Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Northern California Courts deny petitions for Habeas Corpus

One of the very first posts on this blog dealt with the standard of review for petitions for Habeas Corpus in light of the Ninth Circuit's decision in Hayward v. Marshall.  Under California law, the governor reviews decisions of the parole board to determine whether parole should be granted.  That review is plenary, but the Ninth Circuit stated that decisions to deny parole must be based on "some evidence of dangerousness" rather than " an unreasonable determination of the facts in light of the evidence."  The governor is free to disagree with the parole board as long as there is some evidence for his decision.  Nonetheless, many judges are now asking parties to brief how the case should affect disposition of habeas petitions (if at all).

In Sizemore v. Curry, the petitioner stated the parole board's decision was irrational.  The state presented evidence that the petitioner with others robbed one victim, stole his winnebago, drove it to a gas station, robbed and kidnapped the attendant, left the RV with his cohort during which time the attendant took the RV and fled.  The state noted the petitioner had three major and three minor infractions while in prison and had no plans about what to do in California upon release.  The parole board denied his parole and the governor affirmed.  Judge Richard Seeborg ruled that this constituted "some evidence of dangerousness" and denied the petition.

Johnson v. Campbell involved an inmate who's pro se petition stated that the parole board always denied everyone's parole and that she had a constitutional right to parole.  Judge Ronald Whyte noted that Hayward overruled Biggs v. Terhune (9th Cir. 2003) ("A continued reliance in the future on an unchanging factor, the circumstance of the offense and conduct prior to imprisonment, runs contrary to the rehabilitative goals espoused by the prison system and could result in a due process violation.") There is now no due process right to habeas review of a parole hearing as long as it is based on "some evidence."  He denied the petition.

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