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William Coffin v. Gary Swarthout

March 28, 2013

WILLIAM COFFIN, PETITIONER,
v.
GARY SWARTHOUT, RESPONDENT.



FINDINGS AND RECOMMENDATIONS

Petitioner is a state prisoner without counsel proceeding with an application for a writ of habeas corpus pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254. Petitioner challenges the November 28, 2008 decision by the California Board of Parole Hearings (Board) to deny him parole. He claims that the Board's decision constituted a breach of his plea agreement. Upon careful consideration of the record and the applicable law, the undersigned recommends that petitioner's application for habeas corpus relief be denied.

I. Procedural Background

Petitioner is confined pursuant to a 1985 judgment of conviction entered against him in the Monterey County Superior Court following his conviction on charges of first degree murder with use of a knife. Dckt. 1 at 1. Pursuant to that conviction, petitioner was sentenced to twenty-five 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 November 28, 2008. Id. at 27. Petitioner appeared at and participated in that hearing. Id. at 30, et seq. 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 97-106.

Petitioner first challenged the Board's 2008 decision denying him parole in a petition for writ of habeas corpus filed in the Monterey County Superior Court. Dckt. No. 18 (Answer), Ex.

1. Therein, petitioner alleged that the Board's 2008 decision violated his plea bargain and his right to due process. Id. The Monterey County Superior Court denied that petition in a reasoned decision on the merits of petitioner's claims. Dckt. No. 1 at 119-24. With respect to his claim regarding his plea bargain, the Superior Court ruled as follows:

Finally, Petitioner's claim regarding the violation of his plea bargain also fails. The principles enunciated in INS v. St. Cyr (2001) 533 U.S. 289 relied on by Petitioner as "dispositive on this point" are inapplicable to parole hearings.

Id. at 124.

Petitioner subsequently challenged the Board's 2008 decision in a petition for writ of habeas corpus filed in the California Court of Appeal for the Sixth Appellate District. Answer, Ex. 2. That petition was summarily denied. Dckt. No. 1 at 127. Petitioner then filed a petition for writ of habeas corpus in the California Supreme Court. Answer, Ex. 3. That petition was also summarily denied. Dckt. No. 1 at 129.

On June 5, 2009, petitioner filed his federal application for habeas relief in this court. Therein, he claimed that the Board's 2008 decision violated his plea agreement and his right to due process. By order dated March 22, 2011, the district judge assigned to this case dismissed petitioner's due process claim. Dckt. No. 16.

II. Analysis

A. 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. ยง 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); ...


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