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Grandison v. Valenzuela

United States District Court, Eastern District of California

November 4, 2014

SHERON GRANDISON, [1]Petitioner,
ELVIN VALENZUELA, Warden, California Men’s Colony, [2]Respondent.



Shreron Grandison, a state prisoner proceeding pro se, filed a Petition for a Writ of Habeas Corpus with this Court pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254. Grandison is in the custody of the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation and incarcerated at the California Men’s Colony. Respondent has answered, and Grandison has not replied.


On October 28, 2008, Grandison was charged with premeditated attempted murder, assault with a deadly weapon, first-degree residential burglary, criminal threats, and misdemeanor child endangerment. The information further alleged as to the attempted murder and assault counts that Grandison personally inflicted great bodily injury and used a deadly weapon.

On direct appeal of his conviction, the California Court of Appeal recounted the following facts underlying the charges against Grandison:

[Grandison] lived with Johana Leach for about two and one-half years, and they had a two-year-old daughter, Meah. Johana also had a six-year-old daughter, Jordyn. In May 2008 Johana left [Grandison] and moved into a new apartment. [Grandison] had never been in the new apartment and was not invited to visit.
At about 10:00 p.m. on June 20, 2008, Johana was in her kitchen with her new boyfriend, Ishaq, while her daughters were watching television in an adjacent room. She screamed when she saw [Grandison] walking down the hallway toward them holding a knife in each hand. She recognized the knives because she had been with [Grandison] when he purchased them. She did not take the knives when she moved out.
Ishaq grabbed a chair to deflect his assailant. [Grandison] went after him with the knives. He stabbed Ishaq eight times in the back, neck, head, and shoulders. At some point during the altercation, Ishaq grabbed a knife and stabbed [Grandison] in the neck. They fought in the living room and eventually outside.
Johana, carrying Meah, ran outside after her daughter, Jordyn. Defendant chased her and said something like he should kill her. He demanded to kiss his baby. He ran off with a knife in his neck. The investigating police officers recovered three knives at the scene, one 11 inches, one 17 inches, and one 27 inches long.

People v. Grandison, No. C062727, 2011 WL 5942130, at *1 (Cal.Ct.App. Nov. 23, 2011).

After trial, a jury found Grandison not guilty of making a criminal threat and guilty of all other counts and enhancements. Id. The trial court sentenced Grandison to an aggregate term of 10 years, plus an indeterminate term of life in prison. Id.

Through counsel, Grandison appealed his conviction, arguing that he was improperly sentenced in violation of California Penal Code § 654[3] for multiple acts that constituted a single course of conduct. The Court of Appeal found no error and affirmed the judgment against him. Id. at *4. Grandison did not seek review of the decision in the California Supreme Court.

While his direct appeal was pending in the appellate court, Grandison filed a habeas petition in the Sacramento County Superior Court. The Superior Court identified 11 claims in the petition, all of which it rejected in a reasoned, unpublished opinion issued on May 13, 2011. Thereafter, Grandison filed a habeas petition in the California Supreme Court, which was summarily denied on July 25, 2012. While that habeas petition was still pending, Grandison timely filed a pro se Petition for a Writ of Habeas Corpus to this Court.


In support of his pro se Petition, Grandison attaches the habeas petition he filed in the California Supreme Court. His Petition before this Court therefore raises the same arguments he unsuccessfully raised before the California Supreme Court, namely that the trial court erred in failing to instruct the jury on “degree” and “motive” (claim 1) and his trial counsel rendered ineffective assistance (claim 2). In the attached habeas petition, Grandison also enumerates “other factors in support of [his] ineffective assistance of trial counsel claim, ” which raise allegations that are unrelated to his ineffective assistance claim or present standalone claims of constitutional violations. Construing Grandison’s pro se Petition liberally, Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 94 (2007) (per curiam), this Court will address these allegations as standalone claims that the prosecutor failed to disclose exculpatory evidence (claim 3), the trial judge denied him the right to appeal by denying him trial transcripts (claim 4), his sentence punished him for the same conduct under multiple statutes in violation of the protection against double jeopardy (claim 5), and the imposition of a 4-year sentence enhancement violated his right to confrontation (claim 6).


Under the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996 (“AEDPA”), 28 U.S.C. § 2254(d), this Court cannot grant relief unless the decision of the state court was “contrary to, or involved an unreasonable application of, clearly established Federal law, as determined by the Supreme Court of the United States, ” § 2254(d)(1), or “was based on an unreasonable determination of the facts in light of the evidence presented in the State court proceeding, ” § 2254(d)(2). A state-court decision is contrary to federal law if the state court applies a rule that contradicts controlling Supreme Court authority or “if the state court confronts a set of facts that are materially indistinguishable from a decision” of the Supreme Court, but nevertheless arrives at a different result. Williams v. Taylor, 529 U.S. 362, 406 (2000).

The Supreme Court has explained that “clearly established Federal law” in § 2254(d)(1) “refers to the holdings, as opposed to the dicta, of [the Supreme Court] as of the time of the relevant state-court decision.” Id. at 412. The holding must also be intended to be binding upon the states; that is, the decision must be based upon constitutional grounds, not on the supervisory power of the Supreme Court over federal courts. Early v. Packer, 537 U.S. 3, 10 (2002). Where holdings of the Supreme Court regarding the issue presented on habeas review are lacking, “it cannot be said that the state court ‘unreasonabl[y] appli[ed] clearly established Federal law.’” Carey v. Musladin, 549 U.S. 70, 77 (2006) (citation omitted).

In applying these standards on habeas review, this Court reviews the “last reasoned decision” by the state court. See Robinson v. Ignacio, 360 F.3d 1044, 1055 (9th Cir. 2004) (citing Avila v. Galaza, 297 F.3d 911, 918 (9th Cir. 2002)). Under the AEDPA, the state court’s findings of fact are presumed to be correct unless the petitioner rebuts this presumption by clear and convincing evidence. 28 U.S.C. § 2254(e)(1); Miller-El v. Cockrell, 537 U.S. 322, 340 (2003).

Grandison has not replied to Respondent’s answer. The relevant statute provides that “[t]he allegations of a return to the writ of habeas corpus or of an answer to an order to show cause in a habeas corpus proceeding, if not traversed, shall be accepted as true except to the extent that the judge finds from the evidence that they are not true.” 28 U.S.C. § 2248; see also Carlson v. Landon, 342 U.S. 524, 530 (1952). Where, as here, there is no traverse filed and no evidence offered to contradict the allegations of the return, the court must accept those allegations as true. See Phillips v. Pitchess, 451 F.2d 913, 919 (9th Cir. 1971).


A. Procedural Bar

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). This Court may not reach the merits of procedurally defaulted claims, that is, claims “in which the petitioner failed to follow applicable state procedural rules in raising the claims.” Sawyer v. Whitley, 505 U.S. 333, 338 (1992). “The state-law ground may be a substantive rule dispositive of the case, or a procedural barrier to adjudication of the claim on the merits.” Walker v. Martin, 131 S.Ct. 1120, 1127 (2011). Procedural default does not preclude federal habeas review unless the last state court rendering judgment in a case “clearly and expressly” states that its judgment rests on a state procedural bar. Teague v. Lane, 489 U.S. 288, 298-99 (1989) (quoting Harris v. Reed, 489 U.S. 255, 263 (1989)). “In order to constitute adequate and independent grounds sufficient to support a finding of procedural default, a state rule must be clear, consistently applied, and well established at the time of the petitioner’s purported default.” Morales v. Calderon, 85 F.3d 1387, 1393 (9th Cir. 1996) (internal quotation marks and citation omitted).

Here, all of the claims raised in the instant Petition were raised in Grandison’s habeas petition in the California Supreme Court, which was summarily denied with citations to People v. Duvall, 886 P.2d 1252, 1258 (Cal. 1995) and In re Swain, 209 P.2d 793, 796 (Cal. 1949). In re Swain stands for the rule that a California habeas petition must state “with particularity the facts” upon which relief is sought. 209 P.2d at 796. Duvall re-asserts the requirement that facts be stated fully and with particularity and stands for the additional proposition that documentary evidence must be provided. 886 P.2d at 1258 (stating that habeas petitions “should both (i) state fully and with particularity the facts on which relief is sought as well as ...

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