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Baker v. Kramer

March 17, 2010

MARK JAY BAKER, PETITIONER,
v.
C. KRAMER, RESPONDENT.



FINDINGS & RECOMMENDATIONS

Petitioner is a state prisoner proceeding pro se with a petition for a writ of habeas corpus pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254. Petitioner challenges the decision of the California Board of Parole Hearings (hereinafter "Board") to deny him parole for five years at his ninth parole consideration hearing held on April 19, 2006. Upon careful consideration of the record and the applicable law, the undersigned will recommend that petitioner's application for habeas corpus relief be denied.*fn1

PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

Petitioner is confined pursuant to a judgment of conviction entered in the Orange County Superior Court in 1978. (Pet. at 2.) Petitioner pled guilty to first degree murder, in violation of Cal. Penal Code § 187 and on October 19, 1978, was sentenced to a state prison term of seven years to life with the possibility of parole. (Id.)*fn2

Petitioner's ninth parole consideration hearing, which is placed at issue by the instant petition, was held on April 19, 2006. (Pet., Ex. A.) On that date, a Board panel found petitioner not suitable for release and denied him parole for five years. (Id. at 90.)

FACTUAL BACKGROUND

The Board described the facts of petitioner's commitment offense at his first subsequent parole suitability hearing in 1985, as follows:

The life crime was a cold and callous act in which the prisoner drove the victim to a desolate area at the -- at the beach park, during the early morning hours under the pretense of completing a drug transaction.

Upon arrival at the beach, the victim and the prisoner walked away from the automobile onto the beach where the prisoner bludgeoned the victim to death with the barrel portion of a shotgun.

The victim was then robbed of his money and left partially covered by bushes on the beach..

In an effort to avoid detection, the prisoner threw the murder weapon into a park lake.

The prisoner planned the robbery over a one week period with the intent to kill the victim in order to avoid apprehension of aforesaid robbery.

(Pet., Ex. F2, at pages marked 151-52.)

ANALYSIS

I. Standards of Review Applicable to Habeas Corpus Claims

A writ of habeas corpus is available under 28 U.S.C. § 2254 only on the basis of some transgression of federal law binding on the state courts. See 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)). A federal writ is not available for alleged error in the interpretation or application of state law. See Estelle v. McGuire, 502 U.S. 62, 67-68 (1991); Park v. California, 202 F.3d 1146, 1149 (9th Cir. 2000); Middleton, 768 F.2d at 1085. Habeas corpus cannot be utilized to try state issues de novo. Milton v. Wainwright, 407 U.S. 371, 377 (1972).

This action is governed by the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996 ("AEDPA"). See Lindh v. Murphy, 521 U.S. 320, 336 (1997); Clark v. Murphy, 331 F.3d 1062, 1067 (9th Cir. 2003). Section 2254(d) sets forth the following standards for granting habeas corpus relief:

An application for a writ of habeas corpus on behalf of a person in custody pursuant to the judgment of a State court shall not be granted with respect to any claim that was adjudicated on the merits in State court proceedings unless the 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.

See also Penry v. Johnson, 532 U.S. 782, 792-93 (2001); Williams v. Taylor, 529 U.S. 362 (2000); Lockhart v. Terhune, 250 F.3d 1223, 1229 (9th Cir. 2001). If the state court's decision does not meet the criteria set forth in § 2254(d), a reviewing court must conduct a de novo review of a habeas petitioner's claims. Delgadillo v. Woodford, 527 F.3d 919, 925 (9th Cir. 2008). See also Frantz v. Hazey, 513 F.3d 1002, 1013 (9th Cir. 2008) (en banc) ("[I]t is now clear both that we may not grant habeas relief simply because of § 2254(d)(1) error and that, if there is such error, we must decide the habeas petition by considering de novo the constitutional issues raised.").

The court looks to the last reasoned state court decision as the basis for the state court judgment. Robinson v. Ignacio, 360 F.3d 1044, 1055 (9th Cir. 2004). If the last reasoned state court decision adopts or substantially incorporates the reasoning from a previous state court decision, this court may consider both decisions to ascertain the reasoning of the last decision. Edwards v. Lamarque, 475 F.3d 1121, 1126 (9th Cir. 2007) (en banc). 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 relief is available under section 2254(d). Himes v. Thompson, 336 F.3d 848, 853 (9th Cir. 2003); Pirtle v. Morgan, 313 F.3d 1160, 1167 (9th Cir. 2002). When it is clear that a state court has not reached the merits of a petitioner's claim, or has denied the claim on procedural grounds, the AEDPA's deferential standard does not apply and a federal habeas court must review the claim de novo. Nulph v. Cook, 333 F.3d 1052, 1056 (9th Cir. 2003).

II. Timeliness of Petition

Respondents argue that the claims contained in the habeas petition now pending before this court are barred by the statute of limitations set forth in 28 U.S.C. § 2244(d). (Answer at 4-5.) For the following reasons, this court finds that the pending petition was timely-filed.

A. Statute of Limitations and Tolling Provision Under the AEDPA

Because this action was filed after April 26, 1996, the provisions of the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996 ("AEDPA") are applicable. See Lindh v. Murphy, 521 U.S. 320, 336 (1997); Clark v. Murphy, 331 F.3d 1062, 1067 (9th Cir. 2003). The AEDPA imposed a one-year statute of limitations on the filing of federal habeas petitions. Title 28 U.S.C. § 2244 provides as follows:

(d) (1) A 1-year period of limitation shall apply to an application for a writ of habeas corpus by a person in custody pursuant to the judgment of a State court. The limitation period shall run from the latest of --

(A) the date on which the judgment became final by the conclusion of direct review or the expiration of the time for seeking such review;

(B) the date on which the impediment to filing an application created by State action in violation of the Constitution or laws of the United States is removed, if the applicant was prevented from filing by such State action;

(C) the date on which the constitutional right asserted was initially recognized by the Supreme Court, if the right has been newly recognized by the Supreme Court and made retroactively applicable to cases on collateral review; or

(D) the date on which the factual predicate of the claim or claims presented could have been discovered through the exercise of due diligence.

(2) The time during which a properly filed application for State post-conviction or other collateral review with respect to the pertinent judgment or claim is pending shall not be counted toward any period of limitation under this subsection.

The statute of limitations for habeas petitions challenging parole suitability hearings is based on § 2244(d)(1)(D): the date on which the factual predicate of the claim or claims could have been discovered through the exercise of due diligence. See Redd v. McGrath, 343 F.3d 1077, 1079 (9th Cir. 2003). "Courts ordinarily deem the factual predicate to have been discovered the day the decision becomes final, i.e., 120 days after the Board finds a petitioner not suitable for parole." Wilson v. Sisto, No. Civ. S-07-0733 MCE EFB P, 2008 WL 4218487, at *2 (E.D. Cal. Sept. 5, 2008) (citing Nelson v. Clark, No. 1:08-cv-00114 OWW SMS HC, 2008 WL 2509509, at *4 (E.D. Cal. June 23, 2009)). See also Stotts v. Sisto, No. CIV. S-08-1178-MCECMK-P, 2009 WL 2591029, at *4 (E.D. Cal. Aug. 20, 2009); Van Houton v. Davison, No. CV 07-05256 AG (AN), 2009 WL 811596, at *9 (C.D. Cal. March 26, 2009); Woods v. Salazar, No. CV 07-7197 GW (CW), 2009 WL 2246237, at *5 & n.9(C.D. Cal. Mar. 23, 2009) (citing cases); Perez v. Sisto, No. Civ. S-07-0544 LKK DAD P, 2007 WL 3046006, at *4 (E.D. Cal. Oct.18, 2007); Cal. Code Regs., tit. 15, § 2041(h) (Board decisions are final 120 days after the hearing); Cal. Penal Code § 3041(b) (same). Contra McGuire v. Mendoza-Powers, No. 1:07-CV-00086 OWW GSA HC, 2008 WL 1704089, at *10 (E.D. Cal. ...


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