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Gary Russell v. Gary Swarthout

February 14, 2011

GARY RUSSELL BOUSAMRA, PETITIONER,
v.
GARY SWARTHOUT, WARDEN, RESPONDENT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Kendall J. Newman United States Magistrate Judge

FINDINGS AND RECOMMENDATIONS

I. Introduction

Petitioner is a state prisoner proceeding without counsel with an application for a writ of habeas corpus pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254. Petitioner claims that the California Board of Parole Hearings (hereafter the Board) applied Marsy's Law in violation of the Ex Post Facto Clause. In his next two claims, petitioner alleges that his federal constitutional right to due process was violated by a 2009 decision of the Board to deny him a parole date. After review of the record, this court finds the petition should be denied.

II. Standards for a Writ of Habeas Corpus 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).

Under section 2254(d)(1), a state court decision is "contrary to" clearly established United States Supreme Court precedents if it applies a rule that contradicts the governing law set forth in Supreme Court cases, or if it confronts a set of facts that are materially indistinguishable from a decision of the Supreme Court and nevertheless arrives at a different result. Early v. Packer, 537 U.S. 3, 7 (2002) (citing Williams v. Taylor, 529 U.S. 362, 405-06 (2000)).

Under the "unreasonable application" clause of section 2254(d)(1), a federal habeas court may grant the writ if the state court identifies the correct governing legal principle from the Supreme Court's decisions, but unreasonably applies that principle to the facts of the prisoner's case. Williams, 529 U.S. at 413. A federal habeas court "may not issue the writ simply because that court concludes in its independent judgment that the relevant state-court decision applied clearly established federal law erroneously or incorrectly. Rather, that application must also be unreasonable." Id. at 412; see also Lockyer v. Andrade, 538 U.S. 63, 75 (2003) (it is "not enough that a federal habeas court, in its independent review of the legal question, is left with a 'firm conviction' that the state court was 'erroneous.'") (internal citations omitted).

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). 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); Delgado v. Lewis, 223 F.3d 976, 982 (9th Cir. 2000) ("Independent review of the record is not de novo review of the constitutional issue, but rather, the only method by which we can determine whether a silent state court decision is objectively unreasonable."); accord 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); Pirtle, 313 F.3d at 1167.

III. Petitioner's Claims A. Marsy's Law

Petitioner contends that the Board's application of "Marsy's Law" (adopted by the voters pursuant to Proposition 9, the "Victims' Bill of Rights Act of 2008: Marsy's Law") to delay for three years his next parole hearing, violated the Ex Post Facto Clause of the United States Constitution. Under the statute as it existed prior to the enactment of "Marsy's Law," indeterminately-sentenced inmates, like petitioner,*fn1 were denied parole for one year unless the Board found, with stated reasons, that it was unreasonable to expect that parole could be granted the following year, in which case the subsequent hearing could be extended up to five years. Cal. Penal Code § 3041.5(b)(2) (2008). However, at his 2009 parole hearing, petitioner was subject to the terms of the amended statute, which authorizes denial of a subsequent parole hearing for a period up to fifteen years. Cal. Pen. Code, § 3041.5(b)(3) (2010). The shortest interval that the Board may set is three years, applied to petitioner herein (Dkt. No. 1 at 10), based on a finding that the prisoner "does not require a more lengthy period of incarceration . . . than seven additional years," Cal. Pen. Code, § 3041.5(b)(3)(C).

Petitioner asserts that application of the extended deferral period violates the Ex Post Facto Clause because it increases the risk that petitioner will suffer longer punishment than he would have received under the prior statute, because it changed the presumption that a person sentenced to an indeterminate sentence would be considered for parole annually. (Dkt. No. 1 at 25.)

On February 23, 2010, the Court of Appeal for the Fourth Appellate District of California, issued the last reasoned ...


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