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Williams v. Cain

United States District Court, D. Oregon

May 16, 2018

JIMMIE LEE WILLIAMS, Petitioner,
v.
BRAD CAIN, Superintendent, Snake River Correctional Institution, Respondent.

          OPINION AND ORDER

          MICHAEL J. MCSHANE UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         Petitioner filed a petition for writ of habeas corpus pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254, alleging that his trial counsel rendered ineffective assistance by failing to object to hearsay testimony and failing to interview character witnesses. Respondent contends that one of petitioner's claims is procedurally defaulted and the remaining claim was denied in a state court decision entitled to deference. For the reasons explained below, the petition is denied and the case dismissed.

         BACKGROUND

         In April 2011, after trial by jury, petitioner was convicted of Unlawful Sexual Penetration in the First Degree, Sodomy in the First Degree, and three counts of Sexual Abuse in the First Degree. Resp't Ex. 101.

         Petitioner's convictions arose from the sexual abuse of G.T., his wife's daughter, when she was between the ages of seven and nine. On a camping trip in late July 2010, G.T disclosed the abuse to M.S., her stepsister. Transcript of Proceedings (Tr.) at 75 (ECF No. 27). M.S. reported those allegations, and G.T.'s father eventually called the police. Tr. at 76, 88. Det. Jason Ball led the investigation and arranged for G.T. to be examined at Liberty House, a child abuse assessment center.

         On July 30, 2010, Dr. Oh, a medical provider at Liberty House, conducted a physical examination of G.T. and asked her “privates” had even gotten hurt. Tr. 153-54. G.T. told Dr. Oh that petitioner sometimes “wants to poke one of his fingers inside the hole where the baby comes out. And sometimes he puts one whole finger in there and it hurts.” Tr. 154. Dr. Meredy Golburg-Edelson, a clinical psychologist for Liberty House, was present during the examination and told G.T. that they would talk about her disclosures in the interview room. Tr. 146-47, 154. After her medical examination, G.T. was taken to an interview room and Dr. Golburg-Edelson asked G.T. about the statement she made during the medical examination. During this interview, G.T. disclosed many other instances of abuse by petitioner. Tr. 118-122, 132-34, 139-41.

         At trial, G.T. recounted an uncharged occurrence of abuse by petitioner (that occurred outside of the court's jurisdiction) and testified that she could not remember the other instances of abuse she revealed in the Liberty House interview. Tr. 20-21, 62-63, 66-70, 72. G.T. also testified that she did not remember talking to Dr. Golburg-Edelson, though she remembered a place with a mirror and a camera. Tr. at 64-65.

         The State called Dr. Golburg-Edelson and Det. Ball to testify. Dr. Golburg-Edelson described G.T.'s examination and interview and testified about G.T.'s statements and disclosures of abuse by petitioner. Tr. 118-122, 132-34, 139-41. During Dr. Golburg-Edelson's testimony, the State offered a video recording of G.T.'s Liberty House interview as Exhibit 1 and parts of the video were played for the jury. Tr. at 123-30, 134-37, 141-44. Subsequently, Det. Ball testified about G.T.'s assessment at Liberty House and her statements made during the interview. Tr. 183-86. Petitioner's trial counsel did not object to the introduction of Exhibit 1 or to the testimony of Dr. Goldburg-Edelson and Det. Ball on grounds of inadmissible hearsay.

         The jury found petitioner guilty on all counts. Tr. 278-79. At sentencing, the trial court imposed consecutive and concurrent sentences totaling 420 months of imprisonment. Tr. 305-06; Resp't Ex. 101.

         After dismissing his direct appeal, petitioner filed a petition for post-conviction relief (PCR) alleging several claims of ineffective assistance of counsel, and the PCR trial court denied relief. Resp't Exs. 103, 105, 121-22. The Oregon Court of Appeals affirmed without opinion, and the Oregon Supreme Court denied review. Resp't Exs. 123, 129-30.

         On January 9, 2017, petitioner filed this habeas petition under 28 U.S.C. § 2254.

         DISCUSSION

         A. Ground Two - Failure to Call Character Witnesses

         In Ground Two, petitioner alleges that trial counsel rendered ineffective assistance by failing to interview and call several character witnesses. Pet. at 6 (ECF No. 2). Respondent argues that this claim is procedurally defaulted and barred from review because petitioner failed to present it to the Oregon Supreme Court. See 28 U.S.C. § 2254(b)(1)(A); Duncan v. Henry, 513 U.S. 364, 365 (1995) (per curiam) (before seeking federal habeas relief, a petitioner must “fairly present” a federal claim to the State's highest ...


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