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Williams v. Sisto

October 13, 2009



Petitioner is a state prisoner proceeding pro se with a petition for writ of habeas corpus pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254. Therein, petitioner challenges the January 11, 2006, decision by the Board of Parole Hearings denying him parole. Upon careful consideration of the record and the applicable law, the undersigned will recommend that petitioner's application for habeas corpus relief be denied.


In 1981, an Alameda County Superior Court jury found petitioner guilty of second degree murder. Pursuant to that conviction the trial court sentenced him to an indeterminate term of fifteen years to life in state prison, an additional two years for use of a firearm in the commission of the murder and an additional enhancement of three years for a prior murder conviction. (Pet. at 2 & Exs. 1-3; Answer at 1-2.)

On January 11, 2006, the Board of Parole Hearings (hereinafter "Board") conducted petitioner's ninth parole suitability hearing and found that petitioner was not suitable for parole, denying him parole for five years. (Pet. at 12 & Answer Ex. A.)

Petitioner challenged the Board's decision in three petitions for writ of habeas corpus filed in ascending order in state court. First, petitioner filed a petition for writ of habeas corpus with the Alameda County Superior Court. On February 9, 2007, the Superior Court denied habeas relief, reasoning as follows:

The record submitted by Petitioner is incomplete, the Petitioner not having supplied the Court with the transcript of the entire parole hearing. However, in reviewing the "Decision" transcript provided by Petitioner, the Court hereby orders that the Petition is denied. The Petition fails to state a prima facie case for relief. Even though Petitioner has submitted numerous documents in support of his Petition, review of the transcripts provided and documents pertaining to the January 11, 2006, hearing, indicate that there was no abuse of discretion by the Board of Prison Terms. The factual basis of the BPT's decision granting or denying parole is subjected to a limited judicial review. A Court may inquire only whether some evidence in the record before the BPT supports the decision to deny parole. The nature of the offense alone can be sufficient to deny parole. (In Re Rosenkrantz (2002) 29 Cal. 4th 616, 652, 658, 682.[)] The record presented to this Court for review demonstrates that there was certainly some evidence, including, but not limited to the committing offense, Petitioner's prior criminal history, Petitioner's disciplinary record while in prison, Petitioner's failure to complete sufficient vocational training while incarcerated, Petitioner's need to participate in additional self help programs dealing with drugs and alcohol and Petitioner's contuing [sic] minimization of his conduct and behavior. There is nothing in the record that indicates that the Board's decision was arbitrary or capricious, nor that Petitioner's equal protection or due process rights were violated. Thus, Petitioner has failed to meet his burden of sufficiently providing or supporting the allegations that serve as the basis for habeas relief. (Answer Ex. B.)

Next, petitioner filed a petition for writ of habeas corpus with the California Court of Appeal for the First Appellate District. (Answer Ex. E.) On April 5, 2007, that court summarily denied the petition. (Id. Ex. F.) Finally, petitioner filed a petition for writ of habeas corpus in the California Supreme Court. (Id. Ex. G.) On October 17, 2007, the court summarily denied that petition. (Id. Ex. H.)


At petitioner's 2006 parole hearing, the Board summarized his offense of conviction as follows:

PRESIDING COMMISSIONER FISHER: Okay. Thank you. Excuse me. All right. Counselor I am going to incorporate by reference the offense summary and I am just going to use the December '03 Board Report if you don't have any objections.


PRESIDING COMMISSIONER FISHER: There is no point in reading it again. We've done it a few times in the past already. So bottom line, this is the murder of Manuel Norwood, for the transcriber, that's N-O-R-W-O-O-D. You guys got into a - -what's described here is a "scuffle" at a club in Oakland and I guess you had a gun in the back of your pants. Right?




PRESIDING COMMISSIONER FISHER: And while you were fighting you pulled out the gun and shot him.


(Parole Hr'g Tr. 7-8.)

During the 2006 parole hearing, petitioner accepted responsibility for Mr. Norwood's death. However, he claimed the events on the night of the crime transpired as follows:

INMATE WILLIAMS: They were stomping me. They had busted by [sic] eye, busted my lip and kicking me in my ribs and, at that time, I felt that I didn't have any other choice. But my intention was to shot [sic] him in his butt.

(Id. at 15 & 33.) At this hearing, the Board also inquired about petitioner's prior convictions, particularly his prior conviction for first-degree murder.

PRESIDING COMMISSIONER FISHER: And then what about the murder in '69?


PRESIDING COMMISSIONER FISHER: The milkman. Okay. How old were you in 1969?

INMATE WILLIAMS: I was, I had just turned 20.

PRESIDING COMMISSIONER FISHER: What was up with that? Why did you guys --

INMATE WILLIAMS: Well - - what, uh, I was going to speak about that, as a matter of fact, and I had wrote something that I was going to read about it. But it was, uh, the murder took place across the street from my home.


INMATE WILLIAMS: At our neighborhood ...

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