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Steven Eric Walker v. Gary Swarthout

October 1, 2012

STEVEN ERIC WALKER, PETITIONER,
v.
GARY SWARTHOUT, 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 challenges the decision of the California Board of Parole Hearings (hereinafter "Board") to deny him parole at his parole consideration hearing held on July 23, 2009. The matter has been fully briefed by the parties and is 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 1990 judgment of conviction entered against him in the San Diego County Superior Court following his conviction on charges of attempted premeditated murder and assault with a deadly weapon, with a weapons enhancement. (Pet. (Doc. No. 1) at 1.) Pursuant to that conviction, petitioner was sentenced to life with the possibility of parole plus three years in state prison. (Id.)

The parole consideration hearing that is placed at issue by the instant federal habeas petition was held on July 23, 2009. (Doc. No. 14-2 at 2-84.) Petitioner appeared at and participated in that hearing. (Id.) Following deliberations held at the conclusion of the hearing, the Board panel announced their decision to deny petitioner parole for three years, as well as the reasons for that decision. (Id. at 71-84.)

Petitioner first challenged the Board's 2009 decision denying him parole in a petition for writ of habeas corpus filed in the San Diego County Superior Court. (Answer, Ex. 1.) Therein, petitioner alleged that the Board's 2009 decision violated his right to due process because it was not based on evidence that he posed a current danger to society if released from prison, and that the application of California's Marsy's Law to deny him parole for three years violated the Ex Post Facto Clause of the United States Constitution. (Id.) The San Diego County Superior Court denied that petition, reasoning that sufficient evidence supported the Board's decision to deny petitioner parole. (Answer, Ex. 2.)

Petitioner subsequently challenged the Board's 2009 decision in a petition for writ of habeas corpus filed in the California Court of Appeal for the Fourth Appellate District. (Answer, Ex. 3.) That petition was denied in a reasoned decision on the merits of petitioner's claims. (Answer, Ex. 4.) Petitioner then filed a petition for review in the California Supreme Court. (Answer, Ex. 5.) That petition was summarily denied. (Answer, Ex. 6.)

On March 5, 2010, petitioner filed his federal application for habeas relief in this court.

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 that law unreasonably." Stanley, 633 F.3d at 859 (quoting Maxwell v. Roe, 606 F.3d 561, 567 (9th Cir. 2010)).

A state court decision is "contrary to" clearly established federal law if it applies a rule contradicting a holding of the Supreme Court or reaches a result different from Supreme Court precedent on "materially indistinguishable" facts. Price v. Vincent, 538 U.S. 634, 640 (2003). Under the "unreasonable application" clause of ยง 2254(d)(1), a federal habeas court may grant the writ if the state court identifies the correct governing legal principle ...


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