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Smith v. Chappell

United States District Court, Ninth Circuit

August 19, 2013

TROY SMITH, Petitioner,
v.
KEVIN CHAPPELL, Respondent.

ORDER TO SHOW CAUSE

JOSEPH C. SPERO, Magistrate Judge.

INTRODUCTION

Troy Smith, a prisoner incarcerated at the San Quentin State Prison, filed this action for a writ of habeas corpus pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254. His petition is now before the court for review pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2243 and Rule 4 of the Rules Governing Section 2254 Cases.

BACKGROUND

Petitioner Smith was convicted in San Francisco Superior Court for multiple counts of robbery, burglary, false imprisonment, and conspiracy. The court sentenced him to an aggregate sentence of 26 years in state prison.

Petitioner appealed, arguing that the prosecution had failed to prove specific intent in the robbery allegation under Jackson v. Virginia, 443 U.S. 307 (1979), given the prosecution's theory that the robbery was an inside job, and this violated his rights under the Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments. Smith's conviction was affirmed by the California Court of Appeal and his petition for review was denied by the California Supreme Court. Smith then filed his initial petition for a writ of habeas corpus in this Court.

Subsequently, petitioner's counsel received material from the San Francisco County Attorney's Office related to the lead investigator in Smith's case, which had never previously been disclosed. Smith asserts that the material was withheld in violation of his due process rights, pursuant to Brady v. Maryland, 373 U.S. 83 (1963). He filed a state court habeas corpus petition for his Brady claim, which the San Francisco Superior Court denied. At the same time, Smith filed a motion to amend his initial petition for a writ of habeas corpus in this Court, which contained both exhausted and unexhausted claims. The Court stayed the case until petitioner exhausted all of his claims. Subsequently, the California Court of Appeal denied Smith's state habeas petition, and the California Supreme Court denied review.

Upon petitioner's motion, the Court reopened the case, and petitioner filed his amended petition for writ of habeas corpus.

DISCUSSION

This Court may entertain a petition for writ of habeas corpus "in behalf of a person in custody pursuant to the judgment of a State court only on the ground that he is in custody in violation of the Constitution or laws or treaties of the United States." 28 U.S.C. § 2254(a). A district court considering an application for a writ of habeas corpus shall "award the writ or issue an order directing the respondent to show cause why the writ should not be granted, unless it appears from the application that the applicant or person detained is not entitled thereto." 28 U.S.C. § 2243. Summary dismissal is appropriate only where the allegations in the petition are vague or conclusory, palpably incredible, or patently frivolous or false. See Hendricks v. Vasquez, 908 F.2d 490, 491 (9th Cir. 1990).

The petition alleges the following claims: (1) denial of petitioner's rights under the Fifth, Sixth, and Fourteenth Amendments because prosecutor unlawfully suppressed exculpatory and impeachment material evidence favorable to petitioner's defense, as required by Brady v. Maryland ; (2) denial of petitioner's rights under the Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments because one of the elements of robbery and larceny - the specific intent to permanently deprive the owner of the property - was not met given the prosecution's theory that the alleged robbery was an inside job. These claims are cognizable in a federal habeas action.

CONCLUSION

For the foregoing ...


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