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Freddie Lee Williamson v. M. Mcdonald

July 11, 2012

FREDDIE LEE WILLIAMSON, PETITIONER,
v.
M. MCDONALD, RESPONDENT.



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 an application for a writ of habeas corpus pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254. Petitioner challenged his 2008 conviction on charges of possession for sale of methamphetamine and transportation of methamphetamine, and the sentence of 25 years to life in prison. Petitioner claimed that he sustained ineffective assistance of trial and appellate counsel, in violation of the Sixth Amendment; that his sentence violated the Eighth Amendment prohibition against cruel and unusual punishment; and that the trial court erred in denying petitioner's motion to suppress evidence under the Fourth Amendment. After careful review of the record, this court concludes that the petition should be denied.

II. Procedural History

On March 26, 2008, petitioner was convicted of possession of methamphetamine for sale, and transportation of methamphetamine. Following a bifurcated hearing, the jury found petitioner had four prior serious felony convictions within the meaning of California's Three Strikes Law. Petitioner was sentenced to 25 years to life in state prison.

Petitioner appealed the conviction to the California Court of Appeal, Third Appellate District. (Respondent's Lodged Document ("LD") 1.) The Court of Appeal affirmed the judgment on August 3, 2009. (LD 1.)

Petitioner filed a petition for review in the California Supreme Court. (LD 4.) The California Supreme Court denied review on November 10, 2009. (LD 5.)

Petitioner filed various post-conviction collateral actions in state court, all of which were denied. (LD 6-11.)

On September 13, 2010, petitioner filed a petition for writ of habeas corpus in the California Supreme Court. (LD 12.) The California Supreme Court denied the petition on March 23, 2011, without comment. (LD 13.)

Petitioner filed the instant petition on April 21, 2011. (Dkt. No. 1.)

III. Facts*fn1

The opinion of the California Court of Appeal contains the following factual summary of petitioner's offenses.

On a November night in 2006, Officers Joseph Aguilar and Dave Gutierrez of the Citrus Heights Police Department pulled over a green Cadillac with a license plate lamp that did not illuminate the license plate. The Cadillac contained two occupants. [Petitioner] was the driver; a man named Jermyn Sanders was the passenger. When the Cadillac pulled over, Officer Aguilar noticed Sanders "lean forward towards the floorboard seat area." Officer Aguilar approached the driver's side window, explained the reason for the stop and asked for [petitioner's] driver's license; Officer Gutierrez made contact with Sanders. Officer Gutierrez asked Sanders to get out of the car and mentioned to Officer Aguilar that Sanders was on parole. Officer Aguilar then asked [petitioner] if he was on probation, to which, [petitioner] responded, that he was also on parole. Officer Aguilar then asked [petitioner] to step out of the car and conducted a parole search. A knotted baggie containing 26.4 grams of methamphetamine was found in [petitioner's] left jacket pocket.

Detective Michael Lee of the Citrus Heights Police Department testified that, in his expert opinion, the amount of methamphetamine found on [petitioner], and the corresponding price of such a quantity, indicated that the narcotic was possessed for purposes of sale.

Jermyn Sanders testified for the defense. He explained that he and [petitioner] had worked together the day of the arrest, that there were several generic jackets that were worn by employees, and that he had borrowed one of those jackets earlier in the day. Later in the afternoon, when Sanders took his lunch break and borrowed [petitioner's] Cadillac to cash his paycheck, Sanders ran into a man who asked him to "hold something" for him. Sanders knew the man to be "notorious for smoking pot" and believed the "something" to be marijuana. Sanders told the man to: "Just put it in the car. It's open." Sanders then clarified that the man should put the substance either in the glove compartment or the jacket that he had left in the car, but to make sure to come back to get it. The man agreed. When Sanders emerged from the check cashing establishment 45 minutes later, he assumed that the man had already retrieved the "something" from the car, and drove back to work. Sanders left the jacket in the Cadillac. After work, Sanders and [petitioner] left together in [petitioner's] Cadillac; [petitioner] was wearing the jacket, but it did not occur to Sanders that the "something" surreptitiously stowed in the jacket would still be there. They were pulled over by law enforcement shortly thereafter. (People v. Williamson, slip op. at 3-4.)

IV. 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 ...


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