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Smith v. Sherman

United States District Court, E.D. California

February 22, 2018




         Petitioner, William Allen Smith, is a state prisoner proceeding pro se with a petition for writ of habeas corpus pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254. He alleges two grounds for habeas relief: (1) “illegal requirement to register as a sexual offender for out-of-state conviction”; and (2) the registration requirement is a violation of his right to equal protection.[1] (Doc. 1 at 4.) The Court referred the matter to the Magistrate Judge pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1) and Local Rules 302 and 304. Petitioner acknowledges in his traverse that the equal protection claim should be dismissed with prejudice, (Doc. 23 at 13); consequently, the Court recommends dismissing the equal rights claim with prejudice. Having reviewed the record as a whole and applicable law, the undersigned further recommends that the Court deny the habeas petition.

         I. Factual and Procedural Background[2]

         Two year old G. and his eight year old brother N. were playing in a vacant lot near their home in Bakersfield when Petitioner pulled up in his girlfriend's car. G. road up to the vehicle on his tricycle, Petitioner opened the door of the vehicle, put the boy in the car, and drove off. N. quickly reported the abduction to his mother, who called the Bakersfield Police Department.

         Approximately 30 minutes after G. and N.'s mother called police, an anonymous male caller notified Bakersfield Police that G. could be found at a church roughly 3 miles from the abduction site. An officer found G. crying in the church parking lot 20 minutes later. G. appeared shaken, but did not appear to have suffered any physical injuries. G. went a local hospital for an examination, and was later reunited with his parents.

         Later that same day, a Bakersfield Police Detective contacted Petitioner at his mother's home, which was located one to two blocks from the abduction site. Petitioner fit the description of the abductor provided by N. and a vehicle matching the description of the one involved in the crime was parked outside the home. N. positively identified Petitioner as the abductor and Petitioner was taken into custody.[3]

         At trial, Petitioner's girlfriend, Dana Williams (“Ms. Williams”), testified that Petitioner dropped her off at work on the day of the abduction and then drove off with her vehicle, which was later identified as the one involved in the abduction. Ms. Williams testified that sometime after the abduction, Petitioner admitted he watched G. and N. play, but stated that G. walked up to the vehicle and climbed inside it by himself. According to Williams, Petitioner claimed he then drove off with G. and dropped him off a few blocks away before calling police.

         In May 1996, a jury convicted Petitioner of kidnapping (Cal. Penal Code § 208(b)). Petitioner was sentenced to 33 years to life in prison with two additional five year enhancements for having two strikes.

         Petitioner appealed his conviction and on August 27, 1997, the California Court of Appeal for the Fifth Appellate District affirmed the judgment. Petitioner filed his appeal with the Supreme Court on September 29, 1997. On November 12, 1997, the California Supreme Court summarily denied Petitioner's “Petition for Review.”

         While his appeal was pending with the Supreme Court, on October 14, 1997, Petitioner filed a petition for writ of habeas corpus challenging the legality of his conviction with the Kern County Superior Court. On September 28, 1998, the Superior Court held that the admission of a statement Petitioner made during an interview with a local television station was improperly admitted at trial.[4] Therefore, the Superior Court granted the petition and Petitioner was granted a new trial.

         On January 20, 1999, Petitioner's second jury trial commenced. The second jury convicted Petitioner of kidnapping (Cal. Penal Code § 208(b)). In a bifurcated proceeding, the trial court found true allegations that Petitioner suffered two prior strikes. On March 1, 1999, Petitioner was sentenced to an indeterminate term of 43 years to life.

         On September 12, 2000, the Court of Appeal affirmed Petitioner's conviction for kidnapping and affirmed the fact that he suffered one strike. The court remanded the finding on the second strike to the trial court for further proceedings on the issue of whether one of Petitioner's prior convictions[5] constituted a prior serious felony conviction under California law.

         The Court of Appeal also remanded the case for resentencing. Petitioner filed a “Petition for Review” with the Supreme Court for certain claims that were decided by the Court of Appeal.[6]The “Petition for Review” was summarily denied on December 20, 2000.

         Upon remand from the Court of Appeal, the trial court held a hearing on February 21, 2001. At the hearing, the prosecutor informed the court that Petitioner's prior Florida conviction was insufficient to count as a strike in California. The trial court dismissed this strike and sentenced Petitioner to a determinate state prison term of 27 years.

         Petitioner appealed his conviction and on October 18, 2001, the appeal was dismissed pursuant to Petitioner's request.[7] Petitioner then filed several state habeas corpus petitions, which were all denied.

         On November 9, 2015, Petitioner filed his petition for habeas corpus with this Court. Respondent filed a response on March 9, 2016, and Petitioner replied on April 25, 2016.

         II. Standard of Review

         A person in custody as a result of the judgment of a state court may secure relief through a petition for habeas corpus if the custody violates the Constitution or laws or treaties of the United States. 28 U.S.C. § 2254(a); Williams v. Taylor, 529 U.S. 362, 375 (2000). 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 thereafter. Lindh v. Murphy, 521 U.S. 320, 322-23 (1997). Under the statutory terms, the petition in this case is governed by AEDPA's provisions because it was filed April 24, 1996.

         Habeas corpus is neither a substitute for a direct appeal nor a device for federal review of the merits of a guilty verdict rendered in state court. Jackson v. Virginia, 443 U.S. 307, 332 n. 5 (1979) (Stevens, J., concurring). Habeas corpus relief is intended to address only "extreme malfunctions" in state criminal justice proceedings. Id. Under AEDPA, a petitioner can obtain ...

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