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Ramsey v. Taylor

United States District Court, D. Oregon

February 2, 2018

JERI TAYLOR, Respondent.

          Anthony D. Bornstein Assistant Federal Public Defender Attorney for Petitioner

          Ellen F. Rosenblum, Attorney General Samuel A. Kubernick, Assistant Attorney General Department of Justice Attorneys for Respondent


          SIMON, District Judge.

         Petitioner brings this habeas corpus case pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254 challenging the legality of his state-court convictions for Sexual Abuse. For the reasons that follow, the Petition for Writ of Habeas Corpus (#2) is denied.


         Petitioner and his girlfriend, Lynne Schreiber, lived together for approximately eight years. The couple lived with their natural son, Alec, as well as Schreiber's two daughters from a previous relationship, ES and KS. The couple separated in July 2006, with Petitioner living in an apartment a half mile from Schreiber and the children. Petitioner retained visitation rights with his son, and Alec would frequently visit Petitioner at his new apartment.

         Alec developed a friendship with a 12-year-old girl in Schreiber's apartment complex, KW. On several occasions, KW visited with Alec at Petitioner's apartment where the trio would eat dinner and watch a movie. On the last such visit, Petitioner hugged KW, kissed her ear, licked her earlobes, and kissed her neck and shoulders. He touched her breasts over her clothing, touched her genital area under her clothing, and touched her inner thighs.

         When KW returned home from Petitioner's apartment, her mother could tell something was wrong and questioned her daughter. KW told her mother that Petitioner had touched her inappropriately, but asked her not to call the police. KW's mother did not contact the police, and instead left Petitioner a message instructing Petitioner to leave KW alone. Ultimately, however, law enforcement personnel were alerted to the abuse. When a police detective and a Department of Human Services caseworker notified Schreiber of KW s allegations, Schreiber was dismissive. Schreiber's reluctance to believe KW s allegations angered ES because she, herself, had been a victim of Petitioner's sexual abuse in the past (but had not yet disclosed the abuse) . This prompted ES to leave her mother a note telling her that KW was likely being truthful because Petitioner had abused ES when she was younger. The investigation expanded, and when authorities questioned KS, she revealed that Petitioner had sexually abused her as well.

         The Washington County Grand Jury indicted Petitioner on three counts of Sexual Abuse in the First Degree as to KW (Counts 1-3 occurring in 2008), one count of Sexual Abuse in the First Degree as to ES (Count 4 occurring between 1996 and 1998), and one count of Sexual Abuse in the First Degree as to KS (Count 5 occurring between 1999 and 2000). Respondent's Exhibit 102.

         The case proceeded to a jury trial where the defense reasoned that ES and KS harbored animosity against Petitioner because he had been a harsh disciplinarian during the years they lived together. Petitioner testified that he also angered KW when he became upset with her for refusing to allow Alec to sit in the front seat of his car for the trip back to Schreiber's apartment complex. He therefore theorized that all three girls held grudges against him that would cause them to fabricate their stories of abuse.

         During the trial, a question arose as to whether KS had made a prior out-of-court statement denying that Petitioner had sexually abused her. Kristin Griffey, a childhood friend of Schreiber's, had taken Schreiber and her children into her home for about two months during a particularly volatile time in Petitioner's and Schreiber's relationship.[1] While KS lived in Griffey's home, Griffey became concerned about KS because she witnessed changes that led her to believe KS might have been sexually abused. She observed that KS "became very just sexualized" and "just became a completely different person. Her persona was completely changed." Trial Transcript, p. 519. KS went from someone who "would wear cute appropriate, age appropriate clothing, to somebody who absolutely changed looking like what I would consider a street person or a streetwalker type of person." Id.

         In an offer of proof, Griffy testified that she asked KS if she had ever been abused, careful to avoid asking a leading question as to "sexual" abuse so as not to lead to a false accusation. KS simply responded, "No." The trial court refused to allow the testimony because: (1) the question Griffey asked was "very vague" and pertained to generic abuse, not sexual abuse, and KS could have interpreted it in the context of domestic violence; and (2) KS's statement amounted to inadmissible hearsay because it was not inconsistent with her prior testimony. Id. at 533-34.

         The jury convicted Petitioner on all Counts, and the trial court sentenced him to 150 months in prison. Respondent's Exhibit 101. Petitioner took a direct appeal raising state-law issues not relevant to this habeas corpus case. The Oregon Court of Appeals affirmed the trial court's decision without opinion, and the Oregon Supreme Court denied review. State v. Ramsey, 245 Or.App. 165, 259 P.3d 115, rev. denied, 351 Or. 403, 271 P.3d 115 (2011).

         Petitioner next filed for post-conviction relief ("PCR") in Umatilla County. Among his claims, he alleged that his trial attorney had been ineffective for failing to argue that KS's denial of abuse was, in fact, admissible because it amounted to a prior inconsistent' statement with respect to her testimony that Petitioner abused her. The PCR court agreed and remanded the case for a new trial only as to Count 5 (Sex Abuse I as to KS) . Respondent's Exhibit 137, pp. 2-3. The PCR court otherwise denied relief on Petitioner's claims.

         On appeal, Petitioner argued that trial counsel's deficient performance infected his entire trial with prejudice such that the PCR court should have vacated all of his convictions. Respondent's Exhibit 142, p. 8. The State argued that such an argument was unpreserved where Petitioner failed to raise it to the PCR court, and also argued that the claim lacked merit. The Oregon Court of Appeals affirmed the PCR court's decision without issuing a written opinion, and the ...

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