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Horton v. Jacobs

United States District Court, D. Arizona

February 23, 2018

Daniel Horton, Petitioner,
Anne Jacobs, et al., Respondents.




         Pending before the Court is Daniel Horton's (“Petitioner”) “Petition under 28 U.S.C. § 2254 for a Writ of Habeas Corpus” (the “Petition”) (Doc. 1). After reviewing the parties' briefing (Docs. 1, 16), [1] the undersigned finds that Petitioner's habeas claims are procedurally defaulted without excuse. It is therefore recommended that the Court dismiss the Petition with prejudice.

         I. BACKGROUND

         A. Convictions

         In March 2013, a jury sitting in the Superior Court of Arizona in and for Maricopa County convicted Petitioner on two counts of aggravated assault. (Bates No. 476-77).[2]The trial court sentenced Petitioner to two concurrent five-year prison terms. (Bates No. 9-10). On March 8, 2016, the Arizona Court of Appeals modified Petitioner's convictions to attempted aggravated assault and remanded the case to the trial court for resentencing.[3] (Bates No. 59-64). At the June 1, 2016 resentencing hearing, the trial court sentenced Petitioner to two four-year concurrent prison terms. (Attachment 1).

         On July 21, 2016, Petitioner filed a Notice of Post-Conviction Relief (“PCR”). (Bates No. 65-68). The trial court appointed PCR counsel, who could not find any colorable claims. (Bates No. 69-71). Petitioner filed a pro se PCR Petition, which the trial court summarily dismissed on November 8, 2016. (Bates No. 74-78, 83-84). Petitioner did not petition the Arizona Court of Appeals for review of the trial court's ruling.

         Petitioner timely initiated this federal habeas proceeding on September 15, 2016. (Doc. 1).


         A. Legal Standards Regarding Procedurally Defaulted Habeas Claims

         1. Exhaustion-of-State-Remedies Doctrine

         It has been settled for over a century that a “state prisoner must normally exhaust available state remedies before a writ of habeas corpus can be granted by the federal courts.” Duckworth v. Serrano, 454 U.S. 1, 3 (1981); see also Picard v. Connor, 404 U.S. 270, 275 (1971) (“It has been settled since Ex parte Royall, 117 U.S. 241, 6 S.Ct. 734, 29 L.Ed. 868 (1886), that a state prisoner must normally exhaust available state judicial remedies before a federal court will entertain his petition for habeas corpus.”). The rationale for the doctrine relates to the policy of federal-state comity. Picard, 404 U.S. at 275 (1971). The comity policy is designed to give a state the initial opportunity to review and correct alleged federal rights violations of its state prisoners. Id. In the U.S. Supreme Court's words, “it would be unseemly in our dual system of government for a federal district court to upset a state court conviction without an opportunity to the state courts to correct a constitutional violation.” Darr v. Burford, 339 U.S. 200, 204 (1950).

         The exhaustion doctrine is codified at 28 U.S.C. § 2254. That statute provides that a habeas petition may not be granted unless the petitioner has (i) “exhausted” the available state court remedies; (ii) shown that there is an “absence of available State corrective process”; or (iii) shown that “circumstances exist that render such process ineffective to protect the rights of the applicant.” 28 U.S.C. § 2254(b)(1).

         Case law has clarified that in order to “exhaust” state court remedies, a petitioner's federal claims must have been “fully and fairly presented” in state court. Woods v. Sinclair, 764 F.3d 1109, 1129 (9th Cir. 2014). To “fully and fairly present” a federal claim, a petitioner must present both (i) the operative facts and (ii) the federal legal theory on which his or her claim is based. This test turns on whether a petitioner “explicitly alerted” a state court that he or she was making a federal constitutional claim. Galvan v. Alaska Department of Corrections, 397 F.3d 1198, 1204-05 (9th Cir. 2005).

         “[T]o exhaust one's state court remedies in Arizona, a petitioner must first raise the claim in a direct appeal or collaterally attack his conviction in a petition for post-conviction relief pursuant to Rule 32.” Roettgen v. Copeland, 33 F.3d 36, 38 (9th Cir. 1994). Claims that have been presented to the trial court, but not to the Arizona Court of Appeals are not exhausted. Castillo v. McFadden, 399 F.3d 993, 998 n.3 (9th Cir. 2005) (in noncapital cases, “claims of Arizona state prisoners are exhausted for purposes of federal habeas once the Arizona Court of Appeals has ruled on them”) (quoting Swoopes v. Sublett, 196 F.3d 1008, 1010 (9th Cir. 1999)); Baldwin v. Reese, 541 U.S. 27, 29 (2004) (“To provide the State with the necessary ‘opportunity, ' the prisoner must ‘fairly present' his claim in each appropriate state court . . . thereby alerting that court to the federal nature of the claim”).

         2. Procedural Default Doctrine

         If a claim was presented in state court, and the court expressly invoked a state procedural rule in denying relief, then the claim is procedurally defaulted in a federal habeas proceeding. See, e.g., Zichko v. Idaho, 247 F.3d 1015, 1021 (9th Cir. 2001). Even if a claim was not presented in state court, a claim may be procedurally defaulted in a federal habeas proceeding if the claim would now be barred in state court under the state's procedural rules. See, e.g., Beaty v. Stewart, 303 F.3d 975, 987 (9th Cir. 2002).

         Similar to the rationale of the exhaustion doctrine, the procedural default doctrine is rooted in the general principle that federal courts will not disturb state court judgments based on adequate and independent state grounds. Dretke v. Haley, 541 U.S. 386, 392 (2004). A habeas petitioner who has failed to meet the state's procedural requirements for presenting his or her federal claims has deprived the state courts of an opportunity to address those claims in the first instance. Coleman v. Thompson, 501 U.S. 722, 731-32 (1991).

         As alluded to above, a procedural default determination requires a finding that the relevant state procedural rule is an adequate and independent rule. See id. at 729-30. An adequate and independent state rule is clear, consistently applied, and well-established at the time of a petitioner's purported default. Greenway v. Schriro, 653 F.3d 790, 797-98 (9th Cir. 2011); see also Calderon v. U.S. Dist. Court (Hayes), 103 F.3d 72, 74-75 (9th Cir. 1996). An independent state rule cannot be interwoven with federal law. See Ake v. Oklahoma, 470 U.S. 68, 75 (1985). The ultimate burden of proving the adequacy of a state procedural bar is on the state. Bennett v. Mueller, 322 F.3d 573, 585-86 (9th Cir. 2003). If the state meets its burden, a petitioner may overcome a procedural default by proving one of two exceptions.

         In the first exception, the petitioner must show cause for the default and actual prejudice as a result of the alleged violation of federal law. Hurles v. Ryan, 752 F.3d 768, 780 (9th Cir. 2014). To demonstrate “cause, ” a petitioner must show that some objective factor external to the petitioner impeded his or her efforts to comply with the state's procedural rules. See Murray v. Carrier, 477 U.S. 478, 488 (1986); Robinson v. Ignacio, 360 F.3d 1044, 1052 (9th Cir. 2004). To demonstrate “prejudice, ” the petitioner must show that the alleged constitutional violation “worked to his actual and substantial disadvantage, infecting his entire trial with error of constitutional dimensions.” United States v. Frady, 456 U.S. 152, 170 (1982); see also Carrier, 477 U.S. at 494 (“Such a showing of pervasive actual prejudice can hardly be thought to constitute anything other than a showing that the prisoner was denied ‘fundamental fairness' at trial.”).

         In the second exception, a petitioner must show that the failure to consider the federal claim will result in a fundamental miscarriage of justice. Hurles, 752 F.3d at 780. This exception is rare and only applied in extraordinary cases. Schlup v. Delo, 513 U.S. 298, 321 (1995). The exception occurs where a ‚Äúconstitutional violation has probably resulted in the conviction of ...

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