Rienhardt v. Shinn

CourtUnited States District Courts. 9th Circuit. United States District Courts. 9th Circuit. District of Arizona
PartiesCharles Bradley Rienhardt, Petitioner, v. David Shinn, et al., Respondents.
Docket NumberCV-03-0290-TUC-DCB
Decision Date08 November 2021

Charles Bradley Rienhardt, Petitioner,

David Shinn, et al., Respondents.

No. CV-03-0290-TUC-DCB

United States District Court, D. Arizona

November 8, 2021



Petitioner Charles Bradley Rienhardt is an Arizona death row inmate. The Court denied his amended petition for writ of habeas corpus on November 4, 2009. (Doc. 126.)

On December 1, 2014, the Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit granted Rienhardt's request for a limited remand, ordering this Court to reconsider more than three dozen of his habeas claims. (Doc. 145.) Specifically, the Court is directed to reconsider, in light of Martinez v. Ryan, 566 U.S. 1 (2012), the ineffective assistance of trial counsel allegations in Claims A(1)-(5), A(7)-(16), B(2), B(4)-(6), B(8), and C(2); to consider whether reconsideration is warranted, in light of Dickens v. Ryan, 740 F.3d 1302 (9th Cir. 2014), as to Claims A(6), B(1), B(3), (B)(7), and C(1), also alleging ineffective assistance of trial counsel; and to “consider in light of intervening law whether expansion of the record and leave to amend the petition are warranted as to [Rienhardt's] recently exhausted claims, ” which allege trial court error and other violations. (Id. at 1-2.)

The issues have been fully briefed. (Docs. 218, 259, 273.)



In 1996, a Pima County jury convicted Rienhardt of first-degree murder among other charges and he was sentenced to death. The following summary of the facts surrounding the crimes is taken from the opinion of the Arizona Supreme Court affirming Rienhardt's convictions and sentences, State v. Rienhardt, 190 Ariz. 579, 582-83, 951 P.2d 454, 457-58 (1997), and from this Court's review of the record.

On the night of September 4, 1995, Rienhardt sought to purchase a large quantity of methamphetamine in Tucson. He arranged to meet two men, Michael Ellis and James Breedlove, at the apartment of co-defendant Charles Nadeau. Rienhardt gave Breedlove $1, 180 with the understanding that Breedlove would return with the drugs. To secure Breedlove's return, the parties agreed that Ellis would remain in the apartment with Rienhardt.

Breedlove never returned. As the evening progressed, Rienhardt became increasingly agitated. He threatened Ellis and insisted that Ellis locate Breedlove by telephone. At one point, Rienhardt called Breedlove's girlfriend, Micki Rowlan, and told her that if Breedlove did not return, he would take Ellis to the desert and drop him off a cliff. Nadeau arrived at the apartment. For reasons that are unclear, Nadeau struck Ellis across the face hard enough to make him bleed. Eventually, Breedlove phoned the apartment stating that the deal was taking longer than expected. Rienhardt threatened to inflict further injury on Ellis for every ten minutes Breedlove failed to return.

Rienhardt and Nadeau eventually left the apartment with Ellis. Two witnesses who arrived at the apartment later discovered a trail of blood leading from the apartment, blood on the living room carpet and on a chair where Ellis had been seated, and pieces of teeth on the floor. They also discovered a shotgun on a couch near the chair.

Later that evening, Rienhardt contacted his girlfriend Christina George. He told her there was a dead body in the car he was driving and asked her to meet him at a Circle K near Reddington Pass. George arrived at the meeting place in a stolen Toyota and after waiting some time for Rienhardt's arrival drove up the Pass where she encountered Rienhardt and Nadeau on foot. Rienhardt told her that their vehicle had gotten stuck on


some rocks. Rienhardt also spoke about the victim, saying he did not die from his shotgun wounds so they had dropped a rock on his head. Rienhardt added, “I have brains all over my pants.”

The group dislodged the vehicle, a white Buick, and drove both cars to a nearby shopping plaza.[1] They decided to burn the Buick. As they were preparing to do so, a sheriff's deputy approached them. The three jumped into the Toyota and a chase ensued. The car broke down and after a foot pursuit Nadeau was arrested. George and Rienhardt were arrested later that day.

Police found blood smeared on the driver's side of the Buick, a bloody towel inside the vehicle, and a large blood stain in the back seat. They also found Ellis's wallet and a shotgun with a missing stock.

The next night, Nadeau led police to Ellis's body. Ellis had been severely beaten about the head and torso and had suffered shotgun wounds. One or two large rocks had been dropped on his head. Pieces of a shotgun stock were found around a pool of blood near the body. The pieces matched the make and model of the shotgun found in the abandoned Buick.

Nadeau's trial was severed from Rienhardt's. George was charged with attempted arson and hindering prosecution. She also faced unrelated felony charges. George entered into a plea agreement in return for testifying against Rienhardt.

The jury found Rienhardt guilty of kidnapping, attempted transfer of a dangerous drug, attempted arson, and first-degree murder. The trial court sentenced him to death on the first-degree murder count.[2] The court found three aggravating factors: that Rienhardt


murdered Ellis in an especially heinous, cruel or depraved manner under A.R.S. § 13-703(F)(6); that he had previously been convicted of a serious offense, § 13-703(F)(2); and that he committed the murder for pecuniary gain, § 13-703(F)(5).[3] Rienhardt waived the presentation of mitigating evidence and the court, after conducting its own review, found no mitigating circumstances sufficiently substantial to call for leniency. On direct appeal, the Arizona Supreme Court struck the pecuniary gain aggravating factor, reweighed the remaining aggravators and the mitigating evidence, and affirmed the death sentence. Rienhardt, 190 Ariz. at 591, 593, 951 P.2d at 466, 468.

After unsuccessfully pursuing postconviction relief (“PCR”) in state court, [4]Rienhardt initiated habeas proceedings in this Court, filing a petition for writ of habeas corpus in 2003 and an amended petition in 2004. (Docs. 1, 38.) He then filed a Notice of Unexhausted Claims. (Doc. 42.)

On September 29, 2004, while the amended habeas petition was pending, Rienhardt filed a second PCR petition, which the state court denied on March 30, 2006, finding the claims precluded under Arizona Rule of Criminal Procedure 32.2(a)(3) because they could have been raised on appeal or during the first PCR proceedings. (Doc. 259-2, Ex. E; Doc. 259-3, Ex. F, ME 3/30/96.) On November 28, 2006, the Arizona Supreme Court summarily denied review.

On September 28, 2005, this Court issued a procedural ruling on Rienhardt's amended habeas petition. (Doc. 80.) The Court dismissed Claims A(1)-(5), A(7)-(16), B(2), B(4)-(6), B(8), C(2), H (in part), I, L, P, and Q-U based on a procedural bar; dismissed the Fifth Amendment aspects of every claim and the Eighth Amendment aspects


of Claims A, C, and G as not cognizable; denied Claims F, J, K, M, and N (in part) on the merits; and denied Rienhardt's request for evidentiary development. (Id.)

On October 18, 2005, Rienhardt moved for leave to file a second amended habeas petition, seeking to add eighteen claims. (Docs. 88, 89.) The Court denied the motion on April 26, 2006, concluding that sixteen of the proposed claims were unexhausted and likely procedurally defaulted because they had not yet been presented to the Arizona Supreme Court and two claims were procedurally defaulted because the PCR court had previously found them precluded. (Doc. 96.) Therefore, amending the habeas petition to add those claims would have been futile. (Id.) The Court also concluded that Rienhardt had unduly delayed bringing his new claims and that Respondents would suffer prejudice if amendment were permitted. (Id.) On November 29, 2006, the Arizona Supreme Court denied Rienhardt's petition for review of the denial of his second PCR petition. (Doc. 251-1, Ex. F.)

On November 4, 2009, this Court denied relief on the merits of the remaining claims in Rienhardt's amended habeas petition-Claims A(6), B(1), B(3), B(7), C(1), D, E, G, H, N, and O-and denied the amended petition. (Doc. 126.) Rienhardt filed his notice of appeal to the Ninth Circuit on January 1, 2010. (Doc. 134.)

The Ninth Circuit issued its limited remand order in December 2014, and this Court set a briefing schedule. (Docs. 145, 147.) Rienhardt filed his opening brief on October 15, 2014. (Doc. 218.)

On December 4, 2015, Rienhardt filed a motion for reconsideration of the Court's 2006 order denying his motion for leave to file an amended petition. (Doc. 238.) The Court denied the motion for reconsideration as outside the scope of the limited remand and alternatively as untimely and meritless. (Doc. 270.)


A. Martinez v. Ryan

Federal review is generally unavailable for a claim that has been procedurally defaulted. In such situations, review is barred unless the petitioner can demonstrate cause


and prejudice or a fundamental miscarriage of justice that excuses the default. Coleman v. Thompson, 501 U.S. 722, 750 (1991). Coleman held that ineffective assistance of counsel in post-conviction proceedings cannot establish cause for a claim's procedural default. Id. In Martinez, however, the Supreme Court announced a new, “narrow exception” to that rule. The Court explained that:

Where, under state law, claims of ineffective assistance of trial counsel must be raised in an initial-review collateral proceeding, a procedural default will not bar a federal habeas court from hearing a substantial claim of ineffective assistance at trial if, in the initial-review collateral proceeding, there was no counsel or counsel in that proceeding was ineffective.

566 U.S. at 17; see also Trevino v. Thaler, 569 U.S. 413, 418 (2013).

Accordingly, under Martinez an Arizona...

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