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Hicks v. Kramer

January 11, 2010

RON HICKS, PETITIONER,
v.
M.C. KRAMER, WARDEN, ET AL., RESPONDENTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Charlene H. Sorrentino United States Magistrate Judge

FINDINGS AND RECOMMENDATIONS

I. INTRODUCTION

Petitioner Ron Hicks is a state prisoner proceeding pro se with a petition for writ of habeas corpus pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §2254. Petitioner is currently serving an indeterminate sentence of fifteen years to life following his 1981 conviction in Los Angeles County for second degree murder. The pending petition challenges the execution of that sentence, and specifically, the October 20, 2005 decision of the Board of Parole Hearings finding petitioner to be unsuitable for parole.

II. BACKGROUND

As set forth in the transcript of the October 20, 2005 parole suitability hearing ("BPHT"), petitioner committed his life offense after a drug deal went awry. Petitioner stated that he intended to purchase drugs from the victim. He realized that the drugs were "bad" and struggled with the victim in an attempt to get his money back. The struggle ultimately led to the victim's death. The victim was stabbed and sustained multiple blows to the head with a buck knife. Petitioner fled to Hawaii after the murder and was returned to California. He was convicted of second degree murder in 1981 and sentenced to state prison for an indeterminate term of 15 years to life, with the possibility of parole.

Petitioner's minimum eligible parole date passed in October of 1990. On October 20, 2005, a panel of the Board of Parole Hearings ("Board") conducted a subsequent parole suitability hearing. After considering the positive and negative factors for petitioner's release, the panel determined that petitioner would pose an unreasonable risk of danger to society if released, and thus that he was not suitable for parole. Petitioner sought habeas corpus relief in the Los Angeles County Superior Court; his petition was denied. (Resp. Ex. 1.) The California Court of Appeal, Second District, and the California Supreme Court likewise denied his claims. (Resp. Ex. 2 & 3.)

III. ISSUES PRESENTED

Petitioner contends that there was no evidence in the record to support the Board's denial of parole and that the state superior court's decision finding otherwise was contrary to, or an unreasonable application of federal due process law.

As set forth below, the federal due process standard is minimally stringent in the parole hearing context. The Board's decision must be upheld so long as there is "some evidence" in the record that could support the conclusion reached. In this case, that standard was met and petitioner is not entitled to relief.

IV. APPLICABLE LAW FOR FEDERAL HABEAS CORPUS

An application for writ of habeas corpus by a person in custody under judgment of a state court can be granted only for violations of the Constitution or laws of the United States.

28 U.S.C. §2254(a); see also Peltier v. Wright, 15 F.3d 860, 861 (9th Cir. 1993); Middleton v. Cupp, 768 F.2d 1083, 1085 (9th Cir. 1985) (citing Engle v. Isaac, 456 U.S. 107, 119 (1982)).

This petition for writ of habeas corpus was filed after the effective date of, and thus is subject to, the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996 ("AEDPA"). Lindh v. Murphy, 521 U.S. 320, 326 (1997); see also Weaver v. Thompson, 197 F.3d 359 (9th Cir. 1999). Under AEDPA, federal habeas corpus relief also 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 Federal law, as determined by the ...


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