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Artarlio Dabney v. D. K. Sisto

September 21, 2011

ARTARLIO DABNEY, PETITIONER,
v.
D. K. SISTO, RESPONDENT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Carolyn K. Delaney United States Magistrate Judge

FINDINGS & RECOMMENDATIONS

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 a due process challenge to the decision of the California Board of Parole Hearings (hereinafter "Board") to deny him parole at his parole consideration hearing held on May 25, 2007. Respondent filed an answer on July 2, 2010, and petitioner has filed a traverse. Upon careful consideration of the record and the applicable law, the undersigned will recommend that petitioner's application for habeas corpus relief be dismissed.

PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

Petitioner was convicted in 1982 of first-degree murder with a firearm. He is serving a state prison term of twenty-five years (plus two years) to life. (Dkt. No. 1 ("Ptn.") at 2.) On May 25, 2007, at petitioner's fourth subsequent parole consideration hearing, the Board found petitioner unsuitable for release and issued a two-year denial of parole. (Dkt. No. 16 ("Ans.), Ex. 1, Part B at 59-69.)

Petitioner filed three state habeas petitions challenging the Board's 2007 decision. On November 7, 2007, he filed a petition in the Santa Clara County Superior Court, which was denied on the merits on February 5, 2008. (Ans., Exs. 1, 2.) On July 28, 2008, he filed a petition in the California Court of Appeal, Sixth Appellate District, which was summarily denied on August 7, 2008. (Ans., Exs. 3, 4.) On October 8, 2008, he filed a petition in the California Supreme Court, which was summarily denied on April 15, 2009. (Ans., Exs. 5, 6.)

On January 12, 2010, petitioner commenced this action by filing the instant petition. (Dkt. No. 1.) Respondent filed an answer on July 2, 2010. (Dkt. No. 16.) Petitioner filed a traverse on August 4, 2010. (Dkt. No. 17.)

ANALYSIS I. Standards of Review Applicable to Habeas Corpus Claims A writ of habeas corpus is available under 28 U.S.C. § 2254 only on the basis of some transgression of federal law binding on the state courts. See 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)). A federal writ is not available for alleged error in the interpretation or application of state law. See Estelle v. McGuire, 502 U.S. 62, 67-68 (1991); Park v. California, 202 F.3d 1146, 1149 (9th Cir. 2000); Middleton, 768 F.2d at 1085. Habeas corpus cannot be utilized to try state issues de novo. Milton v. Wainwright, 407 U.S. 371, 377 (1972).

This action is governed by the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996 ("AEDPA"). See Lindh v. Murphy, 521 U.S. 320, 336 (1997); Clark v. Murphy, 331 F.3d 1062, 1067 (9th Cir. 2003). Section 2254(d) sets forth the following standards for granting 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.

See also Penry v. Johnson, 532 U.S. 782, 792-93 (2001); Williams v. Taylor, 529 U.S. 362 (2000); Lockhart v. Terhune, 250 F.3d 1223, 1229 (9th Cir. 2001). If the state court's decision does not meet the criteria set forth in § 2254(d), a reviewing court must conduct a de novo review of a habeas petitioner's claims. Delgadillo v. Woodford, 527 F.3d 919, 925 (9th Cir. 2008). See also Frantz v. Hazey, 533 F.3d 724, 735 (9th Cir. 2008) (en banc) ("[I]t is now clear both that we may not grant habeas relief simply because of § 2254(d)(1) error and that, if there is such error, we must decide the habeas petition by considering de novo the constitutional issues raised.").

The court looks to the last reasoned state court decision as the basis for the state court judgment.*fn1 Robinson v. Ignacio, 360 F.3d 1044, 1055 (9th Cir. 2004). See also Barker v. Fleming, 423 F.3d 1085, 1091 (9th Cir. 2005) ("When more than one state court has adjudicated a claim, we analyze the last reasoned decision"). If the last reasoned state court decision adopts or substantially incorporates the reasoning from a previous state court decision, this court may consider both decisions to ascertain the reasoning of the last decision. Edwards v. Lamarque, 475 F.3d 1121, 1126 (9th Cir. 2007) (en banc). 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 § 2254(d). Himes v. Thompson, 336 F.3d 848, 853 (9th Cir. 2003); 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 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).

II. Scope of Review Applicable to Due Process Challenges to the Denial of Parole The Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth ...


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