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Edwards v. Holbrook

United States District Court, W.D. Washington, Tacoma

June 7, 2019




         The District Court has referred this action to United States Magistrate Judge David W. Christel. Petitioner Steven Karl Edwards filed his federal habeas Petition (“Petition”), pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254, seeking relief from his state court convictions and sentence. See Dkt. 1. The Court concludes Petitioner failed to properly exhaust his state court remedies as to Ground 1. Because Petitioner's time for pursuing state remedies has expired, Petitioner has procedurally defaulted on Ground 1. Further, the state court's adjudication of Grounds 2-4 was not contrary to, or an unreasonable application of, clearly established federal law. Therefore, the undersigned recommends the Petition be denied and a certificate of appealability not be issued.

         I. Background

         A. Factual Background

         The Court of Appeals of the State of Washington (“state court of appeals”) summarized the facts of Petitioner's case as follows:

In October 2013, Peter Lahmann approached his truck, parked in southeast Tacoma, and saw Edwards and a female near the vehicle. The two saw Lahmann and immediately fled. Lahmann inspected the truck, discovered that his cell phone was missing, and took off in pursuit.
As he ran after Edwards and the female, Lahmann heard gunshots, though he did not initially recognize the sound. He then saw Edwards pointing a firearm at him. Edwards said, “I'm going to kill you if you don't quit following me.” Edwards then proceeded to fire at Lahmann.
Two men drove up to Lahmann in a different truck and asked him if Edwards was shooting at him. He said yes, asked them to call the police, and ran off after Edwards again. Edwards continued to fire at Lahmann, and several people nearby witnessed the shooting.
Lahmann eventually lost sight of Edwards and the female. However, the men in the truck saw the two enter a nearby garage-apartment and told Lahmann. The police arrived, and Lahmann and the men in the truck directed them to the garage. When confronted by police, Edwards admitted he had stolen Lahmann's cell phone. He was arrested, and police subsequently searched the garage-apartment. They found the cell phone as well as a semiautomatic handgun, which matched a bullet casing found in the street.
Edwards' mother resided in the garage-apartment to which he fled. Edwards was prohibited by a protection order from coming within 500 feet of her residence or having contact with her. Despite that order, he had been with his mother at the residence earlier in the day.
The State charged Edwards with first degree assault, first degree robbery, first degree burglary, and unlawful possession of a firearm. For each charge except that of unlawful possession, the State also charged Edwards with a sentencing enhancement for the use of a firearm in the commission of the crime. The jury found Edwards guilty on all counts and found that he committed the crimes with a firearm.
The State sought a high-end sentence of 678 months' confinement. Because Edwards had a prior conviction with a firearm sentencing enhancement, each of the three enhancements added 120 months to his sentence, for a total of 360 months. The sentencing court imposed an exceptional downward sentence of 420 months' confinement, which included 60-month concurrent sentences for each underlying crime in addition to the 120-month enhancements.

Dkt. 10-2, pp. 379-80 (internal citations omitted); State v. Edwards, 194 Wash.App. 1050, *1 (2016).

         B. Procedural Background

         1. Direct Appeal

         Petitioner challenged his Pierce County Superior Court convictions and sentence on direct appeal. See Dkt. 10-2, pp. 336, 357. The state court of appeals affirmed Petitioner's convictions and sentence. Id. at p. 379-87. Petitioner sought discretionary review by the Washington State Supreme Court (“state supreme court”). Id. at pp. 414-31. On February 8, 2017, the state supreme court denied Petitioner's petition for review without comment. Id. at p. 436. The state court of appeals issued its mandate on March 14, 2017. Id. at p. 438.

         2. Personal Restraint Petition

         On February 9, 2018, Petitioner filed a personal restraint petition (“PRP”) seeking state post-conviction relief. See Dkt. 10-2, pp. 441-51. The PRP was dismissed by the state court of appeals on July 27, 2018. Id. at pp. 485-87. Petitioner sought discretionary review from the state supreme court, which was denied by the commissioner of the state supreme court on December 28, 2018. Id. at pp. 489-92, 497-98. The state court of appeals issued the certificate of finality on March 8, 2019. Id. at p. 500.

         3. Federal Petition

         On January 17, 2019, Petitioner filed his Petition (Dkt. 1) raising the following four grounds:

1. The State failed to present sufficient evidence to prove all the elements of first degree burglary beyond a reasonable doubt.
2. The State failed to present sufficient evidence to prove all the elements of first degree assault beyond a reasonable doubt.
3. Counsel provided ineffective assistance when he failed to impeach Peter Lahmann with his inconsistent statements.
4. Counsel provided ineffective assistance when he failed to ask for lesser-included-offense jury instructions.

         On April 12, 2019, Respondent filed, and served on Petitioner, an Answer. Dkt. 9. In the Answer, Respondent asserts Petitioner failed to exhaust Ground 1 and this ground is now barred from federal review. Id. Respondent also argues the state court's adjudication of Grounds 2-4, was not contrary to, or an unreasonable application of, clearly established federal law. Id. Petitioner did not file a response to the Answer.

         II. Discussion

         A. Exhaustion and Procedural Default

         Respondent first maintains Petitioner failed to exhaust Ground 1 and is procedurally barred from federal review of this ground. Dkt. 9.

         1. Exhaustion of State Remedies

         “[A] state prisoner must normally exhaust available state judicial remedies before a federal court will entertain his petition for habeas corpus.” Picard v. Connor, 404 U.S. 270, 275 (1971). Petitioner's claims will be considered exhausted only after “the state courts [have been afforded] a meaningful opportunity to consider allegations of legal error without interference from the federal judiciary.” Vasquez v. Hillery, 474 U.S. 254, 257 (1986). “[S]tate prisoners must give the state courts one full opportunity to resolve any constitutional issues by invoking one complete round of the State's established appellate review.” O'Sullivan v. Boerckel, 526 U.S. 838, 845 (1999).

         A federal habeas petitioner must provide the state courts with a fair opportunity to correct alleged violations of federal rights. Duncan v. Henry, 513 U.S. 364, 365 (1995); Middleton v. Cupp, 768 F.2d 1083, 1086 (9th Cir. 1985) (petitioner “fairly presented” the claim to the state supreme court even though the state court did not reach the argument on the merits). It is not enough if all the facts necessary to support the federal claim were before the state courts or if a somewhat similar state law claim was made. Duncan, 513 U.S. at 365-66 (citing Picard, 404 U.S. at 275; Anderson v. Harless, 459 U.S. 4 (1982)). Petitioner must include reference to a specific federal constitutional guarantee, as well as a statement of the facts entitling Petitioner to relief. Gray v. Netherland, 518 U.S. 152, 162-163 (1996); Insyxiengmay v. Morgan, 403 F.3d 657, 668 (9th Cir. 2005). Petitioner bears the burden of proving he has exhausted available state remedies, and retains the burden to prove all facts relevant to the exhaustion requirement. See Rose v. Lundy, 455 U.S. 509, 520 (1982); 28 U.S.C. § 2254(b)(1)(A).

         In Ground 1 of the Petition, Petitioner alleges the State failed to present sufficient evidence to prove all elements of first degree burglary because the evidence failed to show Petitioner entered his mother's residence intending to commit a crime. Dkt. 1, p. 5. On direct appeal, Petitioner raised Ground 1, asserting the State failed to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that petitioner intended to commit a crime while inside his mother's residence. See Dkt. 10-2, p. 336. However, in his petition for review filed with the state supreme court, Petitioner did not allege there was insufficient evidence to convict him of first degree burglary. Rather, Petitioner challenged only the sufficiency of the evidence regarding the first degree assault conviction. See id. at p. 421. Petitioner did not raise Ground 1 in his PRP. See Dkt. 10-2, pp. 441-51 (raising only ineffective assistance of counsel in the PRP).

         As Petitioner did not raise Ground 1 to the highest state court on direct appeal or in his PRP, he did not give the state court a full and fair opportunity to determine if a federal constitutional violation occurred when he was convicted of first degree burglary. See 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 (including a state supreme court with powers of discretionary review), thereby alerting that court to the federal nature of the claim.”); Ortberg v. Moody, 961 F.2d 135, 138 (9th Cir. 1992) (finding claims were unexhausted when they were not raised on every level of direct review). Therefore, Ground 1 was not properly exhausted.

         2. Proce ...

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