Wilson v. Sandor, Case No. CV 12-1536-OP

Decision Date07 March 2014
Docket NumberCase No. CV 12-1536-OP
CourtU.S. District Court — Central District of California
PartiesMARK DEWAYNE WILSON, Petitioner, v. GARY SANDOR, Warden, Respondents.

On February 23, 2012, Mark Wilson ("Petitioner") filed a Petition for Writ of Habeas Corpus by a Person in State Custody pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254 ("Petition") (ECF Nos. 1, 1-1, 1-2.)2 On January 14, 2013, Petitioner filed a pleading entitled "Motion for Summary Judgment." (ECF No. 37.) The Court construes the pleading as a supplement to the Petition and has considered it assuch. On January 22, 2013, Respondent filed an Answer to the Petition. (ECF No. 38.) On February 22, 2013, Petitioner filed his Reply. (ECF No. 40 .) Thus, this matter is ready for decision.3


On February 28, 2011, in the Los Angeles County Superior Court, Petitioner was convicted of petty theft with prior theft convictions after entering a no contest plea (Cal. Penal Code § 666). (Lodgment 1.) Petitioner admitted that he had previously suffered one serious or violent felony conviction ("strike") within the meaning of California's Three Strikes law (Cal. Penal Code §§ 667(b)-(I) & 1170.12(a)-(d)). On February 28, 2011, Petitioner was sentenced to a total state prison term of four years. (Lodgments 1, 2.)

On January 16, 2011, Petitioner filed a habeas corpus petition in the California Supreme Court. (Lodgment 3.) On March 2, 2011, the supreme court summarily denied the petition. (Lodgment 4.)

On April 15, 2011, Petitioner filed an application for a certificate of probable cause to appeal in the Los Angeles County Superior Court. (Lodgment 6.) On April 15, 2011, the superior court denied the certificate. (Lodgment 8.)

On April 18, 2011, Petitioner filed a habeas corpus petition in the California Court of Appeal. (Lodgment 9.) On May 26, 2011, the court of appeal denied the petition with citation to People v. Duvall, 9 Cal. 4th 464, 474 (1995), and People v. Karis, 46 Cal. 3d 612, 656 (1988). (Lodgment 10.) The court of appeal also denied Petitioner's ineffective assistance of trial counsel claims on the merits. (Id.)

On October 27, 2011, Petitioner filed a petition for writ of error coram nobis in the Los Angeles County Superior Court. (Lodgment 14.) On October 27, 2011,the superior court denied the petition on the merits, also noting that the claims were conclusory, could have been raised on appeal, could have been raised in prior habeas petitions, were piecemeal and repetitive, and were successive. (Lodgment 15.)

On October 3, 2011, Petitioner filed a habeas corpus petition in the California Supreme Court. (Lodgment 16.) On February 15, 2012, the supreme court summarily denied the petition. (Lodgment 18.)


Petitioner raises the following claims for habeas corpus relief:

(1) Trial counsel was ineffective by making false statements to obtain a continuance ("Ground One(A)"), and in being aware of the judge's alleged conflict of interest but failing to challenge the judge on that basis ("Ground One(B)") (ECF No. 1 at 6);
(2) Petitioner was deprived of his "substantial right" to an impartial judge because the judge's husband allegedly worked with the prosecution's witnesses ("Ground Two") (id.);

(3) Petitioner was deprived of his right to a speedy trial ("Ground Three") (id. at 7); and

(4) Petitioner was the victim of vindictive prosecution because the prosecution re-filed charges that had been dismissed for lack of probable cause, because Petitioner's bail amount during pretrial proceedings was excessive, and because "special circumstances" demonstrated the vindictive spirit of the prosecution ("Ground Four") (id.; Reply at 15-16).


The standard of review applicable to Petitioner's claims is set forth in 28 U.S.C. § 2254, as amended by the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996 ("AEDPA"):

(d) 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; 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). If these standards are difficult to meet, it is because they were meant to be. Harrington v. Richter, 131 S. Ct. 770, 786, 178 L. Ed. 2d 624 (2011). AEDPA "stops short of imposing a complete bar on federal court relitigation of claims already rejected in state proceedings[,]" and a writ may issue only "where there is no possibility fairminded jurists could disagree that the state court's decision conflicts" with United States Supreme Court precedent. Id. Further, a state court factual determination shall be presumed correct unless rebutted by clear and convincing evidence. 28 U.S.C. § 2254(e)(1).

Under the AEDPA, the "clearly established Federal law" that controls federal habeas review of state court decisions consists of holdings (as opposed to dicta) of Supreme Court decisions "as of the time of the relevant state-court decision." Williams v. Taylor, 529 U.S. 362, 412, 120 S. Ct. 1495, 146 L. Ed. 2d389 (2000). To determine what, if any, "clearly established" United States Supreme Court law exists, the court may examine decisions other than those of the United States Supreme Court. LaJoie v. Thompson, 217 F.3d 663, 669 n.6 (9th Cir. 2000). Ninth Circuit cases "may be persuasive." Duhaime v. Ducharme, 200 F.3d 597, 600 (9th Cir. 1999). On the other hand, a state court's decision cannot be contrary to, or an unreasonable application of, clearly established federal law, if no Supreme Court precedent creates clearly established federal law relating to the legal issue the habeas petitioner raised in state court. Brewer v. Hall, 378 F.3d 952, 955 (9th Cir. 2004); see also Carey v. Musladin, 549 U.S. 70, 77, 127 S. Ct. 649, 166 L. Ed. 2d 482 (2006) (in the absence of a Supreme Court holding regarding the prejudicial effect of spectators' courtroom conduct, the state court's decision could not have been contrary to or an unreasonable application of clearly established federal law).

Although a particular state court decision may be both "contrary to" and an "unreasonable application of" controlling Supreme Court law, the two phrases have distinct meanings. Williams, 529 U.S. at 405. A state court decision is "contrary to" clearly established federal law if the decision either applies a rule that contradicts the governing Supreme Court law, or reaches a result that differs from the result the Supreme Court reached on "materially indistinguishable" facts. Early v. Packer, 537 U.S. 3, 8, 123 S. Ct. 362, 154 L. Ed. 2d 263 (2002) (per curiam) (citing Williams, 529 U.S. at 405-06). When a state court decision adjudicating a claim is "contrary to" controlling Supreme Court precedent, the reviewing federal habeas court is "unconstrained by § 2254(d)(1)." Williams, 529 U.S. at 406. However, the state court need not cite or even be aware of the controlling Supreme Court cases, "so long as neither the reasoning nor the result of the state-court decision contradicts them." Packer, 537 U.S. at 8.

State court decisions that are not "contrary to" Supreme Court law may only be set aside on federal habeas review "if they are not merely erroneous, but 'anunreasonable application' of clearly established federal law, or based on 'an unreasonable determination of the facts.'" Id. at 11 (citing 28 U.S.C. § 2254(d)). Consequently, a state court decision that correctly identified the governing legal rule may be rejected if it unreasonably applied the rule to the facts of a particular case. See Williams, 529 U.S. at 406-10, 413 (e.g., the rejected decision may state Strickland rule correctly but apply it unreasonably); Woodford v. Visciotti, 537 U.S. 19, 24-25, 123 S. Ct. 357, 154 L. Ed. 2d 279 (2002) (per curiam). However, to obtain federal habeas relief for such an "unreasonable application," a petitioner must show that the state court's application of Supreme Court law was "objectively unreasonable." Visciotti, 537 U.S. at 27. An "unreasonable application" is different from an erroneous or incorrect one. Williams, 529 U.S. at 409-10; see also Visciotti, 537 U.S. at 25.

Where, as here, the state courts supply no reasoned decision, this Court must perform an "'independent review of the record' to ascertain whether the state court decision was objectively unreasonable." Himes v. Thompson, 336 F.3d 848, 853 (9th Cir. 2003) (citing Delgado v. Lewis, 223 F.3d 976, 981-82 (9th Cir. 2000)).

A. Habeas Relief Is Not Warranted on Petitioner's Claims of Error in Pre-Plea Proceedings.
1. Background.

Petitioner contends in Ground One(A) and Ground Three that a number of errors occurred during the court proceedings leading up to his change of plea. (ECF No. 1 at 6.) Specifically, in Ground One(A), Petitioner contends that trial counsel rendered ineffective assistance by making false statements to obtain a continuance for the purpose of obtaining discovery that he already had in his possession. (Id.) In Ground Three, Petitioner contends that he was deprived of his right to a speedy trial when the trial judge granted pre-trial continuances. (Id.)

2. Legal Standard.

As explained by the United States Supreme Court in Tollett v. Henderson, 411 U.S. 258, 93 S. Ct. 1602, 36 L. Ed. 2d 235 (1973):

[A] guilty plea represents a break in the chain of events which has preceded it in the criminal process. When a criminal defendant has solemnly admitted in open court that he is in fact guilty of the offense with which he is charged, he may not thereafter raise independent claims relating to the deprivation of

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