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Carpenter v. Davis

United States District Court, N.D. California

May 8, 2015

RON DAVIS, Acting 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 murdering five people in Marin County and raping or attempting to rape three of them. His crimes occurred between October 11, 1980, and November 28, 1980. Due to pre-trial publicity, the case was tried in San Diego County. On November 29, 1999, the California Supreme Court affirmed petitioner's conviction and death sentence. See People v. Carpenter, 21 Cal.4th 1016 (1999).[1] On October 2, 2000, the United States Supreme Court denied a petition for certiorari. See Carpenter v. California, 531 U.S. 838 (2000). Prior to affirmance of his conviction and sentence on direct review, petitioner filed two separate state habeas petitions. The first petition was filed in the trial court on September 28, 1988, and was based on allegations of juror misconduct. The trial court granted the petition and ordered a new trial; the California Supreme Court, however, reversed the new trial order and denied the petition. See In re Carpenter, 9 Cal.4th 634 (1995). The second petition was filed in the California Supreme Court on November 1, 1999, and was denied on January 13, 2000. See In re Carpenter, No. S083246.

Petitioner filed a federal petition for writ of habeas corpus in this court on November 4, 2002. On November 26, 2002, this Court granted petitioner's motion to hold the proceedings in abeyance while he filed a second state habeas petition in the California Supreme Court. On December 18, 2002, the California Supreme Court denied the second state petition, and on December 27, 2002, petitioner filed his First Amended Petition for Writ of Habeas Corpus ("First Amended Petition") in this Court.

Respondent subsequently filed a motion to dismiss the first amended petition, primarily asserting various procedural grounds, which, respondent argued, warranted dismissal of at least certain portions of petitioner's First Amended Petition. In a series of orders, the Court thereafter addressed all of the procedural issues, and also addressed multiple claims on the merits.

Now before the Court is respondent's motion for reconsideration of the Court's denial in part of respondent's earlier motion to dismiss certain claims on procedural grounds. Respondent argues 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 will be 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 where the state court has declined to address the claim on the basis of the petitioner's failure 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." La Crosse 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. See 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. Calderon v. Bean, 96 F.3d 1126, 1129 (9th Cir. 1996). 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).

Procedural Background

This Court previously denied respondent's motion to dismiss Claims 5, 6, 7.D, 7.E, 7.F, 7.H, 7.I, 9, 10, 13, 14, 15, 17, 22, 23, 24, 25, 27, 32, 45.A, 45.B, 45.F, 45.I, 45.J, 45.K, 45.M, and 48 as procedurally defaulted on grounds of untimeliness, under In re Clark, 5 Cal.4th 750 (1993) and In re Robbins, 18 Cal.4th 770 (1998). ( See Docket No. 78.) Additionally, the Court denied respondent's motion to dismiss Claims 5, 11, 15.B, 15.C, 17, 22, 23, 25, 27, 32, 45.A, 45.B, 45.F, 45.I, 45.J and 45.M as procedurally defaulted on the ground that petitioner had failed to raise them on direct appeal, in violation of In re Dixon, 41 Cal.2d 756 (1953). ( See Docket No. 78.) 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 1387 (1996), California's untimeliness and Dixon bars were neither ...

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