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Thomas Paul Wynn v. M. Martel

January 10, 2012

THOMAS PAUL WYNN, PETITIONER,
v.
M. MARTEL, RESPONDENT.



FINDINGS & RECOMMENDATIONS

Petitioner is a state prisoner proceeding pro se with a petition for a writ of habeas corpus pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254. Petitioner raises due process and equal protection challenges to the decision of the California Board of Parole Hearings (hereinafter "Board") to deny him parole at his parole consideration hearing held on March 22, 2007. The matter has been fully briefed by the parties and is now submitted for decision. Upon careful consideration of the record and the applicable law, the undersigned will recommend that petitioner's application for habeas corpus relief be denied.

I. Procedural Background

Petitioner is confined pursuant to a 1987 judgment of conviction entered against him in the Ventura County Superior Court following his conviction on a second degree murder charge. (Doc. 4 at 2.)*fn1 Pursuant to that conviction, petitioner was sentenced to fifteen years to life in state prison. (Id.)

The parole consideration hearing that is placed at issue by the instant federal habeas petition was held on March 22, 2007. (Doc. 18-1). Petitioner appeared at and participated in that hearing. (Id. at 4-99.) Following deliberations held at the conclusion of the hearing, the Board panel announced their decision to deny petitioner parole for five years as well as the reasons for that decision. (Id. at 100-08.)

Petitioner first challenged the Board's 2007 decision denying him parole in a petition for writ of habeas corpus filed in the Ventura County Superior Court. (Doc. 18-2 at 4.) That court denied the petition in a decision on the merits of petitioner's claims. (Id. at 2.) Petitioner subsequently challenged the Board's 2007 decision in a petition for writ of habeas corpus filed in the California Court of Appeal for the Second Appellate District. (Doc. 18-6 at 3.) The California Court of Appeal summarily denied that petition. (Id. at 2.) Petitioner subsequently filed a petition for writ of habeas corpus in the California Supreme Court. (Doc. No. 18-7 at 3.) That petition was also summarily denied. (Id. at 2.)

On August 13, 2009, petitioner filed his federal application for habeas relief in this court. Therein, petitioner contends that: (1) the Board in 2007 improperly found him unsuitable for parole based on factors which are "unchanging and based on commitment offense alone;" (2) the Board's decision was not "individualized" and was based on factors "previously ruled unconstitutional;" (3) the Board's "overly-restrictive parole policy" was based on a misinterpretation of state law and violates petitioner's right to equal protection and due process; (4) The Board improperly failed to consider "mitigating culpability factors;" (5) the Board violated petitioner's right to due process "when it had evidence of Intimate Partner Battery Syndrome and its effects, but failed to give individualized consideration of these facts, because petitioner was male;" and (6) the Board violated his right to equal protection when it failed to find him suitable for parole, where it would have found a female victim of domestic violence suitable for parole under the same circumstances. (Doc. No. 4 at 5-6.)

In a memorandum of points and authorities attached to the petition, petitioner argues that the Board's suitability decision was based on "arbitrary and capricious reasoning." (Doc. No. 1 at 2-57.) Petitioner claims that the Board found him unsuitable for parole based on unchanging factors, such as the nature of the commitment offense, even though he had complied with all of the requirements imposed by the Board at previous suitability hearings. (Id.) Petitioner argues that numerous factors indicate he is suitable for release on parole, including recent psychological evaluations. (Id.) He argues that the Board ignored evidence he had a "psychotic break" that rendered him incapable of standing trial at the time of the offense, and that he was the victim of "Intimate Partner Battery Syndrome" by his victim. (Id. at 53.) Virtually all of petitioner's arguments constitute attacks on the sufficiency of the evidence relied upon by the Board in finding him unsuitable for parole.

II. Standards of Review Applicable to Habeas Corpus Claims

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 Wilson v. Corcoran, 562 U.S.___, ___, 131 S. Ct. 13, 16 (2010); 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 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.

For purposes of applying § 2254(d)(1), "clearly established federal law" consists of holdings of the United States Supreme Court at the time of the state court decision. Stanley v. Cullen, 633 F.3d 852, 859 (9th Cir. 2011) (citing Williams v. Taylor, 529 U.S. 362, 405-06 (2000)). Nonetheless, "circuit court precedent may be persuasive in determining what law is clearly established and whether a state court applied ...


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