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Ollie v. Becerra

United States District Court, C.D. California, Western Division

January 7, 2020

HARRY LEE OLLIE, Petitioner,
v.
XAVIER BECERRA, et al., Respondents.

          ORDER TO SHOW CAUSE

          JOHN D EARLY, UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE

         I. BACKGROUND

         On January 2, 2020, the Court received from Petitioner Harry Lee Ollie (“Petitioner”) a Petition for Writ of Habeas Corpus by a Person in State Custody (“Pet.” or “Petition”). Dkt. 1. The Petition is directed at Petitioner's 2017 conviction in and sentence imposed by the Los Angeles County Superior Court. Pet. at 2 (CM/ECF pagination is used herein for page references to the Petition). Petitioner facially raises two grounds for relief: (1) sufficiency of the evidence; and (2) a challenge to the jury instructions issued by the trial court. Pet. at 9-13. The Court interprets the grounds broadly to assert challenges under the Due Process Clause Fourteenth Amendment, and further, broadly interpreting the Petition, finds based upon an initial review and without prejudice to a potential challenge by Respondents, that Petitioner has made a prima facie showing that he has exhausted his available state remedies as to those two stated grounds.

         However, the final sentence of Ground Two further states: “Appellant's Sixth Amendment constitutional right to be confronted with the witnesses against him was violated as his accuser, victim did not take the stand leaving conviction to be had by speculation.” Pet. at 12. It does not appear that Petitioner has exhausted in state court any Sixth Amendment claim for relief.

         If Petitioner intended by that last sentence of Ground Two in the Petition to raise a separate claim based on the Sixth Amendment, then the Petition appears partially unexhausted and subject to dismissal. However, if Petitioner did not intend to assert a separate Sixth Amendment ground for relief, the Petition facially would not appear subject to dismissal on exhaustion grounds. Therefore, as explained further below, the Court orders Plaintiff to provide clarification regarding whether he intended to assert a third ground for relief based on the Sixth Amendment, and if he did, show cause why the action should not be dismissed.

         II. EXHAUSTION GENERALLY

         As a matter of comity, a federal court will not entertain a habeas corpus petition unless the petitioner has exhausted the available state judicial remedies on every ground for relief presented in the petition. Rose v. Lundy, 455 U.S. 509, 518-22 (1982). The habeas statute provides that a habeas petition brought by a person in state custody “shall not be granted unless it appears that - (A) the applicant has exhausted the remedies available in the courts of the State; or (B)(i) there is an absence of available State corrective process; or (ii) circumstances exist that render such process ineffective to protect the rights of the applicant.” 28 U.S.C. § 2254(b)(1). Under the total exhaustion rule, if even one claim alleged by a habeas petitioner is unexhausted, the petition must be dismissed. See Rose, 455 U.S. at 522; see also Coleman v. Thompson, 501 U.S. 722, 731 (1991), modified by Martinez v. Ryan, 566 U.S. 1 (2012); Castille v. Peoples, 489 U.S. 346, 349 (1989). The Ninth Circuit has held that a federal court may raise the failure to exhaust issue sua sponte. See Stone v. City & Cnty. of San Francisco, 968 F.2d 850, 856 (9th Cir. 1992) (as amended).

         Exhaustion requires that the petitioner's claims be fairly presented to the state courts and be disposed of on the merits by the highest court of the state. James v. Borg, 24 F.3d 20, 24 (9th Cir. 1994); Carothers v. Rhay, 594 F.2d 225, 228 (9th Cir. 1979); see also Libberton v. Ryan, 583 F.3d 1147, 1164 (9th Cir. 2009). A claim has not been fairly presented to a state court unless the petitioner has described both the operative facts and the federal legal theory on which the claim is based. Duncan v. Henry, 513 U.S. 364, 365-66 (1995) (per curiam); Picard v. Connor, 404 U.S. 270, 275-78 (1971); Greenway v. Schriro, 653 F.3d 790, 801 (9th Cir. 2011); Johnson v. Zenon, 88 F.3d 828, 830 (9th Cir. 1996). Petitioner has the burden of demonstrating that he has exhausted his available state remedies. See, e.g., Williams v. Craven, 460 F.2d 1253, 1254 (9th Cir. 1972) (per curiam). However, the Ninth Circuit has held that, for purposes of exhaustion, pro se petitions are held to a more lenient standard than counseled petitions. Sanders v. Ryder, 342 F.3d 991, 999 (9th Cir. 2003); Peterson v. Lampert, 319 F.3d 1153, 1159 (9th Cir. 2003) (en banc).

         III. DISCUSSION

         As noted above, although it appears that Petitioner's two stated grounds have been exhausted, if the sentence at the end of Ground Two is interpreted as a separate ground for relief based on the Sixth Amendment, such a claim does not appear to have been fairly presented to the state courts and disposed of on the merits by the California Supreme Court and thus does not appear to have been exhausted. If it were clear that the California Supreme Court would hold that Petitioner's possible Sixth Amendment claim was procedurally barred under state law, then the exhaustion requirement would be satisfied. See Castille, 489 U.S. 346 at 351-52; Johnson, 88 F.3d at 831.[1] Here, however, it is not clear that the California Supreme Court will so hold. Thus, if the Petition asserts a claim based on the Sixth Amendment, it would be unexhausted under the rule set forth by Rose v. Lundy, set forth above, and subject to sua sponte dismissal. However, before making any finding, the Court will afford Petitioner an opportunity to respond and, importantly, to clarify whether, by the single reference to the Sixth Amendment at the end of Ground Two, Petitioner intended to raise a separate claim for relief.

         IV. ORDER

         Therefore, Petitioner is ORDERED TO SHOW CAUSE in writing, why this action should not be summarily dismissed without prejudice pursuant to Rule 4 of the Rules Governing Section 2254 Cases in the United States District Courts for failure to exhaust state remedies. By no later than February 4, 2020, Petitioner shall file a response to this Order.

         In the Response, Petitioner shall first state whether he intended by the above-quoted last sentence of Ground Two in the Petition to raise a third claim for relief based on the Sixth Amendment. If he did not intend to raise a separate Sixth Amendment claim for relief, but instead only intended to raise two grounds, one based upon the sufficiency of the evidence and one based on alleged improper jury instructions, he should so state. If Petitioner states that he only intended to assert those two grounds for relief and did not intend to assert a separate Sixth Amendment claim, he need make no further response and the Petition will no longer be subject to dismissal as partially unexhausted on the basis of such an unexhausted Sixth Amendment claim.

         If Petitioner did intend to assert a third claim for relief based on the Sixth Amendment, and if he contends that he has, in fact, exhausted such claim, he must clearly explain the basis for this contention, and ...


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