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James Nelson Blair v. Michael Martel

July 20, 2011

JAMES NELSON BLAIR, PETITIONER-APPELLANT,
v.
MICHAEL MARTEL, WARDEN, CALIFORNIA STATE PRISON AT SAN QUENTIN, RESPONDENT-APPELLEE.



Appeal from the United States District Court for the Central District of California Mariana R. Pfaelzer, Senior District Judge, Presiding D.C. No. CV-99-06859-MRP-MC

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Graber, Circuit Judge:

FOR PUBLICATION

OPINION

Argued and Submitted

May 12, 2011-Pasadena, California

Before: Stephen Reinhardt, Susan P. Graber, and Johnnie B. Rawlinson, Circuit Judges.

Opinion by Judge Graber

OPINION

Petitioner James Nelson Blair seeks a writ of habeas corpus. He argues that the California Supreme Court's delay in resolving the direct appeal from his murder conviction and death sentence denied his right to due process under the Fourteenth Amendment. Because no Supreme Court decision clearly establishes such a right, we affirm the denial of the writ.

I. Background

We described the facts that led to Petitioner's conviction and sentence in an earlier published order, and we will not repeat those facts here. Blair v. Woodford, 319 F.3d 1087 (9th Cir. 2003). That order stayed our consideration of Blair's habeas claim pending the outcome of Blair's direct appeal to the California Supreme Court, which by that point had finally begun. Id. at 1088-89. In 2005, the California Supreme Court rendered its decision affirming Blair's conviction and sentence in full. People v. Blair, 115 P.3d 1145 (Cal. 2005). We then resumed our proceedings.

In a motion filed with us in 2005, while Petitioner's appeal from the district court's denial of his petition was pending, Petitioner asked for a hearing to determine whether he was competent to continue pursuing habeas relief. See Rohan ex rel. Gates v. Woodford, 334 F.3d 803 (9th Cir. 2003) (holding that a death-sentenced state prisoner has a right to a competency determination in federal habeas proceedings). In an unpublished order, we remanded the case to the district court for the limited purpose of conducting a competency hearing, and the district court since has determined that Petitioner is competent. Petitioner now challenges that decision as clearly erroneous.

In the meantime, we decided a habeas claim similar to Petitioner's in Hayes v. Ayers, 632 F.3d 500, 523 (9th Cir. 2011), where we held that no clearly established Supreme Court precedent recognizes a due process right to a speedy appeal. The state asks us to affirm the denial of the writ in this case, arguing that Hayes forecloses relief ...


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