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Tramaglino v. Evans

March 17, 2010



Petitioner is a state prisoner proceeding with an application for writ of habeas corpus under 28 U.S.C. § 2254. He alleges two grounds of relief: (1) the trial court erred in denying the motion to suppress evidence on the basis that it was the product of an illegal search and seizure under the Fourth Amendment, and (2) the trial court's indeterminate sentence of twenty-five years to life constitutes cruel and unusual punishment under the Eighth Amendment.*fn1 Respondents have filed an answer, and petitioner a traverse.

I. Factual and Procedural Background

Respondents concede that petitioner has exhausted his claims by first pursuing habeas relief through California's three-tiered habeas process. See Answer at 2. The last reasoned court decision addressing petitioner's state habeas claims was the opinion of the California Court of Appeal, Third Appellate District. See Respondent's Lodged Document No. 1 (Docket No. 33) (Opinion). It provides the relevant factual background of this case:

A jury convicted [petitioner] of possession of methamphetamine (Health & Saf. Code, § 11377, subd. (a)), and unlawful possession of a hypodermic needle and syringe (Bus. & Prof. Code, § 4140). The jury deadlocked on a charge of possession of marijuana for sale (Health & Saf. Code, § 11359), and the court declared a mistrial on that charge. Defendant admitted two prior serious felony convictions under the "Three Strikes" law (Pen. Code, §§ 667, subds. (b) - (I), 1170.12, subds. (a) - (d)), and having served three prior prison terms (id. § 667.5, subd. (b)). He was sentenced to 25 years to life for possession of methamphetamine, a concurrent 90-day sentence for possession of the hypodermic needle, and a consecutive 3-year term for the prior prison term enhancements. . . .

Defendant had two prior serious felony convictions, a 1971 conviction for first degree robbery (Pen. Code § 211) and a 1994 conviction for assault with a firearm (Pen. Code, § 245, subd. (a)(2)). The probation report also noted three prior felony convictions for transporting, importing or selling a controlled substance (Pen. Code, § 11379), a prior conviction for being a felon or addict in possession of a firearm (Pen. Code § 12021, subd. (a)), 11 misdemeanor convictions, 15 parole violations and several commitments to the California Youth Authority. The court rejected defendant's motion to dismiss his two prior serious felony convictions. It found the robbery conviction was old and defendant's "list of offenses and convictions is just basically continuous."

Opinion at 1, 4.

II. Standard For Habeas Corpus Relief

An application for a writ of habeas corpus by a person in custody under a 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). 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) (referenced herein as "§ 2254(d)" or "AEDPA").*fn2 It is the habeas petitioner's burden to show he is not precluded from obtaining relief by § 2254(d). See Woodford v. Visciotti, 537 U.S. 19, 25 (2002).

The "contrary to" and "unreasonable application" clauses of § 2254(d)(1) are different. As the Supreme Court has explained:

A federal habeas court may issue the writ under the "contrary to" clause if the state court applies a rule different from the governing law set forth in our cases, or if it decides a case differently than we have done on a set of materially indistinguishable facts. The court may grant relief under the "unreasonable application" clause if the state court correctly identifies the governing legal principle from our decisions but unreasonably applies it to the facts of the particular case. The focus of the latter inquiry is on whether the state court's application of clearly established federal law is objectively unreasonable, and we stressed in Williams [v. Taylor, 529 U.S. 362 (2000)] that an unreasonable application is different from an incorrect one.

Bell v. Cone, 535 U.S. 685, 694 (2002). A state court does not apply a rule different from the law set forth in Supreme Court cases, or unreasonably apply such law, if the state court simply fails to cite or fails to indicate an ...

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