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Jacobsen v. Mimms

United States District Court, E.D. California

August 30, 2017




         Petitioner is currently serving a sentence of 32 months for his conviction of unlawful possession of ammunition. He has filed the instant habeas action challenging the conviction. As discussed below, the Court finds the claims to be without merit and will therefore DENY[1]the petition.


         Petitioner was convicted in the Fresno County Superior Court on April 25, 2014, of possessing ammunition by a person restricted from owning ammunition pursuant to Cal. Penal Code § 30305. (Doc. 1 at 1.) He was sentenced to 32 months in state prison. Id.

         Petitioner appealed to the California Court of Appeal, Fifth Appellate District (“Fifth DCA”). The Fifth DCA affirmed the judgment on August 26, 2016. (LD[2] 19.) On September 30, 2016, Petitioner filed a petition for review in the California Supreme Court. (LD 22.) The petition was summarily denied on November 9, 2016. (LD 23.)

         On January 10, 2017, Petitioner filed the instant petition for writ of habeas corpus in this Court. (Doc. 1.) Respondent filed an answer on March 29, 2017. (Doc. 11.) Petitioner did not file a traverse.


         The Court adopts the Statement of Facts in the Fifth DCA's unpublished decision[3]:

In November of 2013, Jacobsen was living in a house at 5180 East Ball Avenue in Fresno. Due to a prior conviction for violation of Penal Code section 273.5, he was prohibited from possessing a firearm or ammunition.
Law enforcement suspected Jacobsen of starting a November 18 trash can fire in the driveway of the Ball Avenue house and obtained a search warrant for the premises. The house was searched on November 20. Jacobsen was not home at the time, but was found within minutes at a nearby school yard. Only one bedroom in the house was occupied. That room contained Jacobsen's personal belongings, including mail, photographs and documents with his name on them. In the bedroom closet, officers found a camera case containing four live .20-gauge shotgun shells. In the bedroom, along the same wall as the closet, officers found a box with 34 live .38-caliber rounds, four live .22-caliber rounds, and one live shotgun slug. All of the ammunition was capable of being fired.
Jacobsen, who represented himself at trial, testified in his own defense that he had never seen the bullets before trial and he did not know how they got inside the house. According to Jacobsen, he had recently been released from jail before moving into the house and did not have time to search the house for any contraband. He did, however, admit he found a shotgun shell in the house after his release. Jacobsen testified that, while he was in jail, many people came and went in the house and he believed someone left the bullets in the house in order to frame him and get him kicked out of the house.

People v. Jacobsen, 2016 WL 4491475, at *1 (Cal.Ct.App. Aug. 26, 2016).


         A. Jurisdiction

         Relief by way of a petition for writ of habeas corpus extends to a person in custody pursuant to the judgment of a state court if the custody is in violation of the Constitution, laws, or treaties of the United States. 28 U.S.C. § 2254(a); 28 U.S.C. § 2241(c)(3); Williams v. Taylor, 529 U.S. 362, 375 n. 7 (2000). Petitioner asserts that he suffered violations of his rights as guaranteed by the United States Constitution. The challenged conviction arises out of the Fresno County Superior Court, which is located within the jurisdiction of this court. 28 U.S.C. § 2254(a); 28 U.S.C.§ 2241(d).

         On April 24, 1996, Congress enacted the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996 (“AEDPA”), which applies to all petitions for writ of habeas corpus filed after its enactment. Lindh v. Murphy, 521 U.S. 320 (1997) (holding the AEDPA only applicable to cases filed after statute's enactment). The instant petition was filed after the enactment of the AEDPA and is therefore governed by its provisions.

         B. Legal Standard of Review

         A petition for writ of habeas corpus under 28 U.S.C. § 2254(d) will not be granted unless the petitioner can show that the state court's adjudication of his 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); Lockyer v. Andrade, 538 U.S. 63, 70-71 (2003); Williams, 529 U.S. at 412-413.

         A state court decision is “contrary to” clearly established federal law “if it applies a rule that contradicts the governing law set forth in [the Supreme Court's] cases, or “if it confronts a set of facts that is materially indistinguishable from a [Supreme Court] decision but reaches a different result.” Brown v. Payton, 544 U.S. 133, 141 (2005) (citing Williams, 529 U.S. at 405-406).

         In Harrington v. Richter, 562 U.S. 86, 101 (2011), the U.S. Supreme Court explained that an “unreasonable application” of federal law is an objective test that turns on “whether it is possible that fairminded jurists could disagree” that the state court decision meets the standards set forth in the AEDPA. The Supreme Court has “said time and again that ‘an unreasonable application of federal law is different from an incorrect application of federal law.'” Cullen v. Pinholster, 563 U.S. 170, 203 (2011). Thus, a state prisoner seeking a writ of habeas corpus from a federal court “must show that the state court's ruling on the claim being presented in federal court was so lacking in justification that there was an error well understood and comprehended in existing law beyond any possibility of fairminded disagreement.” Harrington, 562 U.S. at 103.

         The second prong pertains to state court decisions based on factual findings. Davis v. Woodford, 384 F.3d 628, 637 (9th Cir. 2003) (citing Miller-El v. Cockrell, 537 U.S. 322 (2003)). Under § 2254(d)(2), a federal court may grant habeas relief if a state court's adjudication of the petitioner's claims “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.” Wiggins v. Smith, 539 U.S. 510, 520 (2003); Jeffries v. Wood, 114 F.3d 1484, 1500 (9th Cir. 1997). A state court's factual finding is unreasonable when it is “so clearly incorrect that it would not be debatable among reasonable jurists.” Jeffries, 114 F.3d at 1500; see Taylor v. Maddox, 366 F.3d 992, 999-1001 (9th Cir. 2004), cert.denied, Maddox v. Taylor, 543 U.S. 1038 (2004).

         To determine whether habeas relief is available under § 2254(d), the federal court looks to the last reasoned state court decision as the basis of the state court's decision. See Ylst v. Nunnemaker, 501 U.S. 979, 803 (1991); Robinson v. Ignacio, 360 F.3d 1044, 1055 (9th Cir. 2004). “[A]lthough we independently review the record, we still defer to the state court's ultimate decisions.” Pirtle v. Morgan, 313 F.3d 1160, 1167 (9th Cir. 2002).

         The prejudicial impact of any constitutional error is assessed by asking whether the error had “a substantial and injurious effect or influence in determining the jury's verdict.” Brecht v. Abrahamson, 507 U.S. 619, 623 (1993); see also Fry v. Pliler, 551 U.S. 112, 119-120 (2007) (holding that the Brecht standard applies whether or not the state court recognized the error and reviewed it for harmlessness).

         C. Review of Claims

         Petitioner claims the evidence was insufficient to support the conviction and the trial court erred by failing to give unanimity instructions.

         1. Insufficiency of the Evidence

         Petitioner contends that there was no evidence whatsoever that he had any knowledge of the ammunition in the house. He states he had only been in the house for two weeks, and there were ...

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