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Guffey v. Subia

March 17, 2010


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


Daniel Guffey (hereinafter "Petitioner"), is a state prisoner proceeding pro se with a Petition for a Writ of Habeas Corpus by a Person in State Custody pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254. (Doc. No. 1.) This matter was referred to United States Magistrate Judge Cathy Ann Bencivengo pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(B). Magistrate Judge Bencivengo issued a Report and Recommendation ("Report") recommending the Court deny the petition. (Doc. No. 32.) Petitioner filed objections to the Report. (Doc. No. 127.)

Following de novo review of petitioner's claims, the Court finds the Report to be thorough, complete, and an accurate analysis of the legal issues presented in the petition. For the reasons explained below, the Court: (1) adopts the Report in full; (2) rejects Petitioner's objections; (3) denies the petition for writ of habeas corpus; and (4) denies a certificate of appealability.


Factual Background The Report contains an accurate recital of the facts as determined by the California Court of Appeal, and the Court fully adopts the Report's statement of facts. As the magistrate judge correctly noted, the Court presumes state court findings of fact to be correct.

The following facts as drawn from the Report are relevant to evaluate the petition. Petitioner previously had a romantic relationship with Kathleen Dockler. Dockler ended the relationship, and began an intimate relationship with Rawson, a close friend of Petitioner's. Petitioner was very upset about the breakup and began stalking Dockler. On December 24, he confronted Dockler and threatened to kill Rawson and his family. Petitioner also told Dockler's friend, Linda Drake, that he was going to "take (Rawson) out" and that Rawson was not "going to be a problem anymore." On approximately December 29, Petitioner asked his friend, Bruce Phifer to beat Rawson up. Phifer declined, but said that he would mention it to Jesse Gehrke, who worked for his drywall business. Petitioner had several other encounters with Dockler and Rawson that day, which led them to decide they needed to get a restraining order against Petitioner.

On December 25, Phifer wrote down Petitioner's phone number and gave it to Gehrke. In the early morning hours of January 1, 2002, Petitioner e-mailed Dockler a love poem that said in part, "by the time that you read this, it will have all come undone." That night, Petitioner told a friend, Amber Stanley, that he felt Rawson had betrayed him and asked whether she knew anyone who would help set Rawson up to be the victim of a hit-and-run. Close family friend Jeremiah Beamer later joined Petitioner and Stanley for part of the morning; he thought Petitioner appeared angry and that his demeanor was "weird." At approximately 4 a.m. on January 2, 2002, Petitioner called Phifer, upset and saying that something bad had happened.

Meanwhile, on the evening of January 1, 2002, Gehrke and Christopher Bo Smith met up with Kyla Stark. The three arrived in La Mesa sometime before 9 a.m. the next morning. Later that morning, Stark, Gehrke and Smith went to the Rawsons' house, and Rawson invited them inside. In the same time frame (sometime between 11 and 11:15 a.m.), a woman who was working nearby saw Petitioner's van, which was distinctive because it had the logo and phone number of his locksmith business on the side, driving very slowly down the street in front of the Rawsons' house. While inside the house, Gehrke used Rawson's phone to call Petitioner's cell phone. Stark later saw Gehrke and Smith stab Rawson repeatedly and saw Smith slit his throat.

In the meantime, after leaving the Rawsons' neighborhood, Petitioner drove to Mission Valley to pick up Stanley. While he was in the parking lot of the hotel where Stanley was staying, he received Gehrke's call from the Rawson's home phone. Stanley noticed that Petitioner was wearing the same clothes as he had on the prior night, but was "really agitated" and appeared to have injuries on his hands. Petitioner told Stanley that he had slapped Rawson around and "got[ten] [Rawson] good."

Police arrested Petitioner that evening. Two days after the murder, Gehrke and Smith showed up at Phifer's motel room, saying that they needed to leave town. Smith told Phifer that they had "offed" Rawson and "I sent it on home with the old timer," a brand of pocketknife that he owned. On January 20, 2002, Smith bragged to a friend that he had slit someone's throat. Shortly thereafter, the police arrested Gehrke and Smith for parole violations, but did not charge them with the murder. The officers found Petitioner's cell phone number written on a scrap of paper in Gehrke's wallet. The police also arrested Stark.

In June 2002, Petitioner talked to the prosecutor and a detective in a confidential interview. Four months later, the district attorney charged Gehrke, Smith and Petitioner with one count each of conspiracy to assault and murder.

State Procedural Background

The Report contains a complete and accurate summary of the state court proceedings, and the Court fully adopts the Report's statement of state procedural background. In sum, a jury found Petitioner guilty of second degree murder and conspiracy to commit assault. (CT 527-28.) The same jury found co-defendants Gehrke and Smith guilty of first degree murder and conspiracy to commit assault, and returned true findings that they personally used a knife during the commission of the offenses. (CT 330-31, 621-22.) On September 18, 2003, Petitioner was sentenced to a state prison term of 15 years-to-life. (CT 564.)

The appellate court consolidated Petitioner's appeal with that of his two co-defendants, and affirmed the convictions in an unpublished opinion. (Lodgment No. 6, People v. Gehrke, et al., D042984, slip op. (Cal. Ct. App. Jan. 31, 2006).) The state supreme court consolidated Petitioner's petition for review with that of his co-defendants, and denied the petition by an order which stated in full: "Petitions for review DENIED." (Lodgment No. 8.)

Federal Procedural Background

On August 15, 2007, Petitioner filed a Petition for Writ of Habeas Corpus challenging his San Diego County Superior Court convictions. Respondent filed an Answer to the Petition, and lodged portions of the state court record. (Doc. No. 25.) Petitioner filed a Traverse with an attached Notice of Lodgment. (Doc. No. 29.)

On August 28, 2009, Magistrate Judge Cathy Ann Bencivengo issued a Report recommending the petition be denied. (Doc. No 32.) After being granted two extensions of time, Petitioner filed objections to the Report on January 13, 2010. (Doc. No. 38.)In his objections, Petitioner argues that the magistrate judge erred in finding that the state court did not make an unreasonable application of clearly established federal law or an unreasonable determination of the facts in light of the evidence. Petitioner also requests an evidentiary hearing. Because Petitioner has objected to the Report in its entirety, the Court reviews the Report de novo. 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(C); Holder v. Holder, 392 F.3d 1009, 1022 (9th Cir. 2004).


Legal Standard The Report sets forth the correct standard of review for a petition for writ of habeas corpus . Under 28 U.S.C. § 2254(d):

(d) An application for a writ of habeas corpus on behalf of a person in custody pursuant to the judgment of a State court shall not be granted with respect to any claim that was adjudicated on the merits in State court proceedings unless the 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 ...

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