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Law School Case Brief

Harris v. Carter - No. C05-885JLR, 2009 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 51332 (W.D. Wash. June 18, 2009)


In order to fairly present, and thus exhaust, a federal claim, a habeas corpus petitioner must describe in the state proceedings both the operative facts and the federal legal theory on which his claim is based so that the state courts have a fair opportunity to apply controlling legal principles to the facts bearing upon his constitutional claim.


Petitioner was convicted by a jury in Washington State court in 1996 for aggravated first degree murder. He is currently serving a sentence of life imprisonment without the possibility of parole. Petitioner filed a 28 U.S.C.S. § 2254 petition for a writ of habeas corpus and the Magistrate found that one claim remained unexhausted in state court.


Should the petition for habeas corpus be denied and the action be dismissed with prejudice?




The court adopted without modification the magistrate's Report and Recommendations (R&R) as to its analysis and dismissal of grounds two through six. Further, the Court adopted the portion of the R&R that addressed the portion of ground one involving Harris’  Sixth Amendment right to confront witnesses in light of the Bruton decision and its progeny. With regard to those portions of ground one that the magistrate recommended dismissing on procedural grounds, dismissal was appropriate, but the R&R was modified. The legal theory for Harris’ Sixth Amendment confrontation claim under the Bruton decision was conceptually distinct from his legal theory under the Roberts decision. Because he did not provide the Washington State Supreme Court with the operative legal theory for a claim under the Roberts decision, the magistrate correctly found that portion of the inmate's claim was unexhausted. Contrary to the Harris’ assertion, the magistrate did not err in sua sponte raising the Teague non-retroactivity bar to the Crawford decision. The Crawford decision was not available to Harris as a basis for habeas corpus relief.

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