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Fuller v. Runnels

February 11, 2010



Petitioner is a state prisoner proceeding in propria persona with an application for a writ of habeas corpus pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254. He challenges a 2002 judgment of conviction entered against him in Sacramento County Superior Court on one count of battery resulting in serious bodily injury and one count of misdemeanor battery. He seeks relief on the grounds that:

(1) his admission that he had suffered prior felony convictions was not voluntary and intelligent; (2) the jury did not make the proper findings to support his sentence enhancements; and (3) his sentence constitutes cruel and unusual punishment. Upon careful consideration of the record and the applicable law, the undersigned recommends that petitioner's application for habeas corpus relief be denied.

I. Procedural and Factual Background*fn1

A jury convicted defendant Clarence Wayne Fuller of battery with serious bodily injury (Pen. Code, § 243, subd. (d); count one)*fn2 and misdemeanor battery (§ 242; count three). The jury deadlocked and a mistrial was declared on a count of assault by means likely to produce great bodily injury. (§ 245, subd. (a).) Defendant admitted five strike allegations (§§ 667, subds.(b)-(I), 1170.12) and three serious felony allegations (§ 667, subd. (a)), arising from Sacramento County and Shasta County convictions of attempted murder (§§ 187, 664), assault with a deadly weapon (§ 245, subd. (a)(1)), and three counts of robbery (§ 211). Defendant was sentenced to state prison for 40 years to life and to county jail for one year, concurrent.

On appeal, defendant contends (1) he was not properly advised of the consequences of admitting the serious felony and strike allegations, (2) the serious felony allegations must be vacated because count one is not a serious felony, and (3) his sentence constitutes cruel and unusual punishment. We shall affirm the judgment.


On December 20, 2001, defendant approached a group of senior citizens at a senior residence in Sacramento. Defendant, who was intoxicated, argued with 63-year-old G.R. and hit him in the face. Eighty-one-year-old J.B. asked defendant to sit down, but he refused. Defendant entered an elevator and J.B. told him to come back out. At the time, J.B. did not believe that defendant lived in the building. J.B. repeatedly pushed the elevator call button and repeatedly told defendant to leave the elevator. Defendant finally said, "Okay," and J.B. turned away from the elevator. Using a closed fist, defendant hit J.B. in the back of the head, on the side of the head and on the jaw. J.B. extended his arms and moved toward defendant, who began to fall. Defendant grabbed at J.B.'s shirt and pulled him down to the floor. J.B. landed on his shoulder and became paralyzed. Defendant straddled J.B. and hit him several more times with a closed fist. J.B. suffered a bruise above his left eye and two bleeding lacerations to the back of his head that required sutures. An examination at a hospital revealed that his left shoulder was broken in two places. He will never regain full motion in his left shoulder.

II. Analysis

A. Standards for a Writ of Habeas Corpus

Federal habeas corpus relief 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 Supreme Court of the United States; or

(2) resulted in a decision that 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).

Under section 2254(d)(1), a state court decision is "contrary to" clearly established United States Supreme Court precedents "if it 'applies a rule that contradicts the governing law set forth in [Supreme Court] cases', or if it 'confronts a set of facts that are materially indistinguishable from a decision'" of the Supreme Court and nevertheless arrives at a different result. Early v. Packer, 537 U.S. 3, 8 (2002) (quoting Williams v. Taylor, 529 U.S. 362, 405-406 (2000)).

Under the "unreasonable application" clause of section 2254(d)(1), a federal habeas court may grant the writ if the state court identifies the correct governing legal principle from the Supreme Court's decisions, but unreasonably applies that principle to the facts of the prisoner's case. Williams, 529 U.S. at 413. A federal habeas court "may not issue the writ simply because that court 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 unreasonable." Id. at 412; see also Lockyer v. Andrade, 538 U.S. 63, 75 (2003) (it is "not enough that a federal habeas court, in its independent review of the legal question, is left with a 'firm conviction' that the state court was 'erroneous.'")

The court looks to the last reasoned state court decision as the basis for the state court judgment. Avila v. Galaza, 297 F.3d 911, 918 (9th Cir. 2002). Where the state court reaches a decision on the merits but provides no reasoning to support its conclusion, a federal habeas court independently reviews the record to determine whether habeas corpus ...

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