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Rhines v. Young

United States District Court, D. South Dakota, Western Division

August 5, 2015

DARIN YOUNG, Warden, South Dakota State Penitentiary; Respondent.


KAREN E. SCHREIER, District Judge.

Petitioner, Charles Rhines, moves the court for an order staying this proceeding. Darin Young, respondent, resists the motion. For the following reasons, the court denies the motion.


Rhines was convicted of premeditated first-degree murder and thirddegree burglary. On January 26, 1993, a jury sentenced him to death by lethal injection. Rhines appealed his conviction and sentence to the South Dakota Supreme Court. Fourteen issues were raised on direct appeal, including the excusal of prospective juror Diane Staeffler, the state's use of its peremptory challenges, the use of victim impact testimony, and the proportionality review. The South Dakota Supreme Court affirmed petitioner's conviction and sentence and the United States Supreme Court denied further review on December 2, 1996.

Rhines then applied for a writ of habeas corpus in state court on December 5, 1996. In his state habeas, Rhines raised numerous issues, including ineffective assistance of counsel, the excusal for cause of prospective juror Diane Staeffler, and the constitutionality of the South Dakota capital punishment statutes. Rhines's state habeas was denied by the trial court on October 8, 1998. The South Dakota Supreme Court affirmed the denial on February 9, 2000.

On February 22, 2000, Rhines filed a federal petition for writ of habeas corpus pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254. An amended petition for writ of habeas corpus was filed on November 20, 2000, which alleged thirteen grounds for relief. Respondent alleged that several of the grounds had not been exhausted and were, therefore, procedurally defaulted. On July 3, 2002, this court found that petitioner's grounds for relief Two(B), Six(E), Nine(B), (H), (I), and (J), Twelve, and Thirteen were unexhausted. This court stayed the petition pending exhaustion of Rhines's state court remedies on the condition that Rhines file a petition for habeas review in state court within 60 days and return to federal court within 60 days of completing the state proceedings. The state appealed.

On direct appeal, the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals vacated the stay and remanded the case so this court could determine whether Rhines could proceed by dismissing the unexhausted claims from his petition. Rhines v. Weber, 346 F.3d 799 (8th Cir. 2003). Rhines filed a petition for certiorari with the United States Supreme Court. The United States Supreme Court granted certiorari to determine whether a district court may issue an order of stay and abeyance in a mixed petition for habeas corpus, that is, a petition containing exhausted and unexhausted claims. Rhines v. Weber, 544 U.S. 269 (2005). The Court held that stay and abeyance is permissible under some circumstances. Id., 544 U.S. at 277. The Court remanded the case to the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals so it could determine whether this court abused its discretion in granting the stay. Id. at 279. The Court specifically stated that "once the petitioner exhausts his state remedies, the district court will lift the stay and allow the petitioner to proceed in federal court." Id. at 275-76 (emphasis added).

Because this court did not have the benefit of the controlling Supreme Court authority when it issued the order of stay and abeyance in 2002, the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals remanded the case to this court to analyze the petition for writ of habeas corpus under the new test enunciated in Rhines. Rhines v. Weber, 409 F.3d 982, 983 (8th Cir. 2005). This court was directed to analyze each unexhausted claim to: (1) determine whether Rhines had good cause for his failure to exhaust the claims in state court, (2) determine whether the claims were plainly meritless, and (3) consider whether Rhines had engaged in abusive litigation tactics or intentional delay. Id. (citing Rhines, 544 U.S. at 277-28). On December 19, 2005, this court found that Rhines had good cause for failing to exhaust the claims, the claims were not plainly meritless, and Rhines had not engaged in abusive litigation tactics. Docket 150. The court ordered that Rhines's petition for habeas corpus was stayed pending exhaustion in state court. Id.

On December 21, 2005, Rhines returned to state court to exhaust his claims. On February 27, 2013, the Circuit Court for the Seventh Judicial Circuit of South Dakota entered judgment in favor of respondent on all of Rhines's claims. Rhines timely requested a Certificate of Appealability from both the state Circuit Court and the Supreme Court of South Dakota, the latter of which was denied on July 17, 2013. In early October of 2013, Rhines filed a petition for certiorari with the United States Supreme Court, which the Court denied on January 21, 2014. Docket 223. On February 4, 2014, this court lifted the stay on Rhines's federal habeas corpus proceeding. Docket 224. Rhines now seeks another stay for a minimum of 180 days. Docket 265.


The decision to stay a proceeding is entrusted to a district court's sound discretion. Ryan v. Gonzales, 133 S.Ct. 696, 708 (2013); see also Landis v. N. Am. Co., 299 U.S. 163, 166 (1936) ("... the power to stay proceedings is incidental to the power inherent in every court to control the disposition of the causes on its docket with economy of time and effort for itself, for counsel, and for litigants."). The Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996 (AEDPA) does not deprive courts of that authority, although the court's decision to exercise it should be compatible with the objectives of AEDPA. Rhines, 544 U.S. at 276 (noting two purposes of the Act are ensuring finality and streamlining federal habeas proceedings).[1] "The proponent of a stay bears the burden of establishing its need." Clinton v. Jones, 520 U.S. 681, 708 (1997). Rhines seeks an order staying this proceeding for a minimum of 180 days to investigate new ineffective assistance of trial counsel claims based upon the Supreme Court's decision in Martinez v. Ryan, 132 S.Ct. 1309 (2012). Anticipating the discovery of those additional claims, Rhines also requests permission to file a second amended habeas corpus petition.

Because the Supreme Court's Martinez opinion is intertwined with the doctrine of procedural default, a brief discussion of that doctrine is necessary. Before seeking federal relief under 28 U.S.C. § 2254, a petitioner must "fairly present" the claim to the state courts. Murphy v. King, 652 F.3d 845, 848 (8th Cir. 2011) (citing Baldwin v. Reese, 541 U.S. 27, 29 (2004); 28 U.S.C. § 2254(b)(1) ("An application for a writ of habeas corpus... shall not be granted unless it appears that the applicant has exhausted the remedies available in the courts of the State."). As a rule, a federal court "will not review a question of federal law decided by a state court if the decision of that court rests on a state law ground that is independent of the federal question and adequate to support the judgment." Coleman v. Thompson, 501 U.S. 722, 729 (1991). This rule also serves as a bar to claims raised in federal habeas petitions "when a state court declined to address a prisoner's federal claims because the prisoner had failed to meet a state procedural requirement." Id. at 729-730. The requirement that prisoners first exhaust their claims in state court "protect[s] the state courts' role in the enforcement of federal law and prevent[s] disruption of state judicial proceedings." Rose v. Lundy, 455 U.S. 509, 518 (1982). "[A] habeas petitioner who has failed to meet the State's procedural requirements for presenting his federal claims has deprived the state courts of an opportunity to address those claims in the first instance." Coleman, 501 U.S. 732. "The bar to federal review may be lifted, however, if the prisoner can demonstrate cause for the procedural default in state court and actual prejudice as a result of the alleged violation of federal law." Maples v. Thomas, 132 S.Ct. 912, 922 (2012) (quotations omitted).

In Coleman, 501 U.S. at 752, the Supreme Court observed that "[t]here is no constitutional right to an attorney in a state post-conviction proceeding." As a consequence, "a petitioner cannot claim constitutionally ineffective assistance of counsel in such proceedings." Id. And "it is the petitioner who must bear the burden of [habeas counsel's] failure to follow state procedural rules." Id. at 754. Thus, a petitioner cannot assert the ineffectiveness of habeas counsel as a cause to excuse a procedurally defaulted claim. Id. at 757.

The Supreme Court's Martinez opinion created a "narrow exception" that "modif[ies] the unqualified statement in Coleman that an attorney's ignorance or inadvertence in a postconviction proceeding does not qualify as cause to excuse a procedural default." Martinez, 132 S.Ct. at 1315. Specifically, the Court held that "[i]nadequate assistance of counsel at initial-review collateral proceedings may establish cause for a ...

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