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ELLISON v. KNOWLES

April 21, 2003

RALPH ELLISON, PETITIONER, VS. MIKE KNOWLES, WARDEN, RESPONDENT.


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Charles R. Breyer, United States District Judge

ORDER DENYING PETITION FOR A WRIT OF HABEAS CORPUS

Petitioner, a state prisoner at Mule Creek State Prison in Ione, California, seeks a writ of habeas corpus under 28 U.S.C. § 2254 arguing that his indeterminate sentence of 25 years to life in state prison for drug possession constitutes cruel and unusual punishment in violation of the Eighth Amendment. In light of the Supreme Court's recent decisions in Lockyer v. Andrade, 123 S.Ct. 1166 (2003), and Ewing v. California, 123 S.Ct. 1179 (2003), the petition for a writ of habeas corpus must be denied.

STATEMENT OF THE CASE

On May 18, 2000, petitioner pleaded guilty to possession of a controlled substance, being under the influence of a controlled substance and possession of paraphernalia for smoking a controlled substance in the Superior Court of the State of California in and for the County of Santa Clara. He also admitted that he had six prior serious felony convictions that qualified as strikes under California's Three Strikes Law and that he had served three prior prison terms.

On October 24, 2000, the trial court denied petitioner's request to dismiss the prior serious felony convictions and sentenced him to 25 years to life pursuant to the Three Strikes Law.

On February 28, 2002, the California Court of Appeal affirmed the judgment of conviction and, on May 15, 2002, the Supreme Court of California denied review.

Petitioner then filed the instant federal petition for a writ of habeas corpus under 28 U.S.C. § 2254. Per order filed on September 25, 2002, the court found that the petition, liberally construed, stated a cognizable claim under § 2254 and ordered respondent to show cause why a writ of habeas corpus should not be granted. Respondent has filed an answer to the order to show cause and petitioner has filed a traverse.

FACTUAL BACKGROUND

The California Court of Appeal summarized the facts of the case as follows:

On November 21, 1999, police officers responded to a reported drug overdose at Julian Street Inn. They found defendant lying on a bathroom floor next to a syringe, a soda can bottom, and .14 grams of heroin. He had a belt around his neck. Defendant was 63 years old.
People v. Ellison, No. H022222, slip op. at 2 (Cal. Ct. App. Feb. 28, 2002) (Resp't Ex. F).

DISCUSSION

A. Standard of Review This court may entertain a petition for a 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 writ 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." Id. § 2254(d).

"Under the `contrary to' clause, a federal habeas court may grant the writ if the state court arrives at a conclusion opposite to that reached by [the Supreme] Court on a question of law or if the state court decides a case differently than [the] Court has on a set of materially indistinguishable facts." Williams v. Taylor, 529 U.S. 362, 412-13 (2000). "Under the `reasonable application clause' a federal habeas court may grant the writ if the state court identifies the correct governing legal ...


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