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Taylor v. Chappell

United States District Court, N.D. California

March 26, 2014

KEVIN CHAPPELL, Warden of California State Prison at San Quentin, Respondent.


EDWARD M. CHEN, District Judge.


Petitioner was convicted and sentenced to death for the robbery, attempted rape and murder of an 84-year-old woman in January 1985. The California Supreme Court affirmed petitioner's conviction and death sentence in 1990. People v. Taylor, 52 Cal.3d 719 (1990). Petitioner's state petition for writ of habeas corpus was denied in September 1990; his petition for a writ of certiorari was denied by the United States Supreme Court in October 1991.

Petitioner filed his first federal Petition for Writ of Habeas Corpus on July 10, 1995. His First Amended Petition was filed on April 30, 1997, and his second state petition was filed on June 27, 1997 with the California Supreme Court. The second state petition was denied on July 16, 2003. All of the claims were denied on the merits, and certain claims were also denied on state procedural grounds. Petitioner's Second Amended Petition was filed in federal court on March 12, 2004; a portion of that petition was found to be unexhausted. Petitioner subsequently returned to state court to exhaust that portion of his Second Amended Petition, and further proceedings in federal court were stayed. The limited exhaustion petition was filed with the California Supreme Court on September 12, 2005; the petition was denied on September 11, 2013.

This Court subsequently lifted the stay and, following a case management conference on November 13, 2013, Respondent filed a Motion to Reconsider Findings on Procedural Default. Specifically, Respondent moves to reconsider the Court's previous finding that Claims 1-8, 9.B, 9.E, 9.G, 9.M, 11-13, 15A and 18-20 were not procedurally defaulted. For the following reasons, Respondent's motion is DENIED.


A. Procedural Default

Under the doctrine of procedural default, federal courts will not review "a question of federal law decided by a state court if the decision of that court rests on a state law ground that is independent of the federal question and adequate to support the judgment." Coleman v. Thompson, 501 U.S. 722, 729 (1991). The doctrine of procedural default is a specific application of the general doctrine as to adequate and independent state grounds. Fields v. Calderon, 125 F.3d 757, 762 (9th Cir. 1997). It bars a federal court from granting relief on a claim when a state court declined to address the claim because the petitioner failed to meet a state procedural requirement. Id.

In the habeas context, the procedural default doctrine furthers the interests of comity and federalism. Coleman, 501 U.S. at 730. It helps ensure that the state criminal trial remains the "main event" rather than a "tryout on the road" for a later federal habeas proceeding. Wainwright v. Sykes, 433 U.S. 72, 90 (1977).

Procedural default analysis proceeds in two steps. First, the court must determine whether the procedural rule the state court invoked to bar the claim is both "independent" and "adequate" to preclude federal review. "For a state procedural rule to be "independent, " the state law basis for the decision must not be interwoven with federal law." LaCrosse v. Kernan, 244 F.3d 702, 704 (9th Cir. 2001), citing Michigan v. Long, 463 U.S. 1032, 1040-41 (1983). A state law ground is interwoven with federal law in those cases where application of the state procedural rule requires the state court to resolve a question of federal law. Park v. California, 202 F.3d 1146, 1152 (9th Cir. 2000), citing Ake v. Oklahoma, 470 U.S. 68, 75 (1985). If the state court does not make clear that it is resting its decision on an independent and adequate state ground, it is presumed that the state denial was based at least in part upon federal grounds. Calderon v. United States District Court ("Bean"), 96 F.3d 1126, 1129 (9th Cir. 1996). In 1998, the Supreme Court of California made clear that it would no longer consider federal law when denying a habeas claim as procedurally barred on grounds of untimeliness, except when applying an exception where petitioner was convicted or sentenced pursuant to an invalid statute. In re Robbins, 18 Cal.4th 770, 811-12 (1998).

For a state procedural rule to be "adequate, " it must be clear, well-established and consistently applied. Bean, 96 F.3d at 1129. The issue of whether a state procedural rule is adequate to foreclose federal review is itself a federal question. Douglas v. Alabama, 380 U.S. 415, 422 (1965). The adequacy of a state procedural rule must be assessed as of the time when the petitioner committed the default. Fields, 125 F.3d at 760.

B. Motion to Reconsider

Respondent brings this motion pursuant to Civil Local Rule 7-9(b)(2), which states that a party seeking reconsideration of an interlocutory order must demonstrate "the emergence of new material facts or a ...

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