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Stafford v. Trimble

United States District Court, Ninth Circuit

October 1, 2013

BRIAN KEITH STAFFORD, Petitioner,
v.
R.H. TRIMBLE, Warden, Respondent.

REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION OF UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE

CHARLES F. EICK, Magistrate Judge.

This Report and Recommendation is submitted to the Honorable George H. King, Chief United States District Judge, pursuant to 28 U.S.C. section 636 and General Order 05-07 of the United States District Court for the Central District of California.

PROCEEDINGS

On February 8, 2012, Petitioner filed a "Petition Under 28 USC ยง 2254 for Writ of Habeas Corpus By a Person in State Custody" in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of California. On February 16, 2012, the United States District Court for the Eastern District of California transferred the Petition to this Court.

On August 14, 2012, Respondent filed an Answer, asserting: (1) the Petition is untimely; (2) Grounds Six and Seven of the Petition are unexhausted; and (3) Grounds One, Three, Four, Six and Seven of the Petition are not cognizable on federal habeas review. On September 27, 2012, Petitioner filed a Reply.

On November 25, 2012, the Court ordered Ground Six of the Petition denied and dismissed with prejudice, and Ground Seven of the Petition denied and dismissed without prejudice. See Order Accepting Findings, Conclusions and Recommendations of United States Magistrate Judge, entered November 27, 2012. At the same time, the Court ordered Respondent to file a Supplemental Answer addressing the merits of Grounds One through Five of the Petition (id.).

On April 12, 2013, Respondent filed a Supplemental Answer. On August 9, 2013, Petitioner filed a Reply to Respondent's Supplemental Answer.

BACKGROUND

On March 21, 1991, Petitioner pled guilty to first degree murder pursuant to a plea agreement (Reporter's Transcript ["R.T."] 9-11; Clerk's Transcript ["C.T."] 1909). Petitioner waived his right to a probation report and a continuance of sentencing (R.T. 9-10). The court imposed a sentence of thirty-three years to life (R.T. 10-11; C.T. 1909). The court also ordered the preparation of a probation report "to follow the defendant pursuant to the provisions of Section 1203 of the Penal Code." (R.T. 11). The probation report bears a dictation/transcription date of May 16, 1991, a received date of May 20, 1991, and a state court filing date of May 24, 1991 (see "Petitioner's Confidential Probation Report, " filed under seal on August 16, 2012). Attached to the probation report is a letter to the probation officer from the prosecuting deputy district attorney, Patrick J. McKinley. This letter, dated May 16, 1991, describes McKinley's views of the crime and expresses the hope that the letter would be made part of the probation report so that any future parole authority would be aware of Petitioner's allegedly false testimony at the trial of a co-perpetrator. The letter opines that Petitioner "probably should never be released from prison."

The Court of Appeal affirmed the judgment on April 2, 1992 (Respondent's Lodgment 6). Petitioner did not file a petition for review.

On September 9, 2010, a panel of the California Board of Parole Hearings ("Board") convened for Petitioner's initial parole suitability hearing (see Respondent's Lodgment 33, Ex. A-1). Petitioner did not attend the hearing, although his attorney was present (id., pp. 104-05). The Board continued the hearing because documents were missing from Petitioner's "packet" and Petitioner had not received the Board report ten days prior to the hearing (see Respondent's Lodgment 33, Ex. A-1, pp. 104-05).[1] The Board allowed a deputy district attorney, Michael Carrozzo, to submit a 26-page document consisting of pages from a book entitled "A Death in Santa Barbara, " purportedly describing two interviews Petitioner allegedly gave concerning the crime (id., p. 107). The Presiding Commissioner said the Board would incorporate the document into Petitioner's central file (id.).

On October 29, 2010, Petitioner appeared before the Board for the continued initial parole suitability hearing (see Exhibits included in Respondent's Lodgment 33). The Board denied parole for seven years (id., pp. 231-46).

Thereafter, Petitioner filed various habeas corpus petitions in the Santa Barbara Superior Court, the Kings County Superior Court, the California Court of Appeal, and the California Supreme Court, all of which were denied (Respondent's Lodgments 11-20, 24-27, 33, 35-37).

PETITIONER'S CONTENTIONS

Petitioner contends:

1. The Santa Barbara Superior Court allegedly abused its discretion and judicial powers by rejecting Petitioner's claim that the trial court allowed Petitioner to enter into a plea agreement "which was prior to sentencing in default as revealed by the conditional statement made and dated letter attached to the probation officer's report" (Ground One);

2. The State allegedly breached a purported provision of the plea agreement supposedly providing that the District Attorney's Office would submit a letter supporting Petitioner's release on parole, because at the parole hearing Mr. Carrozzo described Mr. McKinley's 1991 letter in opposition to Petitioner's parole (Ground Two);

3. The Santa Barbara Superior Court allegedly erred in rejecting Petitioner's habeas petition[2] while supposedly knowing that the plea agreement "could be interpreted that Petitioner would be granted parole in compliance with the law"; the Board applied Marsy's Law[3] to Petitioner to deny parole for seven years, assertedly causing Petitioner's sentence to exceed that provided by law (Ground Three);

4. The Santa Barbara Superior Court and the California Court of Appeal allegedly violated Petitioner's constitutional rights "by denying Petitioner's writ claiming Petitioner made claims not in record"; these courts allegedly unlawfully rejected Petitioner's claim that the Board violated Due Process by allowing Mr. Carrozzo to submit documents about which Petitioner assertedly had no knowledge until approximately 50 days later, at a hearing at which Petitioner allegedly ...


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