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Endreson v. Ryan

United States District Court, D. Arizona

March 5, 2019

Robert Dean Endreson, Petitioner,
v.
Charles L. Ryan, Director of the Arizona Department of Corrections; and the Attorney General of the State of Arizona, Respondents.

          ORDER

          David G. Campbell, Senior United States District Judge.

         Petitioner Robert Dean Endreson has filed a petition for writ of habeas corpus and a motion for discovery. Docs. 1, 10. Magistrate Judge Deborah M. Fine issued a report recommending that the petition and motion be denied (“R&R”). Doc. 11. Petitioner filed an objection. Doc. 16. Respondents filed a response to the objection. Doc. 17. For reasons stated below, the Court will accept the R&R and deny the petition and motion.

         I. Background.

         Petitioner was convicted of first-degree murder in two separate state court cases in 1969. See State v. Endreson, Case Nos. CR-54712, CR-54669 (Maricopa Cty. Super. Ct.); see also State v. Endreson, 498 P.2d 454 (Ariz. 1972); State v. Endreson, 506 P.2d 248 (Ariz. 1973). He was sentenced to death in each case, but the sentences were later reduced to life imprisonment in the wake of Furman v. Georgia, 408 U.S. 238 (1972). See Endreson, 506 P.2d at 249.

         The murders occurred on March 12, 1968. See id.; Endreson, 498 P.2d at 455. Petitioner was 20 years old, but was a “juvenile” by law because Arizona's age of majority at the time was 21 years. See Stanley v. Stanley, 541 P.2d 382, 382 (Ariz. 1975). The legislature later reduced the age of majority to 18 years. See id.; A.R.S. § 8-101(1) (effective Aug. 13, 1972).

         On August 28, 2013, the state trial court appointed counsel for Petitioner and initiated a Rule 32 post-conviction relief proceeding to address the effect of Miller v. Alabama, 567 U.S. 460 (2012), on Petitioner's life sentences. Doc. 8-1 at 17-19. In Miller, the United States Supreme Court held that “mandatory life without parole for those under the age of 18 at the time of their crimes violates the Eighth Amendment's prohibition on ‘cruel and unusual punishments.'” 567 U.S. at 472. After briefing on Miller, the state court determined that the decision applied retroactively, but denied relief because Petitioner was older than 18 when he committed the murders. Doc. 8-3 at 24-30.

         The Arizona Court of Appeals granted review but denied relief. Id. at 55-58; see State v. Endreson, No. 1 CA-CR-14-0577 PRPC, 2016 WL 5073985 (Ariz.Ct.App. Sept. 20, 2016). The court found that while Miller makes frequent reference to “children” and “juveniles, ” the decision has no application to Petitioner's case because the ultimate holding applies only to “those under the age of 18 at the time of their crime[.]” Endreson, 2016 WL 5073985, at *1 (quoting Miller, 567 U.S. at 465). The court noted that the Supreme Court's intention “to draw the line at 18 years of age in Miller is made clear by earlier decisions that likewise established constitutional limitations on the sentencing of juvenile offenders.” Id. at *2 (citing Graham v. Florida, 560 U.S. 48, 74-75 (2010); Roper v. Simmons, 543 U.S. 551, 568-74 (2005)). The court affirmed the lower court's ruling that Miller provides no basis for granting Petitioner relief from his life sentences because he was over the age 18 when he committed the crimes. Id. The court further held that the lower court did not abuse its discretion in declining to hold an evidentiary hearing because the sole issue was a legal one - the interpretation of Miller and its possible application to undisputed facts. Id. The Arizona Supreme Court denied review, and the mandate issued May 23, 2017. Doc. 8-3 at 74-76.

         Petitioner filed the present habeas petition on May 4, 2018. Doc. 1. Petitioner claims that because he was a juvenile by law at the time of the murders, his life sentences without parole are unconstitutional under Miller. Id. at 6-31. He further claims that the denial of a post-conviction evidentiary hearing on his Miller claim violates his due process rights. Id. at 6. Judge Fine recommends that the petition be denied because the Court of Appeals' decision upholding the life sentences was neither contrary to, nor an unreasonable application of, clearly established federal law. Doc. 11 at 9-10.[1]

         II. R&R Standard of Review.

         This Court “may accept, reject, or modify, in whole or in part, the findings or recommendations made by the magistrate judge.” 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1). The Court “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). The Court is 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); see also 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1); Fed.R.Civ.P. 72(b)(3).

         III. Discussion.

         A. The AEDPA's Standard of Review.

         Petitions for writs of habeas corpus are governed by the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996 (“AEDPA”), 28 U.S.C. § 2241 et seq. The AEDPA requires federal courts to defer to the last reasoned state court decision, see Murray v. Schriro, 882 F.3d 778, 801 (9th Cir. 2018), which in this case is the Arizona Court of Appeals' decision affirming Petitioner's life sentences, see Endreson, 2016 WL 5073985. This Court may grant Petitioner's habeas petition only if he shows that the Court of Appeals' decision was “contrary to, or involved an unreasonable application of, clearly established Federal law, as determined by the Supreme Court of the United States[.]” 28 U.S.C. § 2254(d)(1).[2]

         The AEDPA “reflects the view that habeas corpus is a ‘guard against extreme malfunctions in the state criminal justice systems,' not a substitute for ordinary error correction through appeal.” Harrington v. Richter, 562 U.S. 86, 102 (2011) (quoting Jackson v. Virginia, 443 U.S. 307, 332 n.5 (1979)). The Court therefore must “avoid applying [the] AEDPA in a manner that displays ‘a lack of deference to the state court's determination and an improper intervention in ...


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