Searching over 5,500,000 cases.


searching
Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

Williams v. McGrath

September 20, 2005

ERIS LENDELL WILLIAMS, PETITIONER,
v.
JOE MCGRATH, WARDEN, RESPONDENT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Claudia Wilken United States District Judge

ORDER DENYING SECOND AMENDED PETITION FOR A WRIT OF HABEAS CORPUS

Petitioner Eris Lendell Williams is a prisoner of the State of California; he is incarcerated at the Pelican Bay State Prison in Crescent City. He brings this petition seeking a writ of habeas corpus pursuant to Title 28 U.S.C. section 2254. On January 7, 2004, Respondent was ordered to show cause why the writ should not be granted. On February 18, 2004, Respondent filed an answer supported by a memorandum of law, the State trial record and the unpublished opinion of the California Court of Appeal. Petitioner has filed a traverse. Having considered all of the papers filed by the parties and the State court trial record, the Court DENIES the petition for a writ of habeas corpus.

BACKGROUND

The statement of facts is taken from the unpublished opinion of the Sixth Appellate District of the California Court of Appeal in People v. Williams, H020030 (Dec. 18, 2000)(Opinion).

On September 10, 1998, four men perpetrated a robbery at the Bank of Santa Clara in Milpitas: defendants Williams and Vaughn, Muhammad Foucha, and Caleb Sealy.

The four men drove to the bank in a white Honda Accord. The Honda was owned by Erika Fabricius. It had been missing since six days earlier: on September 4, 1998, at about 10:00 p.m., her son Peter Fabricius had parked the Honda in a parking garage near San Jose State University. When he returned to the parking garage at 1:00 a.m., the Honda was missing.

The bank robbery commenced at about 11:00 a.m. Sealy entered the bank first and scouted it out. He returned to the Honda and remained in the car while the other three men entered the bank. They were wearing masks on their faces and gloves on their hands. Williams was carrying a .45 caliber pistol. One of them shouted, "everybody get down, this is a take over, robbery."

Williams approached the assistant manager and pointed his gun at her. Meanwhile, Vaughn and Foucha jumped over the tellers' counter and attempted to open the money drawers. One teller's drawer was locked and could not be opened. A second teller's drawer was unlocked. Foucha took over $7,000 from that drawer, including a packet of "bait money." The package of bait money contained a dye pack designed to explode when it was taken through the front door.

The three men left the bank and got into the Honda, with Foucha driving. There was a bucket of water on the floor in the front passenger's section, and the men placed the money in the bucket in hopes of diffusing any tracking device. However, the dye pack exploded, creating a cloud of red smoke in the car.

Brian Kent saw the Honda leave the bank parking lot. He followed the Honda in his TCI cable van. The Honda was going 50 to 60 miles per hour. During the pursuit, Williams attempted to deter Kent by firing his gun at the TCI van. After a few blocks, the Honda crashed into a Thunderbird driven by Sarah Jane Whitman. As a result of the crash, Foucha's head hit the rearview mirror, leaving him with a gash on the head.

The four men exited the Honda after the crash. Williams and Sealy ran down the street. Vaughn approached Kent, put a gun to Kent's head and ordered him out of the TCI van. Foucha got into the TCI van and drove it off.

Williams was detained shortly after the incident. He was wearing long dark pants that were soaked with water below the knees, and a white t-shirt that was stained with red dye. The red dye's chemical characteristics matched those of the red dye pack inside the bank's bait money. Vaughn was also detained nearby.

Investigation of the Honda revealed the bucket of water, which contained some of the money from the robbery. Water from the bucket had spilled inside the car. The investigation also revealed that the Honda's ignition had been jimmied with a screwdriver. An expended .45 caliber bullet casing and Williams's resume and cover letter were also found in the Honda.Williams, Vaughn, Foucha, and Sealy were jointly charged, by information. In count 1, all four defendants were charged with attempted second degree robbery. (§§ 211, 212.5, subd. (c), 664.) In count 2, all four defendants were charged with second degree robbery. (§§ 211, 212.5, subd. (c).) In count 3, all four defendants were charged with carjacking. (§ 215.) In count 4, all four defendants were charged with unlawfully taking or driving a vehicle. (Veh. Code, § 10851, subd. (a).) In count 5, Foucha alone was charged with hit and run causing injury. (Veh. Code, § 20001, subds. (a) & (b)(1).) In count 6, all four defendants were charged with conspiracy to commit robbery. (§ 182, subd. (a).) (footnote omitted).

As to counts 1 and 2, the information alleged that Williams personally used a firearm (§ 12022.53, subd. (b)) and that the other three defendants were armed with a firearm (§ 12022, subd. (a)(1)). As to count 3, the information alleged that Vaughn personally used a firearm and that the other three defendants were armed with a firearm. As to count 4, the information alleged that all four defendants were armed with a firearm. As to count 5, the information alleged that Foucha was armed with a firearm.

Finally, the information alleged that Williams had two "strike" convictions (§ 1170.12), one prior serious felony conviction (§ 667, subd. (a)), and had served one prior prison term (§ 667.5, subd. (b)).

Foucha and Sealy subsequently pled guilty to certain counts. Williams and Vaughn were tried jointly by jury. Williams elected not to present evidence on his behalf. Vaughn testified and admitted that he participated in the bank robbery, but asserted that he did not know about the plan until 15 minutes before the robbery commenced. Vaughn denied that he put a gun to Kent's head during the carjacking. He asserted he was one of the two men who fled from the Honda after it collided with the Thunderbird.

Williams and Vaughn were convicted of all five charged counts, and the jury found true each of the weapon use and arming allegations. The trial court subsequently found true each of the prior conviction and prior prison term allegations as to Williams.

As to Williams, the trial court imposed terms of 25 years to life for each of the five substantive counts: consecutive terms for counts 2 and 3 (robbery and carjacking) and concurrent terms for counts 1, 4 and 6 (attempted robbery, unlawfully driving or taking a vehicle, and conspiracy). It imposed a consecutive 10-year term for the firearm use allegation associated with count 2 (robbery), a concurrent term for the firearm use allegation associated with count 1 (attempted robbery), and stayed the terms for the arming allegations. It imposed a consecutive 5-year term for the prior serious felony allegation and stayed the term for the prior prison term allegation. Williams's aggregate sentence was an indeterminate term of 50 years to life and a determinate term of 15 years. . . .

The trial court ordered both defendants [Williams and Vaughn] to pay direct victim restitution as well as restitution fines. The direct victim restitution ordered included payments to Sarah Jane Whitman, the driver of the Thunderbird involved in the collision with the Honda. Opinion at 2-5.

The California Court of Appeal affirmed the judgment of conviction. On February 21, 2001, the California Supreme Court denied Petitioner's petition for review. On December 13, 2002, Petitioner filed a petition for a writ of habeas corpus in the California Supreme Court, which was denied without reasoned analysis on July 16, 2003.

Petitioner filed his original federal petition for a writ of habeas corpus on February 25, 2002, and he filed an amended petition on June 28, 2002. On July 17, 2003, the Court stayed Petitioner's habeas proceedings because Petitioner had failed to exhaust his State court remedies. On October 1, 2003, Petitioner filed the second amended petition (SAP), which raises six claims, all of which are exhausted for purposes of federal review:

(1) ineffective assistance of counsel arising out of counsel's decision not to challenge an allegedly biased juror for cause, (2) ineffective assistance of counsel arising out of counsel's decision not to investigate the impact of the juror's alleged comments, (3) insufficiency of evidence to support Petitioner's carjacking conviction, (4) insufficiency of evidence to support Petitioner's conviction for unlawfully taking the white Honda used in the crime, (5) insufficiency of evidence to support the enhancement for unlawful taking of the white Honda, and (6) invalidity of the restitution award to Ms. Whitman, the driver of the Thunderbird.

STANDARD OF REVIEW

A federal writ of habeas corpus may not be granted with respect to any claim that was adjudicated on the merits in State court unless the State court's adjudication of the claims: "(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).

"Under the 'contrary to' clause, a federal habeas court may grant the writ if the state court arrives at a conclusion opposite to that reached by [the Supreme] Court on a question of law or if the state court decides a case differently than [the Supreme] Court has on a set of materially indistinguishable facts." Williams v. Taylor, 529 U.S. 363, 412-13 (2000). "Under the 'unreasonable application' clause, a federal habeas court may grant the writ if the state court identifies the correct governing legal principle from [the Supreme] Court's decisions but unreasonably applies that principle to the facts of the prisoner's case." Id. at 413.

The only definitive source of clearly established federal law under Title 28 U.S.C. section 2254(d) is in the holdings of the Supreme Court as of the time of the relevant State court decision. Id. at 412. But circuit law may be persuasive authority for purposes of determining whether a State court decision is an unreasonable application of Supreme Court law. Clark v. Murphy, 331 F.3d 1062, 1070-71 (9th Cir.), cert. denied, 124 S.Ct. 446 (2003).

In determining whether the State court's decision is contrary to, or involved an unreasonable application of, clearly established federal law, a federal court looks to the decision of the highest State court to address the merits of a petitioner's claim in a reasoned decision. LaJoie v. Thompson, 217 F.3d 663, 669 n.7 (9th Cir. 2000). If no reasoned decision exists, an independent review of the record is the only means of deciding whether the State court's rejection of the claim was objectively reasonable. See Himes v. Thompson, 336 F.3d 848, 853 (9th Cir. 2003).

If constitutional error is found, habeas relief is warranted only if the error had a "'substantial and injurious effect or influence in determining the jury's verdict.'" Penry v. Johnson, 532 U.S. 782, 795 (2001) ...


Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.