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Johnson v. Ryan

United States District Court, D. Arizona

December 20, 2018

Darryl D. Johnson, Petitioner,
Charles L. Ryan, et al., Respondents.


          G. Murray Snow Chief United States District Judge

         Pending before the Court is Magistrate Judge Eileen Willet's Report and Recommendation on the merits of the petition (“R&R”) (Doc. 24).


         Because no party has objected to the procedural background as set forth in the R&R, the Court adopts the background as an accurate account. (Doc. 24 at 1-2). Magistrate Judge Willett recommends that Johnson's Petition be denied. (Doc. 24 at 7). Johnson objected to the conclusions of the R&R, arguing that Judge Willett incorrectly determined that the petition was meritless. (Doc. 25 at 3). But because the R&R correctly analyzed Bastian's claims, his petition for habeas corpus will be denied.


         I. Legal Standard

         This court “may accept, reject, or modify, in whole or in part, the findings or recommendations made by the magistrate.” 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1). “[T]he district judge must review the magistrate judge's findings and recommendations de novo if objection is made, but not otherwise. United States v. Reyna-Tapia, 328 F.3d 1114, 1121 (9th Cir. 2003) (en banc) (emphasis in original). District courts are not required to conduct “any review at all . . . of any issue that is not the subject of an objection.” Thomas v. Arn, 474 U.S. 140, 149 (1985).

         II. Analysis

         1. Grounds One and Two of the Petition Are Meritless

         The writ of habeas corpus affords relief to persons in custody in violation of the Constitution, laws, or treaties of the United States. 28 U.S.C. § 2241(c)(3). Review of Petitions for Habeas Corpus is governed by the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996 (“AEDPA”). 28 U.S.C. § 2244 et seq.

         When reviewing habeas claims previously raised in state court, a federal court may not grant habeas relief unless the state's adjudication of the claims resulted in a decision that was contrary to, or involved an unreasonable application of, clearly established federal law as determined by the Supreme Court, or resulted in a decision that was based on an unreasonable determination of the facts in light of the evidence presented in the state court proceedings. 28 U.S.C. § 2254(d)(1); see Robertson v. Pichon, 849 F.3d 1173, 1182 (9th Cir. 2017). “This is 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.” Cullen v. Pinholster, 563 U.S. 170, 181 (2011) (internal citations and quotations omitted). Review of a prior state court decision under 2254(d)(1) by a federal court is limited to the record “before the state court that adjudicated the claim on the merits.” Id. “When reviewing state criminal convictions on collateral review, federal judges are required to afford state courts due respect by overturning their decisions only when there could be no reasonable dispute that they were wrong.” Woods v. Donald, 135 S.Ct. 1372, 1376 (2015).

         The parties agree that the claims that Johnson asserts in his petition for habeas corpus are not procedurally defaulted or otherwise barred. So the Court will analyze whether Johnson has met the high threshold for relief under AEDPA.

         Johnson asserts that his trial counsel was ineffective because he failed to “properly explain the plea offer to Petitioner or show the plea offer to Petitioner made by the state prosecutor which caused the Petitioner not to act or accept the plea offer which he would have accepted. . .” (Doc. 1 at 6). Johnson previously made this argument in his first post-conviction relief proceeding, where the post-conviction relief trial court (“PCR trial court”) held an evidentiary hearing. (Doc. 23-1, 23-2). The trial court heard testimony from Johnson, his trial attorney, and the state prosecutor, and decided that Johnson's testimony was not credible. Ground Two of Johnson's Petition challenges this credibility determination. The post-conviction relief trial court dismissed the proceeding, and the Arizona Court of Appeals affirmed in an unexplained decision (Doc. 11-1 at 17-22). When evaluating claims previously brought in state courts under AEDPA, courts “look through” to the last-reasoned opinion. See Ylst v. Nunnemaker, 501 U.S. 797, 806 (1991). So the analysis here will focus on the state PCR trial court's decision.

         To succeed on an ineffective assistance of counsel claim under Strickland, a petitioner must show (1) that his counsel's representation fell below an objective standard of reasonableness and (2) that the failure prejudiced him. Strickland v. Washington, 466 U.S. 668, 687 (1984). “If a plea bargain has been offered, a defendant has the right to effective assistance of counsel in considering whether to accept it.” Lafler v. Cooper, 132 S.Ct. 1376, 1387 (2012). Failing to communicate a plea offer to a client is deficient performance under Strickland as a matter of law. United States v. Blaylock, 20 F.3d 1458, 1466 (9th Cir. 1994). To succeed on his petition, Johnson must ...

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