Pryor v. Ryan, No. CV-12-00526-TUC- BGM

CourtUnited States District Courts. 9th Circuit. United States District Courts. 9th Circuit. District of Arizona
Writing for the CourtHonorable Bruce G. Macdonald United States Magistrate Judge
PartiesOliver Michael Pryor, Petitioner, v. Charles L. Ryan, et al., Respondents.
Decision Date28 September 2015
Docket NumberNo. CV-12-00526-TUC- BGM

Oliver Michael Pryor, Petitioner,
Charles L. Ryan, et al., Respondents.

No. CV-12-00526-TUC- BGM


September 28, 2015


Currently pending before the Court is Petitioner Lyndall Dwaine Thompson's pro se First Amended Petition Under 28 U.S.C. § 2254 for a Writ of Habeas Corpus by a Person in State Custody (Non-Death Penalty) ("First Amended Petition") (Doc. 11). Respondents have filed an Answer to Petition for Writ of Habeas Corpus ("Answer") (Doc. 17). Petitioner filed a Reply (Doc. 21). The First Amended Petition is ripe for adjudication.


The Arizona Court of Appeals stated the facts1 as follows:

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The victims, M. and K., were the granddaughters of Pryor's wife, Gail. Gail often watched the girls for her daughter Michelle while Michelle worked. Gail also worked, and at times, Pryor took care of the girls when both Gail and Michelle were working. During the summer of 2004, when school was not in session, the girls would spend a few days each week at Pryor and Gail's home, sleeping there some of the nights. Once school started in August, the girls would spend the night with Pryor and Gail if Michelle was on call at work and they could not stay with their father. Michelle testified that at one point during the summer, the girls no longer wanted to go to Gail's home. Over Pryor's objection, Michelle testified that in February 2006, the children had told her Pryor had touched them without their clothes on. The girls had told two of their cousins what had happened, and the cousins urged the girls to tell their mother. Michelle called the Pima County Sheriff's office, and Tucson Police Department Detective Katherine Kragnes subsequently responded. The girls were interviewed by a person qualified to conduct a forensic interview of children.

K. testified she had been eight or nine years old when the detective had interviewed her. She stated her grandpa more than once had put his mouth on her vagina. A drawing she had provided police was admitted as an exhibit; she explained the drawing depicted M. and Pryor in bed and showed his penis, which she explained had some "[l]ittle hairs." She also admitted telling the detective Pryor had "rubb[ed]" her "butt" with his hand. She recalled telling the detective about one incident in which Pryor had kissed her and her sister "in the wrong places" and about how she had seen "white stuff c[o]me out" of his penis. She admitted telling the prosecutor and defense counsel during an interview that "white stuff . . . went in [her] mouth sometimes." She also testified she and her sister had seen a videotape at Pryor's house that showed a man putting his mouth on and rubbing a girl's private parts and a woman putting her mouth on a man's private parts.

M. testified about a number of incidents during which Pryor had touched her on her "chest, . . . bottom, . . . [and] private area." She described how Pryor squeezed her breasts under her clothes and how, on many occasions, he had gone into the room where she and her sister K. were sleeping and told her to lick his penis. He also made her "[p]ut [her]

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mouth around it." She and K. licked his penis and "white stuff" came out. He also twice touched her inside her private parts with his hand. She described a game in which she and K. would take turns to see who could make him "happy fastest," which she said meant ejaculate. Pryor once paid K. $20 for making him happy fastest.

Michelle's husband Jeff, the children's stepfather, confronted Pryor at Gail's house after the children told Michelle what had been happening. Pryor denied molesting them. Detective Kragnes confronted Pryor and asked him if he would talk to her. She met with him and took a statement from him, which she recorded.

Answer (Doc. 17), Ariz. Ct. of Appeals Mem. Decision (Exh. "G") at ¶¶ 2-5 (alterations in original).

Petitioner was charged with two counts of continuous sexual abuse of a child, dangerous crimes against children, and two counts of furnishing obscene or harmful items to minors. Id., Exh. "G" at ¶ 1. On September 15, 2008, a jury found Petitioner guilty of all counts. Id., Ariz. Superior Ct., Pima County, Minute Entry 9/15/2008 (Exh. "A") at 1-2. On October 23, 2008, Petitioner was sentenced to the presumptive term of twenty (20) years imprisonment for each count of continuous sexual abuse of a child, to run consecutively. Id., Ariz. Superior Ct., Pima County, Order 10/23/2008 (Exh. "B") at 2-3. Petitioner was also sentenced to the presumptive term of 2.5 years for each count of furnishing harmful items to a minor, to run concurrently with each other, but consecutively from the second twenty (20) year term. Id., Exh. "B" at 3-4.

A. Direct Appeal

On October 23, 2008, Petitioner filed his Notice of Appeal. Answer (Doc. 17), Notice of Appeal 10/23/2008 (Exh. "C"). On April 7, 2009, Petitioner filed his Opening Brief. Id., Appellant's Opening Br. 4/7/2009 (Exh. "D"). Petitioner alleged three (3)

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claims for relief, including that (1) the trial court "abused its discretion in denying the motion in limine to preclude evidence of Appellant's arrest in Mexico[,] [and] giving a flight instruction unsupported by the facts[;]" (2) the trial court "erred in denying [Appellant's] Rule 20 motion challenging that the state had not proved continuous sexual abuse per statute in counts one and two[;]" and (3) the trial court erred in "admit[ting] the testimony of Michelle Wright regarding what the girls told her, it being inadmissible hearsay and not within any proper exception[.]" Id., Exh. "D" at 25-39.

On October 21, 2009, the Arizona Court of Appeals affirmed Petitioner's convictions. See Answer (Doc. 17), Ariz. Ct. App. Mem. Decision 10/21/2009 (Exh. "G"). In assessing Petitioner's claim regarding the trial court's admission of evidence regarding Petitioner's move to Mexico prior to being charged, the court of appeals recognized that "[t]he mere fact that Pryor had an explanation for why he left the country did not render the evidence irrelevant." Id., Exh. "G" at 7. Relying on Arizona state case law and procedural rules, the court of appeals determined that the "alternative explanation for flight goes to weight not admissibility of evidence and does not preclude instruction." Id. (citing State v. Hunter, 136 Ariz. 45, 49, 664 P.2d 195, 199 (Ariz. 1983)). Again relying on state case law, the court of appeals further found that the evidence was not unduly prejudicial. Answer (Doc. 17), Exh. "G" at 8. As such, the court of appeals found that the trial court did not abuse its discretion. Id., Exh. "G" at 7-8.

The Arizona Court of Appeals also rejected Petitioner's contention "that the trial court erred when it instructed the jury it could infer guilt from evidence of flight." Id.,

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Exh. "G" at 8. The court of appeals noted that although Petitioner objected to the evidence of flight, he did not expressly object to the instruction. Id., Exh. "G" at 9. As such, Petitioner's only ground for relief in the appellate court was one for fundamental error. Id. (citing State v. Dann, 220 Ariz. 351, ¶ 51, 207 P.3d 604, 617 (Ariz. 2009)). Again relying on state law, the court of appeals went on to hold that in light of the evidence, the jury had been properly instructed, and even if the instruction were fundamental error, Petitioner had not met his burden of establishing prejudice. Id., Exh. "G" at 9-10.

Regarding Petitioner's Rule 20 motion, the Arizona Court of Appeals recognized that "[a] Rule 20 motion should only be granted if there is no substantial evidence to support the conviction." Answer (Doc. 17), Exh. "G" at 10 (citing Ariz. R. Crim. P. 20(a)). The court defined "substantial evidence" as "more than a mere scintilla and is such proof that 'reasonable persons could accept as adequate and sufficient to support a conclusion of defendant's guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.'" Id., Exh. "G" at 10-11 (quoting State v. Mathers, 165 Ariz. 64, 67, 796 P.2d 866, 869 (Ariz. 1990)). Upon review of the evidence presented at trial, the court of appeals held that "reasonable jurors readily could find beyond a reasonable doubt that Pryor had engaged in at least three sexual acts with the victims for a period of three months or longer[,]" and as such the trial court did not abuse its discretion in denying Petitioner's Rule 20 motion. Id., Exh. "G" at 11-12.

Concerning Petitioner's contention that "the trial court erred in admitting the statements the victims had made to their mother over his [hearsay] objection[,]" the court

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of appeals held that "[t]o the extent the testimony . . . was presented for the truth of the matter asserted it was cumulative." Answer (Doc. 17), Exh. "G" at 12-13. The court further held that "[a]ny error in its admission was therefore harmless beyond a reasonable doubt." Id., Exh. "G" at 13 (citing State v. Dickens, 187 Ariz. 1, 19, 926 P.2d 468, 486 (Ariz. 1996); State v. Eastlack, 180 Ariz. 243, 256-57, 883 P.2d 999, 1012-13 (Ariz. 1994)).

Petitioner did not seek review of this decision with the Arizona Supreme Court. Answer (Doc. 17), Ariz. Ct. App. Mandate 12/2/2009 (Exh. "H"); Petition (Doc. 1) at 3.

B. Initial Post-Conviction Relief Proceeding

On February 3, 2010, Petitioner filed his Notice of Post-Conviction Relief ("PCR"). Answer (Doc. 17), Not. of PCR 2/3/2010 (Exh. "I"). On September 10, 2010,...

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