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Ajaelo v. Madden

United States District Court, N.D. California

May 24, 2017

JIDEOFOR AJAELO, Petitioner,
v.
RAYMOND MADDEN, Warden, Respondent.

          ORDER GRANTING MOTION TO DISMISS HABEAS PETITION

          WILLIAM ALSUP UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         INTRODUCTION

         In this habeas action, respondent moves to dismiss the petition as untimely. For the reasons stated below, the motion to dismiss is Granted.

         ANALYSIS

         In 2007, a jury in Alameda County Superior Court convicted petitioner Jideofor Ajaelo of first-degree murder (committed by drive-by shooting) and three counts of attempted murder (involving a firearm). He received a sentence of 25 years to life in prison without the possibility of parole.

         Ajaelo took a direct appeal on issues not presented in the instant habeas petition, but he also appealed the charge to the jury inasmuch as it instructed that petitioner could be found guilty of aiding and abetting attempted premeditated murder on a natural and probable consequence theory even if he lacked the intent to kill.

         The California Court of Appeal affirmed the judgment, and the California Supreme Court denied review. Ajaelo did not seek a writ of certiorari to the United States Supreme Court.

         In 2014, the California Supreme Court decided People v. Chiu, 59 Cal.4th 155, 166 (2014), holding that a first-degree premeditated murder conviction could not be based on the natural and probable consequence theory. In other words, the California Supreme Court announced a rule that may have invalidated a charge to the jury that convicted Ajaelo.

         In 2015, Ajaelo sought habeas relief in Alameda County Superior Court based on Chiu, which relief was denied based on a finding that Ajaelo had suffered no prejudice due to that instruction, in light of another jury finding that included as an element the intent to inflict death.

         Ajaelo next sought the same relief from the California Court of Appeal, which relief was summarily denied. Ajaelo then sought review by the California Supreme Court, alleging that the Court of Appeal had improperly denied his habeas petition. After entertaining an answer from the state, the California Supreme Court summarily denied review.

         Ajaelo now seeks federal habeas relief pursuant to Section 2254 of Title 28 of the United States Code, seeking to reverse his conviction based on Chiu. Respondent moves to dismiss the action as untimely. This order follows full briefing on the motion to dismiss.

         ANALYSIS

         The Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996 (AEDPA) imposed a one-year statute of limitations that applies to federal habeas petitions. 28 U.S.C. 2244(d). All agree that the limitations period for a federal habeas petition generally commences on “the date on which the judgment became final by the conclusion of direct review or the expiration of the time for seeking such review.” 28 U.S.C. 2244(d)(1)(A). Here, the judgment became final in 2009, after the California Supreme Court denied review on direct appeal and the time to seek certiorari from the United States Supreme Court elapsed. Ajaelo's state-court petition was filed more than five years later, in 2015, well outside the limitations period based on that start date.

         Ajaelo contends he is entitled to an alternative start date, pursuant to Section 2244(d)(1)(C) under AEDPA, which restarts the clock on the limitations period from “the date on which the constitutional right asserted was initially recognized by the Supreme Court, if the right has been newly recognized by the Supreme Court and made retroactively applicable to cases on collateral review . . . .” The constitutional rule asserted was announced in Chiu - a decision from the Califo ...


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