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Satchell v. Sisto

June 2, 2009

PERRY SATCHELL, PETITIONER,
v.
D.K. SISTO, WARDEN, RESPONDENT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: John L. Weinberg United States Magistrate Judge

REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION

I. SUMMARY

Petitioner Perry Satchell is currently incarcerated at the California State Prison, Solano in Vacaville, California. He was convicted by a jury of second degree murder with a firearm enhancement in Los Angeles County Superior Court in May 1991, and sentenced to 20-years-to-life with the possibility of parole. He has filed a petition for writ of habeas corpus, together with relevant portions of the state court record, under 28 U.S.C. § 2254 challenging his 2006 denial of parole by the Board of Parole Hearings of the State of California (the "Board").*fn1 (See Docket 7, Part 1 at 1-33.)*fn2 Respondent has filed an answer to the petition, and petitioner has filed a reply to the answer. (See Dkt. 12; Dkt. 15.) 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 Court deny the petition, and dismiss this action with prejudice.

II. BACKGROUND

The Los Angeles County Superior Court set forth the following relevant facts: The record reflects that on May 5, 1990, the Petitioner was in his bedroom when he heard noise outside and guessed that the victim, Reginald Carter, was fighting with someone. He armed himself with a gun and went out to the other room. The Petitioner discovered that there was no fight, but began to argue with Mr. Carter, because he had invited someone in who the Petitioner had previously argued with. At some point during the argument, Mr. Carter and the other man struggled with the Petitioner to get the gun. During the struggle, the gun discharged and fired at the ceiling. The victim then jumped back and the Petitioner shot him in the neck, killing him. The Petitioner claims that he shot the victim in self-defense, because he was afraid the victim was going to use the gun on him if he was able to get it. (Dkt. 7, Part 1 at 36.) In addition, the Board noted during the hearing that petitioner's girlfriend, who was also the victim's sister, had taken her two children into the kitchen during the altercation. (See id., Part 2 at 91-92.) After the shooting, petitioner walked into the kitchen while holding his gun, and looked at her for approximately one minute before leaving the house. (See id. at 92.)

The commitment offense occurred on May 5, 1990, when petitioner was thirty-two years old. He was incarcerated two days after the incident, and subsequently convicted by a jury of second degree murder with a firearm enhancement in Los Angeles County Superior Court. Petitioner was sentenced to 20-years-to-life with the possibility of parole, and his minimum eligible parole date was set for March 17, 2003. (See id., Part 1 at 36.) The parole denial which is the subject of this petition took place after a parole hearing held on November 7, 2006. This was petitioner's first subsequent parole consideration hearing, as his initial application for parole in 2002 was denied for three years. (See id. at 7.) As of the date of the 2006 parole hearing, petitioner was forty-nine years of age, and had been in custody for approximately sixteen years.

After denial of his 2006 application, petitioner filed habeas corpus petitions in the Los Angeles County Superior Court, California Court of Appeal, and California Supreme Court. (See Dkt. 12, Ex. A at 2-21; id., Ex. C, Part 1 at 2-45; and id., Ex. E at 2-23.) Those petitions were unsuccessful. (See Dkt. 7, Part 1 at 34-38.) This federal habeas petition followed. Petitioner contends his 2006 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 2006 decision finding him unsuitable for parole.

III. STANDARD OF REVIEW

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. Ducharme, 998 F.2d 710, 713 (9th Cir. 1993)).

IV. FEDERAL HABEAS CHALLENGES TO STATE ...


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