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Singleton v. Scribner

June 20, 2008

LATONNE SINGLETON, PETITIONER,
v.
L. E. SCRIBNER AND BILL LOCKYER, RESPONDENTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Irma E. Gonzalez, Chief Judge United States District Court

ORDER:

1) ADOPTING THE MAGISTRATE JUDGE'S REPORT (Doc. No. 40); (2) REJECTING PETITIONER'S OBJECTIONS (Doc. No. 44); and (3) DENYING THE PETITION FOR WRIT OF HABEAS CORPUS (Doc. No. 1).

On July 7, 2006, petitioner Latonne A. Singleton, a state prisoner proceeding pro se and in forma pauperis, filed a petition for writ of habeas corpus pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254. (Doc. No. 1.) This matter was referred to United States Magistrate Judge Barbara L. Major pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(B). On February 7, 2008, Magistrate Judge Major issued a Report and Recommendation ("Report") recommending the Court deny the petition for writ of habeas corpus. (Doc. No. 40.) Petitioner filed objections to the Report nunc pro tunc to March 19, 2008. (Doc. No. 44.)

Following de novo review of petitioner's claims, the Court finds Magistrate Judge Major's Report to be thorough, complete, and an accurate analysis of the legal issues presented in the petition. For the reasons explained below, the Court: (1) adopts in full Magistrate Judge Major's Report; (2) rejects the petitioner's objections, and (3) denies the petition for writ of habeas corpus.

BACKGROUND

State Proceedings

The Court hereby incorporates by reference the magistrate judge's accurate recitation of the facts as determined by the California Court of Appeal. (Report at 2-5.) As the magistrate judge correctly noted, the Court presumes state court findings of fact to be correct. In summary, petitioner had a "rocky" and jealous relationship with his girlfriend and cohabitant, Nicole S. He hit her on multiple occasions in 1997 and 1998. He raped her vaginally and anally on December 10, 1998. He threatened to shoot her and beat her with a stick on December 13, 1998.

An amended information filed December 9, 1999 charged petitioner with eighteen criminal counts, including multiple counts of cohabitant abuse, forcible rape, forcible sodomy, assault with a deadly weapon, making a terrorist threat, possession of a firearm by a felon, and torture. (Supp. Lodgment 1 at 9-16.) The jury convicted petitioner on seven counts of cohabitant abuse and one count of assault. The jury acquitted him of one of the counts of forcible sodomy, one of the counts of forcible rape, and one of the counts of assault with a deadly weapon or force likely to produce great bodily injury. The jury could not reach a verdict on the remaining counts, which included rape, assault, torture and sodomy.

The prosecution elected to retry petitioner on the unresolved counts. A second jury convicted petitioner of torture while armed with and personally using a deadly or dangerous weapon (a broom handle), forcible rape, forcible sodomy, and being a felon in possession of a firearm.

The trial court then sentenced petitioner to life in prison with the possibility of parole based on the torture count, with a three-year enhancement for using a firearm in the commission of torture. The court also sentenced petitioner to a consecutive determinate sentence of five years and eight months. The determinate term included three years for the first conviction of cohabitant abuse, one year for the second conviction of cohabitant abuse, an one year enhancement for having served a prior prison term, and eight months for possession of a firearm by a felon. Finally, the trial judge imposed four terms of three years each for the remaining convictions of cohabitant abuse, two terms of six years each for rape and forcible sodomy, and stayed those terms pursuant to California Penal Code Section 654.*fn1 (Supp. Lodgment 1 at 80-83.)

Petitioner appealed and the California Court of Appeal reversed his torture conviction. While the appellate court found the evidence on the torture conviction was sufficient to convict, it concluded the trial court had applied the wrong legal standard in denying petitioner's motion for new trial. The trial court had expressed its belief the prosecution had not shown great bodily injury, but found under the law the evidence was adequate to support the conviction. The appellate court remanded for further proceedings on the new trial motion, explaining the trial court had the discretion to grant a new trial based on its own view of the evidence.

On remand, the trial court granted the prosecution's motion to dismiss the torture count. The trial court re-sentenced petitioner to an aggregate term of 23 years in prison. The sentence included six years for the rape conviction, six years for the forcible sodomy conviction, four years for the first cohabitant abuse conviction, one year each for five additional cohabitant abuse convictions, one year for using a firearm in committing felony cohabitant abuse, and an one year enhancement for having served a prior prison term. (Supp. Lodgment 1 at 78.)

Petitioner again appealed, and the Court of Appeal affirmed the sentence. Petitioner filed a petition for discretionary review, which the California Supreme Court denied without citation on May 12, 2004. Petitioner filed a petition for writ of habeas corpus in the California Supreme Court on September 7, 2004, raising identical claims to those asserted in this federal petition. (Lodgments 2 & ...


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