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Baker v. Clark

June 17, 2010

DANA E. BAKER, PETITIONER,
v.
K.K. CLARK, WARDEN, ET AL., RESPONDENTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Hon. Dana M. Sabraw United States District Judge

ORDER (1) ADOPTING MAGISTRATE JUDGE'S REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION AND WRIT OF HABEAS CORPUS (2) DENYING PETITION FOR

On March 13, 2009, this Court stayed this case pending a decision from the Ninth Circuit in Hayward v. Marshall, Case Number 06-55392. That decision issued on April 22, 2010, see Hayward v. Marshall, 603 F.3d 546 (9th Cir. 2010) (en banc), and thus the stay is hereby lifted. After reviewing the Hayward decision, and having reviewed de novo the Magistrate Judge's Report and Recommendation, the Court adopts the recommendation and denies the Petition.

I. DISCUSSION

In the present case, Petitioner alleges the Board of Prison Hearings ("Board") violated his right to due process when it denied him parole in 2003. Specifically, Petitioner argues the Board continues to rely on Petitioner's commitment offense in denying him parole, and there is no evidence to support the Board's findings that the commitment offense demonstrated disregard for human suffering, the motive for the killing was trivial, and that Petitioner's juvenile offenses involved violence. Petitioner presented these claims at each level of the state courts, all of which denied the claims. The court of appeal issued the last reasoned decision on Petitioner's claim,*fn1 (see Notice of Lodgment in Supp. of Answer, Lodgment 8), and Respondent asserts that decision did not involve an unreasonable application of clearly established federal law, nor did it involve an unreasonable determination of the facts in light of the evidence presented. The Magistrate Judge agreed with Respondent, and therefore recommended that the Petition be denied. Petitioner filed objections to that recommendation, which the Court addresses below.

A. Standard of Review

Because Petitioner filed his habeas corpus petition after the effective date of the Anti-Terrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996 ("AEDPA"), the Court's review is limited by the provisions set forth in 28 U.S.C. § 2254(d). Under this Section, a habeas petitioner is not entitled to relief unless he can demonstrate that the state court's adjudication of his 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).

According to the Supreme Court, Section 2254(d)(1) imposes a "highly deferential standard for evaluating state-court rulings," and "demands that state court decisions be given the benefit of the doubt." Clark v. Murphy, 331 F.3d 1062, 1067 (9th Cir. 2003) (citing Lindh v. Murphy, 521 U.S. 320, 333 (1997); Woodford v. Visciotti, 537 U.S. 19 (2002)). The Supreme Court reemphasized the deferential standard of review imposed by AEDPA when it reversed the Ninth Circuit's grant of a habeas petition for "fail[ing] to give appropriate deference to the state court's decision." Middleton v. McNeil, 541 U.S. 433, 437 (2004).

In Williams v. Taylor, 529 U.S. 362 (2000), the Supreme Court clarified the terms "contrary to" and "unreasonable application of" under Section 2254(d)(1). A state court's decision is "contrary to" clearly established federal law if it fails to apply the correct controlling authority, or if it applies the controlling authority to a case involving facts materially indistinguishable from those in a controlling case, but nonetheless reaches a different result. Id. at 405. On the other hand, a state court's decision involves an "unreasonable application of" federal law if it either

(1) correctly identifies the correct governing legal rule but then applies it to a new set of facts in a way that is objectively unreasonable, or (2) extends or fails to extend a clearly established legal principle to a new context in a way that is objectively unreasonable.

Id. at 407. The Supreme Court has repeatedly emphasized that "an unreasonable application of federal law is different from an incorrect application of federal law." Clark, 331 F.3d at 1067 (citing Williams, 529 U.S. at 410). See also Woodford, 537 U.S. at 24 (a federal court may not "substitute its own judgment for that of the state court, in contravention of 28 U.S.C. § 2254(d)."); Penry v. Johnson, 532 U.S. 782, 793 (2001) ("Even if the federal habeas court concludes that the state court decision applied clearly established federal law incorrectly, relief is appropriate only if that application is also objectively unreasonable.") Thus, a "federal habeas court may not issue [a] writ simply because that court concludes in its independent judgment that the relevant state-court decision applied clearly established federal law erroneously or incorrectly." Williams, 529 U.S. at 411. Rather, the application must be objectively unreasonable. Yarborough v. Alvarado, 541 U.S. 652, 665-66 (2004).

In addition, when ruling on a habeas petition under AEDPA, the key inquiry is not whether the state court "erred." In Lockyer v. Andrade, 538 U.S. 63 (2003), the Supreme Court did "not reach the question whether the state court erred" in deciding whether habeas relief should be granted, but rather focused "solely on whether ยง 2254(d) forecloses habeas relief." Id. at 71. In doing so, the Supreme Court overruled the Ninth Circuit's previous requirement that federal habeas courts review the state decision de novo before applying the AEDPA standard of review, and expressly held that the only question that matters ...


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