United States District Court, S.D. California
ORDER DENYING PETITION FOR WRIT OF HABEAS
Alan Burns United States District Judge
Craig Farley, a prisoner in state custody, filed a petition
for writ of habeas corpus under 28 U.S.C. § 2254. The
matter was referred to Magistrate Judge Bernard Skomal for a
report and recommendation. After Judge Skomal issued his
substantial report and recommendation (the
“R&R”), Farley filed objections
(“Objections” or “Obj.”).
was convicted in California state court of first degree
murder, robbery, and burglary. The jury made additional
findings that he committed the murder while engaged in a
robbery and burglary, that he committed all three crimes for
the benefit of a criminal street gang, that a firearm was
used during the crime, and that the crime was committed in an
inhabited dwelling. He was sentenced to life without the
possibility of parole plus an additional consecutive sentence
of 25 years to life. In his petition, he raised nine claims
district court has jurisdiction to review a Magistrate
Judge's report and recommendation on dispositive matters.
Fed.R.Civ.P. 72(b). “The district judge must determine
de novo any part of the magistrate judge's disposition
that has been properly objected to.” Id.
“A judge of the court 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). The
Court reviews de novo those portions of the R&R to which
specific written objection is made. United States v.
Reyna-Tapia, 328 F.3d 1114, 1121 (9th Cir. 2003) (en
habeas review of state court judgments is highly deferential.
Harrington v. Richter, 562 U.S. 86, 105 (2011);
Cullen v. Pinholster, 563 U.S. 170, 181 (2011). As
to claims adjudicated on the merits in state court, the Court
can grant relief only if those proceedings resulted in a
decision that was contrary to or involved an unreasonable
application of clearly established federal law, as determined
by the U.S. Supreme Court; or resulted in a decision based on
an unreasonable determination of the facts in light of the
evidence presented in the state court proceeding. §
2254(d). The state courts' factual determinations are
presumed correct, and this presumption can only be rebutted
by clear and convincing evidence. § 2254(e)(1). The
Court's review is limited to the record before the state
court. Pinholster, 563 U.S. 170, 181-82 (2011).
as here, the state supreme court summarily denies relief, the
Court “looks through” to the last reasoned
decision - in this case, the California Court of Appeals'
decision - to determine the basis for the state supreme
court's judgment. See Reis-Campos v. Biter, 832
F.3d 968, 973-74 (9th Cir. 2016). But if there is
no reasoned decision on a particular claim, the petitioner
must show that there was no reasonable basis for the denial
of relief. Id. at 974 (citing Richter, 562
U.S. at 92).
habeas relief is available only when a prisoner is in custody
in violation of federal law; errors of state law are not a
basis for issuance of the writ. Swarthout v. Cooke,
562 U.S. 216, 219 (2011).
for Stay and Abeyance
petition included a request for stay and abeyance as to three
ineffective assistance of counsel claims that Farley said he
intended to bring in state court. The R&R recommended
denying it as moot, because the claims in fact had been
exhausted because Farley raised them in a habeas petition in
the California Supreme Court. Neither party objected to this,
and the Court ADOPTS the R&R's
recommendation. The request for stay and abeyance is
Objections as to Legal Standards
objections, while lengthy, are premised on the erroneous idea
that federal habeas review is de novo. He contends
that under AEDPA no deference is due to state courts'
decisions. For example, he argues that “no AEDPA
deference should have been accorded” to the state
courts' decision (Obj. at 1) and faults Judge Skomal for
this. (Id. at 2 (“The Magistrate Judge['s]
basis for the decision is deference to the state court
decision . . . .”).) He argues that Judge Skomal should
have found some independent reasons for his recommendations
instead of relying on the state courts' factual findings
or deferring to state courts' determinations.
(Id. at 2 (“Moreover, the Magistrate Judge
establishes no independent legal or reasonable basis for his
decision . . . .”); 14.) He appears to argue that the
Court's review is not limited to the state court record,
and that the Court should consider arguments based on factual
bases that were never developed in state court. And he also
argues that the Court should weigh the evidence itself.
(Id. at 13.)
concept of the standard of review is completely incorrect,
and the standards set forth in the R&R are correct.
Farley's petition is subject to AEDPA, and the
Court's review of state court judgments a deferential
one. The R&R correctly states the legal standards, which
the Court ADOPTS.
part of Farley's objections is devoted to arguing legal
positions that the R&R either explicitly or implicitly
agrees with, such as his right to a fair trial, his right to
competent counsel, his right to an impartial jury, and the
“beyond a reasonable doubt” standard applicable
to criminal cases. The points where he agrees with the
R&R are not, however, objections and do not trigger a
de novo review.
also makes a number of generalized and conclusory objections,
which do not require review, and which in any event either
lack merit or do not affect the outcome.
of Farley's Claims
facts of Farley's case, as well as the procedural
history, are set forth in the R&R. Because the parties
are aware of them, the Court does not repeat them here,
except as necessary for discussion. Most of Farley's
objections focus on his claims of ineffective assistance of
counsel, and he mentions other claims only very briefly and
1 Through 5: Ineffective Assistance of Counsel
claims his trial counsel was ineffective in several respects:
failure to introduce evidence of witnesses' inability to
identify him in a live police line-up; failing to present
evidence of innocent explanations for his behavior following
the murder; failing to raise insufficiency of the evidence
for first degree murder; failing to raise a
Batson/Wheeler challenge; and failing to raise
third-party culpability as to Leroy Thomas, an associate of
one of Farley's co-defendants. Farley argues his trial
counsel was ineffective in all these respects, and his
appellate counsel was ineffective for failing to raise claims
3 through 5 on direct appeal.
assistance of counsel is reviewed under the standard set
forth in Strickland v. Washington, 466 U.S. 688
(1984). This is a highly deferential standard, and
surmounting it is “never an easy task.”
Padilla v. Kentucky, 559 U.S. 356, 371 (2010).
“A fair assessment of attorney performance requires
that every effort be made to eliminate the distorting effects
of hindsight, to reconstruct the circumstances of