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Voth v. Curry

May 27, 2010


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Ronald B. Leighton United States District Judge


THIS MATTER is before the Court for consideration of Petitioner's Petition for Writ of Habeas Corpus [Dkt. #1]. The Court has reviewed the material submitted in support of and opposition to the Petition. For the following reasons, Petitioner's Petition for Writ of Habeas Corpus is DENIED on all grounds.


Petitioner John D. Voth was convicted by a jury of assault with a deadly weapon on a peace officer and driving in willful disregard for the safety of persons or property while fleeing from a pursuing police officer. Petitioner is confined by Respondent pursuant to a judgment of the Superior Court of the State of California, County of Sacramento. He was sentenced to state prison for a term of 13 years 4 months.

Petitioner filed a timely appeal to the California Court of Appeal, Third Appellate District. The Court modified the credits and fines, but affirmed the judgment. He then petitioned the California Supreme Court for review, but was denied on July 27, 2006. On January 5, 2006, Petitioner filed a Petition for Writ of Habeas Corpus in the California Supreme Court. The Petition was denied on July 20, 2006. Petitioner then filed a Petition for Writ of Habeas Corpus with the United States District Court for the Eastern District of California.

Petitioner's conviction was a result of an incident occurring in October of 2003. When Petitioner was being pulled over for driving with a cracked windshield and expired license plate, he initially slowed down, but then accelerated to a high speed. Several patrol vehicles pursued Petitioner. One patrol vehicle eventually bumped the front of Petitioner's truck, causing it to spin to a stop so that it was facing the patrol vehicle driven by Deputy Tim Albright. The jury concluded that Petitioner purposefully accelerated towards, and eventually struck, Deputy Albright's vehicle. Deputy Albright suffered back and shoulder injuries as a result of the collision. Petitioner claimed, however, that he was attempting to escape rather than strike Deputy Albright's car.


This case is governed by the standards of the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act ("AEDPA"). Under AEDPA, a federal court may grant an application for habeas corpus relief arising from a state court adjudication on the merits if the state proceeding "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." 28 U.S.C. § 2254(d)(1). A state court decision is contrary to clearly established federal law under AEDPA where the state court applies a rule that runs contrary to controlling Supreme Court precedent or where the state court is confronted with a factual scenario that is "materially indistinguishable" from the facts of a Supreme Court decision but reaches a result different than the Supreme Court. Lockyer v. Andrade, 538 U.S. 63, 73 (2003) (citing Williams v. Taylor, 529 U.S. 362, 403-06 (2000)).

A state court decision involves an "unreasonable application of" clearly established federal law if the state court identifies the correct governing legal principle from the decisions of the Supreme Court but applies to the facts of a prisoner's case in an "objectively unreasonable" manner, such that the state court decision is "more than incorrect or erroneous." Lockyer, 538 U.S. at 75.

Further, even if a state court decision was clearly erroneous, the Court may grant relief only if Petitioner shows that the error had a "substantial or injurious effect" on the verdict. Brecht v. Abrahamson, 507 U.S. 619, 637-38 (1993).


Petitioner states three grounds upon which his Petition depends. First, Petitioner claims that the trial court violated his Fourteenth Amendment due process rights when it failed to adequately instruct the jury on the possibility of a lesser offense and did not provide verdict forms that included the lesser offense. Second, Petitioner claims that his appellate attorney rendered ineffective assistance in violation of the Sixth Amendment. Third, Petitioner claims that the errors that occurred at the trial and appellate court, which individually may not have amounted to a deprivation of due process, cumulatively denied Petitioner of his right to a fair trial and appeal.

A. Jury Instructions and Verdict Forms

Petitioner was charged, inter alia, with one count of violating Section 245(c) of the Penal Code of the State ...

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