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Carpenter v. Chappell

United States District Court, N.D. California

September 19, 2014

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


MAXINE M. CHESNEY, District Judge.

The instant case arises from petitioner's conviction and death sentence for the first degree murders of Ellen Hansen and Heather Scaggs, the attempted murder of Steven Haertle, the attempted rape of Hansen, and the rape of Scaggs. See People v. Carpenter, 15 Cal.4th 312 (1997). The crimes were committed in Santa Cruz County, but following a change of venue, the case was tried in Los Angeles County.[1] The California Supreme Court affirmed petitioner's conviction and sentence on direct appeal on April 28, 1997. Id. Petitioner's subsequent certiorari petition to the United States Supreme Court was denied on January 20, 1998. See Carpenter v. California, 522 U.S. 1078 (1998).

Petitioner filed his first state habeas petition on December 24, 1996; it was denied by the California Supreme Court on May 27, 1998. Prior to the denial of his state habeas petition, petitioner filed in the United States District Court for the Central District of California a request for the appointment of federal habeas counsel and a motion for change of venue. Petitioner's change of venue motion was granted on June 12, 1998, thereby transferring the instant habeas case to the Northern District.

Under the one-year limitation period set forth in 28 U.S.C. ยง 2244(d), petitioner's federal habeas petition was due by May 27, 1999. The Court, however, granted petitioner's motion to equitably toll the statute of limitations for five months, to and including October 27, 1999. See Order Denying Motion to Vacate and Granting in Part and Denying in Part Motion for Equitable Tolling at 38.[2] Petitioner subsequently filed in this district a Petition for Writ of Habeas Corpus ("Original Petition")[3], a Notice of Additional Claims, and a Motion to Hold Proceedings in Abeyance; additionally, petitioner filed in state court his second state habeas petition. On December 1, 1999, the California Supreme Court denied petitioner's second state habeas petition. On December 6, 1999, petitioner filed his First Amended Verified Petition for Writ of Habeas Corpus ("First Amended Petition") and withdrew his Motion to Hold Proceedings in Abeyance.

Respondent subsequently filed a Motion to Dismiss First Amended Petition, primarily asserting therein various procedural grounds upon which, respondent argued, dismissal of at least certain portions of petitioner's First Amended Petition was warranted. The Court addressed all of the procedural issues in a series of orders. See, e.g. Carpenter v. Ayers, 548 F.Supp.2d 736 (N.D. Cal. 2008).

Respondent has now filed a motion for reconsideration of the Court's denial in part of respondent's earlier motion to dismiss certain claims on procedural grounds, arguing that an intervening change in the law, specifically the United States Supreme Court's decision in Walker v. Martin, 131 S.Ct. 1120 (2011), calls some of the Court's earlier findings on procedural default into question. For the following reasons, respondent's motion is GRANTED.

Legal Standard

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 adequate and independent state grounds doctrine." Fields v. Calderon, 125 F.3d 757, 762 (9th Cir. 1997) (internal quotation and citation omitted). It bars a federal court from granting relief on a claim when the 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).

To determine whether a claim is defaulted, the federal court must establish 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). 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. In re Robbins, 18 Cal.4th 770, 814 n.34 (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).


This Court previously denied respondent's motion to dismiss Claims 1, 2, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 18, 21, 26, 27, 28, 30, 31, 35, 44, 45, 47.H, 53, 54 and 65 as procedurally defaulted, either in whole or in part, on grounds of untimeliness. ( See Docket No. 155.) In particular, the Court held that pursuant to the applicable law at that time, specifically Bennett v. Mueller, 322 F.3d 573 (9th Cir. 2003); Fields v. Calderon, 125 F.3d 757 (9th Cir. 1997); and Morales v. Calderon, 85 F.3d 1380 (1996), California's timeliness rule was not well-established nor consistently applied by the state courts, and thus was inadequate to bar federal review. As noted above, respondent now asks the Court to reconsider that order, and find those claims defaulted due to an intervening change in the law.

"California does not employ fixed statutory deadlines to determine the timeliness of a state prisoner's petition for habeas corpus. Instead, California directs petitioners to file known claims as promptly as the circumstances allow." Martin, 131 S.Ct. at 1124 (internal quotations omitted.) Under the California Supreme Court's Policies Regarding Cases Arising From Judgments Of Death ("Policies"), a habeas corpus petition is presumed to be filed without substantial delay if it is filed within 180 days from ...

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