Ajaelo v. Madden

Filing 13

ORDER GRANTING MOTION TO DISMISS HABEAS PETITION by Hon. William Alsup granting 10 Motion to Dismiss.(whalc1, COURT STAFF) (Filed on 5/24/2017)

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1 2 3 4 5 6 IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT 7 FOR THE NORTHERN DISTRICT OF CALIFORNIA 8 9 JIDEOFOR AJAELO, 11 For the Northern District of California United States District Court 10 12 13 14 Petitioner, v. RAYMOND MADDEN, Warden, / 16 18 ORDER GRANTING MOTION TO DISMISS HABEAS PETITION Respondent. 15 17 No. C 16-06962 WHA INTRODUCTION In this habeas action, respondent moves to dismiss the petition as untimely. For the reasons stated below, the motion to dismiss is GRANTED. 19 ANALYSIS 20 In 2007, a jury in Alameda County Superior Court convicted petitioner Jideofor Ajaelo 21 of first-degree murder (committed by drive-by shooting) and three counts of attempted murder 22 (involving a firearm). He received a sentence of 25 years to life in prison without the 23 possibility of parole. 24 Ajaelo took a direct appeal on issues not presented in the instant habeas petition, but he 25 also appealed the charge to the jury inasmuch as it instructed that petitioner could be found 26 guilty of aiding and abetting attempted premeditated murder on a natural and probable 27 consequence theory even if he lacked the intent to kill. 28 1 The California Court of Appeal affirmed the judgment, and the California Supreme 2 Court denied review. Ajaelo did not seek a writ of certiorari to the United States Supreme 3 Court. 4 In 2014, the California Supreme Court decided People v. Chiu, 59 Cal. 4th 155, 166 5 (2014), holding that a first-degree premeditated murder conviction could not be based on the 6 natural and probable consequence theory. In other words, the California Supreme Court 7 announced a rule that may have invalidated a charge to the jury that convicted Ajaelo. 8 9 which relief was denied based on a finding that Ajaelo had suffered no prejudice due to that instruction, in light of another jury finding that included as an element the intent to inflict death. 11 For the Northern District of California United States District Court 10 In 2015, Ajaelo sought habeas relief in Alameda County Superior Court based on Chiu, 12 Ajaelo next sought the same relief from the California Court of Appeal, which relief was 13 summarily denied. Ajaelo then sought review by the California Supreme Court, alleging that 14 the Court of Appeal had improperly denied his habeas petition. After entertaining an answer 15 from the state, the California Supreme Court summarily denied review. 16 Ajaelo now seeks federal habeas relief pursuant to Section 2254 of Title 28 of the 17 United States Code, seeking to reverse his conviction based on Chiu. Respondent moves to 18 dismiss the action as untimely. This order follows full briefing on the motion to dismiss. 19 20 ANALYSIS The Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996 (AEDPA) imposed a one- 21 year statute of limitations that applies to federal habeas petitions. 28 U.S.C. 2244(d). All agree 22 that the limitations period for a federal habeas petition generally commences on “the date on 23 which the judgment became final by the conclusion of direct review or the expiration of the 24 time for seeking such review.” 28 U.S.C. 2244(d)(1)(A). Here, the judgment became final in 25 2009, after the California Supreme Court denied review on direct appeal and the time to seek 26 certiorari from the United States Supreme Court elapsed. Ajaelo’s state-court petition was filed 27 more than five years later, in 2015, well outside the limitations period based on that start date. 28 2 1 Ajaelo contends he is entitled to an alternative start date, pursuant to Section 2 2244(d)(1)(C) under AEDPA, which restarts the clock on the limitations period from “the date 3 on which the constitutional right asserted was initially recognized by the Supreme Court, if the 4 right has been newly recognized by the Supreme Court and made retroactively applicable to 5 cases on collateral review . . . .” The constitutional rule asserted was announced in Chiu — a 6 decision from the California Supreme Court. Ajaelo contends Section 2244(d)(1)(C) applies to 7 rules announced by the Supreme Court or the state supreme courts. 8 9 11 For the Northern District of California United States District Court 10 Ajaelo cites no authority directly supporting his position. None exists. Instead, Ajaelo responds that no binding authority has addressed his argument precisely and that his interpretation flows from the plain language of the statute. The United States Supreme Court has previously interpreted the language of Section 12 2244(d)(1)(C) (as it appears identically in a different section) to afford an applicant “one year 13 from the date on which the right he asserts was initially recognized by this Court” (referring to 14 the Supreme Court). Dodd v. United States, 545 U.S. 353, 357 (2005) (emphasis added). 15 Moreover, every district court to address this question has rejected the argument that Chiu 16 provides an alternative start date under Section 2244(d)(1). See, e.g., Rettman v. Fisher, No. 17 16-0885, 2017 WL 1375201, at *3 (E.D. Cal. Apr. 17, 2017) (Judge Kendell Newman); Lamar 18 v. Adams, No. 16-1269, 2017 WL 1540175, at *3 (E.D. Cal. Apr. 28, 2017) (Judge Allison 19 Claire); Escalante v. Beard, No. 15-2514, 2016 WL 4742322 (S.D. Cal. June 2, 2016) (Judge 20 Nita Stormes). The weight of authority uniformly supports respondent’s interpretation. 21 Ajaelo’s plain language argument fares no better. First, Ajaelo’s interpretation does not 22 flow from the plain language of the statute. The statute refers to “the Supreme Court,” using a 23 definitive article and singular noun, indicating reference to a single entity, rather than a category 24 with multiple members. Second, some states’ highest courts are not called the “supreme court” 25 and conversely, some states’ “supreme courts” are not the highest courts in the state. Ajaelo’s 26 interpretation would lead to the absurd result of vastly different and confusing procedures in 27 different states for the administration of federal law. Finally, if Ajaelo’s interpretation applied 28 throughout the statute, the interactions within the federal court system contemplated by AEDPA 3 1 would become absurd. For example, state supreme courts would be empowered to transfer a 2 writ of habeas corpus to federal district courts. See 28 U.S.C. 2241(b). 3 Neither the plain language of Section 2244(d)(1)(C) nor any authority interpreting that 4 language supports Ajaelo’s position. Only a right recognized by the United States Supreme 5 Court can trigger a new start date for the limitations period on a habeas petition. Accordingly, 6 Ajaelo’s petition is untimely and must be DISMISSED. 7 8 9 CONCLUSION For the reasons stated above, respondent’s motion to dismiss is GRANTED. A certificate of appealability is DENIED. Judgment will follow. 11 For the Northern District of California United States District Court 10 IT IS SO ORDERED. 12 13 Dated: May 24, 2017. WILLIAM ALSUP UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 4

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