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Eison v. Swarthout

United States District Court, N.D. California

February 12, 2015

ROBERT L. EISON, Petitioner,
v.
GARY SWARTHOUT, Warden, Respondent.

ORDER DENYING PETITION FOR WRIT OF HABEAS CORPUS

WILLIAM ALSUP, District Judge.

INTRODUCTION

This is a federal habeas corpus action filed by a state prisoner pursuant to 28 U.S.C. 2254. Respondent was ordered to show cause why the writ should not be granted based on the claim set forth in the petition. Respondent has filed an answer and a supporting memorandum of points and authorities. Petitioner filed a traverse in response. For the reasons set forth below, the petition is DENIED.

STATEMENT

In 2011, a jury in Alameda County convicted petitioner of three counts of lewd acts on a child, one count of sexual penetration by foreign object, and two counts of forcible rape. The jury found to be true an allegation that petitioner inflicted great bodily injury on the victim in conjunction with one of the rape charges. The trial court sentenced petitioner to a term of 22 years and four months in state prison. The California Court of Appeal affirmed his conviction on appeal (Exh. 2). A petition for review to the California Supreme Court was denied (Exh. 7).

The following background facts describing the charges are taken from the opinion of the California Court of Appeal, People v. Eison, No. A134043, 2012 WL 3990536 (Cal.Ct.App. Sep. 12, 2012). Petitioner began molesting his stepdaughter in 2008, when she was 14 years old. After she turned 15, petitioner threatened to post nude photos of her on the internet if she did not have sex with him. Petitioner had sex with his stepdaughter for the first time in May 2009 and approximately seven more times thereafter. In June 2009, his stepdaughter discovered she was pregnant. She informed petitioner of her pregnancy, but he continued to have sex with her until July 2009, when her mother learned of petitioner's conduct. Her mother brought her to the hospital, where an abortion was performed. DNA analysis and testing confirmed petitioner's paternity of the fetus.

ANALYSIS

A. STANDARD OF REVIEW

A district court may not grant a petition challenging a state conviction or sentence on the basis of a claim that was reviewed on the merits in state court unless the state court's adjudication of the claim: "(1) resulted in a decision that was contrary to, or involved an unreasonable application of, clearly established Federal law, as determined by the Supreme Court of the United States; or (2) resulted in a decision that was based on an unreasonable determination of the facts in light of the evidence presented in the State court proceeding." 28 U.S.C. 2254(d). The first prong applies both to questions of law and to mixed questions of law and fact, Williams (Terry) v. Taylor, 529 U.S. 362, 407-09 (2000), while the second prong applies to decisions based on factual determinations, Miller El v. Cockrell, 537 U.S. 322, 340 (2003).

A state court decision is "contrary to" Supreme Court authority, that is, falls under the first clause of 2254(d)(1), only if "the state court arrives at a conclusion opposite to that reached by [the Supreme] Court on a question of law or if the state court decides a case differently than [the Supreme] Court has on a set of materially indistinguishable facts." Williams (Terry), 529 U.S. at 412-13. A state court decision is an "unreasonable application of" Supreme Court authority, falling under the second clause of 2254(d)(1), if it correctly identifies the governing legal principle from the Supreme Court's decisions but "unreasonably applies that principle to the facts of the prisoner's case." Id. at 413. The federal court on habeas review may not issue the writ "simply because that court concludes in its independent judgment that the relevant state court decision applied clearly established federal law erroneously or incorrectly." Id. at 411. Rather, the application must be "objectively unreasonable" to support granting the writ. See id. at 409.

"Factual determinations by state courts are presumed correct absent clear and convincing evidence to the contrary." Miller El, 537 U.S. at 340. This presumption is not altered by the fact that the finding was made by a state court of appeals, rather than by a state trial court. Sumner v. Mata, 449 U.S. 539, 546-47 (1981); Bragg v. Galaza, 242 F.3d 1082, 1087 (9th Cir.), amended, 253 F.3d 1150 (9th Cir. 2001). A petitioner must present clear and convincing evidence to overcome Section 2254(e)(1)'s presumption of correctness; conclusory assertions will not do. Ibid.

Under 28 U.S.C. 2254(d)(2), a state court decision "based on a factual determination will not be overturned on factual grounds unless objectively unreasonable in light of the evidence presented in the state court proceeding." Miller El, 537 U.S. at 340; see also Torres v. Prunty, 223 F.3d 1103, 1107 (9th Cir. 2000).

When there is no reasoned opinion from the highest state court to consider the petitioner's claims, the court looks to the last reasoned opinion, which in this case is that of the California Court of Appeal. ...


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