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JOHNSON v. CALDERON

March 24, 2003

RAYMOND LEON JOHNSON, PETITIONER,
v.
A. CALDERON, RESPONDENT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Susan Illston, United States District Judge.

ORDER DENYING PETITION FOR WRIT OF HABEAS CORPUS
INTRODUCTION

This matter is now before the court for consideration of the merits of Raymond Leon Johnson's pro se petition for writ of habeas corpus concerning his 1999 conviction. For the reasons discussed below, the petition will be denied.

BACKGROUND

A. Procedural History

Following a jury trial in Santa Clara County Superior Court, Raymond Leon Johnson was convicted of rape, forced oral copulation, battery and failing to register as a sex offender. The trial court found true allegations that Johnson had sustained prior felony convictions for rape and assault with force likely to produce great bodily injury, found true an allegation that a prior assault conviction was a serious felony, and found true an allegation that Johnson had served a prior prison term. On June 10, 1999, Johnson was sentenced to a term of 105 years to life in prison. He appealed. His conviction was affirmed by the California Court of Appeal and his petition for review was denied by the California Supreme Court. He filed unsuccessful petitions for writ of habeas corpus in state court.

Johnson filed this action in May 2001. His federal habeas petition contains four claims for relief: First, he alleges that his right to due process was violated when the trial judge denied his motion to sever the charge of failing to register as a sex offender from the other charges. Second, he contends that the trial court's limiting instructions were "ineffective to prevent consideration of [his] convicted felony sex offender status as evidence of his guilt of other charges, thus impermissibly lightening the prosecution's burden of proof and violating [his] federal Constitutional right to be convicted only on a proof beyond a reasonable doubt." Petition For Review, p. 2. Third, he contends that he received ineffective assistance of counsel in that, once the severance motion was denied, counsel failed to consider other ways to prevent the jury from learning of his failure to register as a sex offender, e.g., bifurcation of the trial or a guilty plea to that charge. Fourth, he claims that his sentence amounted to cruel and unusual punishment and violated his right to due process. The parties have briefed the merits of the claims and the matter is ready for a decision.

B. The Crimes

Johnson met Jane Doe in May 1997; they moved in together in July 1997 and the crimes occurred in December 1997. For the most part, their sexual encounters were positive and mutually gratifying. As time went on, however, Johnson became more physically and mentally abusive: he became possessive, controlling, threatening, and even struck her on several occasions. "On three different occasions, she suffered a black eye, a bloody nose and a bloody lip. On another occasion in the car, defendant placed his rope belt and his hands around her neck and hit her. After such incidents, defendant was very apologetic. Ms. Doe was ashamed and allowed the abuse to continue just to survive." Cal. Ct. App. Opinion, p. 3. On the day of the crimes, Johnson confronted Doe when she came home from work late; he accused her of cheating on him and threatened her. He was angry and spoke in a raised voice, then hit her (breaking her glasses and causing a bloody nose and two black eyes). He then had sex with her, despite her protests and requests for him to stop. He left the room, but came back later and forced her to orally copulate him and again forced her to have sex with him, despite her protests and requests for him to stop. Doe did not report the incident to the police until a couple of days later. Johnson had previously threatened to have her killed if she called the police.

Johnson's position at trial was that he and Doe had argued, he had simply slapped her face, and then they made up by having sex on this occasion as they had in the past. He admitted to a police officer when interviewed on December 5, 1997 that he had had sex with Doe, but said the sexual encounters were consensual and that he believed Doe was retaliating against him for threatening to turn her in to authorities for using drugs.

Johnson admitted to the police that he was required to register for a prior felony sex offense conviction and that he had changed addresses several times in the seven months since he had last registered.

DISCUSSION

A. Standard of Review

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. ยง 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 ...


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