - U.S. -, 131 S.Ct. 1388, 1398, 179 L.Ed.2d 557 (2011). Correcting errors of state law is not the province of federal habeas corpus relief. Estelle v. McGuire, 502 U.S. 62, 67, 112 S.Ct. 475, 480, 116 L.Ed.2d 385 (1991). Ultimately, "[t]he statute's design is to further the principles of comity, finality, and federalism.'" Panetti v. Quarterman, 551 U.S. 930, 945, 127 S.Ct. 2842, 2854, 168 L.Ed.2d 662 (2007) (quoting Miller-El v. Cockrell, 537 U.S. 322, 337, 123 S.Ct. 1029, 154 L.Ed.2d 931 (2003)). Furthermore, this standard is difficult to meet and highly deferential "for evaluating state-court rulings, [and] which demands that state-court decisions be given the benefit of the doubt." Pinholster, 131 S.Ct. at 1398 (citations and internal quotation marks omitted).

The Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996 ("AEDPA"), 110 Stat. 1214, mandates the standards for federal habeas review. See 28 U.S.C. § 2254. "AEDPA erects a formidable barrier to federal habeas relief for prisoners whose claims have been adjudicated in state court." Burt v. Titlow, - U.S. -, 134 S.Ct. 10, 16, 187 L.Ed.2d 348 (2013). Federal courts reviewing a petition for habeas corpus must "presume the correctness of state courts' factual findings unless applicants rebut this presumption with clear and convincing evidence.'" Schriro v. Landrigen, 550 U.S. 465, 473-74, 127 S.Ct. 1933, 1940, 167 L.Ed.2d 836 (2007) (citing 28 U.S.C. § 2254(e)(1)). Moreover, on habeas review, the federal courts must consider whether the state court's determination was unreasonable, not merely incorrect. Id., 550 U.S. at -, 127 S.Ct. at 1939; Gulbrandson v. Ryan, 738 F.3d 976, 987 (9th Cir. 2013). Such a determination is unreasonable where a state court properly identifies the governing legal principles delineated by the Supreme Court, but when the court applies the principles to the facts before it, arrives at a different result. See Harrington v. Richter, - U.S. -, 131 S.Ct. 770, 178 L.Ed.2d 624 (2011); Williams v. Taylor, 529 U.S. 362, 120 S.Ct. 1495, 146 L.Ed.2d 389 (2000); see also Casey v. Moore, 386 F.3d 896, 905 (9th Cir. 2004). ...

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