United States District Court, N.D. California
September 14, 2005.
ROOSEVELT FRANKLIN, Petitioner,
DERRAL ADAMS, Warden, Respondent.
The opinion of the court was delivered by: SUSAN ILLSTON, District Judge
ORDER DENYING PETITION FOR WRIT OF HABEAS CORPUS
Roosevelt Franklin filed his petition for writ of habeas corpus
pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254 on November 13, 2002.*fn1
Respondent filed his answer to the writ with the Court on April
1, 2005. Petitioner filed his traverse on May 6, 2005. Having
considered the papers, evidence and declarations submitted, the
Court hereby DENIES the petition.
Petitioner was charged by Complaint dated July 22, 1999
(Answer, Ex. 1) with first degree burglary, a violation of Cal.
Penal Code § 459. The Complaint charged six prior convictions, of
which four were charged as "serious felonies." Id.
On March 21, 2000, petitioner pled no contest to the charge of
first degree burglary. At that time, petitioner acknowledged
each of the following prior convictions:
First Prior Conviction: second degree burglary on October 15,
1997; Second Prior Conviction: first degree burglary on May
Third Prior Conviction: first degree burglary on June
Fourth Prior Conviction: petty theft with priors
(Cal. Penal Code §§ 484/666) on February 27, 1992;
Fifth Prior Conviction: first degree attempted
burglary on July 11, 1985; and
Sixth Prior Conviction: first degree burglary on
February 22, 1980.
Answer, Ex. 3 at 8-9.
The Second, Third, Fifth and Sixth Prior Convictions were
charged in the Complaint as "serious felonies." Answer, Ex. 1. At
the plea hearing, there was a discussion as to whether the Second
Prior Conviction should be classified as a serious felony under
Cal. Penal Code § 667(a). Under California law, felonies listed
in Cal. Penal Code § 1192.7(c) will be characterized as serious
felonies for sentencing and subject to a five-year enhancement.
Cal. Penal Code § 667(a). Burglaries are classified as serious
felonies if they occur within "an inhabited dwelling house . . .
or the inhabited portion of any other building." § 1192.7(c)(18).
At the hearing, the district attorney told the court that the
parties agreed to amend the Second Prior Conviction to no longer
be classified as a serious felony. Instead, the Second Prior
Conviction would enhance Mr. Franklin's sentence by one year for
being a "prior separate prison term served for any felony." Cal.
Penal Code § 667.5(b).
Following the district attorney's explanation of their
agreement to reduce the Second Prior Conviction, the court
inquired as to Mr. Franklin's understanding of the agreement. Mr.
Franklin responded that he did not understand what the district
attorney had said, but that he did understand what his lawyer had
told him. Answer, Ex. 3 at 2. The record indicates there was an
off the record discussion between Mr. Franklin and his appointed
counsel, Ms. Trina Stanley. The court then asked whether he
understood what had taken place. Mr. Franklin answered that he
understood and was prepared to accept the plea proposal. Answer,
Ex. 3 at 2-3. The court informed Mr. Franklin of his right to
separately challenge each of the prior convictions and he
answered that he understood and was willing to waive those
rights. Id. at 7.
Based on the plea, the court found Mr. Franklin guilty of first
degree burglary with six prior convictions. The sentencing court
imposed a six year sentence for the current first degree burglary
conviction. Based on Cal. Penal Code § 667(a), the sentencing
court then enhanced Mr. Franklin's sentence by five years for the prior serious felonies which occurred on February 22, 1980 (Sixth
Prior Conviction), July 11, 1985 (Fifth Prior Conviction), and
June 10, 1992 (Third Prior Conviction). The sentence was enhanced
under the definition of serious felony as a "burglary of an
inhabited dwelling house . . . or the inhabited portion of any
other building." Cal. Penal Code § 1192.7(c)(18). The sentence
was enhanced an additional year under § 667.5(b) for the Second
Prior Conviction. The resulting prison sentence totaled
Petitioner did not appeal his burglary conviction. On January
10, 2002, petitioner filed a pro se petition for writ of habeas
corpus in Alameda County Superior Court, which was denied for a
failure to state a prima facie claim for relief on January 11,
2002. Petitioner then filed a petition for writ of habeas corpus
in the California Court of Appeal on February 22, 2002, and was
denied on February 26, 2002. Petitioner next petitioned the
California Supreme Court on April 16, 2002, and was denied writ
on October 2, 2002.
Petitioner brought the current 28 U.S.C. § 2254 writ of habeas
corpus on November 13, 2002. Respondent brought a motion to
dismiss the petition as untimely which, after an evidentiary
hearing on November 22, 2004, was denied by the court on February
7, 2005. Respondent filed its answer on April 1, 2005. Petitioner
submitted its traverse on May 6, 2005, with the help of appointed
STANDARD OF REVIEW
A federal court is barred from reviewing a question of federal
law decided by a state court if the state court decision rests on
a state law ground that is independent of the federal question
and adequate to support the judgment. Coleman v. Thompson,
501 U.S. 722, 729 (1991). The Supreme Court has stated:
When a federal habeas court releases a prisoner held
pursuant to a state court judgment that rests on an
independent and adequate state ground, it renders
ineffective the state rule just as completely as if
this Court had reversed the state judgment on direct
review. In such a case, the habeas court ignores the
State's legitimate reasons for holding the prisoner.
Id. at 730 (citation omitted). Only when the state's decision
"(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" may a state sentence be overturned on
a federal writ of habeas corpus. 28 U.S.C. § 2254(d)(1-2). The "contrary to" clause of § 2254(d)(1) allows the Court to
grant a writ of habeas corpus when the state court's judgment
differs from a Supreme Court ruling "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 v. Taylor, 529 U.S. 362
, 413 (2000). A § 2254
federal habeas proceeding is only proper if the defendant was
deprived of constitutional due process, so that the admission of
evidence rose to an arbitrary or prejudicial level which rendered
the trial fundamentally unfair. Reiger v. Christensen,
789 F.2d 1425
, 1430 (9th Cir. 1986).
Insufficiency of the evidence: A state prisoner may seek
federal habeas relief by alleging that the evidence in support of
his state conviction cannot be fairly characterized as sufficient
to have led a rational trier of fact to find guilt beyond a
reasonable doubt. Jackson v. Virginia, 443 U.S. 307, 321
(1979). The Jackson standard also applies to state sentence
enhancements: a petitioner can obtain habeas relief if no
rational trier of fact could find the elements of the enhancement
true beyond a reasonable doubt. Garcia v. Carey, 395 F.3d 1099,
1102 (9th Cir. 2005) (granting habeas reliefbecause there was no
evidence that robbery furthered other gang criminal activity, an
element of the gang sentencing enhancement in Cal. Pen. Code §
However, despite the challenges allowed by Jackson, a
defendant who pleads guilty cannot later raise in habeas corpus
proceedings independent claims relating to the deprivation of
constitutional rights that occurred before the plea of guilty.
See Haring v. Prosise, 462 U.S. 306, 319-20 (1983) (guilty
plea forecloses consideration of pre-plea constitutional
deprivations); Tollett v. Henderson, 411 U.S. 258, 266-67
(1973). The only challenges left open in federal habeas corpus
after a guilty plea is the voluntary and intelligent character of
the plea and the nature of the advice of counsel to plead. Hill
v. Lockhart, 474 U.S. 52, 56-57 (1985); Tollett,
411 U.S. at 267. A defendant who pleads guilty upon the advice of counsel may
only attack the voluntary and intelligent character of the guilty
plea by showing that the advice he received from counsel was not
within the range of competence demanded of attorneys in criminal
cases. Id.; Lambert v. Blodgett, 393 F.3d 943, 979 (9th Cir.
2004); United States v. Signori, 844 F.2d 635, 638 (9th Cir.
1988); Hudson v. Moran, 760 F.2d 1027, 1030 (9th Cir. 1985).
Ineffective assistance of counsel: In a federal habeas
challenge to a state criminal judgment, a state court conclusion
that counsel rendered effective assistance is not a fact binding
on the federal court to the extent stated by 28 U.S.C. § 2254(d).
Both the performance and the prejudice components of the
ineffectiveness inquiry are mixed questions of law and fact. Strickland v.
Washington, 466 U.S. 688, 698 (1984). Claims of ineffective
assistance therefore require a review of the record.
In order to prevail on a Sixth Amendment ineffectiveness of
counsel claim, petitioner must establish two things. First, he
must establish that counsel's performance was deficient, i.e.,
that it fell below an "objective standard of reasonableness"
under prevailing professional norms. Strickland,
466 U.S. at 687-88. The relevant inquiry is not what defense counsel could
have done, but rather whether the choices made by defense counsel
were reasonable. See Babbitt v. Calderon, 151 F.3d 1170, 1173
(9th Cir. 1998). Judicial scrutiny of counsel's performance must
be highly deferential, and a court must indulge a strong
presumption that counsel's conduct falls within the wide range of
reasonable professional assistance. See Strickland,
466 U.S. at 689.
Second, he must establish that he was prejudiced by counsel's
deficient performance, i.e., that "there is a reasonable
probability that, but for counsel's unprofessional errors, the
result of the proceeding would have been different." Id. at
694. A reasonable probability is a probability sufficient to
undermine confidence in the outcome. Id. Where the defendant is
challenging his conviction, the appropriate question is "`whether
there is a reasonable probability that, absent the errors, the
fact finder would have had a reasonable doubt respecting guilt.'"
Luna v. Cambra, 306 F.3d 954, 961 (9th Cir. 2002) (quoting
Strickland, 466 U.S. at 695).
Petitioner makes two claims to support his § 2254 habeas
proceeding. First, petitioner argues that there was insufficient
evidence to establish that the prior convictions were serious
felonies, to support enhancements under Cal. Penal code § 667(a).
Second, petitioner argues that his trial counsel was ineffective
for failing to object to the enhancements for serious felonies
during the sentencing phase.
1. Petitioner may only raise objections to the voluntariness
of the guilty plea in the habeas corpus proceedings
Petitioner's contention that there was insufficient evidence
that his prior convictions were serious felonies is improper in
this § 2254 habeas proceeding, since petitioner entered a guilty
plea at trial. A defendant who pleads guilty cannot later raise
in habeas corpus proceedings independent claims relating to the
deprivation of constitutional rights that occurred before the
plea of guilty. Haring, 462 U.S. at 319-20. "A guilty plea represents a break in the chain of events which has preceded it
in the criminal process" negating any possible pre-plea
constitutional claim. Tollet, 411 U.S. at 267. "When a criminal
defendant has solemnly admitted in open court that he is in fact
guilty of the offense with which he is charged, he may not
thereafter raise independent claims relating to the deprivation
of constitutional rights that occurred prior to the entry of the
guilty plea." Id. In order to uphold the certainty of the
conviction, petitioner may not claim constitutional violations
regarding elements within the plea agreement after the guilty
plea has been entered.
As is discussed below, petitioner "may only attack the
voluntary and intelligent character of the guilty plea by showing
that the advice he received from counsel was not within the
standards set forth in [Strickland]." Id. Petitioner's claims
as to the sufficiency of the evidence necessary to establish the
sentence enhancements may be relevant to whether counsel should
had advised him to enter a plea of guilty, but cannot
independently support a writ of habeas corpus. Accordingly, the
Court rejects petitioner's claims relating to the sufficiency of
2. Effective assistance of counsel rendered the plea voluntary
Petitioner claims his counsel provided ineffective assistance
by not objecting to the serious felony enhancements at sentencing
and by not informing him that he could contest the serious felony
allegations. Traverse at 2. To prove his ineffective assistance
claim, petitioner must overcome the "strong presumption that
counsel's conduct falls within the wide range of reasonable
professional assistance." Strickland, 466 U.S. at 689.
Petitioner contends a reasonable attorney would have contested
classifications of the three prior convictions as "serious
felonies." The Court disagrees. Petitioner had five prior
convictions for burglary and another for petty theft. Four of
these prior convictions took place in inhabited dwellings, and
thus would have been established as serious felonies under Cal.
Penal Code § 1192.7(c)(18). Therefore, the three strikes law
would apply, making Mr. Franklin eligible for a minimum
twenty-five years to life sentence.
In her pretrial negotiation letter (Answer, Ex. 5), Ms. Stanley
articulated a clear understanding of the facts of Mr. Franklin's
various burglaries of inhabited dwellings. Although she cast them
in the light most favorable to petitioner, by underscoring
petitioner's non-violent and comparatively benign conduct when
caught, she outlined circumstances squarely supporting the statutory
classifications given. Ms. Stanley urged the District Attorney
that Mr. Franklin should be spared conviction under the three
strikes law because he was not the violent "type of offender
contemplated by the statute." Id. at 4. Clearly, Ms. Stanley
foresaw the possibility of a sentence under the three strikes law
for over twenty-five years. Petitioner agreed to a plea
arrangement with a significantly less severe sentence than the
possible sentence from a conviction under the three strikes law.
Petitioner received three five-year enhancements for serious
felonies, and an additional one-year enhancement for the second
prior conviction. The Court finds Ms. Stanley's decision to
pursue a plea agreement to be a reasonable choice under the
circumstances of the case.
Ms. Stanley encouraged petitioner to accept the plea agreement
rather than face the possibility of a twenty-five years to life
sentence under the three strikes law. The prejudice element of
Strickland is not met if petitioner received significant
benefits from his plea agreement. United States v. Baramdyka,
95 F.3d 840, 846-847 (9th Cir. 1996). In Baramdyka, petitioner
could not argue the ineffectiveness of his counsel for not
questioning the validity of a lesser crime that he plead guilty
to, because he would have received a longer sentence if he had
been convicted of the charge dismissed pursuant to the plea
agreement. Id. Mr. Franklin similarly cannot argue his
counsel's performance prejudiced him since he received a less
severe punishment by agreeing to the guilty plea. A three strikes
conviction would result in a sentence of twenty-five years to
life, without parole. Under the plea agreement, petitioner
received a twenty-two year sentence and will be "eligible for
parole consideration in approximately 17 years 7 months." Answer
at 10. Ms. Stanley provided effective assistance to petitioner,
whereby no prejudice to the result of the proceeding can be
found, since petitioner received a much less severe punishment
than he would have faced at trial.
Petitioner contends counsel's deficient performance led to an
involuntary guilty plea. To establish an involuntary plea,
petitioner must prove "there is a reasonable probability that,
but for counsel's errors, he would not have pleaded guilty and
would have insisted on going to trial." Hill v. Lockhart,
474 U.S. 52, 59 (1985). Following the reduction of the Second Prior
Conviction from a § 667(a) "serious felony" characterization to a
one-year enhanced § 667.5(b) classification, the trial court made
inquiries into petitioner's understanding of the reduction at the
plea hearing. Petitioner stated that he did not understand what
the district attorney had just said about the Second Prior
Conviction, but that he understood what his attorney had told
him. Answer, Ex. 3 at 2. After an off the record discussion with counsel,
petitioner stated that he understood the impact of the Second
Prior Conviction and wanted to accept the plea agreement. Id.
Since petitioner understood the impact of the prosecution's
striking of the "serious felony" characterization of the Second
Prior Conviction, it reasonably follows that petitioner
understood the importance of classifying a prior offense as a
"serious felony." During the plea, petitioner was reminded of and
waived his right to "challenge each and every one of those priors
through the exercise of [his] rights." Id. at 7. Therefore
being aware of the consequences of his prior convictions,
petitioner voluntarily and intelligently entered his plea as
required by North Carolina v. Alford, 400 U.S. 25, 31 (1970).
Petitioner then admitted to the court his cognizance of those
rights he waived regarding his ability to contest the priors.
Answer, Ex. 3 at 7. The Court finds Mr. Franklin was informed of
the sentencing consequences of his plea, and thus counsel
provided effective assistance allowing Mr. Franklin to make a
voluntary and intelligent choice to plead guilty. CONCLUSION
For the foregoing reasons, the Court hereby DENIES petitioner's
writ of habeas corpus.
IT IS SO ORDERED.
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