The opinion of the court was delivered by: Charles R. Breyer, United States District Judge.
Petitioner was convicted by a jury on February 11, 1999, in the Superior Court of the State of California in and for the County of Contra Costa of possession of ephedrine with intent to manufacture methamphetamine. On the same day, the jury found true the enhancements related to three prior drug-related convictions. On June 17, 1999, petitioner was sentenced to an aggravated term of six years for the substantive offense and a consecutive term of three years for the first prior conviction enhancement. The court struck the remaining two enhancements.
Petitioner appealed his conviction to the California Court of Appeal, claiming that evidence of his prior convictions should not have been admitted during trial. The state court of appeal affirmed the conviction on July 20, 2000. A petition for review by the California Supreme Court was denied on September 27, 2000.
On September 8, 2000, while his petition for review was still pending, petitioner filed a state petition for writ of habeas corpus in the California Court of Appeal. The petition was denied on September 14, 2000, without prejudice to re-filing in the Contra Costa County Superior Court. Petitioner then filed a state petition for writ of habeas corpus in the superior court on the grounds that his trial counsel had been constitutionally ineffective by failing to inform him that his prior convictions could be admitted. An evidentiary hearing was held on March 12, 2001, after which the petition was denied from the bench. Finally, petitioner exhausted his pursuit of relief from the state courts by filing a petition for writ of habeas corpus in the California Supreme Court, which was denied without comment on November 28, 2001.
Petitioner then filed the instant petition for writ of habeas corpus under 28 U.S.C. § 2254. An order to show cause why a writ of habeas corpus should not be granted was issued to respondent on April 15, 2002. Respondent filed an answer. Petitioner then filed a traverse.
The California Court of Appeal summarized the facts of the case as follows:
Richmond Police Officer La Raunce Robinson testified
that on the night of September 22, 1998, he stopped
[petitioner], who was driving alone in a red Acura,
for driving without a license p late. On the passenger
seat next to [petitioner] the officer observed a
cellular phone and a pager that was vibrating and
moving around. At the officer's request, [petitioner]
consented to a personal search and to a search of the
car. Officer Robinson, who had been joined at the
scene by other officers and a canine unit, proceeded
to search [petitioner] and found $2,085 in cash. The
dog from the canine unit was trained in drug
detection, and was set free to search the car. The do
detected nothing in the interior of the car, but did
alert on a red and black duffel bag in the trunk.
Inside the bag the police found aluminum foil, a pie
cutter, Ziplock Bags, a portable scale, and a brown
paper bag containing a white crystal substance that
later tested positive for ephedrine or pseudoephedrine
weighing 22.22 grams. A forensic toxicologist later
testified that ephedrine is used in the manufacture of
There was another bag in the trunk with clothing and
other items, including several receipts with
[petitioner's] name on them. The dog alerted a second
time to the area around one of the car's brake
lights, behind which the officers found a brown bag
containing $8,000 in cash. The dog handler testified
that do was trained to alert to several illegal drugs
including methamphetamine, but not ephedrine. The
handler concluded there must have been a trace of an
illegal drug on the bag containing the ephedrine and
on the money.
The prosecution called two law enforcement experts
on methamphetamine manufacturing. Each was given a
hypothetical scenario paralleling [petitioner's]
case, and asked to form an opinion whether the
ephedrine was possessed for the purpose of
manufacturing methamphetamine. Both were of the
opinion that given the circumstances of the
hypothetical, the ephedrine was possessed for that
purpose. One of the experts testified the amount of
ephedrine found in the car was substantial, and could
be used to produce 11 grams of methamphetamine.
The defense also called an expert in the manufacture
of methamphetamine, who was given a hypothetical
similar to the one given the prosecution's experts and
asked to form an opinion regarding whether the
ephedrine was possessed with the intent to manufacture
methamphetamine. In his opinion it was "not convincing
or compelling . . . that it has to do with manufacture
of methamphetamine." He based his opinion in part on
the fact that many items necessary for the manufacture
of methamphetamine were missing, such as a cooker,
heater, boiler, thermostat and funnel. He also
testified that the quantity of ephedrine found was
enough to make $400 worth of methamphetamine, which
was the amount one might use in a week.
In addition to its expert, the defense called
[petitioner's] father, brother, and girlfriend. His
father, Gus Aragon, testified that [petitioner] lived
with him from September 1997 to September 1998. During
some of that time [petitioner] worked for All American
Roofing. [Petitioner] also worked for someone named
Kent, helping him fix up wrecked cars. Kent owned the
red Acura [petitioner] was driving when he was
arrested. [Petitioner] was working on the Acura for
Kent, and drove it sometimes, but he regularly drove a
truck his father had bought him.
[Petitioner's] brother, Steve Aragon, also lived
with his father. He testified that [petitioner] helped
do heavy work around the house, and worked for All
Amencan Roofing for the last half of 1997, earning
around $8,500. Starting in January 1998 [petitioner]
worked on cars for Kent Keating, who bought damaged
cars at auction and repaired them for resale. The
Acura was one of Keating's cars. Keating had dropped
the car off at [petitioner's] father's house several
times so [petitioner] could work on it, and
[petitioner] sometimes drove it. During this same time
period, [petitioner] was gambling in local card
rooms. About a week and a half before his arrest he
[Petitioner's] girlfriend, Stacy Ann Darby,
testified that she saw [petitioner] three or tour
times a week, and that he almost always drove a
truck. he testified that [petitioner] worked for All
American Roofing, then for Kent Keating. She saw
[petitioner] driving the red Acura three or four
times. She also testified that [petitioner] gambled
frequently in a local casino, and that he "won a lot
the two days before" he was arrested.
On rebuttal, and over a defense objection, the
prosecution was allowed to p resent evidence of two
prior incidents involving [petitioner]. Richmond
Police Officer Mitchell Peixoto testified that on
March 23, 1995, he stopped [petitioner] for a traffic
violation. [Petitioner] was driving a truck registered
in his brother's name. A search of [petitioner]
uncovered 7 grams of methamphetamine in a Ziplock
bag, a pager, and $117 cash. A search of the truck
uncovered 2 more baggies containing 28 grams and 27
grams of methamphetamine and 17 empty Zip lock bags.
[Petitioner] admitted that the drugs belonged to him,
and not his brother. He was arrested for transporting
a controlled substance and possession for sale of
Pinole Police Officer David Spencer testified that
he stopped [petitioner] for a traffic violation on
August 11, 1994. The officer smelled marijuana and
asked [petitioner] if he had been smoking, which
[petitioner] admitted. [Petitioner] told the officer
that the pick-up he was driving did not belong to
him, and that he had been driving it only a few days.
He consented to a search, which uncovered an envelope
stuck in a hole in the driver's door, containing 23.9
grams of methamphetamine in a Ziplock bag.
[Petitioner] told the officer that he had borrowed the
car and had not noticed the envelope protruding from
the door panel. [Petitioner] was arrested for
possession for sale of methamphetamine.
After the two officers testified on rebuttal, the
trial court instructed the jury to consider their
testimony only for the purpose of showing
[petitioner's] intent or his knowledge of the nature
of the items found in the car, and not to show him to
be a person of bad character or criminal disposition.
People v. Aragon, No. A087486, slip op. at 2-4 (Cal. Ct. App. July 20, 2000) (footnotes omitted) (Resp't Ex. 9).
This court may grant 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 principle from [the] Court's decisions but unreasonably applies that principle to the facts of the prisoner's case." Id. at 413.
"[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." Id. at 411. A federal habeas court making the "unreasonable application" inquiry should ask whether the state ...