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Brown v. Horell

February 20, 2009




Petitioner LaDell DeAngelo Brown is a state prisoner proceeding pro se with a petition for writ of habeas corpus pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §2254. In 2005, Brown was convicted in case 02F03173 in the Sacramento County Superior Court of first degree murder, attempted murder, and attempted robbery with enhancements for firearm use and prior convictions. He was sentenced to life without the possibility of parole plus an additional term of 74 years to life. In his petition, Brown claims that (A) his coerced and involuntary admission was improperly admitted into evidence at trial; and (B) he was prevented from presenting a complete defense when the trial judge excluded expert testimony regarding the interrogation methods used by law enforcement at his interviews. For the reasons that follow, the claims are without merit and the petition should be denied.


The following facts are drawn from the unpublished opinion of the California Appellate Court, Third District, Case No. C050121.*fn1 Petitioner is the defendant referred to therein:

Jaynelle Frank checked into room 106 at the Gold Rush Inn in Sacramento on Monday, April 8, 2002. Defendant, the father of Jaynelle's unborn child, was staying at the Inn with her. Jaynelle's younger sister, Johtell Frank, checked into room 108 at the Gold Rush Inn on the same day. With Johtell at the Inn was her boyfriend and defendant's best friend, Dante Alexander.

The victims, Victor Jones and his wife Cheryl, checked into room 207 at the Gold Rush Inn early the following evening, Tuesday, April 9, 2002, at approximately 5:00 or 6:00 p.m. Prior to meeting defendant, Victor purchased and consumed a quantity of cocaine on G Parkway before returning to the Inn around 12:00 a.m. on April 9. Victor met defendant in the parking lot at about midnight on April 9 and bought cocaine from him.

Later, in the early morning hours of April 10, defendant sold Victor more cocaine. Over the next several hours, Victor purchased approximately $100 worth of cocaine from defendant on credit. In exchange for the extension of credit, Victor allowed defendant to borrow his Kia van, which was on loan from the dealership. Defendant left in the van with Dante and returned around 2:00 or 2:30 a.m. Victor purchased more cocaine on credit and defendant kept the car keys. When Victor went to defendant's room between 4:00 and 5:00 a.m. to ask for more cocaine, defendant told him he had no more.

Around 8:00 a.m. on April 10, defendant and Jaynelle accompanied Victor to pick up and cash his paycheck. Defendant saw Victor's paycheck which was over $500. Victor paid defendant what he owed for the cocaine, and defendant asked if he could borrow the van to take Jaynelle to her prenatal appointment. Victor agreed when defendant promised to sell him more cocaine. Defendant took the van, and Victor and his wife stayed at the Inn to smoke the cocaine. Defendant checked in with Victor from time to time, sold him more cocaine, and left again with Dante in the van. Victor received a telephone call from defendant around 6:00 p.m. on April 10 informing him that the van had been stolen. Victor did not believe the story and told defendant to return to the Inn.

When defendant returned to the Inn with Dante about 20 minutes later, Victor bought more cocaine. Victor told the defendant the explanation about the van was "bullshit" and demanded to know how defendant planned to make things right. When Victor suggested defendant return the money he had already paid for cocaine, defendant gave Victor $20 and a quarter ounce of cocaine. Satisfied, Victor told defendant he would pay for Jaynelle's room so defendant would not have to "hustle" that night for the money. Victor walked with defendant and Dante to a liquor store where Victor bought alcohol for all of them.

Shortly after Victor returned to his room, Dante's girlfriend Johtell appeared at his door. She claimed an interest in the cocaine defendant had given Victor as compensation for loss of the van. Victor verbally rebuffed Johtell and later complained to Dante about her conduct. Victor continued to smoke cocaine and think about how he could get defendant to return the van.

Around midnight, Johtell and Dante came to Victor's room and asked him to buy more liquor for them. Victor agreed to walk to the store, but they insisted on giving him a ride. Cheryl decided to go along. Victor emptied his pockets of cash and illegal items before leaving the room. Dante and Johtell went downstairs ahead of Victor. Victor heard Jaynelle say to Johtell, "You know what they about to do? That's fucked up."

The four left the Inn with Johtell driving Dante's car, Cheryl next to her in the front seat, Dante in the back seat on the driver's side, and Victor in the back seat on the passenger side. Instead of driving to the liquor store, Johtell headed south on Highway 99 and turned off the freeway at Sheldon Road in Elk Grove. En route, Johtell ignored Victor's repeated demands to pull over and let him get out of the car. Johtell was driving erratically while talking with someone on her cell phone. Victor also observed what he thought was a police car following them. It flashed its high beams once they left the freeway.

Johtell drove east on Sheldon Road and stopped the car on a dark, dead-end street. The second car pulled up behind Dante's car. Dante stepped out of his car, turned toward Victor with what Victor described as a .45-caliber handgun, and said, "Give me everything you got." Victor gave Dante $12, his wallet, wrist watch and room key. Defendant walked up with an automatic rifle and ordered Cheryl and Victor out of the car. He demanded to know where the narcotics were. Victor explained he left the cocaine in the room. Johtell confirmed that she had seen Victor empty his pockets into a drawer before they left.

Victor tried to stay in front of Cheryl as they got out of the car. He noticed a light in a nearby house. Victor began talking loudly and tried to maneuver in the direction of the house. Defendant told him to be quiet. Victor continued to talk, offering to give defendant more money later that day if he let Cheryl leave. Finally, Victor charged past defendant and Dante. Cheryl was supposed to run the opposite direction. Dante shot Victor once as he ran, but Victor continued toward the house. Victor then heard both guns firing and received two more wounds. He was close to the front door of the house when his foot was shot from under him. Victor looked back and saw defendant use the rifle to shoot Cheryl.

Victor broke the windows around the front door of the house and yelled for help. Defendant approached Victor on the porch, holding the handgun Dante had in the car. Defendant pointed the gun at Victor's head. One of the cars departed, leaving defendant behind. After the gun misfired several times, defendant came close to Victor and said, "You are a lucky mother fucker." Victor responded, "You are a dead mother fucker, you understand." Defendant drove away.

Owen Autry, the occupant of the house, was awakened by gunfire at 1:30 a.m., and immediately telephoned 911. While Autry stayed on the line with the 911 operator, Victor yelled that the people who shot him were in apartments 106 and 108.

Cheryl died at the scene. Based on the size of the wounds, the pathologist testified the bullet was likely fired at close range by a .223 assault rifle.

Victor suffered four bullet wounds, but survived. He viewed a photo array six hours after the incident and identified Dante as the man in room 108 who had the handgun. He viewed more photos the following day and identified defendant as the man in room 106 who had the rifle. Victor testified at trial. (C050121 Opinion at 1 -3.)


An application for writ of habeas corpus by a person in custody under judgment of a state court can be granted only for violations of the Constitution or laws of the United States. 28 U.S.C. §2254(a); see also Peltier v. Wright, 15 F.3d 860, 861 (9th Cir. 1993); Middleton v. Cupp, 768 F.2d 1083, 1085 (9th Cir. 1985) (citing Engle v. Isaac, 456 U.S. 107, 119 (1982)). This petition for writ of habeas corpus was filed after the effective date of, and thus is subject to, the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996 ("AEDPA"). Lindh v. Murphy, 521 U.S. 320, 326 (1997); see also Weaver v. Thompson, 197 F.3d 359 (9th Cir. 1999). Under AEDPA, federal habeas corpus relief also is not available for any claim decided on the merits in state court proceedings unless the state court's adjudication of the claim:

(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); see also Penry v. Johnson, 532 U.S. 782, 792-93 (2001); Williams v. Taylor, 529 U.S. 362, 402-03 (2000); Lockhart v. Terhune, 250 F.3d 1223, 1229 (9th Cir. 2001).

The "contrary to" and "unreasonable application" clauses of §2254(d)(1) are different. Under the "contrary to" clause of §2254(d)(1), a federal court may grant the writ only 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 the case differently than the Supreme Court has on a set of materially indistinguishable facts. Williams, 529 U.S. at 405. As the Third Circuit has explained, "it is not sufficient for the petitioner to show merely that his interpretation of Supreme Court precedent is more plausible than the state court's; rather, the petitioner must demonstrate that Supreme Court precedent requires the contrary outcome." Matteo v. Superintendent, SCI Albion, 171 F.3d 877, 888 (3rd Cir. 1999) (en banc) (emphasis in original). The state court is not required to cite the specific controlling test or Supreme Court authority, so long as neither the reasoning nor the result of the state court decision contradict either. Early v. Packer, 537 U.S. 3, 8-9 (2002).

The court may grant relief under the "unreasonable application" clause if the state court correctly identifies the governing legal principle but unreasonably applies it to the facts of the particular case. Williams, 529 U.S. at 410. The focus of this inquiry is whether the state court's application of clearly established federal law is objectively unreasonable. Id. "[A] federal habeas court may not issue the writ simply because that court concludes in its independent judgment that the relevant state-court decision applied clearly established federal law erroneously or incorrectly. Rather, that application must also be unreasonable." Id.

This court will look to the last reasoned state court decision in determining whether the law applied to a particular claim by the state courts was contrary to the law set forth in the cases of the United States Supreme Court or whether an unreasonable application of such law has occurred. Avila v. Galaza, 297 F.3d 911, 918 (9th Cir. 2002), cert. dismissed, 538 U.S. 919 (2003). If relief is precluded by 28 U.S.C. ยง2254(d), the ...

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