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Reason v. Taylor

United States District Court, D. Oregon

April 8, 2019

MATTHEW REASON, Petitioner,
v.
JERI TAYLOR, Respondent.

          Kristina Hellman Assistant Federal Public Defender Attorney for Petitioner

          Ellen F. Rosenblum, Attorney General Kristen E. Boyd, Assistant Attorney General Department of Justice Attorneys for Respondent

          FINDINGS AND RECOMMENDATION

          PATRICIA SULLIVAN, UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE

         Petitioner brings this habeas corpus case pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254 challenging the legality of his state-court convictions dated December 8, 2003. For the reasons that follow, the Petition for Writ of Habeas Corpus (#1) should be denied.

         BACKGROUND

         Petitioner repeatedly and severely sexually abused his two young step-children, something the trial judge believed to be “about the most extreme case of sexual abuse that I've ever seen.” Sentencing Transcript, p. 15. Following Petitioner's trial, a jury convicted him of two counts of Sexual Penetration with a Foreign Object, two counts of Rape in the First Degree, four counts of Sexual Abuse in the First Degree, two counts of Sodomy in the First Degree, four counts of Using a Child in a Display of Sexually Explicit Conduct, and four counts of Coercion. Respondent's Exhibit 101. The trial court imposed sentences totaling 1180 months in prison.

         Petitioner took a direct appeal, but the Oregon Court of Appeals affirmed the trial court's decision without opinion, and the Oregon Supreme Court denied review. State v. Reason, 299 Or.App. 170, 146 P.3d 1170 (2006), rev. denied, 342 Or. 344, 153 P.3d 123 (2007).

         Petitioner next filed for post-conviction relief (“PCR”) in Umatilla County where the PCR court denied relief. Respondent's Exhibit 125. As with Petitioner's direct appeal, the Oregon Court of Appeals affirmed that decision without opinion, and the Oregon Supreme Court denied review. Respondent's Exhibits 129 & 130.

         Petitioner filed this 28 U.S.C. § 2254 habeas corpus case in 2014 raising seven grounds of ineffective assistance of trial counsel. Respondent asks the Court to deny relief on the Petition because: (1) Petitioner failed to fairly present Grounds Two, Three, Six, and Seven to Oregon's state courts, leaving them procedurally defaulted; and (2) the state courts denied Grounds One, Four, and Five in decisions that were neither contrary to, nor unreasonable applications of, clearly established federal law.

         DISCUSSION

         I. Standard of Review

          An application for a writ of habeas corpus shall not be granted unless adjudication of the claim in state court resulted in a decision that was: (1) "contrary to, or involved an unreasonable application of, clearly established Federal law, as determined by the Supreme Court of the United States;" or (2) "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). A state court's findings of fact are presumed correct, and Petitioner bears the burden of rebutting the presumption of correctness by clear and convincing evidence. 28 U.S.C. § 2254(e)(1).

         A state court decision is "contrary to . . . clearly established precedent if the state court applies a rule that contradicts the governing law set forth in [the Supreme Court's] cases" or "if the state court confronts a set of facts that are materially indistinguishable from a decision of [the Supreme] Court and nevertheless arrives at a result different from [that] precedent." Williams v. Taylor, 529 U.S. 362, 405-06 (2000). Under the "unreasonable application" clause, a federal habeas court may grant relief "if the state court identifies the correct governing legal principle from [the Supreme Court's] decisions but unreasonably applies that principle to the facts of the prisoner's case." Id. at 413. The "unreasonable application" clause requires the state court decision to be more than incorrect or erroneous. Id. at 410. Twenty-eight U.S.C. § 2254(d) "preserves authority to issue the writ in cases where there is no possibility fairminded jurists could disagree that the state court's decision conflicts with [the Supreme] Court's precedents. It goes no farther." Harrington v. Richter, 562 U.S. 86, 102 (2011).

         II. Unargued Claims

         As previously noted, Petitioner raises seven grounds for relief in his Petition. In his supporting memorandum, however, Petitioner chooses to brief three claims of ineffective assistance of trial counsel: (1) counsel failed to obtain and call a child sexual abuse expert (Ground One); (2) counsel failed to timely object and move for a mistrial after Detective Sweet improperly vouched for the credibility of the two child victims, KS and CS (Ground Four); and (3) counsel failed to object, move to strike, and move for a mistrial when Physician's Assistant Ryan improperly vouched for the credibility of KS (Ground Five).

         Petitioner does not argue the merits of his remaining claims, nor does he address Respondent's arguments as to why relief on these claims should be denied. As such, Petitioner has not carried his burden of proof with respect to these unargued claims. See Silva v. Woodford, 279 F.3d 825, 835 (9th Cir. 2002) (Petitioner bears the burden of proving his claims). Even if Petitioner had briefed the merits of these claims, the court has examined them based upon the existing record and determined that they do not entitle him to relief.

         III. Ground One: Failure to Obtain Expert

         Petitioner first asserts that trial counsel failed to obtain an expert witness to assess issues of suggestibility stemming from the totality of the circumstances surrounding the victims' disclosures of abuse. The Court uses the general two-part test established by the Supreme Court to determine whether Petitioner received ineffective assistance of counsel. Knowles v. Mirzayance, 556 U.S. 111, 122-23 (2009). First, Petitioner must show that his counsel's performance fell below an objective standard of reasonableness. Strickland v. Washington, 466 U.S. 668, 686-87 (1984). Due to the difficulties in evaluating ...


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