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Aristakesian v. Holland

United States District Court, E.D. California

July 11, 2017

ARTOUR ARISTAKESIAN, Petitioner,
v.
K. HOLLAND, et al., Respondents.

          FINDINGS AND RECOMMENDATIONS

          ALLISON CLAIRE, UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE

         Petitioner is a California state prisoner proceeding pro se with an application for a writ of habeas corpus pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254. The action proceeds on the petition filed on March 18, 2016, [1] ECF No. 1, which challenges petitioner's 2013 conviction for exhibiting lewd material to a minor in violation of Cal. Penal Code § 288.2(a); persuading a minor to model for matter containing sexual material in violation of Cal. Penal Code § 311.4(c); and twenty-eight counts of lewd acts with a child under age 14 in violation of Cal. Penal Code § 288(a). Respondent has answered, ECF No. 17, and petitioner has filed a traverse, ECF No. 21.

         BACKGROUND

         I. Proceedings In the Trial Court

         Petitioner initially pled not guilty to the charges against him on June 7, 2013. Then, on October 10, 2013, petitioner entered a no contest plea to all charges. He was sentenced to twenty-four years and eight months on December 13, 2013.

         II. Post-Conviction Proceedings

         Petitioner timely appealed, and asked the California Court of Appeal, pursuant to People v. Wende, 25 Cal.3d 436, to review the record and determine whether there were any arguable issues on appeal. On August 25, 2014, the court of appeal issued a decision in which it found several sentencing errors, but affirmed the judgment of conviction. Lodged Doc. 4.

         On June 11, 2015, petitioner filed a petition for writ of habeas in the Superior Court of Sacramento County. Lodged Doc. 5. Therein, he argued that: (1) his trial counsel was constitutionally ineffective by failing to conduct an independent investigation and by giving him erroneous advice which compelled him to plead no contest; (2) his appellate counsel was ineffective by failing to raise the deficiencies of his trial counsel on direct appeal; and (3) his Sixth Amendment right to counsel was violated when police secretly recorded a phone conversation between himself and the victim. ECF No. 1 at 64-74.[2] The superior court denied this petition in a written decision on August 5, 2015. Lodged Doc. 6.

         Petitioner next filed a habeas petition in the California Court of Appeal, which was summarily denied without citation on October 9, 2015. Lodged Docs. 7 & 8. Petitioner then filed a habeas petition in the California Supreme Court, which was summarily denied on March 9, 2016. Lodged Docs.9 & 10.

         By operation of the prison mailbox rule, the instant federal petition was filed March 18, 2016.[3] ECF No. 1. Respondent answered on August 19, 2016. ECF No. 17. Petitioner's traverse was docketed on October 18, 2016. ECF No. 21.

         STANDARDS GOVERNING HABEAS RELIEF UNDER THE AEDPA

         28 U.S.C. § 2254, as amended by the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996 (“AEDPA”), provides in relevant part as follows:

(d) An application for a writ of habeas corpus on behalf of a person in custody pursuant to the judgment of a state court shall not be granted with respect to any claim that was adjudicated on the merits in State court proceedings unless the 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.

         The statute applies whenever the state court has denied a federal claim on its merits, whether or not the state court explained its reasons. Harrington v. Richter, 562 U.S. 86, 99 (2011). State court rejection of a federal claim will be presumed to have been on the merits absent any indication or state-law procedural principles to the contrary. Id. at 784-785 (citing Harris v. Reed, 489 U.S. 255, 265 (1989) (presumption of a merits determination when it is unclear whether a decision appearing to rest on federal grounds was decided on another basis)). “The presumption may be overcome when there is reason to think some other explanation for the state court's decision is more likely.” Id. at 785.

         The phrase “clearly established Federal law” in § 2254(d)(1) refers to the “governing legal principle or principles” previously articulated by the Supreme Court. Lockyer v. Andrade, 538 U.S. 63, 71-72 (2003). Only Supreme Court precedent may constitute “clearly established Federal law, ” but courts may look to circuit law “to ascertain whether…the particular point in issue is clearly established by Supreme Court precedent.” Marshall v. Rodgers, 133 S.Ct. 1446, 1450 (2013).

         A state court decision is “contrary to” clearly established federal law if the decision “contradicts the governing law set forth in [the Supreme Court's] cases.” Williams v. Taylor, 529 U.S. 362, 405 (2000). A state court decision “unreasonably applies” federal law “if the state court identifies the correct rule from [the Supreme Court's] cases but unreasonably applies it to the facts of the particular state prisoner's case.” Id. at 407-08. It is not enough that the state court was ...


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