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King v. Green

United States District Court, D. Montana, Missoula Division

May 22, 2018

JUSTIN KING, Petitioner,
v.
TOM GREEN, ATTORNEY GENERAL OF THE STATE OF MONTANA, Defendants.

          ORDER

          DANA L. CHRISTENSEN, CHIEF JUDGE

         United States Magistrate Judge Jeremiah C. Lynch entered his Findings and Recommendations on Febrary 6, 2018, recommending to dismiss Petitioner Justin King's ("King") Petition for a Writ of Habeas Corus (Doc. 1), under 28 U.S.C. § 2254. (Doc. 7.) Judge Lynch recommended that King's petition be dismissed because King canot overcome the defrence due to the Montana Supreme Court on his frst claim. (Doc. 7 at 1-2.) Judge Lynch frter recommended tat King's remaining claims be dismissed wit prejudice as procedurally defulted. (Doc. 7 at 1.)

         King timely objected to the Findings ad Recommendations, ad is entitled to de novo review of those fndings to which he specifcally objects. 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(C). This Court reviews for clear error those findings and recommendations to which no party objects. See McDonnell Douglas Corp. v. Commodore Bus. Mach., Inc., 656 F.2d 1309, 1313 (9th Cir. 1981); Thomas v. Arn, 474 U.S. 140, 149 (1985). Clear error exists if the Court is left with a "definite and firm conviction that a mistake has been committed." United States v. Syrax, 235 F.3d 422, 427 (9th Cir. 2000) (citations omitted).

         I. Claim I

         Judge Lynch recommended dismissing King's claim that the trial court abused its discretion by providing contradictory instructions regarding the affirmative defense of justifiable use of force. This claim was presented to the Montana Supreme Court which affirmed upon finding that the trial court did not abuse its discretion because the conflicting evidence presented at trial warranted both instructions. State v. King, 385 P.3d 561 (Mont. 2016).

         On habeas review, this Court applies the deferential standard imposed under the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996 (AEDPA) and may not reverse a state court decision unless the state's adjudication on the merits (1) "resulted in a decision that was contrary to, or involved an unreasonable application of, clearly established Federal law, as determined by the Supreme Court of the United States" or (2) "resulted in a decision that was based on an unreasonable determination of the facts in light of the evidence presented in the State court proceeding." 28 U.S.C. § 2254(d)(1)-(2).

         Judge Lynch found that King had not alleged any facts or argument as to why he met either standard. King did not raise any objection to this finding. Accordingly, the Court reviews for clear error. L.R. 72.3(a); see also McDonnell Douglas Corp. v. Commodore Bus. Mach., Inc., 656 F.2d 1309, 1313 (9th Cir. 1981). Finding none, the Court adopts the recommendation that AEDPA deference applies and thus King's claim will be dismissed with prejudice as lacking merit.

         II. Claims II-V

         In claims II to V King alleged that (1) trial counsel was ineffective; (2) the prosecution presented false evidence; (3) appellate counsel provided ineffective assistance; and (4) he was unjustly denied postconviction counsel. (Doc. 1.)

         "[B]efore a federal court may consider the merits of [King's] petition for a writ of habeas corpus, [King] generally must first exhaust his available state court remedies." 28 U.S.C. § 2254(b); Smith v. Baldwin, 510 F.3d 1127, 1137-38 (9th Cir. 2007) (en banc). Because King did not present these claims to the Montana Supreme Court, (see Doc. 5 at 4), they are considered procedurally defaulted and bar this Court's review. See Ylst v. Nunnemaker, 501 U.S. 797, 802-05 (1991). However, King "may overcome procedural default by making 'an adequate showing of cause and prejudice' for his failure to exhaust his state court remedies." Smith, 510 F.3d at 1139 (quoting Strickler v. Greene, 527 U.S. 263, 282 (1999)). To make this showing King may "demonstrate cause for the default and actual prejudice as a result of the alleged violation of federal law." Id. at 1146 (citing Coleman v. Thompson, 501 U.S. 722, 750 (1991)).

         Judge Lynch explained how King might show cause and prejudice:

(1) He might show a legitimate excuse for his default, for instance that "some objective factor external to the defense" prevented him from raising his claims in state court. The "prejudice" prong is met if King can show that each error he alleges was serious enough to undermine confidence in the outcome of the proceeding.
(2) He might "show that, in light of all the evidence, it is more likely than not that no reasonable juror would find him guilty ...

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