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Joseph Knight Cox v. James A. Yates

December 23, 2011

JOSEPH KNIGHT COX, PETITIONER,
v.
JAMES A. YATES, RESPONDENT.



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

FINDINGS AND RECOMMENDATIONS

Petitioner is a California prisoner proceeding pro se with an application for writ of habeas corpus under 28 U.S.C. § 2254. Petitioner challenges his 2006 Yolo County convictions and sentences for several sex offenses. On May 12, 2010, a magistrate judge previously assigned to this case recommended that all of the claims in petitioner's habeas petition be rejected with the exception of petitioner's claim that his sentence violates the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment because the fifteen-years-to-life sentences imposed on counts 8, 14 and 15 are longer than authorized by California statute. The magistrate judge recommended that the sentences imposed on counts 8, 14 and 15 be vacated. Respondent filed objections to the findings and recommendations on May 28, 2010.

On July 28, 2010, the district court judge assigned to this case adopted the May 12, 2010, findings and recommendations except for the due process claim described above which he remanded for reconsideration in light of respondent's objections. Petitioner was afforded an opportunity to respond to the objections, but did not. Thus the only issue before this court is a consideration of the petitioner's claim that his sentence exceeded that which was authorized by statute because of the way the enhancement was pled in the information.

I. Standard For Habeas Corpus Relief

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). Also, 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).*fn1 It is the habeas petitioner's burden to show he is not precluded from obtaining relief by § 2254(d). See Woodford v. Visciotti, 537 U.S. 19, 25 (2002).

The "contrary to" and "unreasonable application" clauses of § 2254(d)(1) are different. As the Supreme Court has explained:

A federal habeas court may issue the writ under the "contrary to" clause if the state court applies a rule different from the governing law set forth in our cases, or if it decides a case differently than we have done on a set of materially indistinguishable facts. The court may grant relief under the "unreasonable application" clause if the state court correctly identifies the governing legal principle from our decisions but unreasonably applies it to the facts of the particular case. The focus of the latter inquiry is on whether the state court's application of clearly established federal law is objectively unreasonable, and we stressed in Williams [v. Taylor, 529 U.S. 362 (2000)] that an unreasonable application is different from an incorrect one.

Bell v. Cone, 535 U.S. 685, 694 (2002).

The court will look to the last reasoned state court decision in determining whether the law applied to a particular claim by the state courts was contrary to the law set forth in the cases of the United States Supreme Court or whether an unreasonable application of such law has occurred. Avila v. Galaza, 297 F.3d 911, 918 (9th Cir. 2002).

A state court does not apply a rule different from the law set forth in Supreme Court cases, or unreasonably apply such law, if the state court simply fails to cite or fails to indicate an awareness of federal law. Early v. Packer, 537 U.S. 3, 8 (2002).

"[W]hen a federal claim has been presented to a state court 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 v. Richter, 131 S. Ct. 770, 784-85 (2011). "The presumption may be overcome when there is ...


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