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Woods v. Kirkegard

United States District Court, D. Montana, Missoula Division

February 9, 2015

DANIEL J. WOODS, Petitioner,
v.
LEROY KIRKEGARD; ATTORNEY GENERAL OF THE STATE OF MONTANA, Respondents.

ORDER

JEREMIAH C. LYNCH, Magistrate Judge.

On September 23, 2013, Daniel J. Woods filed a petition seeking a writ of habeas corpus under 28 U.S.C. § 2254. Woods is a state prisoner proceeding pro se.

On January 27, 2014, Woods was ordered to clarify what constitutional violations he intended to allege as to each of his two claims. He responded on February 13, 2014. Thereafter, the Court ordered Respondents ("the State") to file various records from the proceedings in state court.

I. Woods's Allegations

Woods's petition contains two claims for relief. First, he contends that his Confrontation Clause right to confront the witnesses against him was violated when "[a]llegations made by unknown parties" were included in the presentence report. He explains:

A co-worker of the victim's mother, who remains unnamed, contacted counsel for the State and was given contact information for the PSI [presentence investigation report] writer. The writer was called by an unknown party and allegations were made. I denied what was told the PSI writer ever happened and all efforts to identify this unknown accuser were dismissed so I was never allowed to challenge those allegations.

Pet. (Doc. 1) at 4 ¶ 13A.

Second, Woods claims he was "[n]ot afforded an opportunity to withdraw or amend any of the Plea Agreement."

The plea agreement did not include any parole restrictions. The mandatory sentence for the crime was 100 years, no parole consideration for the first 25 years. The agreement was for 40 years, by all accounts, an exception to the mandatory. [Nineteen] days after sentencing an amendment was made to include the 25 year parole restriction.

Id. at 5 ¶ 13B.

II. Exhaustion

State prisoners who apply for federal habeas relief are required first to present their claims in state court. Rose v. Lundy, 455 U.S. 509, 520 (1982). To meet the exhaustion requirement, a petitioner must (1) use the "remedies available, " § 2254(b)(1)(A), through the State's established procedures for appellate review, O'Sullivan v. Boerckel, 526 U.S. 838, 845 (1999); (2) describe "the federal legal theory on which his claim is based, " Davis v. Silva, 511 F.3d 1005, 1009 (9th Cir. 2008); and (3) describe "the operative facts... necessary to give application to the constitutional principle upon which the petitioner relies, " id. A petitioner must meet all three prongs of the test in one proceeding.

Woods presented his first claim in his state postconviction petition. The trial court held, and the Montana Supreme Court agreed, that the issue could have been raised on direct appeal. As it was not raised at that time, it was barred in postconviction proceedings. Appellant Br. at 2, 3-4, Woods v. State, No. DA 12-0558 (Mont. filed Feb. 6, 2013), available at http://supremecourtdocket.mt.gov (accessed Feb. 6, 2015); Order at 3 ¶ 5, Woods, No. DA 12-0558 (Mont. July 30, 2013); Mont. Code Ann. § 46-21-105(2).[1] To the extent Woods failed to allege in state court a violation at sentencing of his rights under the Confrontation Clause, no further avenue remains available in state court for him to present that claim now. In sum, Woods's first claim for relief is either technically exhausted but procedurally defaulted or simply procedurally defaulted.

Woods did not properly exhaust in state court his claim that his federal right to due process was violated because the only way the sentencing court had the authority to impose a 40-year sentence was by finding an exception to the mandatory ...


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