United States District Court, E.D. California
FINDINGS AND RECOMMENDATIONS
F. BRENNAN UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE
is a state prisoner proceeding without counsel with a
petition for a writ of habeas corpus pursuant to 28 U.S.C.
§ 2254. A jury convicted him on March 6, 2015 in
the Sacramento County Superior Court on charges of second
degree burglary (Cal. Penal Code section 459) and possession
of burglary tools (Cal. Penal Code section 466). He seeks
federal habeas relief on the following grounds: (1) the trial
court erred in failing to admit evidence of his exculpatory
statements; (2) the trial court erred in instructing on the
inference of guilt following his flight; (3) insufficient
evidence supported his burglary conviction; and (4) his trial
counsel was constitutionally ineffective in refusing to allow
him to testify in his defense.
careful consideration of the record and the applicable law,
the undersigned recommends that petitioner's application
for habeas corpus relief be denied.
unpublished memorandum and opinion affirming petitioner's
judgment of conviction on appeal, the California Court of
Appeal for the Third Appellate District provided the
following factual summary:
Defendant was walking around an apartment complex in the
early morning knocking on apartment doors until he found one
(unit 60) where nobody answered. Inside unit 60 were an
office chair and a television that were part of a pile that
included a mattress and kids' toys. The tenants in unit
60 had moved out recently. The property manager had not yet
hauled away these items because the tenants still had time to
come back to the apartment and retrieve their property. The
property manager was alerted to defendant's presence at
the complex when the tenant from unit 59 (which was next door
to 60) told the manager he had heard noises that sounded like
somebody was walking inside unit 60 and moving stuff. The
property manager saw defendant coming out of an elevator in
the complex (with nothing in his hands), and he told
defendant he needed to leave. Defendant asked if he could
quickly grab his bike, and the property manager said,
“yes.” Defendant got his bike, went around the
corner, and left. Five minutes later, though, the apartment
manager saw defendant in the apartment complex pushing the
office chair and television. Police found defendant a short
time later at a nearby gas station, where he had just been
hit by a car while riding his bike. In defendant's pant
pockets were a flathead screwdriver, a pair of wire cutters,
and a shaved key. Police found the office chair and
television in one of the apartment parking stalls. A jury
found defendant guilty of second degree burglary and
possessing burglary tools.
People v. Brown, 2016 WL 879258, at *1 (Cal.App. 3
Dist., 2016) (unpublished).
Standards of Review Applicable to Habeas Corpus
application for a writ of habeas corpus by a person in
custody under a judgment of a state court can be granted only
for violations of the Constitution or laws of the United
States. 28 U.S.C. § 2254(a). A federal writ is not
available for alleged error in the interpretation or
application of state law. See Wilson v. Corcoran,
562 U.S. 1, 5 (2010); Estelle v. McGuire, 502 U.S.
62, 67-68 (1991); Park v. California, 202 F.3d 1146,
1149 (9th Cir. 2000).
28 U.S.C. § 2254(d) sets forth the following standards
for granting federal habeas corpus relief:
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;
(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.
purposes of applying § 2254(d)(1), “clearly
established federal law” consists of holdings of the
United States Supreme Court at the time of the last reasoned
state court decision. Thompson v. Runnels, 705 F.3d
1089, 1096 (9th Cir. 2013) (citing Greene v. Fisher,
565 U.S. 34 (2011)); Stanley v. Cullen, 633 F.3d
852, 859 (9th Cir. 2011) (citing Williams v. Taylor,
529 U.S. 362, 405-06 (2000)). Circuit court precedent
“may be persuasive in determining what law is clearly
established and whether a state court applied that law
unreasonably.” Stanley, 633 F.3d at 859
(quoting Maxwell v. Roe, 606 F.3d 561, 567 (9th Cir.
2010)). However, circuit precedent may not be “used to
refine or sharpen a general principle of Supreme Court
jurisprudence into a specific legal rule that th[e] [Supreme]
Court has not announced.” Marshall v. Rodgers,
133 S.Ct. 1446, 1450 (2013) (citing Parker v.
Matthews, 132 S.Ct. 2148, 2155 (2012) (per curiam)). Nor
may it be used to “determine whether a particular rule
of law is so widely accepted among the Federal Circuits that
it would, if presented to th[e] [Supreme] Court, be accepted
as correct. Id. Further, where courts of appeals
have diverged in their treatment of an issue, it cannot be
said that there is “clearly established Federal
law” governing that issue. Carey v. Musladin,
549 U.S. 70, 77 (2006).
court decision is “contrary to” clearly
established federal law if it applies a rule contradicting a
holding of the Supreme Court or reaches a result different
from Supreme Court precedent on “materially
indistinguishable” facts. Price v. Vincent,
538 U.S. 634');">538 U.S. 634, 640 (2003). Under the “unreasonable
application” clause of § 2254(d)(1), a federal
habeas court may grant the writ if the state court identifies
the correct governing legal principle from the Supreme
Court's decisions, but unreasonably applies that
principle to the facts of the prisoner's
case. Lockyer v. Andrade, 538 U.S. 63,
75 (2003); Williams, 529 U.S. at 413; Chia v.
Cambra, 360 F.3d 997, 1002 (9th Cir. 2004). In this
regard, a federal habeas court “may not issue the writ
simply because that court concludes in its independent
judgment that the relevant state-court decision applied
clearly established federal law erroneously or incorrectly.
Rather, that application must also be unreasonable.”
Williams, 529 U.S. at 412. See also Schriro v.
Landrigan, 550 U.S. 465, 473 (2007); Lockyer,
538 U.S. at 75 (it is “not enough that a federal habeas
court, in its independent review of the legal question, is
left with a ‘firm conviction' that the state court
was ‘erroneous.'”). “A state
court's determination that a claim lacks merit precludes
federal habeas relief so long as ‘fairminded jurists
could disagree' on the correctness of the state
court's decision.” Harrington v. Richter,
562 U.S. 86, 101 (2011) (quoting Yarborough v.
Alvarado, 541 U.S. 652, 664 (2004)). Accordingly,
“[a]s a condition for obtaining habeas corpus from a
federal court, a state prisoner 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 for fairminded disagreement.”
Richter, 562 U.S. at 103.
state court's decision does not meet the criteria set
forth in § 2254(d), a reviewing court must conduct a de
novo review of a habeas petitioner's claims.
Delgadillo v. Woodford, 527 F.3d 919, 925 (9th Cir.
2008); see also Frantz v. Hazey, 533 F.3d 724, 735
(9th Cir. 2008) (en banc) (“[I]t is now clear both that
we may not grant habeas relief simply because of §
2254(d)(1) error and that, if there is such error, we must
decide the habeas petition by considering de novo the
constitutional issues raised.”).
court looks to the last reasoned state court decision as the
basis for the state court judgment. Stanley, 633
F.3d at 859; Robinson v. Ignacio, 360 F.3d 1044,
1055 (9th Cir. 2004). If the last reasoned state court
decision adopts or substantially incorporates the reasoning
from a previous state court decision, this court may consider
both decisions to ascertain the reasoning of the last
decision. Edwards v. Lamarque, 475 F.3d 1121, 1126
(9th Cir. 2007) (en banc). “When a federal claim has
been presented to a state court and the state court has
denied relief, it may be presumed that the state court
adjudicated the claim on the merits in the absence of any
indication or state-law procedural principles to the
contrary.” Richter, 562 U.S. at 99. This
presumption may be overcome by a showing “there is
reason to think some other explanation for the state
court's decision is more likely.” Id. at
785 (citing Ylst v. Nunnemaker, 501 U.S. 797, 803
(1991)). Similarly, when a state court decision on a
petitioner's claims rejects some claims but does not
expressly address a federal claim, a federal habeas court
must presume, subject to rebuttal, that the federal claim was
adjudicated on the merits. Johnson v. Williams, 568
U.S. 289 (2013).
the state court reaches a decision on the merits but provides
no reasoning to support its conclusion, a federal habeas
court independently reviews the record to determine whether
habeas corpus relief is available under § 2254(d).
Stanley, 633 F.3d at 860; Himes v.
Thompson, 336 F.3d 848, 853 (9th Cir. 2003).
“Independent review of the record is not de novo review
of the constitutional issue, but rather, the only method by
which we can determine whether a silent state court decision
is objectively unreasonable.” Himes, 336 F.3d
at 853. Where no reasoned decision is available, the habeas
petitioner still has the burden of “showing there was
no reasonable basis for the state court to deny
relief.” Richter, 562 U.S. at 98.
summary denial is presumed to be a denial on the merits of
the petitioner's claims. Stancle v. Clay, 692
F.3d 948, 957 & n. 3 (9th Cir. 2012). While the federal
court cannot analyze just what the state court did when it
issued a summary denial, the federal court must review the
state court record to determine whether there was any
“reasonable basis for the state court to deny
relief.” Richter, 562 U.S. at 98. This court
“must determine what arguments or theories ... could
have supported, the state court's decision; and then it
must ask whether it is possible fairminded jurists could
disagree that those arguments or theories are inconsistent
with the holding in a prior decision of [the Supreme]
Court.” Id. at 102. The petitioner bears
“the burden to demonstrate that ‘there was no
reasonable basis for the state court to deny
relief.'” Walker v. Martel, 709 F.3d 925,
939 (9th Cir. 2013) (quoting Richter, 562 U.S. at
is clear, however, that a state court has not reached the
merits of a petitioner's claim, the deferential standard
set forth in 28 U.S.C. § 2254(d) does not apply and a
federal habeas court must review the claim de novo.
Stanley, 633 F.3d at 860; Reynoso v.
Giurbino, 462 ...