Royston v. Grounds

Filing 7

ORDER by Judge Edward M. Chen Granting 6 Petitioner's Motion for Reconsideration and Dismissing Petition with Leave to Amend. (Attachments: # 1 Certificate of Service). (emcsec, COURT STAFF) (Filed on 11/13/2012)

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1 2 3 4 5 UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT 6 NORTHERN DISTRICT OF CALIFORNIA 7 8 ARLONZO ROYSTON, 9 Petitioner, v. 11 For the Northern District of California United States District Court 10 RANDY GROUNDS, Warden, 12 No. C 12-3665 EMC (pr) ORDER GRANTING PETITIONER’S MOTION FOR RECONSIDERATION AND DISMISSING PETITION WITH LEAVE TO AMEND Respondent. ___________________________________/ 13 14 Arlonzo Royston, an inmate at the Correctional Training Facility - Soledad, filed this pro 15 se action seeking a writ of habeas corpus pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254. In his petition, he claims 16 that the June 24, 2010 determination by the Board of Parole Hearings (“BPH”) that he was not 17 suitable for parole violated several of his constitutional rights. 18 A. 19 The Motion For Reconsideration On October 15, 2012, the Court dismissed this action because Petitioner had not paid the 20 filing fee or filed a completed in forma pauperis application, despite having been notified of the duty 21 to do so. (Docket # 4.) 22 On October 25, 2012, Petitioner filed a motion for reconsideration in which he explained that 23 he had paid the filing fee in a timely manner. He attached exhibits showing that (1) he had filled out 24 a trust account withdrawal form, and (2) the $5.00 filing fee had been deducted from his inmate trust 25 account on August 3, 2012 for payment to the “Northern District Ct.” Docket # 6, pp. 10-12. 26 Although the Court never received the payment, Petitioner has demonstrated to the 27 satisfaction of the Court that he caused it to be sent from the prison. The Court will assume for 28 present purposes that the filing fee is in transit to the Court’s financial office. The Court therefore 1 GRANTS the motion for reconsideration (Docket # 6), and VACATES the October 15, 2012 Order 2 of Dismissal and Judgment (Docket # 4 and # 5). Having vacated the earlier dismissal, the Court 3 now will proceed with the initial review of the petition pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §2243 and Rule 4 of 4 the Rules Governing Section 2254 Cases in the United States District Courts. 5 B. 6 Review Of The Petition The petition alleges the following claims: (1) Petitioner’s right to due process was violated 7 because there was not some evidence to support the denial of parole; (2) Petitioner’s Eighth 8 Amendment rights were violated by the BPH’s repeated denials of parole based on the commitment 9 offense even though he has done that which is required of him in prison; (3) the BPH’s determination that Petitioner will not be considered again for parole for five more years violated the 11 For the Northern District of California United States District Court 10 Eighth Amendment; and (4) Petitioner’s rights under the Fifth Amendment, Sixth Amendment and 12 the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment were violated because the BPH panel 13 ignored his psychological evaluation and characterized him as a high-moderate risk rather than the 14 low-moderate risk stated in the psychological evaluation. See Docket # 1, p. 5; Docket # 2, p. 3. 15 A “federal court may issue a writ of habeas corpus to a state prisoner ‘only on the ground 16 that he is in custody in violation of the Constitution or laws or treaties of the United States.’” 17 Swarthout v. Cooke, 131 S. Ct. 859, 861 (2011) (citations omitted.) Federal habeas relief is not 18 available for state law errors. See id. 19 For purposes of federal habeas review, a California prisoner is entitled to only “minimal” 20 procedural protections in connection with a parole suitability determination. The procedural 21 protections to which the prisoner is entitled under the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth 22 Amendment to the U.S. Constitution are limited to an opportunity to be heard and a statement of the 23 reasons why parole was denied. See Cooke, 131 S. Ct. at 862. No Supreme Court case “supports 24 converting California’s ‘some evidence’ rule into a substantive federal requirement,” id., and the 25 Ninth Circuit erred in holding otherwise. In light of the Supreme Court’s determination that the 26 constitutionally-mandated procedural protections do not include a requirement that the parole denial 27 decision be supported by some evidence (or any other quantum of evidence), Petitioner’s due 28 process claim is DISMISSED without leave to amend. Petitioner’s lengthy arguments about the 2 1 requirements of state law are irrelevant because, as Cooke explained, federal habeas relief is not 2 available for state law errors. 3 Petitioner’s claims that the repeated denials of parole and the decision to set his next parole 4 hearing in five years violate his Eighth Amendment right to be free from cruel and unusual 5 punishment also must be dismissed. Only extreme sentences that are grossly disproportionate to the 6 crime may possibly violate the Eighth Amendment. See Harmelin v. Michigan, 501 U.S. 957 7 (1991). “Under Harmelin, it is clear that a mandatory life sentence for murder does not constitute 8 cruel and unusual punishment.” United States v. LaFleur, 971 F.2d 200, 211 (9th Cir. 1992); cf. 9 Miller v. Alabama, 132 S. Ct. 2455, 2460 (2012) (“[M]andatory life-without-parole sentences for juveniles violate the Eighth Amendment.”). Even if Petitioner must spend the rest of his life in 11 For the Northern District of California United States District Court 10 prison because the BPH will not set a parole date, or even if he must wait many years between 12 parole hearings, his continued imprisonment will not run afoul of the Eighth Amendment. Life 13 imprisonment for second degree murder committed by an adult1 is not so disproportionate to the 14 crime that it could be said to amount to cruel and unusual punishment under the Eighth Amendment 15 of the U.S. Constitution. The Eighth Amendment claims are DISMISSED without leave to amend. 16 Petitioner’s final claim requires amendment. Petitioner alleges that unidentified Fifth 17 Amendment rights, unidentified Sixth Amendment rights, and his right to equal protection were 18 violated when the BPH panel ignored the psychological evaluation and characterized him as being a 19 high-moderate risk . Docket # 1, p. 5.2 His allegations are insufficient to allege a violation of any of 20 those constitutional provisions because he has not explained his legal theory and his alleged facts do 21 not suggest a violation of any of those constitutional provisions. Leave to amend will be granted so 22 that Petitioner may attempt to allege a claim upon which relief may be granted. He must provide a 23 more elaborate description of the facts so as to comply with the requirement that the petition “state 24 1 25 26 27 28 According to the record, Royston was 20 years old at the time of the murder. See Docket # 1-1, p. 45. 2 The petition’s statement of supporting facts for this claim stated in its entirety: “The petitioner was deneid a release date by the panel, due to lack of remorse, and commitment offense and they took it among themself’s to change the petitioner’s low-moderate, to high-moderate by psyc report, see transcript.” Docket # 1, p. 5 (errors in source). Petitioner does not identify the page in the transcript where the BPH changed his psychological evaluation. 3 1 the facts supporting each ground” for relief. See Rule 2 of the Rules Governing Section 2254 Cases 2 in the United States District Courts; see also Hendricks v. Vasquez, 908 F.2d 490, 491-92 (9th Cir. 3 1990) (habeas petitioner must state his claims with sufficient specificity). Petitioner also must 4 elaborate on his legal theories. Because both the Fifth and Sixth Amendments cover many different 5 rights, Petitioner must specify in his amended petition the particular Fifth Amendment right(s) and 6 the particular Sixth Amendment right(s) that were violated, and explain how the BPH’s actions 7 violated each such right. He also must explain how the BPH violated his right to equal protection. 8 He should cite any case authority he has in support of his contention that the BPH’s actions violated 9 his Fifth Amendment, Sixth Amendment, and/or equal protection rights. For the foregoing reasons, the petition is dismissed with leave to file an amended petition no 11 For the Northern District of California United States District Court 10 later than December 7, 2012. The amended petition should have this case caption and case number 12 on the first page and should be clearly marked “Amended Petition.” Failure to file the amended 13 petition by the deadline will result in the dismissal of this action. 14 15 IT IS SO ORDERED. 16 17 Dated: November 13, 2012 18 _________________________ EDWARD M. CHEN United States District Judge 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 4

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