FINDINGS AND RECOMMENDATIONS
Petitioner Bobby Joe Floyd, currently imprisoned in a federal penitentiary in Indiana serving a 30-year sentence set to expire in 2021, seeks habeas relief under 28 U.S.C. § 2254.*fn1 He challenges a Sacramento County Superior Court sentence of 186-years-to-life directed to run consecutively to his federal sentence.
The facts and procedural background giving rise to the petition before the court are not disputed by either party. Petitioner was charged with and found guilty of eight felony counts: two counts of carjacking, one count of attempted kidnaping, one count of assault with a firearm, two counts of robbery, one count of kidnaping, and one count of being a convicted felon in possession of a firearm, all stemming from the events occurring during the afternoon of June 16, 1994. Pet., Ex. D at 2-3. Jurors also found that petitioner used a firearm while committing these offenses, making various sentence enhancements applicable. Id.
At petitioner's first sentencing hearing in 1996, the trial court sentenced him under California's "three strikes" law to an aggregate term of 186 years-to-life directed to run concurrently to a federal prison sentence. Id., Ex. D at 3. Petitioner pursued a direct appeal to the Third District Court of Appeal, raising various arguments that are not at issue in this petition. Id., Ex. A. The Court of Appeal affirmed the judgment in an unpublished opinion on September 24, 1997. Id., Ex. D.
In response to a letter from a California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitations (CDCR) official concerning three aspects of petitioner's sentence, the trial court asserted the 1996 sentence was unauthorized and held a re-sentencing hearing in 2000. Id., Ex. D at 4-5. At the hearing, the court gave petitioner more sentence credit than he previously had received and directed that petitioner's California term run consecutively to petitioner's federal term. Id.
Petitioner then took a second appeal to the Court of Appeal, where his appellate attorney argued for the first time that his sentence violated federal and state constitutional prohibitions against cruel and unusual punishment, as well as other issues not relevant to this petition. Id., Ex. C. The appellate court modified the judgment by striking a parole revocation fine but affirmed the judgment in all other respects. Id., Ex. D. The court held that petitioner had waived his challenge to his sentence on federal and state constitutional grounds by not raising it in his first appeal or during resentencing proceedings in 2000. Id., Ex. D at 7. Nevertheless, the court found the challenges "totally without merit under the circumstances of this case" without providing any further analysis of petitioner's claims. Id. The Supreme Court of California declined review on January 3, 2002. Id., Ex. H.
Petitioner proceeded to file a petition for a writ of habeas corpus in this court on January 6, 2003. Because his double jeopardy and ineffective assistance of counsel claims were unexhausted, the court granted petitioner time to file an amended petition. See Docket No. 16. Thereafter, petitioner moved for a stay pending exhaustion of his state court remedies for the unexhausted claims. Docket No. 19.
In September 2003, petitioner filed a petition for a writ of habeas corpus in the California Supreme Court, in which he contended trial and appellate counsel rendered prejudicially ineffective assistance for failing to claim that petitioner's sentence violated federal and state prohibitions against cruel and unusual punishment. Pet., Ex. I. The California Supreme Court summarily denied the petition on June 30, 2004. Id., Ex. J.
On July 19, 2004, petitioner filed his amended petition for a writ of habeas corpus asserting three claims for relief: (1) the sentence of 186-years-to-life violates state and federal constitutional prohibitions against cruel and unusual punishment; (2) petitioner received ineffective assistance of appellate counsel; and (3) petitioner received ineffective assistance of trial counsel. Respondent admits petitioner now has exhausted state court remedies with respect to the claims asserted in his amended petition. Answer at 3.
II. Standards For Habeas Corpus Relief
An application for a writ of habeas corpus by a person in custody under a judgment of a state court can be granted only for violations of the Constitution or laws of the United States. 28 U.S.C. § 2254(a). Federal habeas corpus relief also is not available for any claim decided on the merits in state court proceedings 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) (referenced herein in as "§ 2254(d)" or "AEDPA"). See Ramirez v. Castro, 365 F.3d 755, 773-75 (9th Cir. 2004) (Ninth Circuit affirmed lower court's grant of habeas relief under 28 U.S.C. § 2254 after determining that petitioner was in custody in violation of his Eighth Amendment rights and that § 2254(d) does not preclude relief); see also Lockyer v. Andrade, 538 U.S. 63, 70-71 (2003) (Supreme Court found relief precluded under § 2254(d) and therefore did not address the merits of petitioner's Eighth Amendment claim).*fn2 Courts are not required to address the merits of a particular claim, but may simply deny a habeas application on the ground that relief is precluded by 28 U.S.C. § 2254(d). Lockyer, 538 U.S. at 71 (overruling Van Tran v. Lindsey, 212 F.3d 1143, 1154-55 (9th Cir. 2000) in which the Ninth Circuit required district courts to review state court decisions ...