The opinion of the court was delivered by: Honorable Janis L. Sammartino United States District Judge
ORDER (1) ADOPTING REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION; (2) DENYING PETITION FOR WRIT OF HABEAS CORPUS; AND (3) DENYING CERTIFICATE OF APPEALABILITY (ECF No. 1, 7)
Presently before the Court is Magistrate Judge William McCurine, Jr.'s report and recommendation ("R&R") advising the Court to deny Daryl Keith Woods's ("Petitioner") petition for writ of habeas corpus. (R&R, ECF No. 7) Also before the Court are Petitioner's objections to the R&R. (Obj., ECF No. 8) After consideration, the Court OVERRULES Petitioner's objections, ADOPTS the R&R, and DENIES the petition.
Magistrate Judge McCurine's R&R contains a thorough and accurate recitation of the procedural history underlying the instant petition. (R&R 2--8, ECF No. 7) This Order incorporates by reference the procedural history as set forth in the R&R.
Having exhausted his administrative and state remedies, Petitioner filed the instant petition for a writ of habeas corpus asserting six grounds for relief: (1) violation of the Sixth Amendment for ineffective assistance of counsel; (2) violation of procedural due process for failure to be arraigned before a Magistrate Judge within forty-eight hours of his arrest; (3) violation of procedural due process for denial of counsel during a curbside photo line-up; (4) violation of Sixth Amendment rights for imposition of the upper term sentence; (5) violation of Sixth and Fourteenth Amendment rights for failure to impose a stay under California Penal Code section 654; and (6) violation of Sixth Amendment right to trial due to insufficient evidence of his competency to stand trial. (See Pet. 6--11, ECF No. 1)*fn1
On June 16, 2010, Respondent answered the petition, conceding that the claims before the Court are exhausted and timely. (Answer 2, ECF No. 5) Petitioner filed a traverse to Respondent's answer on July 9, 2010. (Traverse, ECF No. 6) On March 10, 2011, Magistrate Judge McCurine issued an R&R advising the Court to deny the petition. (R&R, ECF No. 7) Petitioner objected to the R&R on March 24, 2011. (Obj., ECF No. 8)
1. Review of the Report and Recommendation
Rule 72(b) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure and 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1) set forth a district court's duties regarding a magistrate judge's R&R. The district court "shall make a de novo determination of those portions of the report . . . to which objection is made," and "may accept, reject, or modify, in whole or in part, the findings or recommendations made by the magistrate judge." 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(c); see also United States v. Raddatz, 447 U.S. 667, 673--76 (1980). However, in the absence of a timely objection, "the Court need only satisfy itself that there is no clear error on the face of the record in order to accept the recommendation." Fed. R. Civ. P. 72 advisory committee's note (citing Campbell v. U.S. Dist. Ct., 501 F.2d 196, 206 (9th Cir. 1974)).
2. Cognizable Claim for Relief
Under federal law, a prisoner seeking relief on claims related to imprisonment may file a petition for habeas corpus pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254. A federal court "shall entertain an application for a writ of habeas corpus in behalf of a person in custody pursuant to the judgment of a State court only on the ground that he is in custody in violation of the Constitution or laws or treaties of the United States." 28 U.S.C. § 2254(a). Federal intervention in state court proceedings is only justified when there are errors of federal law. Oxborrow v. Eikenberry, 877 F.2d 1395, 1400 (9th Cir. 1989). Federal habeas courts are bound by a state's interpretation of its own laws. Estelle v. McGuire, 502 U.S. 62, 68 (1991).
The Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act ("AEDPA") governs federal habeas petitions filed after April 24, 1996. Lindh v. Murphy, 521 U.S. 320, 322--23 (1997). AEDPA establishes a "highly deferential standard for evaluating state-court rulings," requiring "that state-court decisions be given the benefit of the doubt." Woodford v. Visciotti, 537 U.S. 19, 24 (2002). A federal court can grant habeas relief only when the result of a claim adjudicated on the merits by a 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," or "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). A state court's decision is "contrary to" clearly established federal law if it (1) applies a rule that contradicts governing Supreme Court authority, or
(2) "confronts a set of facts that are materially indistinguishable from" a Supreme Court decision but reaches a different result. Early v. Packer, 537 U.S. 3, 8 (2002) (internal quotation marks omitted) (citation omitted). An "unreasonable" application of precedent "must have been more than incorrect or erroneous"; it "must have been 'objectively unreasonable.'" Wiggins v. Smith, 539 U.S. 510, 520--21 (2003).
Petitioner's objections repeat almost all of the R&R's Summary of Claims. (Compare Obj. 1--6, ECF No. 8, with R&R 11, 19, 21--22, 26, 30, 31, ECF No. 7) Nevertheless, the Court liberally construes the pro se Petitioner's objections and reviews de novo those portions of the R&R that are objected to.
1. Ineffective Assistance of Counsel
Petitioner claims that he received ineffective assistance of counsel due to trial and appellate counsel's failure to inform him that sentencing that imposes the upper term without a jury verdict is unconstitutional, (Pet. 6, ECF No. 1); and trial counsel's negotiating an unconstitutional plea agreement resulting in the imposition of the upper term sentence, (id.). Petitioner contends that, due to the ineffective assistance of counsel, he received the upper term sentence of five years rather than the statutory maximum sentence or middle term of three years. (Id.)
A. Summary of the R&R's Conclusions
Magistrate Judge McCurine concluded that "the state court's decision finding Petitioner failed to establish prejudice under Strickland, was neither contrary to, nor an unreasonable application of, clearly established federal law," and that, additionally, the "state court decision was not an unreasonable application of the facts." (R&R 16, ECF No. 7) Specifically, R&R concluded that Petitioner "voluntarily and intelligently entered into the plea agreement, and . . . failed to demonstrate the advice he received from counsel regarding the waiver of the right to a jury trial fell outside the range of competence demanded of attorneys in criminal cases." In addition, the R&R concluded that because "the plea agreement allowed Petitioner to avoid a sentence of more than 200-years-to-life in exchange for a determinate twenty-seven-year sentence," it was reasonable for the state court to deny Petitioner's claim for failure to establish prejudice. (Id. 18) Thus, the R&R recommended that habeas relief as to this claim therefore be denied. (Id. at 19)
B. Objections to the R&R's Conclusions
Petitioner reasserts his ineffective assistance of counsel arguments in his objections to the R&R, arguing that he received ineffective assistance of counsel in light of his attorneys' failure to inform him of the fact that sentencing that imposes the upper term without a jury verdict is unconstitutional, (Obj. 1--2, ECF No. 8 (citing Cunningham v. California, 549 U.S. 270 (2007)); and because trial counsel negotiated an unconstitutional plea agreement resulting in the imposition of the upper term sentence rather than the statutory maximum or middle term sentence, (id. at 2).
As the R&R correctly recognized, the Supreme Court's decision in Strickland v. Washington, 466 U.S. 668 (1984), provides the clearly established federal law governing ineffective assistance of counsel claims. See Williams v. Taylor, 529 U.S. 362, 391 (2000) ("Strickland . . . provides sufficient guidance for resolving virtually all ineffective-assistance-of- counsel claims."); Sims v. Brown, 425 F.3d 560, 584 (9th Cir. 2005). Under Strickland, a petitioner's claim for ineffective counsel must demonstrate that (1) "counsel's representation fell below an objective standard of reasonableness," Strickland, 466 U.S. at 688; and (2) "deficiencies in counsel's performance [were] prejudicial to the defense," id. at 692. A court does not need to address both prongs of the Strickland test if the petitioner makes an insufficient showing on one. Id. at 697.
Here, the state court's determination was neither contrary to, nor an unreasonable application of, Strickland. The state court correctly identified that Strickland is the relevant law, that Petitioner must satisfy both prongs of the test, and that Petitioner failed to establish prejudice and was therefore not entitled to relief. (Def.'s Notice of Lodgement ("NOL") No. 8 at 3--4, ECF No. 5-2 (Superior Court of the State of California for the County of San Diego Order Denying Petition for Habeas Corpus))
Moreover, the state court's determination was not an unreasonable application of the facts. The state court reasoned that Petitioner's no contest plea was voluntary, knowing, and intelligent, and that he was unable to establish prejudice because he could "not show a reasonable probability exist[ed] that, but for his trial counsel's failings, the result of his case would have been more favorable to him." (Id. at 4)
As to Petitioner's no contest plea, the Court notes that a plea of no contest has the same effect as a guilty plea. Cal. Penal Code § 1016. To be valid, a plea must be voluntary and intelligent. Bradshaw v. Stumpf, 545 U.S. 175, 183 (2005). Declarations of the plea's validity in court carry a "strong presumption of verity." Blackledge v. Allison, 431 U.S. 63, 73 (1977). Here, Petitioner stated in court that he had enough time to discuss the charges and potential defenses with his attorney; that he understood and waived his constitutional rights, including the right to a jury trial; that he was not coerced into his plea; that he understood the maximum penalty he faced was a combined total of over 200 years; and that he understood and ...