9th Circuit affirms denial of habeas relief to Arizona death row inmate Roger Murray
Posted on: 3/20/2014 03:58:07 PM by Peoples
The Ninth Circuit (Rawlinson, with Bybee and Ikuta) affirmed the denial of Roger Murray’s habeas petition.  (Roger) Murray v. Schriro (9th Cir. March 17, 2014).  The court first ruled that the Arizona Supreme Court’s denial of Murray’s change of venue claim was not contrary to or an unreasonable application of clearly established federal law.  (The state supreme court had determined that prejudice could not be presumed on the record before it and that Murray had failed to establish actual prejudice.) The appeals court rejected Murray’s argument that the legal standard for prejudice is lower in capital cases.   Next, the appeals court found that an equal protection/fair cross-section challenge to the exclusion of Christians from the jury was unexhausted, procedurally defaulted and without merit.   Murray’s Batson claim failed for the reasons set out in his brother Robert’s decision.   The Arizona Supreme Court’s ruling on the denial of trial counsel’s request to revisit the crime was not contrary to or an unreasonable application of Supreme Court precedent.  That the state court did not expressly address the federal basis for the claim did not mean AEDPA’s restrictions were inapplicable.  The Arizona Supreme Court’s denial of Murray’s claim that the trial court’s omission of an intoxication instruction constituted a due process violation was not contrary to or an unreasonable application
of clearly established federal law.   The Arizona Supreme Court’s ruling that Murray was not entitled to a lesser-included offense instruction on this record was not contrary to or an unreasonable application of clearly established federal law.  There was no clear indication in the record that the Arizona Supreme Court’s statement that Murray had failed to show how his dysfunctional upbringing impacted his actions at the time of the capital offense amounted to an impermissible screening mechanism.  Even if, however, the state supreme court improperly committed a causal nexus error, the error was harmless.  Assuming that a claim that trial counsel had a conflict of interest was procedurally barred, Martinez v. Ryan could not provide a basis for overcoming the default because the claim was not substantial.  The post-conviction court’s rejection of an IAC claim that was premised on counsel allegedly dozing during the trial was not based on an unreasonable determination of the facts.  The Arizona Supreme Court’s rejection of Murray’s claim that he was denied a full and fair hearing on his sleeping lawyer claim because the post-conviction judge had also been the trial judge and was biased was not contrary to or an unreasonable application of clearly established Supreme Court precedent.  The post-conviction court’s fact-finding procedure was not unreasonable where it resolved an IAC claim premised on the failure to locate and present an exculpatory witness based on its ruling on the same claim after an evidentiary hearing when raised by Murray’s brother.  The state court finding that the claim failed on both prongs of Strickland given the unavailability of the witness and the overwhelming evidence of guilt was not contrary to or an unreasonable application of Strickland.