Hairston v. State

Decision Date03 September 2020
Docket NumberDocket No. 46665
Citation167 Idaho 462,472 P.3d 44
CourtIdaho Supreme Court
Parties James Harvey HAIRSTON, Petitioner-Appellant, v. STATE of Idaho, Respondent.

Federal Public Defender Services of Idaho, Boise, attorneys for Appellant. Jonah Horwitz argued.

Lawrence G. Wasden, Idaho Attorney General, Boise, attorney

SUBSTITUTE OPINION. THE COURT'S PRIOR OPINION DATED JULY 6, 2020 IS HEREBY WITHDRAWN.

BEVAN, Justice

I. NATURE OF THE CASE

This is a successive claim for post-conviction relief in a capital case. James Hairston was sentenced to death after a jury convicted him of two counts of first-degree murder in connection with the deaths of William and Dalma Fuhriman. Hairston was about nineteen and a half when he killed the Fuhrimans. In this, his fourth post-conviction petition, Hairston argues his sentence is unconstitutional because: (1) he was under the age of twenty-one at the time of the offense; and (2) the trial court failed to give adequate consideration to the mitigating factors that must be considered with youthful defendants. The district court dismissed Hairston's first claim after holding that he failed to show that evolving standards of decency prohibited imposing the death penalty for offenders between the ages of eighteen and twenty-one. The court dismissed Hairston's second claim after finding that there was no basis to extend the special sentencing considerations that have been specifically limited to juvenile defendants under eighteen to those under twenty-one. We affirm.

II. FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

This Court summarized the facts leading to Hairston's conviction in State v. Hairston, 133 Idaho 496, 988 P.2d 1170 (1999) ( Hairston I ):

On January 6, 1996, Hairston and a companion, Richard Klipfel, were driving from Grand Junction, Colorado, to Spokane, Washington. They stopped at the Fuhrimans’ ranch because they had run out of money and could not continue their journey. The Fuhrimans invited Hairston and Klipfel into their home and offered to help them find jobs. While Mr. Fuhriman was sitting at a kitchen table looking at a phone book, Hairston shot him in the head and then shot Mrs. Fuhriman. Hairston and Klipfel took $30 in cash, credit cards, and some personal property from the Fuhrimans’ home and continued their journey. Hairston and Klipfel pawned some of the Fuhrimans’ property. They purchased several items with the credit cards including toy remote control cars, tires, food, gas, and lodging. They also attempted to purchase a Harley Davidson motorcycle and $2500 worth of snowboarding equipment, but the credit card was rejected. Hairston and Klipfel were apprehended together near Clarkston, Washington, three days after the murders.

133 Idaho at 500-01, 988 P.2d at 1174-75. On September 6, 1996, a jury found Hairston guilty of two counts of first-degree murder and one count of robbery. Id. at 501, 988 P.2d at 1175. The district court imposed a death sentence for each of the two murders and life in prison for the robbery. Id. Hairston was just over nineteen and a half years old at the time of the murders.

1. Prior claims for post-conviction relief

In 1996, Hairston brought his first petition for post-conviction relief, which was denied. Hairston appealed his conviction and the district court's denial of his post-conviction petition to the Idaho Supreme Court. In 1999, this Court affirmed the district court's denial of post-conviction relief and upheld Hairston's convictions and death sentences on direct appeal. Hairston I, 133 Idaho at 518-19, 988 P.2d at 1192-93.

In 2000, Hairston filed a federal habeas corpus petition, which the U.S. district court dismissed. Hairston v. Blades, No. l:00-CV-00303-BLW, 2011 WL 1219267, at *32 (D. Idaho Mar. 30, 2011). In 2018, the Ninth Circuit vacated the district court's order and remanded for the court to apply Martinez v. Ryan, 566 U.S. 1, 132 S.Ct. 1309, 182 L.Ed.2d 272 (2012), to Hairston's claim that his trial counsel was ineffective in investigating and presenting mitigation evidence at sentencing. Hairston v. Ramirez, 746 F. App'x 633, 634 (9th Cir. 2018).

In 2001, Hairston filed a second petition for post-conviction relief in state court, alleging that he had been deprived of his constitutional right to the effective assistance of counsel on direct appeal and that he had been denied adequate resources during the sentencing hearing and the first post-conviction proceeding. In 2002, Hairston filed a third petition for post-conviction relief, alleging that his death sentence was unconstitutional under Ring v. Arizona , 536 U.S. 584, 122 S.Ct. 2428, 153 L.Ed.2d 556 (2002), which concluded statutory aggravating factors must be found by a jury, rather than the court. Hairston v. State, 144 Idaho 51, 54, 156 P.3d 552, 555 (2007) ( Hairston II ). The district court dismissed both petitions as untimely under Idaho Code section 19-2719. Id. In a consolidated appeal, this Court held that Hairston failed to raise his claims in a timely manner, thus, the consolidated appeals were dismissed. Id. at 59, 156 P.3d at 560. The United States Supreme Court vacated and remanded Hairston II because of Danforth v. Minnesota, 552 U.S. 264, 128 S.Ct. 1029, 169 L.Ed.2d 859 (2008), but only as to the Ring claim. Hairston v. Idaho, 552 U.S. 1227, 128 S.Ct. 1442, 170 L.Ed.2d 272 (2008). The district court dismissed Hairston's claim seeking to vacate his death sentence. Hairston's case was consolidated with several others for appeal, and this Court affirmed the district court after concluding Ring is not retroactive. Rhoades et al. v. State, 149 Idaho 130, 140, 233 P.3d 61, 71 (2010).

2. Current claim for post-conviction relief

On March 16, 2018, Hairston filed a fourth post-conviction petition, contending: (1) it is unconstitutional to execute someone who was under the age of twenty-one at the time of the offense; and (2) the trial court failed to give adequate consideration to the mitigating factors that must be considered with youthful defendants. The State filed an answer alleging, among other affirmative defenses, that Hairston's petition was barred by the statute of limitations in Idaho Code section 19-4902(a). Later, the State moved for summary dismissal under Idaho Code section 19-4906(c).

Hairston later filed an amended petition for post-conviction relief, which raised the same claims, but included additional evidentiary support for his assertion that the Idaho trial courts had evolved beyond the practice of sentencing late-adolescent defendants to death. In part, Hairston submitted an affidavit from Laurence Steinberg, Ph.D., an expert in adolescent development, who concluded that the new, emerging medical and scientific consensus across the country is that defendants between the ages of eighteen and twenty-one are just as deserving of constitutional protection from the death penalty as those defendants eighteen and younger. Hairston alleged that the basis for his petition arose from American Bar Association (ABA) Resolution 111, adopted by its House of Delegates on February 5, 2018, which "urges each jurisdiction that imposes capital punishment to prohibit the imposition of a death sentence on or execution of any individual who was [twenty-one] years old or younger at the time of the offense." The district court took judicial notice of Hairston's exhibits.

After answering Hairston's amended petition, the State again moved for summary dismissal under Idaho Code section 19-4906(c). The State argued Hairston's claims were time-barred and that the authority he relied on was inapplicable to his claims because it only applied to juvenile defendants and Hairston was nineteen at the time of his crimes.

On December 17, 2018, the district court entered an order denying post-conviction relief. The court declined to dismiss Hairston's petition on the grounds that it was untimely, but ultimately dismissed his claims on the merits. The district court dismissed Hairston's first claim after concluding he failed to show that his death sentence diverged from national and Idaho evolving standards of decency. The court dismissed Hairston's second claim after finding that there was no basis to extend the special sentencing considerations that have been specifically limited to juvenile defendants under eighteen to those under twenty-one. Hairston filed a timely notice of appeal to this Court.

III. ISSUES ON APPEAL
1. Is Hairston's successive petition for post-conviction relief time-barred?
2. Is Hairston's death sentence unconstitutional because he was under twenty-one at the time of the offense?
3. Is Hairston's sentence unconstitutional because the district court failed to give proper consideration to the mitigating factors associated with his youth?
IV. STANDARD OF REVIEW

The constitutionality of Idaho's capital sentencing scheme is a question of law over which this Court exercises free review. Rhoades v. State, 149 Idaho 130, 132, 233 P.3d 61, 63 (2010). Idaho Code section 19-4906 authorizes summary disposition of an application for post-conviction relief, either pursuant to motion of a party or upon the court's own initiative. Summary dismissal is permissible only when the applicant's evidence has raised no genuine issue of material fact which, if resolved in the applicant's favor, would entitle the applicant to the requested relief. Cole v. State, 135 Idaho 107, 110, 15 P.3d 820, 823 (2000) (internal citation omitted). Thus, "[s]ummary dismissal sought under the UPCPA [Uniform Post-Conviction Procedure Act] is the procedural equivalent of a motion for summary judgment." Charboneau v. State, 140 Idaho 789, 792, 102 P.3d 1108, 1111 (2004). In determining whether a motion for summary dismissal is properly granted, a court must review the facts in a light most favorable to the petitioner, and determine whether they would entitle petitioner to relief if accepted as true. Ferrier v. State, 135 Idaho 797, 799, 25 P.3d 110, 112 (2001) (internal...

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