Ellis v. Raemisch, No. 15-1088 (10th Cir. 2017)Annotate this Case
A jury convicted Mark Ellis of five felony offenses and one misdemeanor offense involving child sexual assault on his adopted daughter, V.E. Child sexual assault allegations against Ellis first arose during his contentious divorce from V.E.’s mother. At trial, defense counsel Rowe Stayton argued that Ellis had been falsely accused: that V.E.’s vengeful mother was coaching her, and that V.E.’s sexual knowledge came only from admitted sexual abuse by her older brother. After he was convicted, Ellis moved for postconviction relief in Colorado state district court, alleging his counsel had been constitutionally ineffective for failing to interview and/or call to testify: (1) an expert forensic; and (2) several lay witnesses who could testify in particular about the Ellises’ family dynamics when the allegations arose. The state district court denied relief. The Colorado Court of Appeals affirmed.Ellis never sought review of his ineffective-assistance claim with the Colorado Supreme Court. On appeal to the federal courts Ellis raised similar arguments raised at the state court level. His motion was granted, and the State appealed, arguing the federal district court erred in finding Ellis exhausted state remedies, and in granting habeas relief on Ellis’ ineffective assistance claim. The Tenth Circuit concluded that Ellis adequately exhausted his ineffective assistance claim, but the district court erred in granting him conditional habeas relief on that claim. Any question as to the propriety of the district court’s ninety-day retrial condition was effectively moot because the Tenth Circuit concluded that the district court should not have granted habeas relief in the first place.
The court issued a subsequent related opinion or order on July 7, 2017.