Larsen v. Soto

Summarized by:

  • Court: 9th Circuit Court of Appeals Archives
  • Area(s) of Law: Habeas Corpus
  • Date Filed: 09-16-2013
  • Case #: 10-56118
  • Judge(s)/Court Below: Circuit Judge Wardlaw for the Court; Circuit Judges Canby and Reinhardt
  • Full Text Opinion

A habeas petitioner who presents new evidence of innocence that “convincingly undermine[s] the State’s case” is entitled to have his claims heard on the merits despite the fact that the petition is untimely.

In 1999, Daniel Larsen was convicted of possession of a deadly weapon and sentenced to 28 years to life under California’s three strike law. In 2000, the California Court of Appeals confirmed the conviction, and the California Supreme Court denied review. In 2005, Larsen filed a habeas petition in state court arguing he had ineffective assistance of counsel because his attorney had failed to call potentially exculpatory witnesses. Larsen attached several declarations from witnesses stating that he was not the one in possession of a deadly weapon. All three California courts denied relief. In 2008, Larsen filed a federal habeas petition based on the same ineffective assistance of counsel. The Anti-terrorism and Effect Death Penalty Act imposes a one year limitation from the date the conviction becomes final, and thus Larsen’s petition was facially untimely. Warden John Soto filed a motion to dismiss based on the facial untimeliness. The Supreme Court, however, has long held that in a “narrow class of cases…implicating a federal miscarriage of justice,” federal courts may hear the merits of a habeas petition even though a procedural bar exists. If a petitioner can show that “no reasonable juror would have found petitioner guilty beyond a reasonable doubt,” then he is entitled to have his claim heard on the merits. Based on this precedent, the district court denied Soto’s motion to dismiss and undertook the analysis set forth in McQuiggin v. Perkins. Soto then appealed the denial of the motion. The Ninth Circuit affirmed the district court’s denial, holding that Larsen showed proof of innocence sufficient to grant him a hearing on the merits and that remand was unnecessary because the district court already undertook the analysis prescribed by Perkins. AFFIRMED.

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