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Contreras v. Garrett

United States District Court, D. Oregon

April 30, 2019

RAFAEL MORA CONTRERAS, Petitioner,
v.
PAT GARRETT, Washington County Sheriff, Respondent.

          ORDER

          ANNA J. BROWN UNITED STATES SENIOR DISTRICT JUDGE

         Petitioner, a pretrial detainee at the Washington County Jail, brings this habeas corpus action pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2241. For the reasons that follow, Petitioner must show cause why the Court should not summarily dismiss his Petition for Writ of Habeas Corpus.[1]

         BACKGROUND

         On April 28, 2003, a Washington County jury found Petitioner guilty of aggravated murder, intentional murder, felony murder, and first-degree kidnaping. State v. Mora-Contreras, Washington County No. C012039CR (docket sheet). On June 5, 2003, Washington County Judge Timothy Alexander sentenced petitioner to life in prison without the possibility of parole. Id. The Oregon Court of Appeals affirmed petitioner's conviction without opinion, and the Oregon Supreme Court denied review. State v. Mora-Contreras, 215 Or.App. 703, 170 P.3d 1137 (2007), rev. denied, 344 Or. 539, 186 P.3d 285 (2008) . However, on January 31, 2018, the Marion County Circuit Court granted state post-conviction relief to Petitioner and remanded the case to Washington County for a retrial. Mora-Contreras v. Belleque, Marion County No. 08C25103 (docket sheet). Petitioner is currently scheduled to be retried in Washington County Circuit Court commencing on April 7, 2020. State v. Mora-Contreras, No. C012039CR (docket sheet).

         In his Petition for Writ of Habeas Corpus to this Court, petitioner alleges three claims for relief. First, Petitioner alleges denial of his Sixth Amendment right to a speedy trial. Second, Petitioner alleges a double jeopardy claim because he was "acquitted" of the charges and is "being punished again." Third, Petitioner alleges the Washington County Jail is violating his right of access to the courts by denying him access to all of his legal records in order to aid and assist in his defense.

         DISCUSSION

         I. Speedy Trial

         "[A]bstention principles generally require a federal district court to abstain from exercising jurisdiction over a habeas petition in which the petitioner raises a claim under the Speedy Trial Clause as an affirmative defense to state prosecution," absent a showing of extraordinary circumstances. Brown v. Ahern, 676 F.3d 899, 901-03 (9th Cir. 2012); Carden v. State of Montana, 626 F.2d 82, 83-84 (9th Cir. 1980); See also Coleman v. Ahlin, 542 Fed.Appx. 549, 551 (9th Cir. 2013) (holding that district court may raise abstention sua sponte). Extraordinary circumstances exist in cases of proven harassment or prosecutions undertaken by state officials in bad faith without hope of obtaining a valid conviction, or in other extraordinary circumstances where the petitioner will be irreparably harmed by waiting until after trial to raise his speedy trial claim. Brown, 676 F.3d at 902; Carden, 626 F.2d at 84.

         Here, it is apparent Petitioner is asserting his speedy trial claim as an affirmative defense to the state re-prosecution of the crimes for which he was granted state post-conviction relief. Accordingly, Petitioner must show cause what extraordinary-circumstances warrant this Court's intervention into his pending state prosecution.

         II. Double Jeopardy

         The Double Jeopardy Clause "'protects against successive prosecutions for the same offense after acquittal or conviction.'" Lemke v. Ryan, 719 F.3d 1093, 1099 (9th Cir. 2013) (quoting Monge v. California, 524 U.S. 721, 727-28 (1998)), cert, denied 571 U.S. 1212 (2014). However, "[t]he Double Jeopardy Clause is not an absolute bar to successive trials." Justices of Boston Mun. Court v. Lydon, 466 U.S. 294, 308 (1984) . "It does not prevent the government from retrying a defendant who succeeds in getting his first conviction set aside, through direct appeal or collateral attack, because of some error in the proceedings leading to conviction." Lockhart v. Nelson, 488 U.S. 33, 38 (1988); see also United States v. Scott, 437 U.S. 82, 90-91 (1978); United States v. Tateo, 377 U.S. 463, 465 (1963).

         Here, Petitioner alleges that the Double Jeopardy Clause bars his retrial because he was "acquitted" of the charges. Petitioner's claim lacks merit because it appears his retrial comes after his conviction was vacated on collateral review, which is not the equivalent of an "acquittal." Such a retrial does not violate the Double Jeopardy Clause. Accordingly, Petitioner must show cause why the Court should not summarily dismiss the Petition.

         III. Denial of Access to the Courts

         When a state prisoner is challenging the very fact or duration of the prisoner's physical confinement, and the relief that the prisoner seeks is a determination that the prisoner is entitled to immediate or speedier relief from imprisonment, the prisoner's sole remedy is a writ of habeas corpus. Prieser v. Rodriguez,411 U.S. 475, 5001973); Neal v. Shimoda,131 F.3d 818, 824 (9th Cir. 1997). Where, however, a state prisoner seeks to the challenge the conditions of confinement, a civil rights action ...


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