Butler v. Unknown

Filing 22

ORDER DENYING PETITION for Writ of Habeas Corpus and ORDER DECLINING to Issue a Certificate of Appealability signed by Magistrate Judge Sheila K. Oberto on 2/17/2017. CASE CLOSED. (Jessen, A)

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1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT 9 EASTERN DISTRICT OF CALIFORNIA 10 11 KAREN BUTLER, 12 Petitioner, 13 14 No. 1:14-cv-00645-SKO HC ORDER DENYING PETITION FOR WRIT OF HABEAS CORPUS v. DERRAL ADAMS, Warden, 15 Respondent. 16 17 Petitioner Karen Butler is a state prisoner proceeding pro se with a petition for writ of 18 habeas corpus pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254.1 Petitioner, who was sentenced to four years in 19 prison for possession of a weapon in her cell (a “lock in a sock” or “slung-shot”), raises three 20 grounds for relief: (1) wrongful conviction, (2) excessive sentence, and (3) omission of jury 21 instruction on self-defense. Having reviewed the record as a whole and applicable law, the Court 22 denies the petition. 23 24 I. Factual Background 25 On the evening of February 14, 2011, Petitioner was confined in a cell with seven other 26 inmates. Petitioner, who had been housed in that cell for less than two weeks, considered three 27 1 28 Pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(c)(1), both parties consented, in writing, to the jurisdiction of a United States Magistrate Judge to conduct all further proceedings in this case, including the entry of final judgment. 1 1 Hispanic cell mates to be bullies. Although Petitioner did not speak Spanish, another cell mate 2 translated the bullies’ derogatory and threatening comments about Petitioner, the only African- 3 American inmate housed in that cell. 4 Petitioner sought to use the only table in the cell for her studies. According to Petitioner, 5 6 custom decreed that, as the first person to request the table’s use, Petitioner was entitled to use it. 7 After the bullies challenged Petitioner’s use of the table, an argument ensued in which the three 8 bullies, at least one of whom was much larger that Petitioner,2 threatened to assault her. At some 9 point, one of the bullies shoved Petitioner into a locker, bruising her upper right arm, and another 10 bully scratched petitioner’s back. 11 12 Petitioner summoned Correctional Officer Alicia Benafield and asked to speak with the sergeant. Petitioner perceived that she would be labelled as a “snitch” if she complained to 13 14 Benafield about the bullying in front of her cell mates. Benafield told Petitioner she could not 15 contact the sergeant until Benafield completed the count, which was to begin in a few minutes. 16 Petitioner knew the count generally lasted 20 to 25 minutes. 17 18 19 Petitioner then went to her bunk, removed the lock from her drawer, and put the lock in one of her socks. Petitioner knew that displaying the “lock in a sock” would cause her to be removed from her cell. Petitioner went to the front of the cell and put the lock against the sell 20 21 window, making a clanking sound audible to correctional officers standing nearby. When 22 Benafield responded, Petitioner again demanded to see the sergeant and threatened to hit the three 23 bullies. At Benafield’s direction, petitioner “proned out” and was removed from the cell. 24 Petitioner told the sergeant that if she was returned to the cell, she would again do 25 26 something that would require officers to remove her from the cell. A prison nurse examined /// 27 2 28 Petitioner was 4 feet, eleven inches tall and weighted 112 pounds. On the night of the incident, she was 47 years old. 2 1 Petitioner and observed the minor bruise and scratches. Petitioner told the nurse that she would 2 hurt the others before she would let them hurt her. 3 II. Procedural Background 4 On April 11, 2011, the Madera County District Attorney filed a criminal complaint 5 6 charging Petitioner with one count of violating California Penal Code § 4502(b), unlawful 7 manufacture of a lock in a sock. A special allegation reported that Petitioner had one prior felony 8 strike, arising from the 2004 robbery (Cal. Penal Code § 211) for which she was then 9 incarcerated. Tried before a jury in Madera County Superior Court, Petitioner was convicted of 10 11 the charge on October 6, 2011. On November 4, 2011, the Superior Court sentenced Petitioner to an aggregate term of four years’ imprisonment. 12 On June 11, 2012, Petitioner filed a direct appeal with the California Court of Appeal, 13 14 contending that (1) the trial court erred in failing to permit Petitioner to assert a limited claim of 15 self defense and to instruct on self defense, and (2) counsel was ineffective in failing to assert 16 self-defense. The appellate court affirmed the conviction on March 8, 2013. On April 10, 2013, 17 Petitioner filed a petition for review with the California Supreme Court. The Supreme Court 18 denied review on June 12, 2013. 19 Petitioner filed a habeas petition in this Court on April 25, 2014, and an amended petition 20 21 22 on May 27, 2014. III. Standard of Review 23 A person in custody as a result of the judgment of a state court may secure relief through a 24 petition for habeas corpus if the custody violates the Constitution or laws or treaties of the United 25 States. 28 U.S.C. § 2254(a); Williams v. Taylor, 529 U.S. 362, 375 (2000). On April 24, 1996, 26 Congress enacted the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996 ("AEDPA"), which 27 applies to all petitions for writ of habeas corpus filed thereafter. Lindh v. Murphy, 521 U.S. 320, 28 3 1 322-23 (1997). Under the statutory terms, the petition in this case is governed by AEDPA's 2 provisions because Petitioner filed it after April 24, 1996. 3 Habeas corpus is neither a substitute for a direct appeal nor a device for federal review of 4 the merits of a guilty verdict rendered in state court. Jackson v. Virginia, 443 U.S. 307, 332 n. 5 5 6 (1979) (Stevens, J., concurring). Habeas corpus relief is intended to address only "extreme 7 malfunctions" in state criminal justice proceedings. Id. Under AEDPA, a petitioner can prevail 8 only if he can show that the state court's adjudication of his claim: 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 (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, 529 U.S. at 413. "By its terms, § 2254(d) bars relitigation of any claim 'adjudicated on the merits' in state 16 court, subject only to the exceptions set forth in §§ 2254(d)(1) and (d)(2)." Harrington v. 17 Richter, 562 U.S. 86, 98 (2011). 18 19 As a threshold matter, a federal court must first determine what constitutes "clearly established Federal law, as determined by the Supreme Court of the United States." Lockyer, 20 21 538 U.S. at 71. The Court must look to the holdings, as opposed to the dicta, of the Supreme 22 Court's decisions at the time of the relevant state-court decision. Id. The court must then 23 consider whether the state court's decision was "contrary to, or involved an unreasonable 24 application of, clearly established Federal law." Id. at 72. The state court need not have cited 25 clearly established Supreme Court precedent; it is sufficient that neither the reasoning nor the 26 result of the state court contradicts it. Early v. Packer, 537 U.S. 3, 8 (2002). The federal court 27 must apply the presumption that state courts know and follow the law. Woodford v. Visciotti, 28 4 1 537 U.S. 19, 24 (2002). The petitioner has the burden of establishing that the decision of the 2 state court is contrary to, or involved an unreasonable application of, United States Supreme 3 Court precedent. Baylor v. Estelle, 94 F.3d 1321, 1325 (9th Cir. 1996). 4 "A federal habeas court may not issue the writ simply because the court concludes in its 5 6 independent judgment that the relevant state-court decision applied clearly established federal 7 law erroneously or incorrectly." Lockyer, 538 U.S. at 75-76. "A state court's determination that 8 a claim lacks merit precludes federal habeas relief so long as 'fairminded jurists could disagree' 9 on the correctness of the state court's decision." Harrington, 562 U.S. at 101 (quoting 10 11 Yarborough v. Alvarado, 541 U.S. 652, 664 (2004)). Thus, the AEDPA standard is difficult to satisfy since even a strong case for relief does not demonstrate that the state court's 12 13 14 determination was unreasonable. Harrington, 562 U.S. at 102. IV. Grounds One and Three: Self-Defense Petitioner proceeds pro se, and the petition in this case is inartfully drafted. No statement 15 16 is made of the first ground for relief; the petition merely provides supporting facts alleging that 17 conviction was unjust because Petitioner constructed the lock in a sock in self defense and never 18 used it to hurt anyone. The petition also includes photocopied pages from Petitioner’s opening 19 brief in her direct appeal to the California Court of Appeal. Respondent interprets these two 20 21 aspects of the petition as alleging a sentencing claim (ground one) and an instructional error claim 22 (ground three). The Court disagrees and finds these two grounds to be Petitioner’s effort to 23 restate the first claim of her direct appeal: “The trial court’s failure to sua sponte instruct the jury 24 that a limited claim of self-defense applied in this case, denied appellant the right to present a 25 defense in violation of her constitutional right to present a defense and to due process of law.” 26 Lodged Doc. 4. 27 /// 28 5 1 2 3 4 Citing California case law, Petitioner argued in her direct appeal that the trial court had a duty to provide self-defense instructions on its own motion since California Penal Code § 4052 supports a self-defense theory that an inmate took possession of a weapon to prevent imminent harm. The state court rejected Petitioner’s argument.3 The court found that Petitioner never 5 6 claimed to have armed herself in self-defense, but testified that she constructed and displayed the 7 lock in a sock so that the correctional officers would remove her from the cell. The court added 8 that, in any event, Petitioner could not have claimed self-defense because she had the alternative 9 of requesting assistance from the correctional officers in lieu of arming herself. 10 11 Claimed jury instruction errors rise to the level of a constitutional error only if they deprived the Petitioner of due process under the Fourteenth Amendment. Cupp v. Naughten, 414 12 13 14 U.S. 141, 146 (1973). A reviewing federal court must evaluate the alleged error in the context of the trial as a whole. Id. at 147. It must keep in mind that the U.S. Supreme Court has “defined 15 the category of infractions that violate ‘fundamental fairness’ very narrowly.” Estelle v. 16 McGuire, 502 U.S. 62, 72 (1991) (quoting Dowling v. United States, 493 U.S. 342, 352 (1990)). 17 “Beyond the specific guarantees enumerated in the Bill of Rights, the Due Process clause has 18 limited operation.” Id. 19 After reviewing the record as a whole, specifically including Petitioner’s presentation of 20 21 her defense at trial, the Court concludes that the state court acted reasonably in rejecting 22 Petitioner’s self-defense claim on appeal. Petitioner’s testimony very clearly established that she 23 did not construct the weapon to defend herself against the perceived bullies, but to compel the 24 correctional officers to remove her from her cell. She buttressed her testimony by recounting 25 other examples of her manipulating prison rules to achieve her objectives, specifically her 26 27 28 3 Because the California Supreme Court summarily denied review, the Court must "look through" the summary denial to the last reasoned decision, which is, in this case, the opinion of the California Court of Appeal, Fifth Appellate District. Ylst v. Nunnemaker, 501 U.S. 797, 803-06 (1991). 6 1 previously refusing, on multiple occasions, “to lock in” in order to be transferred to 2 administrative segregation (“ad-seg”). 3 V. Ground Two: Excessive Sentence 4 As her second ground for relief, Petitioner contends that sentencing her to an additional 5 6 four years in prison was an excessive punishment for her possessing a lock in a sock. Respondent 7 counters that this Court lacks jurisdiction to address this claim, which was not presented in state 8 court. 9 A petitioner who is in state custody and wishes to collaterally challenge his conviction by 10 a petition for writ of habeas corpus must exhaust state judicial remedies. 28 U.S.C. § 2254(b)(1). 11 The exhaustion doctrine is based on comity to the state court and gives the state court the initial 12 13 14 15 opportunity to correct the state's alleged constitutional deprivations. Coleman v. Thompson, 501 U.S. 722, 731 (1991); Rose v. Lundy, 455 U.S. 509, 518 (1982); Buffalo v. Sunn, 854 F.2d 1158, 1163 (9th Cir. 1988). 16 A petitioner can satisfy the exhaustion requirement by providing the highest state court 17 with a full and fair opportunity to consider each claim before presenting it to the federal court. 18 19 Duncan v. Henry, 513 U.S. 364, 365 (1995); Picard v. Connor, 404 U.S. 270, 276 (1971); Johnson v. Zenon, 88 F.3d 828, 829 (9th Cir. 1996). A federal court will find that the highest state 20 21 court was given a full and fair opportunity to hear a claim if the petitioner has presented the 22 highest state court with the claim's factual and legal basis. Duncan, 513 U.S. at 365; Kenney v. 23 Tamayo-Reyes, 504 U.S. 1, 8 (1992). 24 25 26 Petitioner did not present her sentencing claim in state court. Accordingly, this Court lacks jurisdiction to address it. /// 27 /// 28 7 1 VI. 2 A petitioner seeking a writ of habeas corpus has no absolute entitlement to appeal a 3 Certificate of Appealability district court's denial of his petition, but may only appeal in certain circumstances. Miller-El v. 4 Cockrell, 537 U.S. 322, 335-36 (2003). The controlling statute in determining whether to issue a 5 6 certificate of appealability is 28 U.S.C. § 2253, which provides: (a) In a habeas corpus proceeding or a proceeding under section 2255 before a district judge, the final order shall be subject to review, on appeal, by the court of appeals for the circuit in which the proceeding is held. 7 8 9 (b) There shall be no right of appeal from a final order in a proceeding to test the validity of a warrant to remove to another district or place for commitment or trial a person charged with a criminal offense against the United States, or to test the validity of such person's detention pending removal proceedings. 10 11 12 (c) (1) Unless a circuit justice or judge issues a certificate of appealability, an appeal may not be taken to the court of appeals from— 13 14 (A) the final order in a habeas corpus proceeding in which the detention complained of arises out of process issued by a State court; or 15 16 (B) the final order in a proceeding under section 2255. 17 (2) A certificate of appealability may issue under paragraph (1) only if the applicant has made a substantial showing of the denial of a constitutional right. 18 19 (3) The certificate of appealability under paragraph (1) shall indicate which specific issues or issues satisfy the showing required by paragraph (2). 20 21 22 If a court denies a habeas petition, the court may only issue a certificate of appealability 23 "if jurists of reason could disagree with the district court's resolution of his constitutional claims 24 or that jurists could conclude the issues presented are adequate to deserve encouragement to 25 proceed further." Miller-El, 537 U.S. at 327; Slack v. McDaniel, 529 U.S. 473, 484 (2000). 26 Although the petitioner is not required to prove the merits of his case, he must demonstrate 27 /// 28 8 1 "something more than the absence of frivolity or the existence of mere good faith on his . . . 2 part." Miller-El, 537 U.S. at 338. 3 Reasonable jurists would not find the Court's determination that Petitioner is not entitled 4 to federal habeas corpus relief to be debatable or wrong, or conclude that the issues presented 5 6 required further adjudication. Accordingly, the Court declines to issue a certificate of 7 appealability. 8 VII. 9 10 11 Conclusion The Court hereby DENIES the petition for writ of habeas corpus pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254. The Court declines to issue a certificate of appealability. The Clerk of Court is directed to enter judgment for the Respondent. 12 13 14 15 IT IS SO ORDERED. Dated: February 17, 2017 /s/ Sheila K. Oberto UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 9 .

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