The opinion of the court was delivered by: Thelton E. Henderson, United States District Judge
Petitioner, Mendes Stanley Brown, has petitioned for writ of habeas
corpus pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254. Brown seeks an order vacating
his murder conviction and sentence of imprisonment for life without
parole on grounds that the selection of the grand jury foreperson
violated his equal protection and due process rights under the United
States Constitution. Specifically, Brown, an African-American, alleges
that his rights were violated because no Chinese-Americans,
Filipino-Americans or Hispanic-Americans had served as foreperson of a
San Francisco indictment grand jury for the 36-year period from 1960
to 1996. While the length of this period is troubling, the Court
for the reasons discussed below, that Brown's habeas
petition must nonetheless be denied.
FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND
On May 11, 1995, a San Francisco grand jury returned an indictment
against Brown charging him with first degree murder with use of a firearm
and use of a deadly weapon, robbery and burglary with use of a firearm
and being an ex-felon in possession of a firearm. Brown sought to quash
the indictment based on the grounds that the selection of the grand jury
foreperson violated his right to equal protection and due process under
the United States Constitution. After ten days of hearings, the trial
court denied that motion.
The court ruled that, for equal protection purposes, Brown had
established a prima facie showing of discriminatory purpose in the
exclusion of Chinese-Americans and Hispanic-Americans from the position
of grand jury foreperson. Nonetheless the court found that the
presumption of improper purpose had been overcome by the city because its
"selection criteria and procedures are racially neutral and do not
present an opportunity for discrimination." People v. Brown,
75 Cal.App.4th 916, 921 (1999).
Similarly, the trial court held that Brown was not denied due process
because any discrimination which may have occurred during the selection
of the grand jury foreperson was "not so significant" as to impugn the
fairness of the process and thereby "undermine the integrity of the
indictment." Id. Brown subsequently waived his right to a jury trial and
was found guilty by the court on all counts and sentenced to life in
prison without the possibility of parole. Brown appealed his convictions
on the same grounds as his motion to quash. The appellate court affirmed
the decision of the trial court. Brown, 75 Cal.App.4th 916 (1999).
In its equal protection analysis, the appellate court held that Brown,
an African-American, had standing to challenge the exclusion of other
cognizable groups (Chinese- and Hispanic-Americans) from the position of
grand jury forepersons. Id. at 922 (citing Campbell v. Louisiana,
523 U.S. 392 (1998)). The court further found that Brown had made a prima
facie showing of discrimination under Castaneda's three-prong test. Id.
at 924 (citing Castaneda v. Partida, 430 U.S. 482, 494-495 (1977)).
Specifically, the court found that (1) Hispanic and Chinese-Americans were
a cognizable class, (2) the statistical evidence presented demonstrated
substantial under representation of Hispanic or Chinese-American grand
jury forepersons over 36 years, and (3) Brown "contended that the
selection of the foreperson was susceptible of manipulation for a
nonracially neutral outcome because the presiding judge makes his or her
selection after conducting voir dire of the prospective jurors and thus
after having an opportunity to observe the jurors and note their race or
ethnicity." Id. at 924-925.
The appellate court thereafter addressed Brown's due process
challenge. The court held that Brown had standing to raise the due
process claim. Id. at 929 (citing Campbell, 523 U.S. 392, 401 (1998)).
Nevertheless, the court found that Brown had failed to show any actual
prejudice and denied the claim under a harmless error analysis. Id. at 930
(citing People v. Corona, 211 Cal.App.3d 529, 537 (1989)). Brown's
Petition for Writ of Certiorari in the United States Supreme Court was
denied. Brown v. California. 531 U.S. 830 (2000).
This court has subject matter jurisdiction over this habeas action for
relief under 28 U.S.C. § 2254, 28 U.S.C. § 1331. This action is
in the proper venue because the challenged conviction occurred in San
Francisco County, California, which is located within this judicial
district. 28 U.S.C. § 2241(d).
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); see Williams (Terry) v. Taylor, 529 U.S. 362
Prisoners in state custody who wish to challenge collaterally in
federal habeas proceedings either the fact or length of their confinement
are required first to exhaust state judicial remedies, either on direct
appeal or through collateral proceedings. They must present the highest
state court available with a fair opportunity to rule on the merits of
each and every claim they seek to raise in federal court. See
28 U.S.C. § ...