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Reginald Chavis, Sr v. John W. Haviland

August 23, 2011



Petitioner is a state prisoner proceeding pro se with a petition for a writ of habeas corpus pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254. Petitioner raises several challenges to the decision of the California Board of Parole Hearings (hereinafter "Board") to deny him parole at his parole consideration hearing held on June 14, 2007. The matter has been fully briefed by the parties and is submitted for decision. Upon careful consideration of the record and the applicable law, the undersigned will recommend that petitioner's application for habeas corpus relief be denied.

I. Procedural Background

Petitioner is confined pursuant to a 1991 judgment of conviction entered against him in the Sacramento County Superior Court on charges of attempted murder and mayhem. (Doc. No. 1 at 1; Doc. No. 11 at 1.) Pursuant to that conviction, petitioner was sentenced to seven years to life plus eight years in state prison. (Id.)

As noted above, the parole consideration hearing that is placed at issue by the instant federal habeas petition was held on June 14, 2007. (Doc. No. 1 at 48.) Petitioner appeared at and participated in that hearing. (Id. at 50, et seq.) Following deliberations held at the conclusion of the hearing, the Board panel announced their decision to deny petitioner parole for two years as well as the reasons for that decision. (Id. at 135-44.)

Petitioner first challenged the Board's 2007 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 reasoned decision on the merits of petitioner's claims. (Id.) On June 2, 2008, petitioner filed a petition for writ of habeas corpus in the California Court of Appeal challenging the Board's 2007 decision finding him unsuitable for parole. (Answer, Ex. 2.) That petition was summarily denied. (Id.) On July 18, 2008, petitioner filed a petition for review in the California Supreme Court. (Answer, Ex. 3.) The Supreme Court denied that petition with citations to In re Clark, 5 Cal.4th 750 (1993) and In re Miller, 17 Cal.2d 734 (1941). (Id.)*fn1

On September 17, 2009, petitioner filed his federal application for habeas relief in this court. Therein, petitioner contends that the Board's 2007 decision to deny him parole, and its decision to defer his next parole suitability hearing for two years, was not supported by "some evidence" that he posed a current danger to society if released from prison, as required under California law. Petitioner also raises several challenges to the conduct of the 2007 hearing. Specifically, he contends that: (1) the hearing was not held in timely manner; (2) he was unable to meet with his counsel for a sufficient period of time before the hearing commenced; (3) he was not allowed to read his supporting exhibits into the record and the panel members did not have sufficient time to read and consider these exhibits prior to issuing their decision; (4) the Board improperly refused to order an updated psychological examination for petitioner prior to his 2007 hearing; (5) the Board violated California Penal Code § 5011 by requiring petitioner to admit his guilt of the commitment offense as a condition to a favorable suitability decision; (6) the Board improperly considered a letter from the Sacramento County Sheriff when determining whether petitioner was suitable for parole even though the letter was not provided to petitioner prior to the hearing; (7) the Board found petitioner unsuitable for parole based, in part, on his failure to sufficiently participate in prison programming, even though petitioner is denied such programming because of his race; and (8) the Board improperly deferred petitioner's next suitability hearing for a period of two years. Finally, petitioner claims that the Board's 2007 decision violated his Eighth Amendment right to be free from cruel and unusual punishment and his Fourteenth Amendment right to equal protection of the laws.

II. Standards of Review Applicable to Habeas Corpus Claims

An application for a writ of habeas corpus by a person in custody under a 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). A federal writ is not available for alleged error in the interpretation or application of state law. See Wilson v. Corcoran, 562 U.S.___, ___, 131 S. Ct. 13, 16 (2010); Estelle v. McGuire, 502 U.S. 62, 67-68 (1991); Park v. California, 202 F.3d 1146, 1149 (9th Cir. 2000).

Title 28 U.S.C. § 2254(d) sets forth the following standards for granting federal habeas corpus relief:

An application for a writ of habeas corpus on behalf of a person in custody pursuant to the judgment of a State court shall not be granted with respect to any claim that was adjudicated on the merits in State court proceedings unless the 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.

For purposes of applying § 2254(d)(1), "clearly established federal law" consists of holdings of the United States Supreme Court at the time of the state court decision. Stanley v. Cullen, 633 F.3d 852, 859 (9th Cir. 2011) (citing Williams v. Taylor, 529 U.S. 362, 405-06 (2000)). Nonetheless, "circuit court precedent may be persuasive in determining what law is clearly established and whether a state court applied that law unreasonably." Stanley, 633 F.3d at 859 (quoting Maxwell v. Roe, 606 F.3d 561, 567 (9th Cir. 2010).

A state court decision is "contrary to" clearly established federal law if it applies a rule contradicting a holding of the Supreme Court or reaches a result different from Supreme Court precedent on "materially indistinguishable" facts. Price v. Vincent, 538 U.S. 634, 640 (2003). Under the "unreasonable application" clause of ยง 2254(d)(1), a federal habeas court may grant the writ if the state court identifies the correct governing legal principle ...

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