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John L. Smith v. D. K. Sisto

February 15, 2011

JOHN L. SMITH, PETITIONER,
v.
D. K. SISTO, ET AL., RESPONDENTS.



FINDINGS AND RECOMMENDATIONS

Petitioner is a state prisoner proceeding in propria persona 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 at a parole consideration hearing held on November 1, 2005.

For the reasons that follow, the petition for writ of habeas corpus must be denied.

I. Procedural Background

Petitioner is confined pursuant to a 1985 judgment of conviction entered against him in the Los Angeles Superior Court following his conviction on charges of first degree murder with use of a gun. Pet. at 1.*fn1 Pursuant to that conviction, petitioner was sentenced to twenty-six years to life in state prison. Id.

The parole consideration hearing at issue was held on November 1, 2005. Pet., Ex. 1. Petitioner appeared at and participated in the hearing. Id. Following deliberations held at the conclusion of the hearing, the Board panel announced their decision to deny petitioner parole for two years and the reasons for that decision. Id. at 58-64.

On August 10, 2006, petitioner challenged the Board's 2005 decision in a petition for writ of habeas corpus filed in the Los Angeles County Superior Court. Answer, Ex. 1. The Superior Court denied that petition in a decision on the merits of petitioner's claims. Id., Ex. 2. Petitioner subsequently challenged the Board's 2005 decision in a petition for writ of habeas corpus filed in the California Court of Appeal and a petition for review filed in the California Supreme Court. Id., Exs. 3, 4. Those petitions were summarily denied. Id., Exs. 5, 6.

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, 8 (2002) (quoting Williams v. Taylor, 529 U.S. 362, 405-406 (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 ...


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