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Davis v. Martel

UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT EASTERN DISTRICT OF CALIFORNIA


May 29, 2009

DANIEL ANDREW DAVIS, PETITIONER,
v.
M. MARTEL, WARDEN RESPONDENT.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Dennis L. Beck United States Magistrate Judge

FINDINGS AND RECOMMENDATION REGARDING RESPONDENT'S MOTION TO DISMISS AND PETITIONER'S MOTION TO STAY AND HOLD THE PETITION IN ABEYANCE AND GRANTING PETITIONER'S MOTION TO DISMISS PETITION WITHOUT PREJUDICE [Docs. 12, 21, 23, 24]

Petitioner is a state prisoner proceeding pro se with a petition for writ of habeas corpus pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254.

BACKGROUND

Petitioner is currently in the custody of the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation following his conviction of assault by means of force likely to produce great bodily injury, with an allegation that he inflicted great bodily injury, and a conviction of misdemeanor false imprisonment. It was also found true that Petitioner suffered two prior "strike" convictions and had two qualifying serious felony prior convictions, and he had served four prior prison terms. (1 CT 203-204; 2 CT 584-588.) Petitioner was sentenced to a twenty-five years-to-life term, plus fifteen years. (3 CT 641-643.)

The California Court of Appeal, Fifth Appellate District, affirmed the judgment in its entirety. (Lodged Doc. No. 3, at 21.) The California Supreme Court denied review. (Lodged Doc. No. 5.)

Petitioner did not file any post-conviction collateral challenges to the pertinent judgment and conviction.

Petitioner filed the instant federal petition for writ of habeas corpus in the United States District Court for the Central District of California on December 30, 2008. The petition was transferred to this Court on January 9, 2009. (Court Doc. 1.)

Respondent filed the instant motion to dismiss on April 21, 2009, and Petitioner filed an opposition on May 18, 2009. (Court Docs. 21, 24.)

DISCUSSION

A. Procedural Grounds for Motion to Dismiss

Rule 4 of the Rules Governing Section 2254 Cases allows a district court to dismiss a petition if it "plainly appears from the face of the petition and any exhibits annexed to it that the petitioner is not entitled to relief in the district court . . . ." The Advisory Committee Notes to Rule 5 of the Rules Governing Section 2254 Cases state that "an alleged failure to exhaust state remedies may be raised by the attorney general, thus avoiding the necessity of a formal answer as to that ground." The Ninth Circuit has referred to a respondent's motion to dismiss on the ground that the petitioner failed to exhaust state remedies as a request for the Court to dismiss under Rule 4 of the Rules Governing Section 2254 Cases. See e.g. O'Bremski v. Maass, 915 F.2d 418, 420 (1991); White v. Lewis, 874 F.2d 599, 602-03 (9th Cir. 1989); Hillery v. Pulley, 533 F.Supp. 1189, 1194 & n.12 (E.D. Cal. 1982). Based on the Rules Governing Section 2254 Cases and case law, the Court will review Respondent's motion for dismissal pursuant to its authority under Rule 4.

B. Exhaustion of State Remedies

A petitioner who is in state custody and wishes to collaterally challenge his conviction by a petition for writ of habeas corpus must exhaust state judicial remedies. 28 U.S.C. § 2254(b)(1). The exhaustion doctrine is based on comity to the state court and gives the state court the initial opportunity to correct the state's alleged constitutional deprivations. Coleman v. Thompson, 501 U.S. 722, 731, 111 S.Ct. 2546, 2554-55 (1991); Rose v. Lundy, 455 U.S. 509, 518, 102 S.Ct. 1198, 1203 (1982); Buffalo v. Sunn, 854 F.2d 1158, 1163 (9th Cir. 1988).

A petitioner can satisfy the exhaustion requirement by providing the highest state court with a full and fair opportunity to consider each claim before presenting it to the federal court. Picard v. Connor, 404 U.S. 270, 276, 92 S.Ct. 509, 512 (1971); Johnson v. Zenon, 88 F.3d 828, 829 (9th Cir. 1996). A federal court will find that the highest state court was given a full and fair opportunity to hear a claim if the petitioner has presented the highest state court with the claim's factual and legal basis. Duncan v. Henry, 513 U.S. 364, 365, 115 S.Ct. 887, 888 (1995) (legal basis); Kenney v. Tamayo-Reyes, 504 U.S. 1, 112 S.Ct. 1715, 1719 (1992) (factual basis). Additionally, the petitioner must have specifically told the state court that he was raising a federal constitutional claim. Duncan, 513 U.S. at 365-66, 115 S.Ct. at 888; Keating v. Hood, 133 F.3d 1240, 1241 (9th Cir.1998). For example, if a petitioner wishes to claim that the trial court violated his due process rights "he must say so, not only in federal court but in state court." Duncan, 513 U.S. at 366, 115 S.Ct. at 888. A general appeal to a constitutional guarantee is insufficient to present the "substance" of such a federal claim to a state court. See Anderson v. Harless, 459 U.S. 4, 7, 103 S.Ct. 276 (1982) (Exhaustion requirement not satisfied circumstance that the "due process ramifications" of an argument might be "self-evident."); Gray v. Netherland, 518 U.S. 152, 162-63, 116 S.Ct. 1074 (1996) ("a claim for relief in habeas corpus must include reference to a specific federal constitutional guarantee, as well as a statement of the facts which entitle the petitioner to relief.").

Additionally, the petitioner must have specifically told the state court that he was raising a federal constitutional claim. Duncan, 513 U.S. at 365-66; Lyons v. Crawford, 232 F.3d 666, 669 (9th Cir.2000), amended, 247 F.3d 904 (2001); Hiivala v. Wood, 195 F.3d 1098, 1106 (9th Cir.1999); Keating v. Hood, 133 F.3d 1240, 1241 (9th Cir.1998). In Duncan, the United States Supreme Court reiterated the rule as follows:

In Picard v. Connor, 404 U.S. 270, 275 . . . (1971), we said that exhaustion of state remedies requires that petitioners "fairly presen[t]" federal claims to the state courts in order to give the State the "'opportunity to pass upon and correct alleged violations of the prisoners' federal rights" (some internal quotation marks omitted). If state courts are to be given the opportunity to correct alleged violations of prisoners' federal rights, they must surely be alerted to the fact that the prisoners are asserting claims under the United States Constitution. If a habeas petitioner wishes to claim that an evidentiary ruling at a state court trial denied him the due process of law guaranteed by the Fourteenth Amendment, he must say so, not only in federal court, but in state court.

Duncan, 513 U.S. at 365-366. The Ninth Circuit examined the rule further, stating:

Our rule is that a state prisoner has not "fairly presented" (and thus exhausted) his federal claims in state court unless he specifically indicated to that court that those claims were based on federal law. See Shumway v. Payne, 223 F.3d 982, 987-88 (9th Cir. 2000). Since the Supreme Court's decision in Duncan, this court has held that the petitioner must make the federal basis of the claim explicit either by citing federal law or the decisions of federal courts, even if the federal basis is "self-evident," Gatlin v. Madding, 189 F.3d 882, 889 (9th Cir. 1999) (citing Anderson v. Harless, 459 U.S. 4, 7 . . . (1982), or the underlying claim would be decided under state law on the same considerations that would control resolution of the claim on federal grounds. Hiivala v. Wood, 195 F3d 1098, 1106-07 (9th Cir. 1999); Johnson v. Zenon, 88 F.3d 828, 830-31 (9th Cir. 1996); . . . .

In Johnson, we explained that the petitioner must alert the state court to the fact that the relevant claim is a federal one without regard to how similar the state and federal standards for reviewing the claim may be or how obvious the violation of federal law is.

Lyons v. Crawford, 232 F.3d 666, 668-669 (9th Cir. 2000) (italics added).

In the instant petition, Petitioner raises the following four claims: (1) he "was put on trial while not competent in violation of his constitutional rights"; (2) a "mistrial should have been declared after [the] lead detective made comments on [the] stand during trial," causing prejudice that was not curable by an admonition; ( 3) the "trial court erred by not instructing reconstituted jury to reconsider count one"; and (4) he was denied effective assistance of counsel. Petition, at 7-9.*fn1

Respondent argues that Ground Four of the Petition is not unexhausted and the entire petition must be dismissed without prejudice. After the Court ordered Respondent to file a response and before Respondent filed the instant motion, Petitioner filed a formal motion admitting that Ground Four has not been exhausted and requests the Court to stay the petition pending exhaustion of Ground Four in the state courts. Then, in response to Respondent's motion to dismiss, Petitioner filed the same motion to stay, along with a motion to dismiss the petition without prejudice in the alternative. (Court Docs. 23, 24.)

A district court has discretion to stay a petition which it may validly consider on the merits. Rhines v. Weber, 544 U.S. 269, 277 (2005); Calderon v. United States Dist. Court (Taylor), 134 F.3d 981, 987-88 (9th Cir. 1998); Greenawalt v. Stewart, 105 F.3d 1268, 1274 (9th Cir.), cert. denied, 519 U.S. 1102 (1997). However, the Supreme Court has held that this discretion is circumscribed by the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996 (AEDPA). Rhines, 544 U.S. at 277. In light of AEDPA's objectives, "stay and abeyance [is] available only in limited circumstances" and "is only appropriate when the district court determines there was good cause for the petitioner's failure to exhaust his claims first in state court." Id. at 277. Even if Petitioner were to demonstrate good cause for that failure, "the district court would abuse its discretion if it were to grant him a stay when his unexhausted claims are plainly meritless." Id.

In this case, Petitioner fails to demonstrate good cause to excuse his failure to present the additional claim prior to filing the instant petition, and it appears that Petitioner is still within the limitations period for filing the instant petition. Therefore, given AEDPA's objectives, Petitioner should return to state court and then return to this court only after all the claims have been exhausted. Thus, the Court will recommend that Respondent's motion to dismiss and Petitioner's alternative motion to dismiss the petition without prejudice be GRANTED.

RECOMMENDATION

Based on the foregoing, it is HEREBY RECOMMENDED that:

1. Petitioner's motion to stay the petition pending exhaustion of Ground Four in the state courts be DENIED; and,

2. Both Respondent's and Petitioner's motions to dismiss the instant petition without prejudice be GRANTED.

This Findings and Recommendation is submitted to the assigned United States District Court Judge, pursuant to the provisions of 28 U.S.C. section 636 (b)(1)(B) and Rule 72-304 of the Local Rules of Practice for the United States District Court, Eastern District of California. Within thirty (30) days after being served with a copy, any party may file written objections with the court and serve a copy on all parties. Such a document should be captioned "Objections to Magistrate Judge's Findings and Recommendation." Replies to the objections shall be served and filed within ten (10) court days (plus three days if served by mail) after service of the objections. The Court will then review the Magistrate Judge's ruling pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636 (b)(1)(C). The parties are advised that failure to file objections within the specified time may waive the right to appeal the District Court's order. Martinez v. Ylst, 951 F.2d 1153 (9th Cir. 1991).

IT IS SO ORDERED.


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