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Rios v. Mendoza-Powers

August 27, 2010

REYES Y. RIOS, PETITIONER,
v.
K. MENDOZA-POWERS, ET AL. RESPONDENT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Morrison C. England, Jr. United States District Judge

MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

Reyes Y. Rios ("Petitioner") is a former California state prisoner proceeding pro se with a petition for a Writ of Habeas Corpus pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254. Petitioner was released from prison on April 4, 2007. Petitioner maintains, however, that Governor Schwarzenegger's reversal of the 2004 decision by the California Board of Prison Terms ("Board") finding Petitioner suitable for parole violated his right to due process. Petitioner contends that because the reversal violated his due process rights, he is entitled to "credit" towards his mandatory parole period because he was excessively incarcerated. The Sacramento County Superior Court upheld the Governor's reversal.

That decision was upheld by the Third Appellate District as well as by the California Supreme Court in 2005. Both courts summarily denied the petition, and federal habeas proceedings were subsequently commenced. The assigned Magistrate Judge issued Findings and Recommendations suggesting that this Court grant Petitioner's due process claim, finding that Petitioner's action was not moot. These recommendations are now before the undersigned for de novo review.

The issues before this Court are: (1) whether Petitioner's due process claim is moot because he has been released from prison; and (2) if it is not moot, whether the excess time served beyond the unconstitutional denial of parole may be credited toward his mandatory period of parole. Although the Governor and the state courts improperly applied the California "some evidence" standard, this Court cannot provide effective relief, thereby rendering the matter moot. Consequently, Petitioner's habeas corpus petition is denied.

FACTUAL BACKGROUND

On December 30, 1986, Petitioner and his friend, Peter Gallegos, confronted the victim, Dan Lacy, a sailor home on leave from the United States Navy, and Lacy's friend outside of a cocktail lounge. The victim and his friend were attempting to leave a parking lot in the latter's truck. After a verbal exchange, Gellagos struck Lacy through the open passenger window. Lacy and his friend attempted to flee in the friend's truck, but hit a car driven by Michael Rosales, Petitioner's friend.

The victim and his friend drove away, but were chased by Rosales and his passenger, Robert Clement, who ultimately caught them. The victim's friend was pulled from the truck and kicked and hit multiple times. He managed to escape and believed that the victim had done the same.

While waiting in the parking lot of the original confrontation for Rosales to return, Petitioner and Gallegos called another friend, Ok Chul Shin. Shin arrived at the parking lot just as Rosales and Clement were driving in. Petitioner, Gallegos, Clement, and Shin decided to pursue the truck. As they arrived at the truck's location, they saw the victim. They chased him into a tunnel, where they beat him to death with a baseball bat. Petitioner surrendered to the police on January 1, 1987, after having been implicated in the crime by anonymous informants. Petitioner was 17 years old at the time of the commitment offense.

On April 21, 1988, Petitioner was convicted of second-degree murder in the Sacramento County Superior Court. On July 18, 1989, he was sentenced to 16 years to life in state prison, including a one-year sentencing enhancement for the use of a deadly weapon. While incarcerated, Petitioner earned his GED and 27 units towards an Associates degree and has participated in self-help and therapy groups.*fn1

The Governor cited in his decision to reverse the Board the circumstances of the commitment offense in addition to Petitioner's denial of participation in the murder during his 1988 Youth Authority amenability determination. Taken together, he concluded, the Petitioner continued to pose an unreasonable risk of danger to the public. In his habeas petition, Petitioner asserts that the Governor's reversal of the decision of the Board granting parole "arbitrarily and capriciously" violated Petitioner's due process rights, contending that there is "no evidence" justifying Petitioner's continued confinement. (Pet. at 5, 5-A, 5-B, 5-C.)

PROCEDURE

On April 21, 1988, Petitioner was convicted of second-degree murder. He was sentenced to 15 years to life in state prison for that offense, and an additional year enhancement for the use of a deadly weapon.

Petitioner became eligible for parole on September 6, 1997. In May of 2004, Petitioner appeared before the Board for his fourth subsequent parole consideration hearing where he was found suitable for parole. At this point, he had been incarcerated for 17 years. On September 30, 2004, the Governor reversed the Board's grant of parole.

Petitioner subsequently challenged the Governor's decision by filing a Petition for a Writ of Habeas Corpus in Sacramento County Superior Court. The Superior Court issued a reasoned decision on December 15, 2004 denying the petition.

Petitioner filed a petition for a writ of habeas corpus in the Third Appellate District of California on January 3, 2005. That petition was summarily denied by order dated February 10, 2005. Petitioner then sought relief from the California Supreme Court, which was summarily denied on August 10, 2005.

On August 24, 2005, Petitioner filed the instant federal petition for writ of habeas corpus and Respondents immediately moved to dismiss the petition for lack of subject matter jurisdiction.*fn2 The Magistrate Judge denied Respondents' motion to dismiss and ordered Respondents to file a response to the habeas petition. Respondents filed an answer on October 5, 2006 and Petitioner filed a traverse on October 25, 2006. Petitioner was subsequently released from prison on April 4, 2007. The Magistrate Judge issued his Findings and Recommendations on December 11, 2009. Respondent filed objections on January 25, 2010.

DISCUSSION

A. Mootness

1. ...


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