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Williams v. Harrison

August 21, 2008

KEITH WILLIAMS, PETITIONER,
v.
C.M. HARRISON, WARDEN, RESPONDENT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Hon. Napoleon A. Jones, Jr. United States District Judge

ORDER: (1) ADOPTING MAGISTRATE JUDGE BENCIVENGO'S REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION; AND (2) DENYING PETITIONER'S PETITION FOR WRIT OF HABEAS CORPUS [DOC. NO. 1].

Before the Court is Magistrate Judge Cathy Ann Bencivengo's Report and Recommendation ("R&R") recommending the Court deny Petitioner Keith Williams' ("Petitioner") Petition for Writ of Habeas Corpus ("Petition") pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254. Petitioner, a state prisoner proceeding pro se, challenges his San Diego Superior Court conviction, Case No. 148887, for first degree murder with special circumstances. Respondent filed his Answer and Petitioner filed a Traverse. Petitioner contends that his constitutional rights were violated when 1) the trial court failed to provide written instructions on duress and 2) when the prosecution dismissed prospective jurors based on race and gender. (Pet'r's Obj. at 4, 6; Petition at 1, 5.) For the reasons set forth below, the Court ADOPTS the R&R and DENIES the Petition in its entirety.

Background

On October 7, 2002, Petitioner was charged with: 1) one count of murder, a violation of California Penal Code § 187; 2) one count of carjacking, a violation of California Penal Code § 215(a); and 3) one count of robbery, a violation of California Penal Code § 211. (Clerk's Trans. at 212-13.) Special circumstances under California Penal Code § 190.2(a)(17) were also alleged as follows: 1) the murder was committed during the attempt and commission of a robbery in violation of California Penal Code §§ 211 or 212.5; 2) the murder was committed during the attempt and commission of a kidnapping in violation of California Penal Code §§ 207 or 209; and 3) the murder was committed during the attempt and commission of a carjacking in violation of California Penal Code § 215. (Clerk's Trans. at 213.) The complaint further alleged Petitioner personally used a firearm during the attempt to commit robbery and murder in violation of California Penal Code § 12022.5(a)(1). (Clerk's Trans. at 212-13.) Petitioner pleaded not guilty to all allegations. (Clerk's Trans. at 179.)

On October 23, 2002, the jury found Petitioner guilty of first degree murder, kidnapping, robbery, and carjacking. (Clerk's Trans. at 150-55.) Furthermore, the jury found the murder was committed during the attempt and commission of a kidnapping, robbery, and carjacking. Id. The jury did not decide on the firearm charge, which was later dismissed. Id. On December 12, 2002, Petitioner was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole for his conviction of first degree murder with special circumstances. (Clerk's Trans. at 166.) The court stayed the sentences for robbery and carjacking (Clerk's Trans. at 166-67; 217), but Petitioner was ordered to pay a restitutionary fine. (Clerk's Trans. at 167).

Petitioner appealed to the California Court of Appeal, Fourth Appellate District, Division One. Petitioner claimed: 1) the trial court's failure to provide the jury with written instructions on duress after giving an oral instruction on duress violated his due process rights; 2) the prosecution impermissibly excluded prospective jurors based on race; and 3) the restitutionary fine should be stricken. (Lodgment Nos. 3, 4.) On July 14, 2004, the Court of Appeal affirmed the judgment, but struck the restitutionary fine. (Lodgment No. 7.)

Petitioner filed a petition for review in the California Supreme Court claiming that his due process rights were violated. On September 22, 2004, the California Supreme Court denied the petition for review. (Lodgment No. 9.)

On November 18, 2005, Petitioner filed a Petition for Writ of Habeas Corpus. [Doc. No. 1.] On March 11, 2006, Respondent filed an Answer. [Doc. No. 12.] On May 10, 2007, Petitioner filed his Traverse. [Doc. No. 56.]

Legal Standard

I. State Prisoner Habeas Corpus Standard

A federal court may grant a habeas petition if it shows the applicant is in custody "in violation of the Constitution or other laws or treaties of the United States." 28 U.S.C. § 2254(a). State interpretation of state laws and rules cannot serve as the basis for a federal habeas petition, as no federal or constitutional question would be implicated. Estelle v. McGuire, 502 U.S. 62, 68 (1991). Habeas petitions are governed by the provisions of the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996 ("AEDPA"). Lindh v. Murphy, 521 U.S. 320 (1997).

Pursuant to AEDPA, a federal court may grant habeas corpus relief from a state court judgment only if the adjudication was (1) contrary to, or involved an unreasonable application of, clearly established federal law, or (2) was based on an unreasonable determination of the facts in light of the evidence presented in the state court proceedings. 28 U.S.C. § 2254(d); Early v. Packer, 537 U.S. 3, 7-8 (2002).

A state court decision is "contrary to clearly established federal law" if it (1) applies a rule that contradicts the governing law set forth in Supreme Court cases, or (2) confronts a set of facts that are materially indistinguishable from a decision of the Supreme Court and nevertheless arrives at the opposite result. Williams v. Taylor, 529 U.S. 362, 405 (2000). A state court decision is an unreasonable application of the facts "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.

According to 28 U.S.C. 2254(e)(1), a federal district court should presume the finding of a state court to be correct unless the petitioner can rebut the ...


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