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Vann v. State

United States District Court, D. Alaska

July 29, 2015

JOHN WHITEHORSE VANN, [1] Petitioner,
v.
STATE OF ALASKA, Respondent.

ORDER REGARDING PETITION

SHARON L. GLEASON, District Judge.

On July 9, 2015, John Whitehorse Vann, a state prisoner representing himself, filed a Petition for Writ of Habeas Corpus under 28 U.S.C. § 2254, challenging his 30-year sentence and conviction for sexual assault and kidnapping in State of Alaska Superior Court Case Number 3SW-03-00116CR.[2] Under Rule 4 of the Rules Governing Section 2254 Cases, the Court must review the petition to determine whether "it plainly appears from the face of the petition and any attached exhibits that the petitioner is not entitled to relief in the district court."[3] If so, "the judge must dismiss the petition."[4]

1. When filing a federal habeas petition, a petitioner must comply with the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act.

A petition filed under § 2254 "is governed by the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996 (AEDPA)."[5] The Supreme Court explains as follows:

AEDPA instructs that, when a federal habeas petitioner challenges the factual basis for a prior state-court decision rejecting a claim, the federal court may overturn the state court's decision only if it was "based on an unreasonable determination of the facts in light of the evidence presented in the State court proceeding." 28 U.S.C. § 2254(d)(2). The prisoner bears the burden of rebutting the state court's factual findings "by clear and convincing evidence." § 2254(e)(1).... [This Court] reiterate[s] "that a state-court factual determination is not unreasonable merely because the federal habeas court would have reached a different conclusion in the first instance."... AEDPA likewise imposes a highly deferential standard for reviewing claims of legal error by the state courts: A writ of habeas corpus may issue only if the state court's decision "was contrary to, or involved an unreasonable application of, clearly established Federal law, as determined by" this Court. § 2254(d)(1).[6]

Under § 2254, habeas relief is available to a state prisoner only if his custody violates federal law.[7] A claim for habeas relief must include reference to a specific federal constitutional guarantee, as well as a statement of the facts that entitle the petitioner to relief.[8]

2. A habeas petitioner must fully exhaust his or her state court remedies before bringing a federal petition for writ of habeas corpus.

Habeas relief is not available "unless the applicant has exhausted the remedies available in the courts of the State."[9] That is, "[b]efore seeking a federal writ of habeas corpus, a state prisoner must... giv[e] the State the opportunity to pass upon and correct' alleged violations of its prisoners' federal rights."[10] To satisfy the exhaustion requirement, a "prisoner must fairly present' his claim in each appropriate state court (including a state supreme court with powers of discretionary review), thereby alerting that court to the federal nature of the claim."[11]

Further, the United States Supreme Court has held that "review under § 2254(d)(1) is limited to the record that was before the state court that adjudicated the claim on the merits. Section 2254(d)(1) refers, in the past tense, to a state-court adjudication that resulted in' a decision that was contrary to, or involved' an unreasonable application of, established law. This backward-looking language requires an examination of the state-court decision at the time it was made. It follows that the record under review is limited to the record in existence at that same time, i.e., the record before the state court."[12]

The Court takes judicial notice[13] that Mr. Vann appears to have fully exhausted Ground 3, his claim that DNA evidence should not have been presented by one lab technician about the results of DNA testing conducted by another lab technician, in violation of the Confrontation Clause.[14]

Mr. Vann, however, brings three other claims for relief. In Ground 1, he claims that he received ineffective assistance of counsel as to several issues; in Ground 2, he claims a "violation of the rape shield law" for being prohibited from presenting evidence of the "complaining witness' prior false allegations of sexual assault"; and in Ground 4 he claims that he was denied his right to a speedy trial.[15] The Court of Appeals decision does not mention any of those grounds for relief in its decision on direct appeal.[16]

The public record shows that, after Mr. Vann completed his direct appeal, he filed a petition for post-conviction relief in the Superior Court for the State of Alaska.[17] That case was dismissed on January 29, 2015.[18] Mr. Vann has filed an appeal from that decision, which is pending before the Alaska Court of Appeals, and is currently in the briefing stage.[19] Thus, Mr. Vann may be in the process of exhausting his remaining grounds for relief.[20]

3. The federal habeas statute of limitations is tolled while a properly filed state petition for ...


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