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Murray Stanford v. Warden Gonzalez

July 5, 2011




Petitioner Stanford, a state prisoner, proceeds pro se with a petition for writ of habeas corpus pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254. Petitioner stands convicted of conspiracy to sell rock cocaine in the Sacramento County Superior Court, case number 06F08729, for which he is currently serving an indeterminate prison term of 25 years to life plus a consecutive aggregate term of four years.


On September 23, 2006, petitioner was arrested on charges unrelated to those challenged in the pending petition. He entered into a plea bargain and pleaded guilty. While in jail expecting transfer to prison to serve the agreed upon term, he devised a scheme to raise money for his prison account. Co-defendant Rudy Mamaril, an old friend, and Taneshia Carter, a "street-level dealer," were to sell drugs obtained from petitioner's associates, put a share of the proceeds on his books, and keep the rest. The conspirators discussed and implemented the scheme in part through coded conversations at the jail which were recorded. Mamaril and Carter obtained rock cocaine and sold it in furtherance of the conspiracy.

On October 5, 2006, Carter was arrested on an unrelated conspiracy to sell rock cocaine (a different one than that she engaged in with petitioner and Mamaril). In exchange for pleading guilty to that unrelated charge and testifying truthfully against petitioner and Mamaril regarding their conspiracy, she was promised a maximum sentence of one year in county jail and five years of probation for the unrelated case.

Petitioner and co-defendant Mamaril were charged with conspiracy to sell rock cocaine. At trial, the prosecution played the taped jail conversations, with transcripts furnished to the jury, and Carter testified about their contents. Neither co-defendant testified. A jury convicted both of conspiracy.

In a bifurcated proceeding, the trial court found the prior prison allegations against petitioner constituted a single enhancement, and found the remaining prior conviction allegations true. After denying his motion for a new trial and motion to strike prior convictions, the court sentenced him to 25 years to life under the "three strikes law" for the conspiracy, plus three years consecutive years for the prior drug conviction, plus one consecutive year for the prior prison term.

The California Court of Appeal, Third District, affirmed the judgment and sentence. A petition for review to the California Supreme Court was denied. Petitioner sought habeas corpus relief in state court where relief was likewise denied. The parties agree that petitioner exhausted state court remedies with respect to the claims presented. Respondent contends, however, that ground one of the petition is procedurally barred.


Ground One: The true findings on petitioner's prior serious felony allegations and use as sentence enhancements constituted a breach of his 1994 plea agreement.

Ground Two: Insufficient evidence supports the conspiracy conviction.


An application for writ of habeas corpus by a person in custody under judgment of a state court can be granted only for violations of the Constitution or laws of the United States. 28 U.S.C. §2254(a); see also Peltier v. Wright, 15 F.3d 860, 861 (9th Cir. 1993); Middleton v. Cupp, 768 F.2d 1083, 1085 (9th Cir. 1985) (citing Engle v. Isaac, 456 U.S. 107, 119 (1982)). This petition for writ of habeas corpus was filed after the effective date of, and thus is subject to, the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996 ("AEDPA"). Lindh v. Murphy, 521 U.S. 320, 326 (1997); see also Weaver v. Thompson, 197 F.3d 359 (9th Cir. 1999). Under AEDPA, federal habeas corpus relief also 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, 532 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 whether an unreasonable application of such law has occurred. Avila v. Galaza, 297 F.3d 911, 918 (9th Cir. 2002), cert. dismissed, 538 U.S. 919. The state court's factual findings are presumed correct if not rebutted with clear and convincing evidence. 28 U.S.C. § 2254(e)(1); Taylor v. Maddox, 336 F.3d 992, 1000 (9th Cir. 2004). It is the habeas corpus petitioner's burden to show the state court's decision was either contrary to or an unreasonable application of federal law. Woodford v. Visciotti, 537 U.S. 19, 123 S. Ct. 357, 360 (2002).


A. Ground One: Breach ...

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