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Elder v. Farris

United States District Court, W.D. Oklahoma

March 27, 2018

MICHAEL SCOTT ELDER, Petitioner,
v.
JIM FARRIS, Warden, Respondent.

          ORDER

          JOE HEATON CHIEF U.S. DISTRICT JUDGE.

         Petitioner is a state prisoner seeking habeas relief under 28 U.S.C. § 2254. He was convicted by a jury of first degree manslaughter in the District Court of Oklahoma County. He appealed to the Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals (“OCCA”), which affirmed his conviction and sentence in an unpublished opinion. He later filed this case.

         This matter was referred to Magistrate Judge Gary Purcell for initial proceedings. Judge Purcell has issued a report and recommendation (the “Report”) recommending that the petition be denied. Petitioner has objected to the Report, triggering de novo review of those matters to which objection is made.

         Standard of review

         The standard for the court's review was accurately stated in the Report and petitioner does not appear to argue otherwise. A state prisoner seeking habeas relief on the basis of a claim adjudicated on the merits in state court must meet the standards of 28 U.S.C. § 2254(d), which provides:

An application for a writ of habeas corpus on behalf of a person in custody pursuant to the judgment of a State court shall not be granted with respect to any claim that was adjudicated on the merits in State court proceedings unless the adjudication of the claim-
(1) resulted in a decision that was contrary to, or involved an unreasonable application of, clearly established Federal law, as determined by the Supreme Court of the United States; or
(2) resulted in a decision that was based on an unreasonable determination of the facts in light of the evidence presented in the State court proceeding.

         This standard is deferential to the state court's determination of the disputed issues. Williams v. Taylor, 529 U.S. 362, 286 (2000). The question is not how the federal court might have resolved a question if presented with it in the first instance. Rather, the focus is whether the state court's resolution of the issue was unreasonable, a “substantially higher threshold.” Schriro v. Landrigan, 550 U.S. 465, 473 (2007).

         “Under § 2254(d), a habeas court must determine what arguments or theories supported . . . the state court's decision; and then it must ask whether it is possible fairminded jurists could disagree that those arguments or theories are inconsistent with the holding in a prior decision of [the Supreme] Court.” Harrington v. Richter, 562 U.S. 86, 102 (2011). Relief is warranted only “where there is no possibility fairminded jurists could disagree that the state court's decision conflicts with [the Supreme Court's] precedents.” Id. (emphasis added). The deference embodied in “Section 2254(d) reflects the view that habeas corpus is a ‘guard against extreme malfunctions in the state criminal justice systems, ' not a substitute for ordinary error correction through appeal.” Id. at 102-03 (citation omitted).

         Analysis

         The factual background of plaintiff's case is set forth in some detail in the Report and need not be repeated here. Petitioner's objection does not challenge the Report's description of the facts, but points to other facts he asserts are relevant and also draws different inferences from the facts described in the Report.

         Petitioner challenges his conviction on five grounds: (1) insufficient evidence to support the verdict, (2) the trial court's failure to properly instruct the jury, (3) the trial court's exclusion of evidence, (4) prosecutorial misconduct, and (5) cumulative error. All five of these grounds were presented to the OCCA and rejected by it, and are hence subject to the deferential standard of review described above.

         1. Ground One: ...


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