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Stroud v. Neuschmid

United States District Court, S.D. California

October 28, 2019

ROBERT NEUSCHMID, Warden, Respondent.


          Hon. William V. Gallo United States Magistrate Judge.

         On May 26, 2019, Coleridge Stroud (“Petitioner”) filed a Petition for Writ of Habeas Corpus pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254 challenging his sentence under California's “Three Strikes Law, ” Cal. Pen. Code § 667, arguing that the trial court abused its discretion by denying his motion to strike his prior “strikes” under People v. Superior Court (Romero), 13 Cal.4th 497 (1996). Respondent contends that there is no basis for habeas relief because Petitioner's claim does not implicate his federal constitutional rights and fails to illustrate how state courts misapplied United States Supreme Court authority. For the reasons set forth below, the Court RECOMMENDS the Petition be DENIED.

         I. BACKGROUND

         Petitioner was convicted of multiple felonies and received two “strikes” for armed robbery and attempted armed robbery in 1992. He was sentenced to 10 years, 8 months in state prison. In 2015, after 20 years of no criminal activity, Petitioner committed a series of crimes in rapid succession. After stealing a car and while released on bail for the same, he kidnapped a woman by having her drive him around downtown San Diego, sexually assaulted her, and after she fled, he led police in a high-speed chase that culminated in his eventual capture in San Diego Bay.

         Stroud pled guilty in San Diego County Superior Court to carjacking (Cal. Pen. Code § 215(a)), kidnapping (Cal. Pen. Code § 207(a)), robbery (Cal. Pen. Code § 211), reckless evading of police (Cal. Veh. Code § 2800.2(a)), and misdemeanor sexual battery (Cal. Pen. Code §243.4(e)(1)). He also admitted that he was out on bail at the time of these offenses (Cal. Pen. Code § 12022.1(b)), that he had one serious prior felony conviction (Cal. Pen. Code § 667(a)) and two prior strike convictions (Cal. Pen. Code § 667(b)-(i)). The trial court dismissed the out-on-bail enhancement.

         Stroud moved the trial court to exercise its discretion to strike the priors pursuant to Romero. The trial judge denied the motion to dismiss either of the prior strikes and sentenced Stroud to a total term of 38 years-to-life.[1] Stroud appealed, arguing that the trial court abused its discretion in denying the Romero motion. The California Court of Appeal rejected that claim and affirmed the judgment. The California Supreme Court summarily denied Stroud's petition for review without comment.

         Petitioner now raises the same question of the trial court's abuse of Romero discretion in his habeas claim. His petition to this Court is nearly the same brief in content as his brief on direct appeal.

         This Court gives deference to state court findings of fact and presumes them to be correct unless Petitioner rebuts the presumption of correctness by clear and convincing evidence. See 28 U.S.C. § 2254(e)(1); see also Parke v. Raley, 506 U.S. 20, 35 (1992) (holding that findings of fact are entitled to statutory presumption of correctness). The following facts are taken from the California Court of Appeal's opinion on Petitioner's direct appeal, affirming the judgment of the trial court:

Stroud stipulated that the preliminary hearing transcript provides the factual basis for his plea. D.P. testified at that hearing that on April 12, 2015, at around 9:05 p.m., she was driving in downtown San Diego to pick up her boyfriend. When she stopped at a traffic light, Stroud forced his way into her car and ordered her to drive away or he would hurt her. Stroud told her he was going to a house to buy drugs. Stroud took away her phone and when her boyfriend called, told him D.P. was safe and was doing Stroud a favor by giving him a ride. Stroud directed her to park near a house that was under construction. Stroud turned off the ignition and lights, and took the car keys. Stroud touched D.P. on her vagina over her clothing. They fought in the vehicle and, eventually, D.P. ran away and called the police.
Shortly afterwards, a San Diego Harbor Police officer saw D.P.'s vehicle, which had been reported stolen. The officer activated his emergency lights and sirens. Stroud, who was driving D.P.'s vehicle, continued driving at about 60 miles per hour in a 45-mile-per-hour zone. Stroud crashed into a pole, refused police orders to get on the ground, and jumped into the San Diego bay.
The probation report set forth Stroud's history of criminal convictions starting in 1989. That year, Stroud was already over 21 years old when he was convicted of felony drug possession and receiving stolen property. In 1991, he was convicted of receiving stolen property and, in a separate incident, unlawful driving or taking of a car. In 1992, he was convicted of his two strike offenses of armed robbery and attempted second degree robbery, for which he was sentenced to ten years eight months in prison. The probation officer's report of that incident stated: “The two victims in this matter are apparently husband and wife. They were sitting on a curb by a shopping center, waiting for a bus. They observed [Stroud] arrive at the location in a car and to pull into the parking lot. [Stroud] approached the victims from behind, and handed them a sheet of paper with an address on it, and asked [one of the victims] if she knew where it was. [Stroud] then pulled out a chrome plated pistol and grabbed the victim's purse, gaining control of the purse. [Stroud] then walked up to the [second victim] and pointed the pistol at him and stated, ‘give me your wallet, mother fucker.' The victim, who apparently speaks little, if any, English did not understand, and began to unstrap his watch. At this point, [Stroud] began to slowly back up to his car, got in the car, and drove off.”

(Lod. 5, ECF No. 8-14 at 2-4.); see also People v. Stroud, No. D071371, 2018 Cal.App. Unpub. LEXIS 500, at *2-4 (Cal.Ct.App. 2018).


         This Petition is governed by the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996 (“AEDPA”) because it was filed after April 24, 1996 and Petitioner is in custody pursuant to the judgment of a state court. See Lindh v. Murphy, 521 U.S. 320, 326 (1997); Mann v. Ryan, 828 F.3d 1143, 1151 (9th Cir. 2016). Under AEDPA, a court may not grant a habeas petition “with respect to any claim that was adjudicated on the merits in State court proceedings, ” 28 U.S.C. § 2254(d), unless the state court's judgment “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 ...

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