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Dennis Peddy v. Gary Swarthout

August 9, 2012

DENNIS PEDDY, PETITIONER,
v.
GARY SWARTHOUT, WARDEN, RESPONDENT.



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

FINDINGS AND RECOMMENDATIONS

Petitioner is a state prisoner proceeding pro se with a petition for writ of habeas corpus pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254. Petitioner was convicted of attempted murder with a weapon and great bodily injury. Petitioner received a sentence of life imprisonment with the possibility of parole plus four years. Petitioner does not challenge his conviction. Instead, petitioner challenges the February 2009 decision by the California Board of Parole Hearings ("Board") denying him parole. First, petitioner asserts that the denial of parole deprived him of a protected liberty interest without due process of law ("Claim I"). Second, petitioner asserts the Board's reliance on Marsy's law to delay his next parole hearing for seven years was misplaced as he was only convicted of attempted murder and that applying Marsy's law to his case violated the Ex Post Facto Clause ("Claim II"). For the following reasons, the habeas petition should be denied.

I. PROCEDURAL HISTORY

The Board denied petitioner parole in February 2009. Thereafter, petitioner filed a state habeas petition in the Superior Court of California, County of Sacramento. The Superior Court denied that petition in a written opinion on July 29, 2009. (See Pet'r's Pet. Ex. 1.) Petitioner's state habeas petitions to the California Court of Appeal and the California Supreme Court were each summarily denied. (See id.)

Petitioner filed the instant federal habeas petition in July 2010. Respondent filed an answer in December 2010 and petitioner filed a traverse in January 2011.

II. APPLICABLE LAW FOR FEDERAL HABEAS CORPUS An application for writ of habeas corpus by a person in custody under judgment of a state court can only be granted for violations of the Constitution or laws of the United States. See 28 U.S.C. § 2254(a); see also Peltier v. Wright, 15 F.3d 860, 861 (9th Cir. 1994); Middleton

v. Cupp, 768 F.2d 1083, 1085 (9th Cir. 1985) (citing Engle v. Isaac, 456 U.S. 107, 119 (1982)). Petitioner filed this petition for writ of habeas corpus after April 24, 1996, thus the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996 ("AEDPA") applies. See Lindh v. Murphy, 521 U.S. 320, 326 (1997). Under AEDPA, federal habeas corpus relief is not available for any claim decided on the merits in the 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 state court. See 28 U.S.C. 2254(d).

As a threshold matter, a court must "first decide what constitutes 'clearly established Federal law, as determined by the Supreme Court of the United States.'" Lockyer v. Andrade, 538 U.S. 63, 71 (2003) (quoting 28 U.S.C. § 2254(d)(1)). "'[C]learly established federal law' under § 2254(d)(1) is the governing legal principle or principles set forth by the Supreme Court at the time the state court renders its decision.'" Id. (citations omitted). Under the unreasonable application clause, a federal habeas court making the unreasonable application inquiry should ask whether the state court's application of clearly established federal law was "objectively unreasonable." See Williams v. Taylor, 529 U.S. 362, 409 (2000). Thus, "a federal court may not issue the writ simply because the 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 411. Although only Supreme Court law is binding on the states, Ninth Circuit precedent remains relevant persuasive authority in determining whether a state court decision is an objectively unreasonable application of clearly established federal law. See Clark v. Murphy, 331 F.3d 1062, 1070 (9th Cir. 2003) ("While only the Supreme Court's precedents are binding . . . and only those precedents need be reasonably applied, we may look for guidance to circuit precedents.").

III. ANALYSIS OF PETITIONER'S CLAIMS

A. Claim I

In Claim I, petitioner argues that the Board's 2009 decision to deny him parole deprived him of a protected liberty interest without due process of law. More specifically, he claims that the state court's adjudication of his due process claim amounted to an unreasonable application of the "some evidence" requirement. (See Pet'r's Pet. at p. 41-42; Pet'r's Traverse at p. 2.) He states that he "has a liberty interest in parole release unless there is some evidence of current "unreasonable" dangerousness -- a liberty interest protected by the federal Due Process Clause." (Pet'r's Traverse at p. 7.)

The Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment prohibits state action that deprives a person of life, liberty, or property without due process of law. A litigant alleging a due process violation must first demonstrate that he was deprived of a liberty or property interest protected by the Due Process Clause and then show that the procedures attendant upon the deprivation were not constitutionally sufficient. Ky. Dep't of Corr. v. Thompson, 490 U.S. 454, 459-60 (1989).

A protected liberty interest may arise from either the Due Process Clause of the United States Constitution "by reason of guarantees implicit in the word 'liberty,'" or from "an expectation or interest created by state laws or policies." Wilkinson v. Austin, 545 U.S. 209, 221 (2005). See also Board of Pardons v. Allen, 482 U.S. 369, 373 (1987). The United States Constitution does not, of its own force, create a protected liberty interest in a parole date, even one that has been set. Jago v. Van Curen, 454 U.S. 14, 17-21 (1981); Greenholtz v. Inmates of Neb. Penal, 442 U.S. 1, 7 (1979) (There is "no constitutional or inherent right of a convicted person to be conditionally released before the expiration of a valid sentence."). However, a state's statutory scheme, if it uses mandatory language, "creates a presumption that parole release will be granted" when or unless certain designated findings are made, and thereby gives rise to a constitutional liberty interest. Greenholtz, 442 U.S. at 12. See also Allen, 482 U.S. at 376-78. In California, a prisoner is entitled to release on parole unless there is "some evidence" of his or her current dangerousness. In re Lawrence, 44 Cal. 4th 1181, 1205-06, 1210, 82 Cal. Rptr. 3d 169, 190 P.3d 525 (2008); In re Rosenkrantz, 29 Cal. 4th 616, 651-53, 128 Cal. Rptr. 2d 104, 59 P.3d 174 (2002).

The landscape of a California state prisoner bringing a due process claim for denial of parole on federal habeas review has changed since the parties filed their briefs in this case with the United States Supreme Court decision in Swarthout v. Cooke, -- U.S. --, 131 S.Ct. 859 (2011) (per curiam). Prior to Swarthout, the Ninth Circuit held that as a matter of state law, denial of parole to California inmates must be supported by at least "some evidence" demonstrating current dangerousness. See Hayward v. Marshall, 603 F.3d 546, 562-63 (9th Cir. 2010) (en banc). In its decision in Cooke v. Solis, 606 F.3d 1206, 1213 (9th Cir. 2010) rev'd by, Swarthout, 131 S.Ct. 859, the Ninth Circuit had held that "California's 'some evidence' requirement is a component of the liberty interest created by the parole system of the state." Nevertheless, in Swarthout, the Supreme Court stated that:

[w]hatever liberty interest exists is, of course, a state interest created by California law. There is no right under the Federal Constitution to be conditionally released before the expiration of a valid sentence, and the States are under no duty to offer parole to their prisoners. When, however, a state creates a liberty interest, the Due Process Clause requires fair procedures for its vindication -- and federal courts will review the application of those constitutionally required procedures. In the context of parole, we have held that the procedures required are minimal. In Greenholtz, we found that a prisoner subject to a parole statute similar to California's received adequate process when he ...


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