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Cecena v. Subia

March 12, 2009

JESUS CECENA, PETITIONER,
v.
R.J. SUBIA, RESPONDENT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Lonny R. Suko United States District Judge

ORDER DENYING §2254 PETITION

BEFORE THE COURT is Petitioner's 28 U.S.C. §2254 Petition For Writ Of Habeas Corpus. (Ct. Rec. 1).

I. BACKGROUND

Petitioner is in the custody of the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) pursuant to a July 1979 conviction for the first degree murder of a police officer while that officer was engaged in the performance of his official duties. Petitioner was 17 years old at the time the offense was committed on November 4, 1978. On September 6, 1979, he was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole. In June of 1982, due to a change in the law and in recognition of the fact that Petitioner was 17 years old at the time of the offense, his sentence was modified to life with the possibility of parole. Specifically, Petitioner was given an indeterminate life term of imprisonment requiring him to serve a minimum term of seven years imprisonment before becoming eligible for parole. Petitioner first became eligible for parole in June 1985. He was denied parole at each parole hearing conducted between June 1984*fn1 and November 2003.*fn2

On November 13, 2003, Petitioner appeared before the California Board of Parole Hearings (BPH)which denied his parole for two years "with recommendations that [Petitioner] remain disciplinary free, that [he] engage in positive programs, educational or vocational type, and the Board asked for a new psych [report] to assess violence potential in the community and also to assess the significance of alcohol and drugs as it relates to the life (sic) crime." (Ex. B to Ct. Rec. 6 at p. 25).

BPH found the Petitioner unsuitable for parole following a parole consideration hearing conducted on March 22, 2006.*fn3 Following the denial by the BPH, Petitioner sought habeas corpus relief in the California state courts. On July 24, 2006, the San Diego County Superior Court entered a decision denying habeas relief. (Ex. E to Ct. Rec. 6). Petitioner then appealed to the California Court of Appeal, Fourth Appellate District, which, on October 26, 2006, entered an order also denying habeas relief. (Ex. F to Ct. Rec. 6). On January 24, 2007, the California Supreme Court entered an order summarily denying Petitioner's petition for review. (Ex. G to Ct. Rec. 6).

Petitioner's 28 U.S.C. Section 2254 Petition, filed February 21, 2007, contends BPH violated his Fourteenth Amendment due process rights by denying him parole on March 22, 2006.

II. DISCUSSION

A. Federal Habeas Standards

Federal habeas corpus relief 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 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 proceedings. 28 U.S.C. § 2254(d).

Challenges to purely legal questions resolved by a state court are reviewed under Section 2254(d)(1). Under Section 2254(d)(1), a state court decision is "contrary to" clearly established Supreme Court precedent if it applies a rule that contradicts the governing law set forth in Supreme Court cases, or if it confronts a set of facts that are materially indistinguishable from a decision of the Supreme Court and nevertheless arrives at a different result. Williams v. Taylor, 529 U.S. 362, 413, 120 S.Ct. 1495 (2000). The term "unreasonable application" has a meaning independent from that of the term "contrary to." A state court's decision is an unreasonable application of clearly established Supreme Court precedent "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. A federal habeas court "may not issue the writ simply because that 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." Id. at 411. A federal habeas court making an "'unreasonable application' inquiry should ask whether the state court's application of clearly established federal law was objectively unreasonable." Id. at 409. This is a "'highly deferential standard for evaluating state court rulings'" and "'demands that state court decisions be given the benefit of the doubt.'" Clark v. Murphy, 331 F.3d 1062, 1067 (9th Cir. 2003)(citations omitted).

In determining whether a state court decision is "contrary to" or an "unreasonable application" of federal law under §2254(d)(1), the federal court looks to the last reasoned state court decision as the basis for the state court judgment. Barker v. Fleming, 423 F.3d 1085, 1091-92 (9th Cir. 2005); Avila v. Galaza, 297 F.3d 911, 918 (9th Cir. 2002). In the captioned matter, the last reasoned state court decision is the ...


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