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Gonzalo Garibay v. S.M. Salinas

November 18, 2011

GONZALO GARIBAY, PETITIONER,
v.
S.M. SALINAS, ET AL., RESPONDENTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Kendall J. Newman United States Magistrate Judge

FINDINGS AND RECOMMENDATIONS

I. Introduction

Petitioner is a state prisoner, proceeding without counsel, with a petition for writ of habeas corpus pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254. Petitioner challenges his 2009 conviction for kidnapping and assault. Petitioner is serving a sentence of five years in state prison.

This action is proceeding on the original petition filed August 15, 2011. Petitioner alleges that two statements by the victim and one by the prosecutor violated his right to due process. After carefully considering the record, the undersigned recommends that the petition be denied.

II. 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).

Federal habeas corpus relief 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).

Under section 2254(d)(1), a state court decision is "contrary to" clearly established United States Supreme Court precedents if it applies a rule that contradicts the governing law set forth in Supreme Court cases, or if it confronts a set of facts that are materially indistinguishable from a decision of the Supreme Court and nevertheless arrives at a different result. Early v. Packer, 537 U.S. 3, 7 (2002) (citing Williams v. Taylor, 529 U.S. 362, 405-06 (2000)).

Under the "unreasonable application" clause of section 2254(d)(1), a federal habeas court may grant the writ if the state court identifies the correct governing legal principle from the Supreme Court's decisions, but unreasonably applies that principle to the facts of the prisoner's case. Williams, 529 U.S. at 413. A federal habeas court "may not issue the writ simply because that court concludes in its independent judgment that the relevant state-court decision applied clearly established federal law erroneously or incorrectly. Rather, that application must also be unreasonable." Id. at 412; see also Lockyer v. Andrade, 538 U.S. 63, 75 (2003) (it is "not enough that a federal habeas court, in its independent review of the legal question, is left with a 'firm conviction' that the state court was 'erroneous.'") (internal citations omitted). "A state court's determination that a claim lacks merit precludes federal habeas relief so long as 'fairminded jurists could disagree' on the correctness of the state court's decision." Harrington v. Richter, 131 S. Ct. 770, 786 (2011).

The court looks to the last reasoned state court decision as the basis for the state court judgment. Avila v. Galaza, 297 F.3d 911, 918 (9th Cir. 2002). If there is no reasoned decision, "and the state court has denied relief, it may be presumed that the state court adjudicated the claim on the merits in the absence of any indication or state-law procedural principles to the contrary." Harrington, 131 S. Ct. at 784-85. That presumption may be overcome by a showing that "there is reason to think some other explanation for the state court's decision is more likely." Id. at 785 (citing Ylst v. Nunnemaker, 501 U.S. 797, 803 (1991)).

Where the state court reaches a decision on the merits but provides no reasoning to support its conclusion, the federal court conducts an independent review of the record. "Independent review of the record is not de novo review of the constitutional issue, but rather, the only method by which we can determine whether a silent state court decision is objectively unreasonable." Himes v. Thompson, 336 F.3d 848, 853 (9th Cir. 2003). Where no reasoned decision is available, the habeas petitioner has the burden of "showing there was no reasonable basis for the state court to deny relief." Harrington, 131 S. Ct. at 784. "[A] habeas court must determine what arguments or theories supported or, . . . could have supported, the state court's decision; and then it must ask whether it is possible fairminded jurists could disagree that those arguments or theories are inconsistent with the holding in a prior decision of this Court." Id. at 786.

III. Factual Background

The opinion of the California Court of Appeal contains a factual summary of petitioner's offenses. After independently reviewing the record, the undersigned finds this summary to be accurate and adopts it below.

In late April 2005, the victim, 18-year-old Eva Garibay, had run away from home and was staying with her boyfriend, Christian Zendjas, and his parents. On April 29, 2005, Eva and Zendjas were returning from dinner along with their friends Elizabeth Meza, Juan Rico, and Manuel. They were riding in Zendjas's Chevy Suburban. Zendjas was driving, Eva was seated in the front passenger seat, and the friends were seated in the back.

Suddenly, defendant's Ford Expedition cut them off and blocked the street. At the same time, a Chevy Silverado pickup pulled up behind them to box them in. Defendant cut off Zendjas from the left. Zendjas had to swerve and make several maneuvers to avoid being hit. If he had not hit his brakes hard, he would have hit the Expedition.

Eva panicked when she saw the Expedition, screaming, "It's my dad. It's my dad." She told Zendjas to lock the doors and keep driving, but Zendjas could not drive any further.

Defendant and Eva's father, Jaime Garibay, got out of the Expedition. Jaime got out from the front passenger seat, and defendant got out from the driver's seat. They walked to Zendjas's car. Eva was scared and kept locking the car's doors. Jaime approached her side of the car, and defendant approached Zendjas's side. Jaime knocked on ...


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