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HOLGUIN v. HARRISON

September 16, 2005.

ANTHONY HOLGUIN, Petitioner,
v.
MICHAEL HARRISON, in his capacity as Warden of the California State Prison, Los Angeles County, in Lancaster, Respondent.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: CHARLES BREYER, District Judge

OPINION

Petitioner Anthony Holguin, a mentally retarded 17-year old boy, was convicted of first degree murder after a jury trial. There was no physical evidence linking him to the crime; instead, he was convicted primarily on the basis of his multiple confessions and one eyewitness. He seeks a Writ of Habeas Corpus on the grounds that his rights to Miranda warnings and effective assistance of counsel were violated.

FACTUAL BACKGROUND

  At about 6:40 p.m. on March 14, 2000, Eric Inzunza was shot and killed in Salinas, California. Inzunza was a student at Alisal High School. There were three witnesses to the murder who identified the shooter as short and thin and wearing a white 49ers sweatshirt and a red baseball cap. Two of the witnesses claimed they saw the shooter get into a blue Honda after the shooting. Holguin was a 17-year old special education student at Alisal High School when the crime occurred. Holguin is mildly to moderately mentally retarded and has an IQ between 47 and 65. He cannot read or write, but can copy letters. Although Holguin tried to socialize with other students, he was only marginally successful.

  George Martinez, the campus security guard supervisor at Alisal High School, saw Holguin at the scene of the murder at about 7:00 or 7:30 p.m. the evening of the shooting. Holguin was not wearing clothes that matched the description of the shooter.

  A. The Pre-Miranda Statements

  The day after the shooting, March 15, Holguin was suspended from school. The Vice-Principal, Bernardo Munro ("Munro"), specifically told Holguin that he could not come to school the next day, even to work in the cafeteria. Munro took extra time explaining the suspension to Holguin because he knew Holguin was a special education student.

  The next day, around lunchtime, Munro heard on his radio that Holguin had returned to campus. Munro instructed a school official to bring Holguin to Munro's office. On Munro's way to his office he met up with campus police officer Gilbert Bacis. Munro and Officer Bacis took Holguin to Munro's office. Munro talked to Holguin about his trespassing (a student who returns to school while on suspension is guilty of trespassing). After Holguin agreed that he had been trespassing, Munro left Officer Bacis with Holguin to either cite him for trespassing or release him. According to Munro, Holguin was not free to leave the office at this time.

  As Officer Bacis was talking to Holguin, he believed (mistakenly) that Holguin's clothing and build matched the description of Eric Inzunza's shooter. He asked Holguin if Holguin had done the shooting, and Holguin responded by shrugging his shoulders. Officer Bacis knew that the detectives investigating the murder were coming to the school sometime before lunch. He told Holguin that the detectives might want to talk to him, and then stepped outside Monro's office to telephone the detectives.

  Detectives Craig Carmena and Gerry Davis arrived at Munro's office a few moments later. Officer Carmena walked into the office and overheard Holguin telling Officer Bacis that he (Holguin) had a beef with Eric Inzunza. Officer Carmena immediately asked Holguin why he shot the victim even though Holguin had not said that he had been involved in the shooting. Holguin responded: "I did what I had to do." Officer Carmena then asked his partner to retrieve a tape recorder.

  After obtaining the tape recorder, the police officers questioned Holguin in Munro's office about the shooting for approximately 15 minutes. They did not read Holguin his Miranda rights, nor attempt to contact his mother. Nor did they ever advise Holguin that he was free to leave. Holguin admitted to shooting Inzunza. He stated that Inzunza "was the wrong color I guess. The way I heard it that he had a blue sweater on and a blue cap, a blue beanie." After initially refusing to say why he killed Inzunza, Holguin then stated, "I didn't wanna do it, but I had to." "I just shot him because, ah, you know I wanted to and I had to, you know." He said he used a .22 gun. Holguin said that he shot Inzunza "in the stomach."

  After initially saying he did not know where the gun was, Holguin then stated that he would go by himself to get it. Then, after telling the officers that his homies would have already taken the gun away, he agreed to show police officers where he put the gun. The detectives then took Holguin, by patrol car, to the creek where Holguin had told them that he hid the murder weapon. After looking around the creek, no weapon was found.

  B. The Post-Miranda Statements

  Holguin was placed under arrest and read his Miranda rights. The officers recorded an interview of Holguin in the patrol car. They then brought Holguin to the police station, where he was again read his Miranda rights and was interviewed on videotape.

  The same day Holguin confessed, a witness identified Holguin as the shooter when showed a photo lineup by police. The witness testified that he saw a newspaper picture of Holguin subsequent to the lineup that strengthened his certainty. The witness said that he was struck by a mark on one of Holguin's eyebrows, and said that he had "no doubt" that Holguin was the killer.

  The police never found any physical evidence linking Holguin to the shooting. PROCEDURAL HISTORY

  Holguin was charged with first degree murder. Prior to trial his counsel moved to suppress his statements made to police both before and after he was read his Miranda rights. On the day of the hearing, however, counsel withdrew the motion regarding suppression of post-Miranda statements. After the evidentiary hearing on the pre-Miranda statements, the trial court denied the motion on the ground that Holguin was not in custody at the time the officers questioned him. A jury found Holguin guilty of first degree murder and of using a firearm during the commission of the murder. The trial court sentenced Holguin to 50 years to life.

  On direct appeal, Holguin argued, among other things, that (1) the trial court erred by admitting his pre-Miranda statements, and (2) he was deprived of effective assistance of counsel when his counsel failed to challenge the admissibility of his post-Miranda statements as involuntarily made. The California Court of Appeal affirmed the conviction.

  With respect to the Miranda violation, the court held:
Here defendant was not under formal arrest at the time of his statements. He was engaged in a discussion about trespassing, which was not an unfamiliar situation. He was not handcuffed. Though the detention in the office lasted about 20 minutes, the questioning occurred while the door remained open and a secretary continued working. Defendant then agreed to show the officers where the gun was located. Defendant chose to ride with Bacis and was allowed to move freely about at the creek before he was arrested. There was no evidence that the demeanor of the officers was overbearing or that their questions were confrontational or accusatory at any time. Accordingly, considering the totality of circumstances, we agree with ...

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