Curiel v. Adams, Case No.: 1:10-cv-01121-LJO-JLT

CourtUnited States District Courts. 9th Circuit. United States District Courts. 9th Circuit. Eastern District of California
Writing for the CourtJennifer L. Thurston
Decision Date20 February 2013
PartiesJUAN ALONSO CURIEL, Petitioner, v. DERRAL ADAMS, Respondent.
Docket NumberCase No.: 1:10-cv-01121-LJO-JLT

JUAN ALONSO CURIEL, Petitioner,
v.
DERRAL ADAMS, Respondent.

Case No.: 1:10-cv-01121-LJO-JLT

UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT EASTERN DISTRICT OF CALIFORNIA

Dated February 20, 2013


FINDINGS AND RECOMMENDATIONS TO
DENY PETITION FOR WRIT OF HABEAS
CORPUS (Doc. 1)

ORDER DIRECTING THAT OBJECTIONS BE
FILED WITHIN TWENTY DAYS

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

PROCEDURAL HISTORY

Petitioner is in custody of the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation ("CDCR") serving an indeterminate sentence of life without the possibility of parole plus a twenty-five-years-to-life enhancement and five concurrent twenty-five-years-to-life terms, pursuant to a judgment of the Superior Court of California, County of Tulare(the "Superior Court"). (Doc. 1, p. 1; Clerk's Transcript ("CT") 624-625). His sentence is as a result of a June 27, 2010 conviction for one count of first degree murder (Cal. Pen. Code § 187(a)); one count of shooting at an occupied motor vehicle (Cal. Pen. Code § 246); and five counts of attempted willful, deliberate, and premeditated murder. (Cal. Pen. Code §§ 187(a), 664). (Doc. 1, p. 1).

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Petitioner filed a direct appeal in the California Court of Appeals, Fifth Appellate District (the "5th DCA"). On August 11, 2009, the 5th DCA, in an unpublished decision, affirmed Petitioner's conviction. (Doc. 16, Lodged Documents ("LD") 1). Petitioner then filed a petition for review in the California Supreme Court. (LD 2). On October 22, 2009, the Supreme Court denied Petitioner's petition for review. (LD 3).

On June 22, 2010, Petitioner filed the instant petition. (Doc. 1). On August 12, 2010, Respondent filed its Answer. (Doc 15). On October 13, 2010, Petitioner filed his Traverse. (Doc. 19). Respondent concedes that the all grounds for relief in the petition have been fully exhausted. (Doc. 15, p. 7).

FACTUAL BACKGROUND

The Court adopts the Statement of Facts in the 5th DCA's unpublished decision:

At or about 1:00 a.m. on May 21, 2006, someone fired shots at Curiel's green SUV at an intersection in Dinuba, striking his passenger and fellow Sureno Luis Ramirez. Curiel told police some Nortenos had come after him. Ramirez told police someone wearing a red shirt had shot him. Surenos often wear blue clothing, and Nortenos often wear red clothing.
On May 27, 2006, Shaw drove five of his skateboarder friends, none of whom was a gang member, in his pickup to a quinceanera in Sultana where Curiel and Sureno Miguel Carisalas, who wore a semiautomatic gun at his waist, were among the guests. After a lot of people mad-dogged them, Shaw and his friends-Alexander Barrientoz, Daniel Castillo, Henry Castillo, Roger Castillo, and Joseph Mateus-left. Outside, witnesses heard Daniel Castillo yell "Norte" and saw him put four fingers of one hand up-short for "14" (a reference to the 14th letter of the alphabet), which stands for the "N" in Norteno-before Shaw drove away. Curiel and Carisalas sped off in Curiel's green SUV.
Two to three miles away from the quinceanera, as Shaw slowed down for a stop sign, gunfire from a green SUV hit his pickup. Shaw accelerated, but the green SUV followed, and after more gunfire hit his pickup he lost control and crashed. Shaw died of a gunshot wound to the face and blunt force trauma from the crash. Daniel Castillo suffered a fractured skull and a broken ankle from the crash. Shaw's truck showed seven bullet strikes, all on the left side.

(LD 1).

DISCUSSION

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

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Constitution. The challenged conviction arises out of the Tulare 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 v. Murphy, 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 [Supreme Court] decision but reaches a different result." Brown v. Payton, 544 U.S. 133, 141 (2005), citing Williams v. Taylor, 529 U.S. 326, 405-406 (2000). A state court decision involves an "unreasonable application" of clearly established federal law "if the state court applies [the Supreme Court's precedents] to the facts in an objectively unreasonable manner." Id., quoting Williams, 529 U.S. at 409-410; Woodford v. Visciotti, 537 U.S. 19, 24-25 (2002)(per curiam).

Consequently, a federal court may not grant habeas relief simply because the state court's decision is incorrect 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

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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. Richter, 131 S.Ct. at 786. As the United States Supreme Court has noted, AEDPA's standard of "contrary to, or involv[ing] an unreasonable application of, clearly established Federal law" is "difficult to meet," because the purpose of AEDPA is to ensure that federal habeas relief functions as a "'guard against extreme malfunctions in the state criminal justice systems,'" and not as a means of error correction. Richter, 131 S.Ct. at 786, quoting Jackson v. Virginia, 443 U.S. 307, 332, 99 S.Ct. 2781, n. 5 (1979)(Stevens, J., concurring in judgment). 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." Richter, 131 S.Ct. at 787-788.

Moreover, federal "review under § 2254(d)(1) is limited to the record that was before the state court that adjudicated the claim on the merits." Cullen, 131 S.Ct. at 1398 ("This backward-looking language requires an examination of the state-court decision at the time it was made. It follows that the record under review is limited to the record in existence at the same time-i.e., the record before the state court.")

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 (when reviewing a state court's factual determinations, a "responsible, thoughtful answer reached after a full opportunity to litigate is adequate to support the judgment"). A

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state court's factual finding is unreasonable when it is "so...

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