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Pinckney v. Scribner

February 25, 2009

MONTERIO TYRONE PINCKNEY, PETITIONER,
v.
A.K. SCRIBNER, WARDEN, RESPONDENT.



FINDINGS AND RECOMMENDATIONS

I. INTRODUCTION

Petitioner Monterio Tyrone Pinckney is a state prisoner proceeding through counsel with a petition for writ of habeas corpus pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §2254. In 2002, Pinckney was convicted in the Sacramento County Superior Court, case 01F04473, of first degree murder with personal use of a firearm, attempted murder with personal use of a firearm, and burglary. He received a sentence of 69 years to life. In his petition, Pinckney claims that (A) an instructional error violated his due process rights; (B) his involuntary confession was improperly admitted as impeachment evidence; and (C) appellate counsel rendered ineffective assistance. For the reasons that follow, the claims are without merit and the petition should be denied.

II. FACTUAL BACKGROUND

The following facts are drawn from the unpublished opinion of the California Appellate Court, Third District, Case No. C042940.*fn1

On May 30, 2001, defendant accused his wife, Monique, of being unfaithful, hit her repeatedly, and threatened to kill her. Later that day, the pair went to the home of Rosie C., a friend of Monique's mother's, where the argument about Monique's fidelity began again, and again defendant beat Monique.

On June 1, Monique went to sleep at Rosie's home when she was awakened by the sound of her mother screaming and gunshots. After she heard the gunshots, Monique hid in the closet. Defendant ran through the house yelling for Monique to come out, argued with Monique's mother, and threatened to shoot her if she did not tell him where Monique was. Monique stayed hidden until police arrived, then she saw her mother on the living room floor. Monique's mother died from a single gunshot wound to the chest. Multiple bullets and spent casings were found in Rosie's home. Before surrendering to police, defendant left messages on Monique's answering machine telling her he was still looking for her and threatening to kill her. Upon searching the home, officers found a note from defendant which apologized for killing Monique's mother and stated, "[i]t should have been [Monique]." (C042940 Opinion at 1.)

III. APPLICABLE LAW FOR FEDERAL HABEAS CORPUS

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. §2254(d), the court may deny the petition without addressing the merits of the claim. Lockyer v. Andrade, 538 U.S. 63, 71 (2003).

IV. ANALYSIS OF PETITIONER'S CLAIMS

A. Instructional Error

While deliberating, the jury sent the following note to the court: "We are interpreting that specific intent and/or mental state means 'conscious of his actions.' Is this correct?" (CT at 351.) The Court prepared the following written response to the question:

The term "conscious of his actions" is not a legal term that is set forth in the jury instructions of this case.

SPECIFIC INTENT

When the definition of a crime consists of only the description of a particular act, without reference to intent to do a further act or achieve a future consequence, we ask whether the defendant intended to do the proscribed act. This intention is deemed to be a general criminal intent. When the definition refers to defendant's intent to do some further act or achieve some additional consequence, the crime is deemed to be one of specific intent.

The specific intent for the crimes it applies to is set forth in the definition of the crimes.

MENTAL STATE

Mental state is really self-defining. It means what is going on in a person's mind. This forms their state of mind.

The mental state required for the crimes it applies to is set forth in the definition of the crimes.

(CT at 355-56.)

Defense counsel agreed that this was a correct statement of the law (RT at 997), but objected to any instruction beyond telling the jury that "conscious of his actions" did not apply and that the definitions of specific intent and/or mental state had already been provided:

So, what I'm asking the court to do is just literally read that first portion as the court intended to do and just tell the jury the definitions for mental state and specific intent [have] already been provided to them elsewhere in the instructions and leave it at that.

(RT at 992-94.) Counsel argued that the instructions were intended to be self-contained and that no further definitions of specific intent or mental state were applicable. (RT at 994.)

The trial judge disagreed, finding that the jury was "under a misapprehension" that specific intent and mental state equate to consciousness of actions, and that he had a duty to "tell them that's not correct, this is what specific intent is and this is what mental state is." (RT at 996-96.) He concluded although we do tell the jurors that they must look to the jury instructions for what particular specific intent or what particular mental ...


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