The opinion of the court was delivered by: Vaughn R. Walker, United States District Judge
ORDER DENYING PETITION FOR A WRIT OF HABEAS CORPUS
On May 19, 2000, petitioner was convicted by a jury in the Superior Court of the State of California in and for the County of Santa Clara of assaulting James Butner by personally using a hammer and inflicting great bodily injury. The trial court sentenced petitioner to seven years in prison, and ordered him to pay a restitution fine of $1,200 and restitution to the victim of $5,980.49 for medical expenses and $14,771.70 for home security measures and replacement costs.
On January 29, 2002, the California Court of Appeal affirmed the judgment of conviction and, on April 17, 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 October 9, 2002, the court found that the petition, when liberally construed, appeared to contain colorable claims 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.
The California Court of Appeal summarized the facts of the case as follows:
On Wednesday, November 24, 1999, defendant's father
Benjamin O'Neal came home to find windows broken in
his San Jose residence. Benjamin believed that
defendant had broken them. Defendant had left home
years earlier at the age of 15 or 16. A month or two
before November 24, 1999, defendant was agitated when
Benjamin told him that he no longer wanted to
administer defendant's social security disability
benefits. At the time of the vandalism defendant lived
about five miles away.
On Tuesday, November 30, 1999, James and Darlene
Butner came home to find all the windows broken in
their San Jose home, including the glass in their
front double door. James could not imagine who had
vandalized his house. They had the glass replaced with
Plexiglass to prevent future breakage.
On Thursday, December 2, 1999, the Butners came home
around 6:00 p.m. to find the Plexiglass broken. The
glazier was surprised to hear this. He said it had to
be a strong person swinging a heavy sharp object.
James put up transparent drop cloths outside to cover
the broken windows and keep the heat in the house. He
left the porch light on overnight.
Around 5:00 a.m. on December 3, 1999, Darlene
awakened her husband James and told him to answer the
doorbell. He put on his robe and went to the front
door. James saw defendant, nicknamed Rambo, about two
to four feet away from him. He assumed defendant was
trying to locate one of his two sons, who were adult
and lived elsewhere.
Defendant had been a high school friend of their
sons 15 years earlier. At the same time defendant was
also a friend of children who lived next door.
Defendant socialized with their sons outside the
Butners' house. Defendant was an occasional dinner
guest. James had last seen defendant about a year and
a half earlier when they chatted for a few minutes at
a neighborhood gas station. They never had any
Recognizing defendant, James opened the door.
Defendant immediately struck him in the face with a
standard carpenter's hammer. The blow knocked James
down. He propped himself up against the wall.
Defendant stepped into the house brandishing the
hammer and said, "If you don't quit doing this to me,
I'm going to fuck you up." James turned around to look
at him and said, "What have I ever done to you?"
Defendant hesitated for a moment, lowered the hammer,
The blow ripped James' face near his left eye. He
had a two-inch deep half-inch wide cut above his left
eye, a slight rip down the left side of the eye, and a
smaller sash at the corner of the eyebrow near his
nose. Photographs of his injuries were in evidence.
James had his wife call 911 while he grabbed towels
to stanch the bleeding. He told her that it was a
black friend of their boys. James was dazed and unable
at first to remember defendant's name. Darlene asked
if it was Nicky. James said Nicky was too dark. The
man was light-skinned. She asked if it was Rambo and
James said it was.
Police and paramedics arrive within ten minutes.
James described his assailant to the police and gave
them his name. He said he remembered Rambo as having a
James was hospitalized that day and received 22
stitches to close up three wounds. At the hospital
around 10:30 a.m., Police Detective Donald Guess
showed James a photographic lineup. James hesitated on
the fourth picture and said the moustache was
similar. When he saw defendant's picture, number six,
he identified defendant as his assailant. Darlene
agreed the photo showed Rambo.
The same morning, December 3, 1999, sometime between
5:45 and 6:45 a.m., defendant collected his paycheck
from his employer, Raymond Talbott, as defendant had
prearranged by phone call the prior evening. Talbott
lived in San Jose. Defendant had worked for Talbott as
an apprentice drywall installer. Defendant last worked
for Talbott on November 24, 199. When he left work
that day, he took his hammer, leaving his other tools
on Talbott's truck.
Detective Guess arrested defendant at his San Jose
residence around 11:15 a.m. on December 3, 1999. He
did not find the red and green sweatshirt that James
had seen defendant wearing that morning. Defendant did
not have a moustache.
A crime investigator for the Santa Clara County
District Attorney determined that it took about 14
minutes to drive from defendant's residence to the
Butners' residence and about 17 minutes from the
Butners' to Talbott's residence.
Defendant's roommate, Israel Leal, testified that he
saw defendant's car parked outside their house when he
left for work around 6:15 a.m. on December 3, 1999. He
did not see defendant that day.
The Butners' residence was not vandalized again
after defendant was arrested on December 3, 1999.
James obtained a restraining order against defendant.
James did not lose his eyesight, but his eye was
swollen for a week and a halt and he took pain
medication for two or three weeks.
People v. O'Neal, No H021675, slip op at 2-4 (Cal Ct App. Jan 29, 2002) (Ex E).
A federal writ of habeas corpus 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).
"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 "unreasonable 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 that 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 court's application of clearly established federal law was "objectively unreasonable." Id at 409.
The only definitive source of clearly established federal law under 28 U.S.C. § 2254 (d) is in the holdings (as opposed to the dicta) of the Supreme Court as of the time of the state court decision. Id at 412; Clark v. Murphy, 317 F.3d 1038, 1044 (9th Cir 2003). While circuit law may be "persuasive authority" for purposes of determining whether a state court decision is an unreasonable application of Supreme Court precedent, only the Supreme Court's holdings are binding on the state courts and only those holdings need be "reasonably" applied. Id.
Petitioner raises two colorable claims for relief under § 2254: (1) the admission of evidence that petitioner had committed the prior acts of vandalism rendered the trial fundamentally unfair; and (2) the imposition of a $14,771.70 ...