Petitioner is a state prisoner proceeding in propria persona with an application for a writ of habeas corpus pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254. This case is before the undersigned pursuant to the parties' consent. See 28 U.S.C. § 636. Petitioner seeks habeas relief on the grounds that his sentence of fifteen years-to-life violates his Fourteenth Amendment rights to equal protection and due process. Upon careful consideration of the record and the applicable law and for the reasons set forth below, the petitioner's application is denied.
On July 21, 2003, an information was filed in the San Joaquin County Superior Court charging petitioner with murder and arson, with an enhancement for use of a firearm. Resp.'s Docs. Lodged May 28, 2010 ("Lodg. Doc.") 12.*fn1 On March 21, 2005, an amended information was filed. Lodg. Doc. 1. On that same date, petitioner entered a plea of nolo contendere to second degree murder and the prosecution dismissed the arson charge and firearm enhancement. Id. On November 28, 2005, petitioner was sentenced to an indeterminate prison sentence of fifteen years-to-life. Lodg. Doc. 2.
On September 11, 2006, petitioner filed a notice of appeal. Lodg. Doc. 3. On September 21, 2006, the trial court denied petitioner's request for a Certificate of Probable Cause. Id. Accordingly, the appeal was deemed "inoperable" and no further action was taken by the California Court of Appeal. Id. Petitioner did not seek review in the California Supreme Court.
On July 7, 2006, petitioner filed a petition for a writ of habeas corpus in the San Joaquin County Superior Court, alleging ineffective assistance of counsel. Lodg. Doc. 4. That petition was denied on the grounds that petitioner had failed to demonstrate a prima facie case for relief. Lodg. Doc. 5.
On March 19, 2007, petitioner filed another petition for a writ of habeas corpus in the San Joaquin County Superior Court. Lodg. Doc. 6. Therein, he raised the same challenge to his sentence that he raises in the petition before this court, along with a claim of ineffective assistance of counsel. That petition was denied in a reasoned decision on the merits of petitioner's claims. Lodg. Doc. 7.
On May 24, 2007, petitioner filed a petition for a writ of habeas corpus in the California Court of Appeal, in which he raised the same challenge to his sentence that he raises in the petition before this court. Lodg. Doc. 8. That petition was summarily denied. Lodg. Doc. 9. On June 25, 2007, petitioner filed a petition for writ of habeas corpus in the California Supreme Court. Lodg. Doc. 10. That petition was also summarily denied. Lodg. Doc. 11.
This action is proceeding on the amended petition for writ of habeas corpus filed on March 1, 2010.
A. Standards for a Writ of Habeas Corpus
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 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 ...