Alejandrez v. Hedgpeth

Decision Date10 November 2014
Docket NumberCase No.: 1:12-cv-00190-AWI-JLT
CourtU.S. District Court — Eastern District of California
PartiesARTURO ALEJANDREZ, Petitioner, v. ANTHONY HEDGPETH, Warden, Respondent.



Petitioner is a state prisoner proceeding pro se with a petition for writ of habeas corpus pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254.


Petitioner is in custody of the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation after having been convicted by a jury in 2010 of: (1) shooting from a car (Pen. Code § 12034(c)); (2) assault with a semiautomatic firearm (Pen. Code § 245(b)); (3) being a felon in possession of a firearm (§ 12021(a)(1)); (4) possessing methamphetamine (Health & Saf. Code § 11377(a)). (Lodged Documents ("LD") 4). He was sentenced to a prison term of ten years, four months plus and an indeterminate sentence of 25 years-to-life. Id.

After his conviction, Petitioner appealed to the California Court of Appeals, Fifth Appellate District (the "5th DCA"), which affirmed Petitioner's conviction. (LD 4). Petitioner then filed apetition for review in the California Supreme Court which was summarily denied on February 16, 2011. (LD 6).

In this current action, Respondent concedes that ground three in the petition has been fully exhausted, but maintains that the remaining four claims for relief are unexhausted. (Doc. 14, p. 9).

The Court adopts the Statement of Facts in the 5th DCA's unpublished decision1: Elita Arredondo drove Alejandrez, her boyfriend (later her husband), to Las Palmas Masonic Center in Fresno on the night of May 24, 2008, to pick up their friend, Yvette Loya. Loya was attending a wedding reception there. Arredondo parked near the front entrance. Alejandrez got out of the car. Loya waved to him through the glass of the entranceway, then disappeared into the building to say goodbye to her family.
While he was waiting for Loya to return, Alejandrez became involved in an argument with Esperanza Garcia. Garcia and Annabell Valles were the parties who had gotten married that day. Someone asked Garcia to let Alejandrez in, but she refused because Alejandrez did not have an invitation and Garcia did not know him. Garcia went outside and told Alejandrez to leave. She also asked a security guard to remove him. Alejandrez said, "[M]ake me leave." He called Garcia a "dyke bitch," among other things. Garcia went back in the building, but by this time a crowd of 10 to 15 wedding guests had gathered outside, angered by the slurs Alejandrez had used. Alejandrez continued the argument with the guests. Guests yelled to Alejandrez that he should leave. Some people present heard Alejandrez shout "DLG" and yell that his name was "Wolfy," although Alejandrez later denied doing so. DLG stands for Dog Life Gangsters, a subgroup of the Bulldogs gang, of which Alejandrez was once a member. Security guards began trying to corral the guests back into the building. Alejandrez later claimed he believed the crowd was attacking him, and that one member of it took off his j acket and assumed a fighting stance while others closed in around him. Someone was pounding on Arredondo's car.
Alejandrez pulled a gun from his waistband, a Walther semiautomatic pistol. He waved it in the air and pointed it at the crowd of wedding guests. As he did so, guests heard him say "this is DLG" and tell the crowd to get back. Again, he later denied saying anything about DLG. The wedding guests started moving into the building. A security guard saw Alejandrez fire a few shots. A bullet hit a parked car. Then Alejandrez got into the back seat of Arredondo's car, on the passenger side. As Arredondo drove away, the wedding guests all went into the building, but one security guard remained outside. Alejandrez reached out the window and over the car's roof and fired more shots toward the building.
One shot fired from the car hit the security guard's leg. An ambulance took him to a hospital. An emergency room doctor removed the bullet using local anesthesia and then released the guard. The guard received follow-up treatment for the wound for about a year.
Police found Alejandrez and Arredondo still in the car the same night. The gun was in his waistband and gunshot residue was on his hands. A spent shell casing was found in the car. It was of the same type as eight more spent shell casings located at the scene of the shooting and the live rounds that were in the gun. Also found in the car were a small scale and a plastic bag containing some smaller bags and a white powder later identified as methamphetamine. Alejandrez admitted the gun and the drugs belonged to him.

(LD 4).

I. Jurisdiction

Relief by way of a petition for writ of habeas corpus extends to a person in custody pursuant to the judgment of a state court if the custody is in violation of the Constitution, laws, or treaties of the United States. 28 U.S.C. § 2254(a); 28 U.S.C. § 2241(c)(3); Williams v. Taylor, 529 U.S. 362, 375 n. 7 (2000). Petitioner asserts that he suffered violations of his rights as guaranteed by the United States Constitution. The challenged conviction arises out of the Fresno County Superior Court, which is located within the jurisdiction of this court. 28 U.S.C. § 2254(a); 28 U.S.C.§ 2241(d).

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 after its enactment. Lindh v. Murphy, 521 U.S. 320 (1997), cert. denied, 522 U.S. 1008, 118 S.Ct. 586 (1997); Jeffries v. Wood, 114 F.3d 1484, 1500 (9th Cir. 1997), cert. denied, 520 U.S. 1107 (1997), overruled on other grounds by Lindh, 521 U.S. 320 (holding the AEDPA only applicable to cases filed after statute's enactment). The instant petition was filed after the enactment of the AEDPA and is therefore governed by its provisions.

II. Legal Standard of Review

A petition for writ of habeas corpus under 28 U.S.C. § 2254(d) will not be granted unless he can show that the state court's adjudication of his 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; or (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." 28 U.S.C. § 2254(d); Lockyer v. Andrade, 538 U.S. 63, 70-71 (2003); Williams v. Taylor, 529 U.S. at 412-413.

A state court decision is "contrary to" clearly established federal law "if it applies a rule that contradicts the governing law set forth in [the Supreme Court's] cases, or "if it confronts a set of facts that is materially indistinguishable from a reme Court decision but reaches a different result." Brown v. Payton, 544 U.S. 133, 141 (2005), citing Williams, 529 U.S. at 405-406 (2000). Consequently, a federal court may not grant habeas relief simply because the state court's decision isincorrect or erroneous; the state court's decision must also be objectively unreasonable. Wiggins v. Smith, 539 U.S. 510, 511 (2003) (citing Williams v. Taylor, 529 U.S. at 409).

In Harrington v. Richter, 562 U.S. ___, 131 S.Ct. 770 (2011), the U.S. Supreme Court explained that an "unreasonable application" of federal law is an objective test that turns on "whether it is possible that fairminded jurists could disagree" that the state court decision meets the standards set forth in the AEDPA. If fairminded jurists could so disagree, habeas relief is precluded. Harrington, 131 S.Ct. at 786. The Supreme Court has "said time and again that 'an unreasonable application of federal law is different from an incorrect application of federal law.'" Cullen v. Pinholster, 131 S.Ct. 1388, 1410-1411 (2011). Thus, a state prisoner seeking a writ of habeas corpus from a federal court "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 of fairminded disagreement." Harrington, 131 S.Ct. at 787-788.

The second prong of federal habeas review involves the "unreasonable determination" clause of 28 U.S.C. § 2254(d)(2). This prong pertains to state court decisions based on factual findings. Davis v. Woodford, 384 F.3d at 637, citing Miller-El v. Cockrell, 537 U.S. 322 (2003). Under § 2254(d)(2), a federal court may grant habeas relief if a state court's adjudication of the petitioner's claims "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." Wiggins v. Smith, 539 U.S. at 520; Jeffries v. Wood, 114 F.3d at 1500. A state court's factual finding is unreasonable when it is "so clearly incorrect that it would not be debatable among reasonable jurists." Id; see Taylor v. Maddox, 366 F.3d 992, 999-1001 (9th Cir. 2004), cert.denied, Maddox v. Taylor, 543 U.S. 1038 (2004).

To determine whether habeas relief is available under § 2254(d), the federal court looks to the last reasoned state court decision as the basis of the state court's decision. See Ylst v. Nunnemaker, 501 U.S. 979, 803 (1991); Robinson v. Ignacio, 360 F.3d 1044, 1055 (9th Cir. 2004). Where the state court decided the petitioner's claims on the merits but provided no reasoning for its decision, the federal habeas court conducts "an independent review of the determine whether the state court [was objectively unreasonable] in its application of controlling federal law." Delgado v. Lewis, 223 F.3d 976, 982 (9th Cir. 2002); see Himes v. Thompson, 336 F.3d 848, 853 (9th Cir. 2003)."[A]lthough we independently review the record, we still defer to the state court's ultimate decisions." Pirtle v. Morgan, 313 F.3d 1160, 1167 (9th Cir. 20...

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