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Carlos Cisneros, Jr v. Kenneth Clark

November 3, 2011

CARLOS CISNEROS, JR., PETITIONER,
v.
KENNETH CLARK, WARDEN, CALIFORNIA STATE PRISON, CORCORAN, RESPONDENT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: James K. Singleton, Jr. United States District Judge

MEMORANDUM DECISION

Carlos Cisneros, Jr., a state prisoner appearing pro se, filed a Petition for Habeas Corpus Relief under 28 U.S.C. § 2254.*fn1 Cisneros is currently in the custody of the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation, incarcerated at the California State Prison, Corcoran. Respondent has answered, and Cisneros has replied.

I. BACKGROUND/PRIOR PROCEEDING

In August 2007 Cisneros entered a negotiated plea of no contest in the Yolo County Superior Court to carjacking, Cal. Penal Code § 215(a), burglary, Cal. Penal Code § 459, and two counts of robbery, Cal. Penal Code § 211, along with two firearm use enhancements, Cal. Penal Code § 12022.53(b), and one gang enhancement, Cal. Penal Code § 186.22(b)(1). In exchange, the prosecution dismissed seven counts, and Cisneros was promised a sentence of 25 years. The trial court thereafter denied Cisneros's motion to withdraw his plea and sentenced him as agreed on December 7, 2007. The California Court of Appeal affirmed Cisneros's conviction and sentence in an unpublished decision,*fn2 and the California Supreme Court denied review on April 9, 2009. Cisneros timely filed his Petition for relief on December 21, 2009, and it was entered on the docket in this Court on February 16, 2010.*fn3

The facts underlying Cisneros's conviction are well known to the parties. Accordingly, except to the extent that they may be necessary for an understanding of the decision of this Court, those facts are not repeated herein.

II. GROUNDS RAISED/DEFENSES

In his Petition, Cisneros asserts four enumerated grounds: (1) an insufficient factual basis for his plea to the firearm enhancement, Cal. Penal Code § 12022.53(b), in connection with Count 5 of the Indictment (robbery of a Circle K store); (2) an insufficient factual basis for his plea to the gang enhancement, Cal. Penal Code § 186.22(b)(1), in connection with Count 5 of the Indictment; (3) an insufficient factual basis for his plea to the burglary charge, Cal. Penal Code § 459; and (4) the trial court erred in not permitting Cisneros to withdraw his guilty plea.

Respondent does not assert any affirmative defense.*fn4

III. STANDARDS OF REVIEW

Under the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996 ("AEDPA"), 28 U.S.C. § 2254(d), this Court cannot grant relief unless the decision of the state court was "contrary to, or involved an unreasonable application of, clearly established Federal law, as determined by the Supreme Court of the United States" at the time the state court renders its decision or "was based on an unreasonable determination of the facts in light of the evidence presented in the State court proceeding."*fn5 The Supreme Court has explained that "clearly established Federal law" in § 2254(d)(1) "refers to the holdings, as opposed to the dicta, of [the Supreme Court] as of the time of the relevant state-court decision."*fn6 The holding must also be intended to be binding upon the states; that is, the decision must be based upon constitutional grounds, not on the supervisory power of the Supreme Court over federal courts.*fn7

Thus, where holdings of the Supreme Court regarding the issue presented on habeas review are lacking, "it cannot be said that the state court 'unreasonabl[y] appli[ed] clearly established Federal law.'"*fn8 When a claim falls under the "unreasonable application" prong, a state court's application of Supreme Court precedent must be "objectively unreasonable," not just "incorrect or erroneous."*fn9 The Supreme Court has made clear that the objectively unreasonable standard is "a substantially higher threshold" than simply believing that the state-court determination was incorrect.*fn10 "[A]bsent a specific constitutional violation, federal habeas corpus review of trial error is limited to whether the error 'so infected the trial with unfairness as to make the resulting conviction a denial of due process.'"*fn11 In a federal habeas proceeding, the standard under which this Court must assess the prejudicial impact of constitutional error in a state court criminal trial is whether the error had a substantial and injurious effect or influence in determining the outcome.*fn12 Because state court judgments of conviction and sentence carry a presumption of finality and legality, the petitioner has the burden of showing by a preponderance of the evidence that he or she merits habeas relief.*fn13

The Supreme Court recently underscored the magnitude of the deference required:

As amended by AEDPA, § 2254(d) stops short of imposing a complete bar on federal court relitigation of claims already rejected in state proceedings. Cf. Felker v. Turpin, 518 U.S. 651, 664, 116 S.Ct. 2333, 135 L.Ed.2d 827 (1996) (discussing AEDPA's "modified res judicata rule" under § 2244). It preserves authority to issue the writ in cases where there is no possibility fairminded jurists could disagree that the state court's decision conflicts with this Court's precedents. It goes no farther. Section 2254(d) reflects the view that habeas corpus is a "guard against extreme malfunctions in the state criminal justice systems," not a substitute for ordinary error correction through appeal. Jackson v. Virginia, 443 U.S. 307, 332, n.5, 99 S.Ct. 2781, 61 L.Ed.2d 560 (1979) (Stevens, J., concurring in judgment). As a condition for obtaining habeas corpus from a federal court, a state prisoner must show that the state court's ruling on the claim being presented in federal court was so lacking in justification that there was an error well understood and comprehended in existing law beyond any possibility for fairminded disagreement.*fn14

In applying this standard, this Court reviews the last reasoned decision by the state court.*fn15 State appellate court decisions that summarily affirm a lower court's opinion without explanation are presumed to have adopted the reasoning of the lower court.*fn16 This Court gives the presumed decision of the state court the ...


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