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Ayala v. Wong

May 13, 2009

HECTOR JUAN AYALA, PETITIONER,
v.
ROBERT K WONG, ACTING WARDEN OF THE CALIFORNIA STATE PRISON AT SAN QUENTIN, RESPONDENT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Irma E. Gonzalez, Chief Judge United States District Court

DEATH PENALTY CASE ORDER GRANTING IN PART AND DENYING IN PART PETITIONER'S APPLICATION FOR A CERTIFICATE OF APPEALABILITY AND ISSUING A LIMITED COA

On April 17, 2009, Petitioner filed an application for a Certificate of Appealability ("COA") on Claims 1, 2, 4, 5, 22, 24, 26, and 27 of his federal habeas petition. The Court finds the issue appropriate for disposition without oral argument.

For the reasons discussed below, the Court GRANTS IN PART AND DENIES IN PART Petitioner's Application for a COA, and ISSUES a COA limited to Claims 1, 2, 4, 5, and 26.

I. PROCEDURAL OVERVIEW

By an amended information filed on January 20, 1987, Petitioner Hector Juan Ayala ("Petitioner") and his brother Ronaldo Medrano Ayala were charged with the murders of Jose Luis Rositas, Marcos Antonio Zamora and Ernesto Dominguez Mendez. The information alleged that the murders were committed on or about April 26, 1985, during a robbery attempt where the brothers held four men captive in an automobile repair shop. Both men were also charged with the attempted murder of Pedro Castillo, who was shot during the drug-related robbery attempt, but who escaped and survived. At trial, the prosecution also presented evidence that a third man, Jose Moreno, helped in the commission of these crimes. Castillo provided the information to police that led to the arrests and was the key prosecution witness at trial.

Petitioner was convicted on August 1, 1989, of three counts of first-degree murder in violation of California Penal Code ("Cal. Penal Code") § 187, one count of attempted murder in violation of Cal. Penal Code §§ 664 and 187, and one count of robbery and three counts of attempted robbery in violation of Cal. Penal Code §§ 664 and 211--each count with findings that Petitioner used a firearm in the commission of the crimes in violation of Cal. Penal Code § 12022.5. Petitioner was also found guilty of the two special circumstance allegations, multiple murder under Cal. Penal Code § 190.2(a)(3), and murder in the attempted commission of a robbery under Cal. Penal Code § 190.2(a)(17)(A). The jury returned a verdict of death for each of the three murders on August 31, 1989, and the court entered judgment in accordance with the verdict on November 30, 1989.

Petitioner filed his opening brief on automatic appeal to the California Supreme Court on April 23, 1998, raising nineteen (19) separate issues. The California Supreme Court denied the appeal on August 28, 2000. People v. Ayala, 24 Cal.4th 243 (2000). On November 15, 2000, the state court denied the petition for rehearing. On March 15, 2001, Petitioner petitioned for a writ of certiorari with the United States Supreme Court, which was denied on May 14, 2001. On May 14, 2001, his judgment became final.

On August 9, 1999, Petitioner filed a habeas petition with the California Supreme Court, raising three (3) grounds for relief. Petitioner was not granted an evidentiary hearing on those claims and his petition was summarily denied on August 30, 2000.

On July 20, 2001, Petitioner filed a request for appointment of counsel to handle his federal habeas petition. Petitioner filed an initial Petition in this Court on May 14, 2002.

After filing a Second Amended Petition on December 13, 2002, Petitioner filed a second state habeas petition in the California Supreme Court on March 17, 2003 in order to exhaust several unexhausted claims. Petitioner also filed a third state habeas petition in the California Supreme Court on April 27, 2005, and a fourth state habeas petition on December 28, 2007.*fn1

Petitioner filed his Third Amended Petition with this Court on December 9, 2004. On April 11, 2006, the Court denied Petitioner's request for summary adjudication and/or an evidentiary hearing regarding Petitioner's Group One Claims (Claims 12 and 13) and granted Respondent's motion for summary adjudication of those claims. (Doc. No. 147.) On October 23, 2006, the Court denied Petitioner's request for summary adjudication and/or an evidentiary hearing on the Group Two Claims (Claims 1, 2, 4, 5, and 9) and granted Respondent's motion to dismiss those claims. (Doc. No. 184.) On December 6, 2006, the Court denied Petitioner's motion for summary adjudication and/or an evidentiary hearing on the Group Three Claims (Claims 6, 7, 8, 10 and 11) and granted Respondent's motion to dismiss those claims. (Doc. No. 194.) On December 19, 2006, the Court denied Petitioner's motion for reconsideration of the Order on the Group Two Claim (Claim 5). (Doc. No. 200.) On March 15, 2007, the Court denied Petitioner's motions for summary adjudication and/or an evidentiary hearing on the Group Four Claims (Claims 14, 15, 16, 17, 19, 20, and 21) and granted Respondent's motion for summary adjudication on those claims. (Doc. No. 208.) On July 9, 2007, the Court denied Petitioner's motion for summary adjudication on the Group Five claims (Claims 22, 23, 24, and 25) and granted Respondent's motion for summary adjudication on those claims. (Doc. No. 224.) On October 25, 2007, the Court denied Petitioner's motion for summary adjudication on the first portion of the Group Six claims (Claims 18 and 27) and granted Respondent's motion for summary adjudication on those claims. (Doc. No. 237.) On February 13, 2009, the Court denied Petitioner's motion for summary adjudication on Claim 26 and granted Respondent's motion for summary adjudication on Claim 26, thereby denying Petitioner's Third Amended Petition in its entirety. (Doc. No. 257.)

On March 13, 2009, Petitioner filed a Notice of Appeal, and on March 19, 2009, the Court ordered Petitioner to file a brief identifying those issues on which he seeks a certificate of appealability. On April 17, 2009, Petitioner filed an Application for Certificate of Appealability on Claims 1, 2, 4, 5, 22, 24, 26, and 27.

II. STANDARD OF REVIEW

The Anti-Terrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act ("AEDPA") amended 28 U.S.C. § 2253 to require a "certificate of appealability" for § 2254 cases on a claim-specific basis. Specifically, section 2253(c) provides:

(1) Unless a circuit justice or judge issues a certificate of appealability, an appeal may not be taken to the court of appeals from--

(A) the final order in a habeas corpus proceeding in which the detention complained of arises out of process issued by a State court; or

(B) the final order in a proceeding under section 2255.

(2) A certificate of appealability may issue under paragraph (1) only if the applicant has made a substantial showing of the denial of a constitutional right.

(3) The certificate of appealability under paragraph (1) shall indicate which specific issue or issues satisfy the showing required by paragraph (2).

The Supreme Court has elaborated on the application of this requirement, stating that "[w]here a district court has rejected the constitutional claims on the merits, the showing required to satisfy section 2253(c) is straightforward: The petitioner must demonstrate that reasonable jurists would find the district court's assessment of the constitutional claims debatable or wrong." Slack v. McDaniel, 529 U.S. 473, 484 (2000); see also Miller-El v. Cockrell, 537 U.S. 322, 327 (2003) ("Indeed, a claim can be debatable even though every ...


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