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Ameral v. Veal

April 6, 2009

THOMAS C. AMERAL, PLAINTIFF,
v.
M. VEAL, ET AL., DEFENDANTS.



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

ORDER DENYING PETITIONER'S MOTION TO AMEND PETITION AND DENYING 28 U.S.C. §2254 MOTION

BEFORE THE COURT is Petitioner's Writ of Habeas Corpus, Ct. Rec. 1, filed on November 16, 2006; and Petitioner's Amended Petition, Ct. Rec. 11, filed on September 10, 2007, which the court construes as a motion to amend pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 15(a)(2). This case was reassigned to the undersigned judge in the Eastern District of Washington on November 24, 2008. Ct. Rec. 18.

I. BACKGROUND

Petitioner Thomas Ameral is currently serving a nine year sentence in a California state prison for making criminal threats, misdemeanor contempt of court, and having sustained a prior strike and prior serious felony conviction. Ct. Rec. 12. Petitioner timely appealed to the California Court of Appeals, Third Appellate District (People v. Ameral, Case No. C049771). Id. On May 10, 2006, the California Court of Appeals affirmed Petitioner's conviction and sentence.

Petitioner timely petitioned the California Supreme Court for review. On July 19, 2006, review was denied. Id. On November 21, 2006, Petitioner filed a Petition for Writ of Habeas Corpus in the Sacramento County Superior Court, No. 06F10130, alleging that his constitutional rights were violated because the state court incorrectly calculated his conduct credit when it sentenced Petitioner. Id. The petition was denied. Petitioner does not assert this claim (credit calculation) in his initial or amended federal petition before this court.

On November 16, 2006, Petitioner filed a habeas petition in this matter ("first petition"). On January 29, 2007, Respondents filed an answer to the petition. On June 7, 2007, Petitioner filed a Petition for Writ of Habeas Corpus in the Sacramento County Superior Court, No. 07FO5689, alleging that his constitutional rights were violated under the Double Jeopardy Clause. Id. On July 26, 2007, the superior court denied the petition on the procedural ground that Petitioner should have raised his claim on appeal, and, to the extent that the petition raised a claim of ineffective assistance of appellate counsel, denied the petition on the merits. Id.

On September 10, 2007, Petitioner filed an amended federal petition in Case No. CIV S-07-0871 FCD DAD P ("second petition"). On November 9, 2007, respondents filed a motion to dismiss. Petitioner attached a Petition for Writ of Habeas Corpus to his opposition to Respondent's motion to dismiss, which he contends was filed in the California Supreme Court. Id. In the state petition, appellant asserts a Double Jeopardy Clause claim. Id. Respondents, however, indicate that no such petition appears to have been filed with the California Supreme Court.

On May 20, 2008, the magistrate judge in the Eastern District of California issued Findings and Recommendations recommending that the motion to dismiss be denied, the second petition be construed as a motion to amend Petitioner's pending habeas petition in this case, and the clerk be directed to refile the petition in this case. On July 15, 2008, the Findings and Recommendations were adopted by the district court judge. On that same date, Petitioner's second petition was filed in this matter.

II. DISCUSSION

A. First Petition for Writ of Habeas Corpus

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).

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 (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 that rendered by the California Court of Appeal, Third Appellate District, in People v. Ameral, 2006 WL 1280670 (May 10, 2006). The California Supreme Court subsequently and summarily denied Petitioner's petition for review in a decision filed July 19, 2006.

1. Wheeler/Batson*fn1 Claim (Ground 1)

On September 1, 2004, the parties conducted jury voir dire and exercised their peremptory challengeS.Ct. Rec. 9 at 10. The prosecutor excused a total of nine prospective jurors pursuant to peremptory challenges, including three African-Americans, B., W., and D.W. Id. At least one African-American served on the jury. Id. Petitioner, who is part African-American, asserts that the prosecutor's use of peremptory challenges to three African-American prospective jurors violated his constitutional rights pursuant to Batson. Respondents concede this claim is properly exhausted. The California Court of Appeal addressed the merits of this claim, and it is presumed that the California Supreme Court denied the claims for the reasons addressed by the Court of Appeal (Lod. Docs. 7 and 9). Ylst v. Nunnemaker, 501 U.S. 797, 803-04 (1991)(discussing the presumption: Where there has been one reasoned state judgment rejecting a federal claim, later unexplained orders upholding that judgment or rejecting the same claim rest upon the same ground).

The California Court of Appeal analyzed the ...


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