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Molina v. Arnold

United States District Court, S.D. California

April 14, 2017

HECTOR PABLO MOLINA, Petitioner,
v.
ERIC ARNOLD, Warden, Respondent.

          ORDER: (1) OVERRULING PETITIONER'S OBJECTIONS; (2) ADOPTING REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION; AND (3) DENYING PETITIONER'S PETITION FOR WRIT OF HABEAS CORPUS (ECF NOS. 6, 26, 28)

          Hon. Janis L. Sammartino United States District Judge.

         Presently before the Court are: (1) Petitioner Hector Pablo Molina's First Amended Petition for Writ of Habeas Corpus, (“FAP”, ECF No. 6); (2) Magistrate Judge Mitchell D. Dembin's Report and Recommendation (“R&R”) advising that the Court deny Petitioner's Petition for Writ of Habeas Corpus, (ECF No. 26); and (3) Petitioner's Objections to the R&R (“Objs. to R&R”, ECF No. 28). Respondent did not file a reply to Petitioner's Objections. Having considered the facts and the law, the Court (1) OVERRULES Petitioner's Objections, (2) ADOPTS the R&R in its entirety, and (3) DENIES Petitioner's Petition for Writ of Habeas Corpus.

         BACKGROUND

         Judge Dembin's R&R contains a thorough and accurate recitation of the factual and procedural histories underlying the instant Petition for Writ of Habeas corpus. (See R&R 2-8, [1] ECF No. 26.) This Order incorporates by reference the background as set forth therein.

         LEGAL STANDARDS

         I. Review of Report and Recommendation

         Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 72(b) and 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1) set forth a district court's duties regarding a magistrate judge's report and recommendation. The district court “shall make a de novo determination of those portions of the report . . . to which objection is made, ” and “may accept, reject, or modify, in whole or in part, the findings or recommendations made by the magistrate judge.” 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(c); see also United States v. Raddatz, 447 U.S. 667, 673-76 (1980). In the absence of a timely objection, however, “the Court need only satisfy itself that there is no clear error on the face of the record in order to accept the recommendation.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 72 advisory committee's note (citing Campbell v. U.S. Dist. Court, 510 F.2d 196, 206 (9th Cir. 1974)).

         II. Review of Habeas Corpus Petitions Under 28 U.S.C. § 2254

         This Petition is governed by the provisions of the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996 (“AEDPA”). See Lindh v. Murphy, 521 U.S. 320 (1997). Under AEDPA, a habeas petition will not be granted with respect to any claim adjudicated on the merits by the state court unless that adjudication: (1) resulted in a decision that was contrary to, or involved an unreasonable application of clearly established federal law; or (2) resulted in a decision that was based on an unreasonable determination of the facts in light of the evidence presented at the state court proceeding. 28 U.S.C. § 2254(d); Early v. Packer, 537 U.S. 3, 7-8 (2002).

         Under § 2254(d)(1), federal law must be “clearly established” in order to support a habeas claim. Clearly established federal law “refers to the holdings, as opposed to the dicta, of [the United States Supreme] Court's decisions . . . .” Williams v. Taylor, 529 U.S. 362, 412 (2000). A state court's decision may be “contrary to” clearly established Supreme Court precedent “if the state court applies a rule that contradicts the governing law set forth in [the Court's] cases” or “if the state court confronts a set of facts that are materially indistinguishable from a decision of [the] Court and nevertheless arrives at a result different from [the Court's] precedent.” Id. at 406. A state court decision does not have to demonstrate an awareness of clearly established Supreme Court precedent, provided neither the reasoning nor the result of the state court decision contradict such precedent. Early, 537 U.S. at 8.

         A state court decision involves an “unreasonable application” of Supreme Court precedent “if the state court identifies the correct governing legal rule from this Court's cases but unreasonably applies it to the facts of the particular state prisoner's case.” Williams, 529 U.S. at 407. An unreasonable application may also be found “if the state court either unreasonably extends a legal principle from [Supreme Court] precedent to a new context where it should not apply or unreasonably refuses to extend that principle to a new context where it should apply.” Id.; Wiggins v. Smith, 539 U.S. 510, 520 (2003); Clark v. Murphy, 331 F.3d 1062, 1067 (9th Cir. 2003).

         Relief under the “unreasonable application” clause of § 2254(d) is available “if, and only if, it is so obvious that a clearly established rule applies to a given set of facts that there could be no ‘fairminded disagreement' on the question.” White v. Woodall, 134 S.Ct. 1697, 1706-07 (2014) (quoting Harrington v. Richter, 562 U.S. 86 (2011)). An unreasonable application of federal law requires the state court decision to be more than incorrect or erroneous. Lockyer v. Andrade, 538 U.S. 63, 76 (2003). Instead, the state court's application must be “objectively unreasonable.” Id.; Miller-El v. Cockrell, 537 U.S. 322, 340 (2003). Even if a petitioner can satisfy § 2254(d), the petitioner must still demonstrate a constitutional violation. Fry v. Pliler, 551 U.S. 112, 119-22 (2007).

         Federal courts review the last reasoned decision from the state courts. See Ylst v. Nunnemaker, 501 U.S. 797, 805-06 (1991); Hibbler v. Benedetti, 693 F.3d 1140, 1145-46 (9th Cir. 2012). In deciding a state prisoner's habeas petition, a federal court is not called upon to decide whether it agrees with the state court's determination; rather, the court applies an extraordinarily deferential review, inquiring only whether the state court's decision was objectively unreasonable. See Yarborough v. Gentry, 540 U.S. 1, 4 (2003); Medina v. Hornung, 386 F.3d 872, 877 (9th Cir. 2004). The petitioner must establish that “the state court's ruling on the claim being presented in federal court was so lacking in justification that there was an error . . . beyond any possibility for fairminded disagreement.” Burt v. Titlow, 134 S.Ct. 10, 16 (2013) (citation omitted). It is not within a federal habeas court's province “to reexamine state court determinations on state-law questions.” Hayes v. Ayers, 632 F.3d 500, 517 (9th Cir. 2011) (citing and quoting Estelle v. McGuire, 502 U.S. 62, 67-68 (1991)).

         Finally, § 2254 authorizes habeas relief where the state court's adjudication of a claim “resulted in a decision that was based on an unreasonable determination of the facts in light of the evidence presented in state court.” 28 U.S.C. § 2254(d)(2). This provision requires the petitioner to demonstrate by clear and convincing evidence that the factual findings upon which the state court's adjudication of his claims rest are objectively unreasonable. Miller-El, 537 U.S. at 340.

         ANALYSIS

         I. Summary of the R&R Conclusion

         Judge Dembin recommends that the Court deny the Petition in its entirety. (R&R 1, ECF No. 26.) The Petition contains two claims for relief. (Id. at 9 (citing FAP 6-7, ECF No. 6).) First, Petitioner contends that the trial court erred by failing to disclose the full substance of Melvin Breaux's investigation, which also violated the prosecutor's Brady obligations. (Id.) Second, Petitioner contends that the trial court erred by denying Petitioner's motion to dismiss, which claimed that the arresting officers should have preserved his blood alcohol level (“BAC”) by taking a blood sample at the time of his arrest. (Id.) Judge Dembin ultimately ...


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