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Paul Richard Sanchez, Jr v. Kelly Harrington

March 27, 2012

PAUL RICHARD SANCHEZ, JR., PETITIONER,
v.
KELLY HARRINGTON, WARDEN, KERN VALLEY STATE PRISON, RESPONDENT.



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

MEMORANDUM DECISION

Paul Richard Sanchez, a state prisoner appearing pro se, filed a Petition for a Writ of Habeas Corpus under 28 U.S.C. § 2254. Sanchez is currently in the custody of the California Department of Corrections and Community Supervision, incarcerated at the Kern Valley State Prison. Respondent has answered and Sanchez has replied.

I. BACKGROUND/PRIOR PROCEEDINGS

Following a jury trial, Sanchez was found guilty of two counts of Robbery under California Penal Code § 211, three counts of Attempted Robbery under California Penal Code §§ 664 and 211, and one count of Assault with a Deadly Weapon under California Penal Code § 245(a)(1). The jury also found true that Sanchez had personally used a knife during commission of several of the offenses. In a bifurcated trial the court found Sanchez had five prior "strikes," and sentenced Sanchez to an aggregate prison term of seventy-seven years to life.

The California Court of Appeal, Third Appellate District, affirmed Sanchez's conviction and sentence in an unpublished decision,*fn1 and the California Supreme Court denied review on

February 25, 2009. Sanchez timely filed his Petition for relief in the Northern District of California on February 22, 2010, which transferred the case to this Court.

The facts underlying Sanchez's conviction are well known to the parties, recited in detail by the California Court of Appeal, and unnecessary to an understanding of this decision.

Accordingly, they are not repeated here.

II. GROUNDS RAISED/DEFENSES

In his Amended Petition Sanchez raises two grounds, arguing that the trial court erred by denying: (1) his Marsden motion;*fn2 and (2) his motion to exclude the identification testimony of the witnesses. Respondent asserts no affirmative defense.*fn3

III. STANDARD 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."*fn4 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."*fn5 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.*fn6 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.'"*fn7 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."*fn8 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.*fn9 "[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.'"*fn10 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.*fn11 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.*fn12

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.*fn13

In applying this standard, this Court reviews the "last reasoned decision" by the state court.*fn14 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.*fn15 This Court gives the presumed decision of the state court the ...


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