The opinion of the court was delivered by: John L. Weinberg United States Magistrate Judge
REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION
Petitioner Ramin Sariaslan is currently incarcerated at the California State Prison --Solano, in Vacaville, California. He was convicted by a jury of second degree murder in Marin County Superior Court on December 18, 1984, and sentenced to 15-years-to-life with the possibility of parole. He has filed a petition for writ of habeas corpus under 28 U.S.C. § 2254 challenging his 2004 denial of parole by the Board of Parole Hearings of the State of California (the "Board").*fn1 Respondent has filed an answer to the petition together with relevant portions of the state court record, and petitioner has filed a traverse in response to the answer. The briefing is now complete and this matter is ripe for review. The Court, having thoroughly reviewed the record and briefing of the parties, recommends the petition be denied and this action be dismissed with prejudice.
In February 1984, when petitioner was nineteen years old, he killed his mother by striking her, rendering her unconscious either immediately or when she hit her head as she fell, and then hog-tying her with a telephone cord around her hands, ankles, and neck. (See Docket 1, Exhibit 1 at 13.) She either died instantly, or strangled herself to death with the pull of the cord from her ankles to her neck when she could no longer hold up her legs. (See id.) When petitioner was taken into police custody, he was in possession of his mother's credit cards, checks, car, and apartment keys. (Id. at 14.) Petitioner was convicted by a jury of second degree murder in Marin County Superior Court on December 18, 1984, and sentenced to 15-years-to-life with the possibility of parole. His minimum eligible parole date was April 19, 1994. Thus, he has been incarcerated for the past twenty-five years.
The parole denial which is the subject of this petition took place after a hearing on June 29, 2004. It was petitioner's fourth application. The previous applications were also denied. After denial of this application, petitioner filed habeas corpus petitions in the Marin County Superior Court, California Court of Appeal, and California Supreme Court. Those petitions were unsuccessful. This federal habeas petition followed. Petitioner contends his 2004 denial by the Board violated his Fifth and Fourteenth Amendment Due Process rights. Thus, petitioner does not challenge the validity of his conviction, but instead challenges the Board's 2004 decision finding him unsuitable for parole.
The Anti-Terrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996 ("AEDPA") governs this petition because it was filed after the enactment of AEDPA. See Lindh v. Murphy, 521 U.S. 320, 326-27 (1997). Because petitioner is in custody of the California Department of Corrections pursuant to a state court judgment, 28 U.S.C. § 2254 provides the exclusive vehicle for his habeas petition. See White v. Lambert, 370 F.3d 1002, 1009-10 (9th Cir.), cert. denied, 543 U.S. 991 (2004) (providing that § 2254 is "the exclusive vehicle for a habeas petition by a state prisoner in custody pursuant to a state court judgment, even when the petitioner is not challenging his underlying state court conviction."). Under AEDPA, a habeas petition may not be granted with respect to any claim adjudicated on the merits in state court unless petitioner demonstrates that the highest state court decision rejecting his petition was either "contrary to, or involved an unreasonable application of, clearly established Federal law, as determined by the Supreme Court of the United States," or "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)(1) and (2).
As a threshold matter, this Court must ascertain whether relevant federal law was "clearly established" at the time of the state court's decision. To make this determination, the Court may only consider the holdings, as opposed to dicta, of the United States Supreme Court. See Williams v. Taylor, 529 U.S. 362, 412 (2000). In this context, Ninth Circuit precedent remains persuasive but not binding authority. See id. at 412-13; Clark v. Murphy, 331 F.3d 1062, 1069 (9th Cir. 2003).
The Court must then determine whether the state court's decision was "contrary to, or involved an unreasonable application of, clearly established Federal law." See Lockyer v. Andrade, 538 U.S. 63, 71 (2003). "Under the 'contrary to' clause, a federal habeas court may grant the writ if the state court arrives at a conclusion opposite to that reached by [the Supreme] Court on a question of law or if the state court decides a case differently than [the] Court has on a set of materially indistinguishable facts." Williams, 529 U.S. at 412-13. "Under the 'unreasonable application' clause, a federal habeas court may grant the writ if the state court identifies the correct governing legal principle from [the] Court's decisions but unreasonably applies that principle to the facts of the prisoner's case." Id. at 413. At all times, a federal habeas court must keep in mind that it "may not issue the writ simply because [it] 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 [objectively] unreasonable." Id. at 411.
In each case, the petitioner has the burden of establishing that the state court decision was contrary to, or involved an unreasonable application of, clearly established federal law. See 28 U.S.C. § 2254; Baylor v. Estelle, 94 F.3d 1321, 1325 (9th Cir. 1996). To determine whether the petitioner has met this burden, a federal habeas court looks to the last reasoned state court decision because subsequent unexplained orders upholding that judgment are presumed to rest upon the same ground. See Ylst v. Nunnemaker, 501 U.S. 797, 803-04 (1991); Medley v. Runnels, 506 F.3d 857, 862 (9th Cir. 2007).
Finally, AEDPA requires federal courts to give considerable deference to state court decisions, and state courts' factual findings are presumed correct. See 28 U.S.C. § 2254(e)(1).
Federal courts are also bound by a state's interpretation of its own laws. See Murtishaw v. Woodford, 255 F.3d 926, 964 (9th Cir. 2001) (citing Powell v. ...