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Matthew Guerra-Shaner v. Tom Felker

June 9, 2011

MATTHEW GUERRA-SHANER, PETITIONER,
v.
TOM FELKER, RESPONDENT.



FINDINGS AND RECOMMENDATIONS

I. INTRODUCTION

Petitioner, Matthew Guerra-Shaner, is a state prisoner proceeding pro se with a petition for writ of habeas corpus pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254. With this petition, Petitioner does not challenge his underlying conviction and sentence. Rather, he challenges the results a prison disciplinary decision finding him guilty of a rules violation and assessing him a forfeiture of 360 days sentencing credit.

II. ISSUE PRESENTED

Petitioner sets forth a single ground for relief in his pending petition. He claims that there was insufficient evidence to support the result of his November 21, 2006 prison disciplinary hearing in which he was found guilty of violating title 15, section 3005(c)*fn1 of the California Code of Regulations, which prohibits the use of force or violence by inmates. Upon careful consideration of the record and the applicable law, it is recommended that this petition for habeas corpus relief be denied.

III. BACKGROUND

On July 5, 2006, Inmate McMillin was stabbed in the back with an inmate manufactured weapon during evening yard at California Correctional Center in Susanville, CA. Prison officials were informed of the stabbing, and two Correctional Officers Harwood and Cortez responded to Inmate McMillin's cell, where they found him alone and lying on the bottom bunk. The officers opened the cell door and asked Inmate McMillin to stand up and turn around slowly so that any marks indicating an injury could be observed. Both officers reported that Inmate McMillin had suffered a small puncture wound to his back. He was placed into handcuffs and escorted to the Lassen Clinic. During the medical exam, it was determined that Inmate McMillin needed to be transported to the Main Clinic for further examination. The Medical Report of Injury filed regarding the incident reflects that Inmate McMillin suffered an abrasion or scratch to his back and that the area surrounding the injury was reddened. Prison officials were not aware of the identity of the inmate who stabbed Inmate McMillin at the time the incident occurred. However, a confidential informant later notified officials that he had witnessed Petitioner stab Inmate McMillin on the evening of July 5, 2006.

As a result of the information obtained from the confidential informant, Petitioner was issued a Rules Violation Report ("RVR") on November 7, 2006 alleging that he stabbed Inmate McMillin in the back. Accordingly, Petitioner was charged with a violation of title 15, section 3005(c) of the California Code of Regulations, which prohibits the use of force or violence by inmates. More specifically, Petitioner was charged with the act of attempted murder. On November 21, 2006, Petitioner appeared before a Senior Hearing Officer ("SHO") for a disciplinary proceeding and pled not guilty to the alleged rules violation. After considering the available evidence, the SHO found Petitioner guilty of the disciplinary charge and assessed him a forfeiture of 360 days sentencing credit. On January 4, 2007, the Institutional Classification Committee ("ICC") assessed and imposed a 26-month Security Housing Unit ("SHU") term to be served consecutively to an SHU term previously imposed on Petitioner in October 2006. On January 22, 2007, however, the Chief Disciplinary Officer ("CDO"), determining that the evidence did not support a finding that Petitioner was guilty of attempted murder, reduced the charged act from attempted murder to battery on an inmate with a weapon, a lesser included offense. Additionally, Petitioner's SHU term was reduced to 15 months to be served concurrent to the term imposed in October 2006. Petitioner remained subject, however, to the 360 day forfeiture of sentencing credit Petitioner filed an administrative appeal at the second-level of review alleging that his disciplinary conviction was not supported by sufficient evidence. This appeal was denied. Petitioner subsequently appealed at the Director's level of review. The Director's level decision found that Petitioner had failed to support his appellate issues with sufficient facts or evidence.

Petitioner subsequently sought habeas corpus relief in the Lassen County Superior Court. The court denied relief on September 25, 2008 in a brief but reasoned opinion. The California Court of Appeal, Third Appellate District and the California Supreme Court both denied relief without comment on November 6, 2008 and May 20, 2009, respectively. Petitioner filed the federal habeas corpus petition now before the court on October 9, 2009. Respondent filed its answer on May 11, 2010, and Petitioner filed his traverse on May 27, 2010.

IV. APPLICABLE STANDARD OF HABEAS CORPUS REVIEW

This case is governed by the provisions of the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996 ("AEDPA"), which applies to all petitions for writ of habeas corpus filed after its enactment on April 24, 1996. Lindh v. Murphy, 521 U.S. 320, 326 (1997); Jeffries v. Wood, 114 F.3d 1484, 1499 (9th Cir. 1997). Under AEDPA, an application for a writ of habeas corpus by a person in custody under a judgment of a state court may be granted only for violations of the Constitution or laws of the United States. 28 U.S.C. § 2254(a); Williams v. Taylor, 529 U.S. 362, 375 n. 7 (2000). 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). See also Penry v. Johnson, 531 U.S. 782, 792-93 (2001); Williams v. Taylor, 529 U.S. 362, 402-03 (2000); Lockhart v. Terhune, 250 F.3d 1223, 1229 (9th Cir. 2001). This court looks to the last reasoned state court decision in determining whether the law applied to a particular claim by the state courts was contrary to the law set forth in the cases of the United States Supreme Court or ...


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