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Boggs v. Ryan

United States District Court, D. Arizona

January 6, 2017

Steve Alan Boggs, Petitioner,
Charles L Ryan, et al., Respondents.



          Honorable G. Murray Snow United States District Judge

         Before the Court is Petitioner Steve Alan Boggs's Motion for Temporary Stay and Abeyance and for Authorization to Appear in Ancillary State-Court Proceedings. (Doc. 41.) Boggs asks the Court to stay and hold his case in abeyance while he pursues state court relief. He also seeks permission for his federal habeas counsel to appear on his behalf in state court. Respondents filed a response opposing a stay and Boggs filed a reply. (Docs. 42, 43.) For the reasons set forth below, the motion is denied.

         I. BACKGROUND

         In 2002, Boggs and Christopher Hargrave, members of a white supremacist militia group, shot three fast-food workers to death. In 2005, a jury found Boggs guilty of three counts of first-degree murder and determined that he should be sentenced to death. The Arizona Supreme Court affirmed the convictions and sentences. State v. Boggs, 218 Ariz. 325, 185 P.3d 111 (2008). After unsuccessfully pursuing post-conviction relief, Boggs filed a petition for writ of habeas corpus in this Court. (Doc. 15.) Respondents filed an answer and Boggs filed a reply. (Docs. 21, 26.) Boggs's brief on evidentiary development was due on November 14, 2016. (Doc. 40.) He filed the pending motion on October 31, 2016. (Doc. 41.)

         Boggs now seeks a stay so that he can return to state court and present several claims. He argues that Lynch v. Arizona, 136 S.Ct. 1818 (2016) (per curiam), and Hurst v. Florida, 136 S.Ct. 616 (2016), are significant changes in the law under Arizona Rule of Criminal Procedure 32.1(g). He also contends that additional mitigation evidence constitutes newly discovered material facts that probably would have changed the verdict or sentence under Arizona Rule of Criminal Procedure 32.1(e). Finally, Boggs argues that the new mitigation evidence demonstrates by clear and convincing evidence that the court would not have imposed the death penalty under Arizona Rule of Criminal Procedure 32.1(h).

         II. ANALYSIS

         Boggs's habeas petition is governed by the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996 (“AEDPA”), 28 U.S.C. § 2254(b)(1)(A). Although AEDPA does not deprive courts of the authority to stay habeas corpus petitions, it “does circumscribe their discretion.” Rhines v. Weber, 544 U.S. 269, 276 (2005). The Supreme Court has emphasized that the stay and abeyance of federal habeas petitions is available only in limited circumstances. Id. at 277. “Staying a federal habeas petition frustrates AEDPA's objective of encouraging finality by allowing a petitioner to delay the resolution of the federal proceedings. It also undermines AEDPA's goal of streamlining federal habeas proceedings by decreasing a petitioner's incentive to exhaust all his claims in state court prior to filing his federal petition.” Id.

         A writ of habeas corpus may not be granted unless it appears that a petitioner has exhausted all available state court remedies. 28 U .S.C. § 2254(b)(1); see also Coleman v. Thompson, 501 U.S. 722, 731 (1991). In Arizona, there are two avenues for petitioners to exhaust federal constitutional claims: direct appeal and post-conviction relief proceedings (“PCR”). Rule 32 of the Arizona Rules of Criminal Procedure governs PCR proceedings and provides that a petitioner is precluded from relief on any claim that could have been raised on appeal or in a prior PCR petition. Ariz. R. Crim. P. 32.2(a)(3). The preclusive effect of Rule 32.2(a) may be avoided only if a claim falls within certain exceptions and the petitioner can justify why the claim was omitted from a prior petition or not presented in a timely manner. See Ariz. R. Crim. P. 32.1(d)-(h), 32.2(b), 32.4(a).

         When a petitioner has an available remedy in state court that he has not procedurally defaulted, it is appropriate for the federal court to stay the habeas proceedings if (1) there was good cause for the petitioner's failure to exhaust his claims first in state court, (2) his unexhausted claims are potentially meritorious, and (3) there is no indication that he engaged in intentionally dilatory litigation tactics. See Rhines, 544 U.S. at 277. As discussed below, courts also have the inherent power to stay cases as a means of controlling their dockets. Landis v. North American. Co., 299 U.S. 248, 254 (1936)

         Citing Hurst, Boggs seeks a stay under Rhines to exhaust his Claim 38 of his habeas petition.[1] (Doc. 43 at 7.) With respect to the other claims, he seeks a stay to “present in state court newly available claims without simultaneous and potentially unnecessary federal proceedings.” (Doc. 43 at 3.)

         A. Rule 32.1(g)

         Boggs contends that under Rule 32.1(g), the United States Supreme Court's recent decisions in Lynch and Hurst provide an available remedy in state court. Rule 32.1(g) provides that a defendant may file a petition for post-conviction relief on the ground that “[t]here has been a significant change in the law that if determined to apply to defendant's case would probably overturn the defendant's conviction or sentence.” Ariz. R. Crim. P. 32.1(g).

         Arizona courts have characterized a significant change in the law as a “transformative event, ” State v. Shrum, 220 Ariz. 115, 118, 203 P.3d 1175, 1178 (2009), and a “clear break” or “sharp break” with the past. State v. Slemmer,170 Ariz. 174, 182, 823 P.2d 41, 49 (1991). “The archetype of such a change occurs when an appellate court overrules previously binding case law.” Shrum, 220 Ariz. at 118, 203 P.3d at 1178. A statutory or constitutional amendment representing a definite break from prior law can also ...

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