United States District Court, D. Utah
MEMORANDUM DECISION AND ORDER GRANTING MOTION TO
N. Parrish United States District Court Judge
Aaron David Trent Needham, an inmate at Utah State Prison,
petitions for habeas corpus relief. See 28 U.S.C.
§ 2254. Respondent, the State of Utah, has moved to
dismiss the petition. For the reasons set forth below, the
court grants Respondent's Motion to Dismiss Petition for
Writ of Habeas Corpus (ECF No. 24).
entered a guilty plea for passing a bad check. He was
sentenced to a zero-to-five-year term, to run concurrently
with other sentences he was then serving. On direct appeal to
the Utah Court of Appeals, Petitioner's briefing was
inadequate (i.e., he did not specify trial-court
errors), violating the Utah Rules of Appellate Procedure. The
court therefore summarily affirmed his conviction. State
v. Needham, No. 20140658-CA, slip op. at 2 (Utah Ct.
App. Sept. 29, 2015). Petitioner petitioned for certiorari to
the Utah Supreme Court. In his petition, he raised for the
first time the issues that he brings in this federal habeas
case. However, his petition was denied. Needham v
State, 366 P.3d 1213 (Utah 2016) (table). Petitioner did
not apply for state post-conviction relief.
current petition to this court asserts a number of attacks on
his state-court criminal proceedings: for example,
ineffective assistance of counsel, judicial conflict of
interest, and involuntary plea. The State moves for
dismissal, correctly arguing that these grounds are
procedurally defaulted, as the Utah Court of Appeals rejected
them on procedural grounds. All were denied consideration on
the merits because of Petitioner's disregard of the
appellate rules on proper briefing and raising trial-court
error. Needham, No. 20140658-CA, slip op. at 2,
cert. denied, 366 P.3d 1213.
court may not consider issues “defaulted in state court
on independent and adequate state procedural grounds
‘unless [petitioner] can demonstrate cause for the
default and actual prejudice as a result of the alleged
violation of federal law, or demonstrate that failure to
consider the claims will result in a fundamental miscarriage
of justice.'” Hamm v. Saffle, 300 F.3d
1213, 1216 (10th Cir. 2002) (quoting Coleman v.
Thompson, 501 U.S. 722, 750 (1991)).
Utah procedural law, a person is ineligible for
post-conviction relief “upon any ground that: . . . (b)
was raised or addressed at trial or on appeal; (c) could have
been but was not raised at trial or on appeal; [or] (d)
“was raised or addressed in any previous request for
post-conviction relief or could have been, but was not,
raised in a previous request for post-conviction
relief.” Utah Code Ann. § 78B-9-106(1). Further,
Utah's appellate rules require an appellant to provide a
written brief containing a “statement of the issue . .
. presented for review” and arguments incorporating
“reasoned analysis supported by citations to legal
authority and the record” that explain “why the
party should prevail on appeal.” Utah R. App. P. 24(a).
on the court's review of Utah cases, these rules are
“independent and adequate state procedural
ground[s]” for dismissal of Petitioner's case in
that they are “‘strictly or regularly
followed' and employed ‘evenhandedly to all similar
claims.'” See Hamm, 300 F.3d at 1216
(quoting Hickman v. Sears, 160 F.3d 1269, 1271 (10th
Cir. 1998)); Peak Alarm Co. v. Salt Lake City Corp.,
243 P.3d 1221, 1244 (Utah 2010) (declining to address
asserted trial-court error when appellant's brief
provided no meaningful analysis on issue); Giusti v.
Sterling Wentworth Corp., 201 P.3d 966, 976-77 (Utah
2009) (same); Kell v. Utah, 194 P.3d 913, 918 (Utah
2008) (holding post-conviction court correctly dismissed
claims that had been previously raised and rejected, or could
have been but were not raised, on direct appeal); Gardner
v. Galetka, 151 P.3d 968, 969 (Utah 2007) (holding claim
would have been procedurally barred because it could have
been brought in prior post-conviction proceeding);
Hutchings v. Utah, 84 P.3d 1150, 1153 (Utah 2003)
(affirming dismissal of all claims that were raised, or could
have been raised, in prior proceedings); State v.
Wareham, 772 P.2d 960, 966 (Utah 1989) (declining to
address asserted trial-court error when appellant's brief
provided no meaningful analysis on issue); State v.
Loose, 135 P.3d 886, 889-90 (Utah Ct. App. 2006)
(holding inmate barred from bringing post-conviction claim
when issue could have been but was not raised on appeal);
State v. Womack, 967 P.2d 536, 540 n.1 (Utah Ct.
App. 1998) (declining to address asserted trial-court error
when appellant's brief provided no meaningful analysis on
the federal law outlined earlier, this court must therefore
dismiss Petitioner's defaulted claims unless cause and
prejudice or a fundamental miscarriage of justice redeems
their default. See Gonzales v. Jordan, No. 01-6415,
2002 WL 1203905, at *3-4 (10th Cir. June 5, 2002)
argues cause and prejudice exist here. Specifically,
Petitioner asserts that cause and prejudice stem from his
lack of legal resources and experience, health problems, and
discrimination based on his health.
satisfy the ‘cause' standard, Petitioner must show
that ‘some objective factor external to the
defense' impeded his compliance with Utah's
procedural rules.” Dulin v. Cook, 957 F.2d
758, 760 (10th Cir. 1992) (citation omitted). Meanwhile, to
demonstrate prejudice, “‘[t]he habeas petitioner
must show not merely that . . . errors . . . created a
possibility of prejudice, but that they worked to his
actual and substantial disadvantage.'”
Butler v. Kansas, No. 02-3211, 2002 WL 31888316, at
*3 (10th Cir. Dec. 30, 2002) (unpublished) (quoting
Murray v. Carrier, 477 U.S. 478, 494 (1986)).
Petitioner has not met his burden of showing that objective
factors external to the defense hindered him in meeting state
procedural demands. Under Tenth Circuit case law, lack of
legal resources and knowledge (including Petitioner's own
misunderstanding) are insufficient to show cause. Gilkey
v. Kansas, No. 02-3227, 2003 U.S. App. LEXIS, at *6
(10th Cir. Feb. 4, 2003) (unpublished) (holding limited
knowledge of the law is insufficient to show cause for
procedural default); Rodriguez v. Maynard, 948 F.2d
684, 688 (10th Cir. 1991) (concluding petitioner's pro se
status and his corresponding lack of awareness and training
on legal issues do not constitute adequate cause for his
failure to previously raise claims). Indeed, these are
factors that are internal to Petitioner's
“defense.” Further, Petitioner's assertions
that poor health and discrimination (due to his health)
excuse his procedural default are cursorily offered with no
supporting factual detail or evidence.
the Court concludes that Petitioner's issues are
procedurally defaulted. And these issues do not qualify for
consideration under the cause-and-prejudice or
miscarriage-of-justice exceptions to the procedural bar. The
court therefore ...