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Audette v. Sisto

January 29, 2009


The opinion of the court was delivered by: John W. Sedwick United States District Judge


Petitioner Carlton Lee Audette, a state prisoner proceeding pro se, filed a petition for a writ of habeas corpus under 28 U.S.C. § 2254. Audette is in the custody of the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation, incarcerated at the Solano State Prison, Solano, California.


Audette was convicted after a jury trial in the Shasta County Superior Court of attempted second-degree robbery (Cal. Pen. Code §§ 211, 664 -- Count 1), possession of methamphetamine (Cal. Health & Saf. Code § 11377 -- Count 2), transportation of methamphetamine (Cal. Health & Saf. Code § 11379 -- Count 3), and misdemeanor possession of an injecting device (Cal. Health & Saf. Code § 11364 -- Count 4). Audette was sentenced to a term of 63 years to life on Count 1 (six five-year enhancements added to a term of 33 years to life) and a consecutive term of 25 years to life on Count 3. A sentence of 25 years to life was imposed on Count 2 but stayed (Cal. Pen. Code § 654). Time served was credited for Count 4. The total sentence imposed was 88 years to life.

Audette, represented by counsel, timely appealed his conviction to the California Court of Appeal, Thrird District, which reversed the conviction on Counts 2 and 3 and affirmed the conviction on Counts 1 and 4 in an unpublished reasoned decision.*fn1 The California Supreme Court summarily denied review without opinion or citation to authority on January 20, 2006. Audette timely filed his petition for relief in this Court on April 5, 2006.


In his petition Audette raises three grounds: (1) the trial court abused its discretion in admitting evidence of an uncharged robbery in violation of his constitutional rights to due process and a fair trial; (2) use of a 50,000 volt REACT belt attached to his leg during trial violated due process, to a fair trial, and to assist in his defense; and (3) reversal of the conviction of the narcotics charges requires the grant of a new trial.

Respondent concedes that Audette has exhausted his state court remedies as to all grounds asserted. Respondent contends that habeas review by this Court as to the second ground is procedurally barred.


Because Audette filed his petition after April 24, 1996, it is governed by the standard of review set forth in the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996 ("AEDPA"), 28 U.S.C. § 2254(d). Consequently, this Court cannot grant relief unless the decision of the state court was "contrary to, or involved an unreasonable application of, clearly established Federal law, as determined by the Supreme Court of the United States" at the time the state court rendered its decision or "was based on an unreasonable determination of the facts in light of the evidence presented in the State court proceeding."*fn2 The Supreme Court has explained that "clearly established Federal law" in § 2254(d)(1) "refers to the holdings, as opposed to the dicta, of [the Supreme Court] as of the time of the relevant state-court decision."*fn3 Thus, where holdings of the Supreme Court regarding the issue presented on habeas review are lacking, "it cannot be said that the state court 'unreasonabl[y] appli[ed] clearly established Federal law.'"*fn4

When a claim falls under the "unreasonable application" prong, a state court's application of the Supreme Court precedent must be "objectively unreasonable," "not just incorrect or erroneous."*fn5

The Supreme Court has made clear that the objectively unreasonable standard is a substantially higher threshold than simply believing the state court determination was incorrect.*fn6 Finally, in a federal habeas proceeding, the standard under which this Court must assess the prejudicial impact of constitutional error in a state-court criminal trial is whether the error had a substantial and injurious effect or influence in determining the jury's verdict.*fn7

In applying this standard, this Court reviews the last reasoned decision by the state court,*fn8 which in this case was that of the California Court of Appeal. Under AEDPA, the state court's findings of fact are presumed to be correct unless the petitioner rebuts this presumption by clear and convincing evidence.*fn9

When there is no reasoned state court decision denying an issue presented to the state court and raised in a federal habeas petition, this Court must assume that the state court decided all the issues presented to it and performed an independent review of the record to ascertain whether the state court decision was objectively unreasonable.*fn10 ...

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