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HUGHES v. GALAZA

February 26, 2004.

MICHAEL LYNN HUGHES, Petitioner,
v.
GEORGE GALAZA, Respondent



The opinion of the court was delivered by: THELTON HENDERSON, Senior District Judge

ORDER DENYING PETITION FOR WRIT OF HABEAS CORPUS
I. INTRODUCTION

Michael Lynn Hughes, who is currently incarcerated at California State Prison at Corcoran, filed a petition for a writ of habeas corpus pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254. After conducting an initial review of the petition, the Court concluded that the petition stated cognizable claims under § 2254 and ordered Respondent, George Galaza, to show cause as to why the petition should not be granted. Respondent filed an answer contending that the petition should be denied, and Hughes filed a traverse. Hughes also requested oral argument, which this Court heard on April 17, 2002. After having spent many months carefully considering the parties' written and oral arguments and the record herein, the Court now DENIES Hughes's petition for the reasons discussed below. Page 2

II. FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

  The California Court of Appeal's opinion described the facts and evidence presented in this case, which the Court summarizes here. Resp't Ex. A at 2-4 (hereinafter "Cal. Ct. App. Op."). On November 5, 1997, San Jose Police Officer Victoria Napolitano was working undercover. She had been given a pre-marked $20 bill to make drug purchases, and other officers were in the area to provide cover for Napolitano and assist her with making arrests.

  At around 6:30 PM, Napolitano was approached by a man who called himself "James." A few minutes later, while James and Napolitano were talking, Hughes approached Napolitano and offered to sell her methamphetamine. Napolitano asked if Hughes had $20 worth of methamphetamine, and Hughes responded affirmatively. Hughes wanted to complete the deal in the men's restroom of a nearby restaurant with James, but Napolitano said that she wanted to deal with Hughes directly because it was her money.

  Hughes and Napolitano went into an alley, where Hughes pulled out a baggie containing an off-white substance from his shoe. Hughes poured a small amount of the substance from the baggie into a piece of paper, which he then folded and handed to Napolitano. Napolitano gave Hughes the marked $20 bill, which Hughes put in his back pocket before inserting the baggie back into his shoe. Napolitano and Hughes then left the alley and walked in opposite directions down the street. Napolitano joined her cover officers in an unmarked car and radioed Hughes's description to other officers parked nearby.

  Officer Mark Bustillos was the officer who first located Hughes. When Bustillos approached Hughes, he saw Hughes talking to a man on a bicycle. Bustillos told the man on the bicycle to leave and detained Hughes. Hughes closed his mouth and made gurgling sounds, as if he were choking, so Bustillos applied the Heimlich maneuver until Hughes said he was okay. Based on his experience, Bustillos believed that Hughes swallowed drugs that he had in his mouth. Bustillos then arrested Hughes, who had $16 in his pocket. Hughes did not have the marked $20 bill, nor did Bustillos find any drugs, drug paraphernalia, or other evidence of drug sales on Hughes's person. However, Napolitano positively identified Page 3 Hughes as the person who sold her what was later identified as 0.03 grams of methamphetamine.

  On February 11, 1998, a jury found Hughes guilty of selling a controlled substance in violation of California Health and Safety Code section 11379(a). On February 17, 1998, the trial court found that Hughes had a prior robbery conviction and a prior sexual assault conviction, both from Illinois. The court further found that each of these convictions qualified as a "strike" under California's Three Strikes law.*fn1 Cal. Penal Code §§ 667(b)-(i), 1170.12. Under the provisions of this law, the court sentenced Hughes to a term of twenty-five years to life on June 19, 1998.

  Hughes timely appealed to the California Court of Appeal. On December 13, 1999, the appellate court denied all of Hughes's claims and affirmed his conviction and sentence. Hughes then filed a petition for review in the California Supreme Court. The petition was denied on March 29, 2000.

  On June 20, 2001, Hughes filed the instant habeas petition, raising some of the claims he unsuccessfully asserted on direct appeal. Respondent filed an answer to the petition on October 12, 2001, and Hughes filed a traverse on January 16, 2002. Following Hughes's request, this Court heard oral argument on April 17, 2002.

  In this petition, Hughes challenges his conviction on grounds that the trial court constitutionally erred by (1) denying his request for a continuance and failing to issue a writ of attachment for a subpoenaed defense witness who failed to appear at trial and (2) improperly limiting his cross-examination of a prosecution witness. Hughes also challenges the constitutionality of his sentence under the Three Strikes law. Page 4

  This Court has subject matter jurisdiction over the petition under 28 U.S.C. § 2254 and 1331. Venue is proper because the challenged conviction occurred in Santa Clara County, California, which is located within this district. 28 U.S.C. § 2241 (d). The parties do not dispute that Hughes has exhausted his state court remedies for the claims raised here, and this Court may therefore proceed to address the petition's merits.

 III. LEGAL STANDARD

  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). Under the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996 ("AEDPA"), this 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 v. Taylor, 529 U.S. 362, 409-12 (2000) (O'Connor, J., concurring and delivering the opinion of the Court on this point). A state court decision is "contrary to" clearly established federal law "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 Supreme] Court has on a set of materially indistinguishable facts." Williams, 529 U.S. at 412-13. A decision is an "unreasonable application of clearly established federal law "if the state court identifies the correct governing legal principle from [the Supreme] Court's decisions but unreasonably applies that principle to the facts of the prisoner's case." Id. at 413. The writ may not be granted simply because the district court "concludes in its independent judgment that the relevant state-court Page 5 decision applied clearly established federal law erroneously or incorrectly." Id. at 411. Instead, the district court must ask whether the state court's application of clearly established law was "objectively unreasonable." Id. at 409.

 IV. DISCUSSION

  A. Trial Errors

  Hughes first challenges his conviction by asserting that the trial court committed constitutional error. In particular, Hughes argues that the trial court impermissibly denied his request for a continuance and refused to issue a writ of attachment for a subpoenaed defense witness who failed to appear at trial. Hughes also argues that the trial court improperly ...


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