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Woods v. Martell

March 30, 2009


The opinion of the court was delivered by: James K. Singleton, Jr. United States District Judge


Petitioner Christopher Ray Woods, a state prisoner appearing pro se, filed a petition for relief under 28 U.S.C. § 2254. Woods is currently in the custody of the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation incarcerated at the Mule Creek State Prison. Respondent has answered the petition, and Woods has filed a traverse.


Woods was convicted by a Yuba County Superior Court jury of first degree robbery (Cal. Penal Code, § 211), with the jury finding true that defendants acted in concert with two or more other persons in committing the robbery within an inhabited dwelling. (Cal. Penal Code § 213(a)(1)(A).) The jury found true special enhancement allegations that Woods personally used a firearm during the commission of the robbery (Cal. Penal Code §§ 12022.5(a), 12022.53(b)) and that during the commission of the robbery a principal was armed with a firearm. (Cal. Penal Code § 12022(a)(1).) The jury found Woods guilty of being a felon in possession of a firearm. (Cal. Penal Code § 12021(a).) Woods was sentenced to the upper term of nine years in state prison for his robbery conviction. The trial court imposed a 10-year additional enhancement term pursuant to Cal. Penal Code § 12022.53 for Woods's personal use of a firearm. The trial court imposed, but stayed under section Cal. Penal Code § 654, a 10-year enhancement term under Cal. Penal Code § 12022.5(a) and a one-year enhancement term under Cal. Penal Code § 12022(a). The court imposed an eight-month consecutive sentence for Woods's conviction of being a felon in possession of a firearm. The total prison term imposed amounted to 19 years and 8 months.

Woods appealed his conviction to the California Court of Appeal, Third Appellate District, which affirmed his conviction in an unpublished reasoned decision.*fn1 The California Supreme Court summarily denied review without opinion or citation to authority on January 16, 2008. Woods timely filed his petition for relief in this Court on March 17, 2008.


In his petition Woods raises four grounds: (1) insufficiency of the evidence to support the personal firearm enhancement and felon in possession of a firearm; (2) imposition of a sentence for both being a felon in possession of a firearm and robbery with a personal firearm use enhancement violates Cal. Penal Code § 654; (3) the sentencing at the upper term and imposing consecutive sentences violated Apprendi-Blakely-Cunningham; and (4) the trial court improperly stayed instead of striking the enhancement under Cal. Penal Code § 12022.5(a).

Respondent contends that Woods has not exhausted his state court remedies as to the fourth ground. Respondent raises no other affirmative defenses.*fn2


Woods's petition 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 California Court of Appeal 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 renders its decision or "was based on an unreasonable determination of the facts in light of the evidence presented in the State court proceeding."*fn3 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."*fn4 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.'"*fn5 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."*fn6 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.*fn7 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.*fn8

In applying this standard, this Court reviews the last reasoned decision by the state court.*fn9

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.*fn10

To the extent that Woods raises issues of the proper application of State law, they are beyond the purview of this Court in a federal habeas proceeding. A federal court must accept that ...

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