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Zamora v. Gipson

United States District Court, N.D. California

July 6, 2016

JOHN ZAMORA, Plaintiff,


          JEFFREY S. WHITE United States District Judge


         Petitioner, a prisoner of the State of California, filed a pro se petition for a writ of habeas corpus pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254, challenging the validity of his criminal conviction and sentence in state court. Respondent filed an answer to the petition, to which Petitioner filed a traverse. For the reasons set forth below, the petition is DENIED.


         In 2010, a jury in Santa Cruz County Superior Court convicted Petitioner of attempted murder, shooting at an occupied vehicle, possession of a firearm by a felon, corporal injury to a co-habitant, kidnapping, false imprisonment, and domestic battery. The jury also found allegations of that Petitioner personally used and discharged a firearm and that he inflicted great bodily injury to be true. The trial court found that Petitioner had served three prior prison terms and sentenced him to a term of 38 years to life in state prison.

         In 2013, the California Court of Appeal struck the conviction for false imprisonment, ordered the abstract of judgment to reflect the fact that the sentence for shooting at an occupied vehicle had been stayed, and otherwise affirmed the judgment. Petitioner appealed this decision to the California Supreme Court, which denied review on May 1, 2013. Thereafter, Petitioner filed a petition for a writ of habeas corpus in the California Supreme Court, which was denied on July 16, 2014. On August 15, 2014, he filed the instant petition under 28 U.S.C. § 2254.

         The California Court of Appeal summarized the evidence presented at trial as follows:

Defendant had an acrimonious, violent relationship with Deleyne Padilla that Padilla ended in August 2007. But on September 16, 2007, defendant's mother drove defendant to Padilla's home on Larkin Valley Road in Watsonville so he could attempt reconciliation. She exited the vehicle, entered the home, and explained to Padilla that defendant wished to speak with her. Padilla agreed to speak with defendant and went with the mother to the vehicle. She sat in the front passenger seat and the mother sat in the driver's seat. Defendant was sitting in the back seat. After conversing with Padilla for several minutes, defendant began to argue with Padilla. Padilla exited the vehicle and began walking away. Defendant then got out, pursued Padilla, grabbed Padilla, and threw her onto the back seat of the vehicle. Padilla "flew across and hit the other ... passenger door." Defendant got into the back seat and instructed his mother to drive away. The mother drove away, and the two in the back seat began arguing. After concluding that Padilla had been avoiding him, defendant hit Padilla at least three times in the face while the vehicle was on Airport Road crossing a bridge connecting to Highway 1 toward Monterey. He then bit Padilla on the hand. At some point, the mother pulled over and told defendant to stop hitting Padilla. After defendant agreed, she drove to Mesa Village Park on Green Valley Road where defendant exited the vehicle. She then drove Padilla home. Padilla reported the incident to the police, and the investigating officer observed two red and purple bruised eyes, a swollen cheek and nose, and bite marks on her hand.
The above incident formed the basis for the corporal injury, kidnapping, false imprisonment, and domestic battery convictions. The next described incident formed the basis for the attempted murder, vehicle shooting, and firearm possession convictions.
Defendant was in custody until April 2008. After he was released, Padilla went to see him at his home. They talked about reestablishing their relationship and became intimate. They began seeing each other every day. And they began arguing after Padilla discovered that defendant was seeing a woman named Veronica. During one argument in a restaurant, defendant grabbed Padilla's hair, dragged Padilla around the room, pinned Padilla against a wall, and threw a punch near her face. During another argument at a friend's home, defendant pulled out a revolver. On May 21, the two argued over the telephone. Padilla hung up on defendant and refused to answer his subsequent calls and text messages. During the late evening of May 21 and early morning of May 22, Padilla drove her car around back roads with her brother-in-law as a passenger. She told him about her abusive situation and stressful condition. As she returned to her home and drove up a hill on her narrow, one-car, dirt driveway, a second car approached going down the driveway toward Padilla's car. The cars stopped at a bumper-to-bumper distance. Defendant exited the second vehicle with a gun in his hand, ran toward the passenger's side of Padilla's vehicle, pointed the gun into the car, and tried to get inside, but the door was locked. He tried the rear passenger door but that was also locked. He angrily commanded that Padilla unlock the door, and Padilla eventually complied. Defendant got in the back seat, pointed the gun at Padilla, and started to argue with her. He demanded her cell phone, and Padilla gave it to him. Defendant read Padilla's call list and broke the cell phone in half. At defendant's command, Padilla backed her car off the road and the second car drove away. Defendant then demanded that Padilla drive him to a friend's home and get rid of her brother-in-law. Padilla instead drove around a neighborhood while defendant argued with her. She stopped at a 7-Eleven store, went inside, and purchased cigarettes for defendant. She then returned to the car and drove to the intersection of Chappel Road and Ross Avenue. During the drive, she refused to take defendant to his friend's home or drop off her brother-in-law. She turned left on Ross. Defendant then told Padilla to stop and drop him off. Padilla stopped the car, and defendant exited from the right passenger rear door. Padilla then "hit the gas." Defendant fired a shot from his revolver that shattered the rear window of Padilla's car, sprayed chunks of glass on Padilla's back, and punctured Padilla's wrist that was holding the steering wheel. Padilla slowed down the car, and she and her brother-in-law slouched down. Defendant then fired another shot that hit the dashboard and shattered glass. Padilla managed to drive out of range. But her pain caused her to turn the driving over to her brother-in-law who drove her to the hospital.

People v. Zamora, 2013 WL 681983, 1-2 (Cal.Ct.App. Feb. 26, 2013).


         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).

         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 that [the Supreme] Court has on a set of materially indistinguishable facts." Williams (Terry) v. Taylor, 529 U.S. 362, 412-13 (2000). 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 the 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. Id. at 409.

         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 the light of the evidence presented in the state-court proceeding." Miller-El, 537 U.S. 332 at 340.

         When there is no reasoned opinion from the highest state court to consider AEDPA's standard for relief has been met, the Court looks to the last state court to deny the claims in an explained opinion. Ylst v. Nunnemaker, 501 U.S. 797, 801-06 (1991). Here, there is no reasoned state court opinion whatsoever on Petitioner's claims because he did not raise them on direct appeal; instead he raised them only in a habeas petition to the California Supreme Court, which was denied summarily. In such a circumstance, a federal court should conduct "an independent review of the record" to determine whether the state court's decision was an objectively unreasonable application of clearly established federal law. Plascencia v. Alameida, 467 F.3d 1190, 1197-98 (9th Cir. 2006). This ...

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