Searching over 5,500,000 cases.

Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

Floyd v. Filson

United States Court of Appeals, Ninth Circuit

October 11, 2019

Zane Floyd, Petitioner-Appellant,
Timothy Filson; Adam Paul Laxalt, Attorney General, Respondents-Appellees.

          Argued and Submitted January 31, 2019 San Francisco, California

          Appeal from the United States District Court for the District of Nevada D.C. No. 2:06-cv-00471-PMP-CWH Philip M. Pro, District Judge, Presiding

          Brad D. Levenson (argued) and David Anthony, Assistant Federal Public Defenders; Rene Valladares, Federal Public Defender; Office of the Federal Public Defender, Las Vegas, Nevada; for Petitioner-Appellant.

          Jeffrey M. Conner (argued), Deputy Assistant Attorney General; Heidi Parry Stern, Chief Deputy Attorney General; Adam Paul Laxalt, Attorney General; Office of the Attorney General, Las Vegas, Nevada; for Respondents-Appellees.

          Before: Marsha S. Berzon, John B. Owens, and Michelle T. Friedland, Circuit Judges.


         Habeas Corpus / Death Penalty

         The panel affirmed the district court's denial of Zane Floyd's habeas corpus petition challenging his Nevada conviction and death sentence for four counts of first-degree murder.

         As to Floyd's ineffective-assistance-of-trial-counsel claims raised for the first time in his second state petition, which the Nevada Supreme Court denied as untimely and successive, the panel held that because the claims would fail on the merits, it did not need to resolve whether section 34.726 of the Nevada Revised Statutes is adequate to bar federal review, or whether Floyd can overcome his procedural default. The panel held that Floyd's remaining ineffective-assistance-of-counsel claim that was raised and adjudicated in state court fails under AEDPA's deferential standards.

         Regarding Floyd's claim that his constitutional rights were violated when the State's expert made reference during his testimony to test results that he had obtained from Floyd's expert, the panel held that the Nevada Supreme Court's conclusion on direct appeal that no constitutional error occurred was not contrary to or an unreasonable application of controlling Supreme Court case law.

         Regarding Floyd's claim that the trial court violated his constitutional rights by failing to grant a change of venue, the panel held that the district court did not err when it reasoned that AEDPA limited its review to those materials before the state courts that had rejected the venue claim.

         Regarding Floyd's claim that the trial court violated his constitutional rights by permitting the mother of a victim to testify extensively during the penalty phase about her son's difficult life and previous experiences with violent crime, the panel held that the Nevada Supreme Court's conclusion that the admission of the testimony did not unduly prejudice Floyd was not contrary to or an objectively unreasonable application of clearly established federal law.

         Reviewing under AEDPA, the panel held that the Nevada Supreme Court's determination that the prosecutor's improper statement that Floyd had committed "the worst massacre in the history of Las Vegas" was harmless was neither contrary to nor an unreasonable application of Darden v. Wainwright, 477 U.S. 168 (1986). Reviewing de novo, the panel held that several of the prosecutor's other statements-suggesting that other decisionmakers might ultimately decide whether Floyd received the death penalty, and implying that the jury could sentence Floyd to death to send a message to the community-were improper but did not so affect the fundamental fairness of the proceedings as to violate the Eighth Amendment or result in the denial of due process.

         The panel declined to expand the certificate of appealability to include claims challenging Nevada's lethal injection protocol and courtroom security measures that caused certain jurors to see Floyd in prison garb and restraints.



         In 1999, Petitioner-Appellant Zane Michael Floyd shot and killed four people at a Las Vegas supermarket. A Nevada jury found Floyd guilty of four counts of first-degree murder, as well as several related offenses, and sentenced him to death. After the Nevada Supreme Court upheld his conviction and sentence on direct appeal and denied a petition for postconviction relief, Floyd sought a writ of habeas corpus in the United States District Court for the District of Nevada. Following a stay during which Floyd filed an unsuccessful second petition for postconviction relief in state court, the district court denied the federal habeas petition but issued a certificate of appealability as to various claims now before us. We affirm the district court's decision and deny Floyd's motion to expand the certificate of appealability.



         Before dawn one morning in June 1999, Floyd called an escort service and asked the operator to send a female escort to his parents' home in Las Vegas, where he had been living since his discharge from the U.S. Marine Corps the previous year. When a young woman sent by the service arrived, Floyd threatened her with a shotgun and forced her to engage in vaginal and anal intercourse, digital penetration, and oral sex. At one point he removed a shell from his shotgun and showed it to her, telling her that her name was on it. He later put on a Marine Corps camouflage uniform and told her that he planned to kill the first nineteen people he saw that morning. Commenting that he would have already shot her had he had a smaller gun on him, he told the woman she had one minute to run before he would shoot her. She escaped.

         Floyd then walked about fifteen minutes to an Albertsons supermarket near his home. When he arrived at 5:15 am, he immediately began firing on store employees. He shot and killed four Albertsons employees and wounded another. The store's security cameras captured these events.

         When Floyd exited the store, local police were waiting outside. Officers arrested him, and he quickly admitted to shooting the people in the Albertsons. Prosecutors charged Floyd with offenses that included multiple counts of first-degree murder and indicated that they would seek the death penalty.


         Numerous psychiatric experts examined Floyd and explored his background. On the day of his arrest, Floyd's public defenders retained Dr. Jakob Camp, a forensic psychiatrist who examined Floyd for three hours. Dr. Camp concluded that Floyd did not suffer from a mental illness that would impair his ability to stand trial, noted that Floyd's experiences during and after his time in the Marines might have had a bearing on his actions that day, and suggested that counsel obtain Floyd's adolescent health records to learn more about an attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder ("ADHD") diagnosis for which Floyd had been previously treated with the drug Ritalin. Floyd's counsel eventually obtained records from two doctors who had treated Floyd's mental health issues as an adolescent that confirmed this type of diagnosis. Those doctors had diagnosed Floyd with attention deficit disorder ("ADD"), although they had also determined that Floyd did not have any significant cognitive deficits.

         Shortly before trial, defense counsel also retained clinical neuropsychologist Dr. David L. Schmidt to conduct a full examination of Floyd. Dr. Schmidt concluded that Floyd suffered from ADHD and polysubstance abuse, but that he showed "[n]o clear evidence of chronic neuropsychological dysfunction." He also diagnosed Floyd with a personality disorder that included "[p]aranoid, [s]chizoid, and [a]ntisocial [f]eatures."

         Discouraged by Dr. Schmidt's findings, which they worried would make Floyd unsympathetic to a jury, counsel turned to clinical neuropsychologist Dr. Thomas Kinsora. After reviewing Dr. Schmidt's report and a report from Floyd's childhood doctor, Dr. Kinsora was highly critical of Dr. Schmidt's work, questioning the validity of the tests that Dr. Schmidt had conducted. Dr. Kinsora advised Floyd's counsel that it was "not clear whether or not a more comprehensive assessment would have revealed ongoing deficits or not," but that he "wouldn't be surprised to find some continued evidence of neurological problems" in light of the findings of one of the doctors who had examined Floyd as an adolescent. The defense subsequently un-endorsed Dr. Schmidt as an expert, but not before the state trial court ordered it to provide the prosecution a copy of Dr. Schmidt's report along with the associated raw testing data.

         Defense counsel also retained Dr. Frank E. Paul, a clinical psychologist and retired Navy officer, who investigated and described in detail Floyd's background and life history. Floyd's mother told Dr. Paul that she had used drugs and alcohol heavily earlier in her life, including when she was pregnant with her first child, but that she "stopped drinking and all drug use when she found herself pregnant with [Floyd] . . . but continued to smoke tobacco." Dr. Paul also learned of an incident in which Floyd, at the age of eight, was accused of anally penetrating a three-year-old boy. Dr. Paul further learned that Floyd began using drugs and alcohol extensively in high school. Dr. Paul described Floyd's Marine Corps deployment to the U.S. base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba as difficult, explaining that Floyd struggled with the stress and monotony of the deployment and drank extremely heavily during that period. Defense counsel originally named Dr. Paul as an expert but did not call him at trial and never disclosed Dr. Paul's report to the prosecution.

         At the guilt phase of Floyd's trial, the jury convicted him of four counts of first-degree murder with use of a deadly weapon, one count of attempted murder with use of a deadly weapon, one count of burglary while in possession of a firearm, one count of first-degree kidnapping with use of a deadly weapon, and four counts of sexual assault with use of a deadly weapon.

         During the penalty phase of Floyd's trial, the State argued that three statutory aggravating factors justified application of the death penalty: killing more than one person, killing people at random and without apparent motive, and knowingly creating a risk of death to more than one person. In arguing that mitigating circumstances weighed against imposition of the death penalty, the defense called (among other witnesses) two experts hired by defense counsel: Dr. Edward Dougherty, a psychologist specializing in learning disabilities and education; and Jorge Abreu, a consultant with an organization specializing in mitigation defense.

         Dr. Dougherty diagnosed Floyd with ADHD and a mixed personality disorder with borderline paranoid and depressive features. He also discussed the "prenatal stage" of Floyd's development, and commented that his mother "drank alcohol, and she used drugs during her pregnancy," including "during the first trimester." In rebuttal, the prosecution called Dr. Louis Mortillaro, a psychologist with a clinical neuropsychology certificate, who had briefly examined Floyd and reached conclusions similar to Dr. Schmidt's based on Dr. Schmidt's testing. Abreu painted a detailed picture of Floyd's life, drawing on many of the same facts that Dr. Paul's report had mentioned. He particularly noted Floyd's mother's heavy drinking, including during her pregnancies.

         During closing arguments, defense counsel urged the jury to refrain from finding that a death sentence was warranted. The mitigating factors defense counsel relied on in closing included Floyd's difficult childhood, his alcohol and substance abuse, his stressful military service, his ADD/ADHD, and his mother's substance abuse while she was pregnant with him.

         After three days of deliberation, the jury sentenced Floyd to death. It found that all three statutory aggravating factors were present and that they outweighed Floyd's mitigating evidence.


         New counsel represented Floyd on his direct appeal, which the Nevada Supreme Court denied. Floyd v. State, 42 P.3d 249 (Nev. 2002) (per curiam). The U.S. Supreme Court then denied certiorari. Floyd v. Nevada, 537 U.S. 1196 (2003). Floyd filed a state petition for a writ of habeas corpus a little over a year later. The state trial court denied the petition on the merits, and the Nevada Supreme Court affirmed. Floyd v. State, No. 44868, 2006 Nev. LEXIS 851 (Nev. Feb. 16, 2006).

         Floyd then filed a pro se habeas petition in the U.S. District Court for the District of Nevada. See 28 U.S.C. § 2254(a). The federal public defender was appointed as counsel and filed an amended petition with new allegations, including alleged ineffective assistance by Floyd's trial counsel. The district court agreed with the State that Floyd had not exhausted these new claims in state court and stayed the federal proceedings so he could do so.

         Floyd filed a second state habeas petition that included the new claims of ineffective assistance of trial counsel. The state trial court denied this petition on the merits and as untimely filed. The Nevada Supreme Court affirmed, holding that Floyd's second petition was untimely and successive. Floyd v. State, No. 51409, 2010 WL 4675234 (Nev. Nov. 17, 2010).

          The federal district court then lifted the stay and reopened Floyd's habeas proceedings. It ultimately granted in part the State's motion to dismiss, concluding that Floyd's new claims that the Nevada Supreme Court had denied as untimely-including his new ineffective assistance of trial counsel claims-were procedurally defaulted, and that Floyd had not shown cause and prejudice for failing to raise his ineffective assistance of trial counsel claims in his first petition. See Coleman v. Thompson, 501 U.S. 722, 750 (1991). The district court went on to deny Floyd's remaining claims on the merits, but it issued a certificate of appealability as to several issues, including whether Floyd could show cause and prejudice for the default of his ineffective assistance of trial counsel claims.

         Floyd appealed, pressing each of the certified issues and also arguing that we should expand the certificate of appealability to encompass two more. We evaluate each of his arguments in turn.


         We review a district court's denial of habeas corpus de novo. Robinson v. Ignacio, 360 ...

Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.