and California Supreme Court, and finally denied on June 30, 1999. Id.
Molinar filed the instant petition on August 11, 1999. The petition
alleges that Molinar was denied his due process right to plead guilty to
the charges against him. Pet., ¶. 1-2. Molinar alleges that Superior
Court Judge Grant offered Molinar a maximum sentence of 10 years and 6
months, if petitioner would plead guilty. RT 726:28-727:4; CT 313:4-6.
Molinar argues that he attempted to accept the offer at the readiness
conference, and told Judge Grant that he was "entering a plea of guilty
to everything." RT 727:12-13. However, Judge Grant told Molinar to wait,
and that he wanted to discuss this further in his chambers with Molinar's
trial counsel and the deputy district attorney. RT 727:13-16; CT
313:6-8. One of the issues discussed was whether the prosecution could
use an uncharged event that occurred prior to the plea to later charge
Mr. Molinar under the "Three Strikes" law. RT 727:17-20; CT 313:8-11.
Molinar's trial counsel believed that there was the potential that a
police report statement by a woman who claimed that she was touched on the
breast by Molinar could be charged as a felony sexual battery. See RT
727:21-28. The parties consulted others familiar with the "Three Strikes"
law and found that the issue of whether a prior event could be filed as a
"Three Strikes" offense had not been decided and that no case was pending
on the issue at the time. See CT 313:20-24; RT 727:17-20, 728:7-10.
Molinar's trial counsel was concerned that by entering the plea without a
stipulation from the deputy district attorney not to charge Molinar for
his preplea conduct, Molinar "would, in essence, be pleading himself to
life in prison." See RT 727:24-27. Molinar then "agreed to enter a plea
of everything if the D.A. would just say they would not file the preplea
stuff and call it a third strike." RT 727:28-728:2; see also CT
313:24-26. The deputy district attorney refused to enter into such an
agreement. RT 728:2-4; CT 313:26. Molinar argues that at this point, the
Judge refused to allow Molinar to plead guilty to the charges. Pet., p.
5. Molinar's trial counsel explained that when the "Three Strikes" issue
was not resolved and the deputy district attorney continued to refuse to
agree not to charge a prior offense under "Three Strikes," the Judge then
commented to Molinar's trial counsel, "[t]hen you can't plead. There's
just no way." RT 730:10-16; see also CT 313:26-27.
After the preliminary hearing, Judge Grant offered Molinar 12 years if
Molinar would plead guilty to the charges. RT 728:20-23; CT 314:1-2. The
deputy district attorney still would not enter into an agreement that
"Three Strikes" would only apply to new offenses. CT 314:2-4.
Subsequently, Molinar pled guilty on Counts 7 through 14, and chose to go
to trial on the other counts. CT 350. The only issue in dispute at trial
concerned the ages of two of the victims. RT 728:18-19, 729:11-15.
In the petition now before the Court, Molinar claims that Superior
Court Judge Grant and the deputy district attorney interfered with his
due process right to plead guilty.*fn4 Molinar also claims that he
accepted Judge Grant's offer of 10 years and 6 months in exchange for his
plea of guilty but that the judge would not honor the agreement.
The Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996, 110 Stat.
("AEDPA") applies to this petition for habeas corpus, since it was filed
after April 24, 1996. See Lindh v. Murphy, 521 U.S. 320, 326-327, 117
S.Ct. 2059, 138 L.Ed.2d 481(1997). In relevant part,
28 U.S.C. § 2241-2254, as amended by AEDPA, states that this Court
may entertain a petition for writ of habeas corpus "in behalf of a person
in custody pursuant to the judgment of a State court only on the ground
that he is in custody in violation of the Constitution or laws or
treaties of the United States." 28 U.S.C. § 2254(a). The petition may
not be granted with respect to any claim that was adjudicated on the
merits in state court unless the state court's adjudication of the
claim: "(1) resulted in a decision that was contrary to, or involved an
unreasonable application of, clearly established Federal law, as
determined by the Supreme Court of the United States; or (2) resulted in
a decision that was based on an unreasonable determination of the facts
in light of the evidence presented in the State court proceeding."
28 U.S.C. § 2254(d)(1) and (2).
Under 28 U.S.C. § 2254(d)(1), a federal court may grant a writ of
habeas corpus under the "contrary to" test, with respect to claims
adjudicated on the merits in state court, if the state court either (1)
fails to apply the correct controlling authority, or (2) if it applies
the controlling authority to a case involving facts materially
indistinguishable from those in a controlling case but nonetheless
arrives at a conclusion opposite to that reached by the Supreme Court on
a question of law. See Williams v. Taylor, 529 U.S. 362, 120 S.Ct. 1495,
1519-1520, 146 L.Ed.2d 389(2000); Tran v. Lindsey, 212 F.3d 1143, 1150
(9th Cir. 2000).
Under the "unreasonable application" test, a federal habeas court may
grant a writ of habeas corpus with respect to claims adjudicated on the
merits in state court if the state court identifies the correct governing
legal principle from the Supreme Court's decisions but applies it to a
new set of facts in a way that is objectively unreasonable. See
Williams, 120 S.Ct. at 1520-1521; Tran, 212 F.3d at 1150. Both prongs of
section 2254(d)(1) apply to both questions of law and mixed questions of
law and fact. See Tran, 212 F.3d at 1150. In addition, while the
"contrary to" and "unreasonable application" clauses have independent
meaning, see Williams, 120 S.Ct. at 1519-20, they often overlap which may
necessitate examining petitioner's allegations against both standards.
See Tran, 212 F.3d at 1143, 1149-50.
"[A] federal habeas court may not issue the writ simply because the
court concludes in its independent judgment that the relevant state court
decision applied clearly established federal law erroneously or
incorrectly. Rather, that application must also be unreasonable." See
Williams, 120 S.Ct. at 1522.
The Ninth Circuit has further defined what constitutes an "unreasonable
application" of federal law by applying the "clear error" doctrine. See
Tran, 212 F.3d at 1152-53. Under this test, the federal court must
reverse a state court decision as an unreasonable application of clearly
established federal law when, after independent review of the legal
question, the court is left with a "definite and firm conviction" that an
error was committed — in other words, "that clear error occurred."
Id. at 1152-54.
The Superior Court stated in its decision denying Molinar's writ of
habeas corpus that:
Contrary to counsel's current claim, Judge Grant did
not interfere with the petitioner's right to plead
guilty to the charges. As the court reads the
transcript, Judge Grant made a pre-preliminary
examination offer of 10 years 6 months. Petitioner was
prepared to accept that offer at the readiness
conference but mathematically the minimum would have
to be 10 years 8 months. Before any further action
could be taken, Judge Grant asked to see counsel in
chambers where "he had a number of issues to discuss."
Thereafter, Petitioner did not unequivocally attempt
to accept that offer.
Counsel had a copy of a police report which
indicated that there was an additional uncharged
incident concerning the petitioner. (Reporter's
Transcript p. 727:17-27.) If the D.A. were to file
that case, petitioner would then be facing 25 years to
life as a three strike defendant. The D.A. indicated
that she could make [no] promises regarding that
Counsel was not inclined to allow his client to
proceed where "he would, in essence, be pleading
himself to life in prison." (Id., p. 727:26-27.) "So,
we went ahead and went to the preliminary hearing."
(Id., p. 728:13-14.) After the preliminary hearing,
petitioner proceeded to trial, was convicted and
sentenced to 23 years in the state prison. Petitioner
now wants to revive the 10 year 8 month offer.
On this record, this court does not and cannot find
that petitioner's right to plead guilty was interfered
with by Judge Grant or by any one else. If anything,
the attempt to accept the offer was withdrawn in the
face of the potential exposure to 25 years to life if
the uncharged offense was subsequently filed.
See Answer, Exhibit J. This Court finds that the Superior Court's
decision was not an "unreasonable application" of or "contrary to"
clearly established federal law.
Molinar contends that he has a constitutional right to plead guilty and
that the superior court judge violated this right. The Supreme Court in
North Carolina v. Alford, 400 U.S. 25, 38 n. 11, 91 S.Ct. 160, 168 n.
11, 27 L.Ed.2d 162(1970) stated that a trial judge need not "accept every
constitutionally valid guilty plea merely because a defendant wishes so
to plead" and that "[a] criminal defendant does not have an absolute
right under the Constitution to have his guilty plea accepted by the
court, . . . although the States may by statute or otherwise confer such
a right." The Supreme Court in Santobello v. New York, 404 U.S. 257,
260, 92 S.Ct. 495, 498, 30 L.Ed.2d 427(1971) confirmed that "[t]here is
. . . no absolute right to have a guilty plea accepted" and that "[a]
court may reject a plea in exercise of sound judicial discretion."
This Court recognizes that, as respondent has pointed out, Molinar has
a statutory right to plead guilty under California Penal Code section
859a(a). Section 859a(a) provides in relevant part:
(a) If the public offense charged is a felony not
punishable with death, the magistrate shall
immediately upon the appearance of counsel for the
defendant read the complaint to the defendant and ask
him or her whether he or she pleads guilty or not
guilty to the offense charged therein. . . . While the
charge remains pending before the magistrate and when
defendant's counsel is present, the defendant may
plead guilty to the offense charged. . . . Upon
accepting the plea of guilty . . . the magistrate
shall certify the case . . . to the court in which
judgment is to be pronounced . . . and thereupon the
proceeding shall be had as if the defendant had
pleaded guilty in that court.
Cal.Penal Code § 859a(a).