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 Douglas Collier, a state prisoner at San Quentin State Prison ("SQSP"), filed this petition for a writ of habeas corpus under 28 U.S.C. § 2254 challenging the California Board of Prison Terms' ("BPT") decision of May 20, 2005 finding him not suitable for parole.
The court found that the petition, when liberally construed, appeared to state a cognizable due process claim under § 2254 and, on June 2, 2006, ordered respondent to show cause why a writ of habeas corpus should not be granted. Respondent filed an answer to the order to show cause and petitioner subsequently filed a traverse. For the reasons discussed below, the petition is denied.
Petitioner was convicted of second degree murder on December 17, 1981 in the Superior Court of the State of California in and for the County of Santa Clara and was sentenced to an indeterminate prison term of 15 years to life.
Petitioner has been found not suitable for parole each time he has appeared before the BPT. On May 20, 2005, petitioner appeared with counsel before a BPT panel for a subsequent parole consideration hearing and again was found not suitable for parole. The panel found that petitioner would pose an unreasonable risk of danger to society or a threat to public safety if released from prison. The presiding commissioner explained that, in deciding to deny parole, the panel considered petitioner's commitment offense, his prior criminal and social history, his behavior and programming since commitment, and any other information that may have a bearing on parole suitability. Accord Cal. Code Regs. tit. 15, § 2402(b).
Petitioner challenged the BPT's May 20, 2005 decision in the state superior, appellate and supreme courts. After the Supreme Court of California denied his final state habeas petition on January 4, 2006, the instant federal petition for a writ of habeas corpus followed.
The Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996 ("AEDPA"), codified under 28 U.S.C. § 2254, provides "the exclusive vehicle for a habeas petition by a state prisoner in custody pursuant to a state court judgment, even when the petitioner is not challenging his underlying state court conviction." White v. Lambert, 370 F.3d 1002, 1009-10 (9th Cir. 2004). Under AEDPA, this court may entertain a petition for habeas relief on behalf of a California state inmate "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 unless the state court's adjudication of any claim on the merits: "(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. at § 2254(d). Under this deferential standard, federal habeas relief will not be granted "simply because [this] 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." Williams v. Taylor, 529 U.S. 362, 411 (2000).
While circuit law may provide persuasive authority in determining whether the state court made an unreasonable application of Supreme Court precedent, 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, 331 F.3d 1062, 1069 (9th Cir. 2003).
When the state court decisions do not provide a reasoned opinion, as in this case, the court "must conduct an independent review of the record to determine whether the state court's decision was objectively unreasonable." Sass v. ...