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Williams v. Paramo

United States District Court, S.D. California

March 28, 2018

James Michael Williams, Petitioner,
Daniel Paramo, Warden, et al., Respondents.



         Before the Court is Petitioner's habeas petition, (Doc. No. 1), motion for proposed amendment to the habeas petition, (Doc. No. 43), the Magistrate Judge's report and recommendation to deny Petitioner's habeas petition, (Doc. No. 56), Petitioner's objections and supplemental objections (Doc. Nos. 56, 62), and Petitioner's motion for certificate o appealability, (Doc. No. 60).

         For the reasons stated herein, the Court ADOPTS the Magistrate Judge's R&R. (Doc. No. 56.) The Court also GRANTS Petitioner's proposed amendment, (Doc. No. 43), but DISMISSES the claims raised in both his original habeas petition, (Doc. No. 1), and the amended petition, (Doc. No. 43). Finally, the Court DENIES Petitioner's request for a certificate of appealability. (Doc. No. 60.)

         I. BACKGROUND

         The Court incorporates the procedural background and underlying facts as laid out in the report and recommendation, and will briefly reiterate the points pertinent to this order. (Doc. No. 56 at 3-17.)

         Petitioner was convicted for one count of forcible rape and two counts of forcible oral copulation. The victim testified she ended up with Petitioner in his RV after a night out with her friend. The two talked for a while in the RV and agreed to get breakfast together. Petitioner attempted to kiss the victim, but she rebuffed his advances. On the way to the restaurant, Petitioner stopped at a convenience store to buy cigarettes. After, Petitioner drove the RV back to a parking lot, instead of to the restaurant, causing the victim to begin to worry. Once in the parking lot, Petitioner propositioned the victim to perform a sexual act on her in exchange for money. She refused. Petitioner then became aggressive, punching her, pushing her, and blocking her from exiting. She testified that Petitioner pulled a knife out of a drawer and held it to her throat while threatening her life. After putting the knife away, he “allowed” her to leave, but when she tried to, he punched her again and threatened to drug her. Petitioner then forced the victim to orally copulate him and used various threats against her until she complied with staying; ultimately raping her. Eventually, the victim managed to escape and reported him to police.

         Several events at trial form the basis of petitioner's habeas arguments. First, the jury “returned a not true finding on the allegation that [Petitioner] personally used a knife during those offenses.” (Doc. No. 56 at 15.) The jury also could not reach a verdict regarding count four, rape by a foreign object, and count five, false imprisonment through violence, menace, fraud, or deceit. After the verdicts were reached, but before the verdicts were accepted, the prosecutor amended the information “to charge two strikes arising from the Oklahoma conviction rather than one, over a defense objection that the amendment was untimely and violated double jeopardy having come after the previous mistrial.” (Id.) In a bifurcated bench trial on the prior Oklahoma convictions, the court took judicial notice of that victim's-Cheryl B.'s-testimony over defense counsel's objections.


         “The court shall make a de novo determination of those portions of the [report and recommendation] to which objection is made.” 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1). The “statute makes it clear that the district judge must review the magistrate judge's findings and recommendations de novo if objection is made, but not otherwise.” United States v. Reyna- Tapia, 328 F.3d 1114, 1121 (9th Cir. 2003) (en banc) (emphasis in original); see also Schmidt v. Johnstone, 263 F.Supp.2d 1219, 1225-26 & n.5 (D. Ariz. 2003) (applying Reyna-Tapia to habeas review).


         In Petitioner's first 37-page objection, he makes repetitive arguments, contesting the same points as his petition and traverse. (Doc. No. 59.) Some of his arguments fail to reach the merits of the R&R's analysis, and simply reiterate general assertions that the R&R's analysis is incorrect (by restating his original arguments). The cornerstone of his objections rest on his belief that the victim's testimony was not credible and failed to provide the basis for the jury's finding of force on the forcible rape charge. Petitioner doubles-down on this argument, stating that because the jury found her knife allegations not true, there was no force used to support the rape conviction. However, because those arguments fail, the majority of his petition also crumbles. The Court discusses his various objections in turn.

         1. California Supreme Court's Failure to Adjudicate on the Merits

         Petitioner argues that “[t]he California Supreme Court's silent denial of Petitioner's habeas corpus petition, does-not [sic] constitute an adjudication on the merits.” (Doc. No. 59 at 3-4 (extraneous quotation marks omitted).) This argument fails to address the merits of the R&R's analysis of his first claim, but rather, takes issue with the procedure itself. In the R&R, the Court took the state Supreme Court's “silent denial” as affirmation of the lower court's reasoning. (Doc. No. 56 at 21.) The R&R states “[t]here is a presumption that ‘[w]here there has been one reasoned state judgment rejecting a federal claim, later unexplained orders upholding that judgment or rejecting the same claim rest upon the same ground.'” (Id. (citing Ylst v. Nunnemaker, 501 U.S. 797, 803-06 (1991)).) Thus, the R&R “look[ed] through the silent denial of this claim by the state supreme court on direct appeal to the last reasoned state court opinion addressing the claim . . . ...

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