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Harris v. Felker

January 27, 2009


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Milan D. Smith, Jr. United States Circuit Judge Sitting by Designation


Pending before the court are Petitioner Paris Harris's (Harris) application for writ of habeas corpus (doc. 1), Respondent T. Felker's (Felker) answer (doc. 6), and Harris's traverse (doc. 11). For the reasons stated below, Harris's application is denied.


In 2004, Harris was convicted by a Sacramento Superior Court jury of: (1) assault with a firearm (Cal. Penal Code §245(a)(2)); (2) discharge of a firearm at a motor vehicle (Cal. Penal Code § 246); (3) possession of a firearm after a prior juvenile adjudication (Cal. Penal Code § 12021(e)); and terrorist threats (Cal. Penal Code § 422). In addition, the jury found that Harris personally used a firearm during the commission of count 1 in violation of California Penal Code § 12022.5(a) and (d). Lodged Doc. 1 at 1. Harris was sentenced to the upper term of 15 years and 4 months in state prison on the basis of his two prior juvenile convictions for first-degree murder. Lodged Doc. 1 at 1-2.


Harris filed a direct appeal of his conviction before the California Court of Appeal, Third Appellate District. In its decision affirming the judgment, the Court of Appeal summarized the relevant facts as follows:

Carmen Lee met defendant in October 2003. Lee's friend, Nicole Sowells[,] was dating defendant. Lee had told Sowells that defendant had "just got out from doing double murder." Lee also was aware defendant carried a black .38 revolver with a brown handle to which "white ties or shoe strings or rubber bands" were affixed.

Approximately one week before February 13, 2004, Lee was at the Hacienda Gardens apartment complex on West La Loma where Sowells lived to pick up Lee's two daughters. Lee ran into defendant who wanted her to give him and Sowells a ride. Lee refused because she had to take her daughters to school. Defendant told her she was being disrespectful and needed to be taught a lesson. He then fired gunshots into the air until Lee believed the gun was empty.

At approximately 7:00 a.m. on February 13, 2004, while at a house on Glenview Road, Lee loaned her Jeep Cherokee to Sowells who wanted to pick up defendant. Upon her return, Sowells called Lee to tell her she was outside the house. Lee heard defendant in the background calling Lee a "ho[]" and a "bitch[]." Lee hung up the phone and ran outside to where the car was parked. She needed her car back to pick up her children and take them to school. Defendant continued "cussing" at Lee. Lee sat in the driver's seat and closed the door. Defendant opened the car door, spit on her face, and told her he was a "killer" and would "smash on [her]," meaning to "beat down" or "hurt badly." Lee was scared because she knew defendant carried a gun and his hand was placed on the pocket in which he carried the gun.

Lee urged Sowells to leave with her. Instead, Sowells removed her belongings from Lee's car. As Lee was driving away, defendant ran down the driveway, shooting at Lee. He then positioned himself in the middle of the street and continued shooting at Lee. Lee was so scared she lost control of her bladder and urinated on herself. Lee drove to the Hacienda Gardens apartment complex where her children were staying. Lee got her children out of Sowell's apartment and called the police.

At 8:10 a.m., Sacramento County Sheriff Deputy Timothy Gorham arrived at the Hacienda Gardens apartment complex and spoke to Lee. Lee said "Paris Ollie" or "Paris Harris" threatened her and shot at her. Lee was upset, very nervous, and very scared. "[A]t some point," Deputy Gorham "receive[d] information" defendant might be in apartment No. 20. The officers knocked on the door of apartment No. 20 for several minutes without an answer. Deputy Gorham asked someone from the manager's office to open the door to the apartment. In the bedroom, officers found defendant, two small children, and an adult woman named Janae Robertson. Defendant refused to identify himself and was handcuffed and detained. In the bathroom, officers found a ".38 round" in the middle of the floor. In a pullout drawer at the bottom of the oven, officers found a ".38 revolver" with a rubber band wrapped around the handle. Gunshot residue was found on defendant's right hand.

Defense Defendant testified he was not at Glenview drive on the morning of the shooting and never left Sowell's apartment. He denied the altercation with Lee in the days prior to February 13, 2004, denied drawing a gun on her, denied shooting a gun in the air, and denied threatening her. He had been committed to the California Youth Authority (CYA) for over nine years for two first-degree murders.

Lodged Doc. 1 ...

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