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Johnson v. Knowles

April 9, 2010

ARTIES JOHNSON, JR., PETITIONER,
v.
MIKE KNOWLES, ET AL., RESPONDENTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: J. Clifford Wallace United States Circuit Judge

ORDER

Petitioner Arties Johnson, Jr., a state prisoner proceeding pro se, filed a petition for writ of habeas corpus pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254, challenging his conviction for attempted murder and assault with great bodily injury under circumstances involving domestic violence. His application to proceed in forma pauperis has been granted. I have reviewed the petition, the respondent's answer, the traverse, and all supporting documents. I hold that Johnson is not entitled to the relief requested and order the petition denied.

I.

The following is a summary of the facts, taken from the unpublished opinion of the California Court of Appeal, Third District:

Katherine Menefield testified that at about 1:30 a.m. on October 9, 2003, she and her friends, Rosa Elliott and defendant, pooled their resources to buy a "dime" of crack cocaine for $10 and a pipe for a dollar. After they shared the cocaine behind a Rite Aid drugstore, defendant became agitated and aggressive. He took out a butcher knife from the suitcase he was wheeling with him. Menefield saw him put Elliott in a chokehold and saw him strike her in the head, knocking her to the ground. Unable to get up, Elliott began shaking as if she was "going into some kind of fit or seizure" and urinated on herself. Defendant ordered Elliott to "'[g]et your ass up.'" He insisted there was nothing wrong with her.

Menefield tried to intervene on her friend's behalf and picked up the knife when defendant dropped it. Again defendant responded, "'Ain't nothing wrong with this bitch. Get up.'" He pulled Elliott up to a standing position and dragged her into the middle of the street. He hit her, and she fell down again. Menefield screamed for help and tried to stop defendant from continuing his attack. She saw defendant stomping on Elliott's head with his foot. Her head was "busted open," and there was blood running down the drain. The upper right side of her face and head appeared to be caved in, and she had a large amount of blood and fluids coming out of her nose and mouth. Defendant grabbed his suitcase and walked away toward a local McDonald's.

Two men came out of a nearby apartment complex. Menefield solicited their help. When the police arrived, Menefield was still holding the knife. She was hysterical, afraid her friend was dying. A police officer took the knife from her. Crying, she kept repeating, "'He did this to her, he did this to her.'" She identified the assailant as Art Johnson, a man Menefield had known most of her life, and provided a description of him. He was apprehended without fanfare a short distance away. Menefield identified him at a field show-up a few minutes later. He was transported to the county jail for questioning. The arresting officer testified that when he told defendant Elliott might not live, defendant insisted he did not know anything about it. Although defendant referred to Elliott as his wife and they purportedly had two children together, he never asked what happened to her, how she got hurt, or how she was doing. Meanwhile, Elliott was placed on life support. At the time of trial, she could not walk and suffered from a permanent brain injury as a result of the beating. She was found competent to testify, but she was confused, she had slurred speech, and she testified from a wheelchair. At times she addressed defendant directly and accused him of beating her on different occasions. At one point she stated defendant had beaten a baby out of her. But she also claimed "Frederick Marshall" was the person responsible for her disabilities. Frederick Marshall is her son. His father, also named Frederick Marshall, had died 10 years earlier.

Defendant did not testify. His lawyer attacked Menefield's credibility. The court allowed evidence that Menefield had been homeless on and off for years and had suffered from poor mental health and substance abuse. Specifically, the court allowed the defense to introduce evidence of Menefield's convictions for a series of crimes relevant to her veracity, including petty theft, felony assaults on police officers, assault with a knife, brandishing a weapon, and resisting police, over a period of 30 years. The court did not allow the defense to introduce evidence of 14 other arrests for domestic violence, assaults, robbery, burglary, kidnapping, attempted murder, and resisting police officers.

A jury convicted defendant of attempted murder and assault with great bodily injury under circumstances involving domestic violence. The jury found the great bodily injury allegations to be true, and the court found the prior conviction allegations to be true. Defendant is serving an aggregate term of 36 years to life in state prison.

[Lodged Doc. 4 at 1-4.]

Johnson appealed to the California Court of Appeal, Third Appellate Division, which affirmed his conviction and sentence in an unpublished opinion on September 27, 2006. [Lodged Doc. 4.] On January 17, 2007, Johnson's petition for review by the California Supreme Court was denied. [Lodged Doc. 6.]

Johnson filed the present petition on February 16, 2007. On June 18, 2007, he filed a document titled "Supplemential [sic] Traverse Motion," which I construe as a supplement or addendum to his petition. Respondent's answer was filed on August 24, 2007. On September 20, 2007, Johnson filed a document titled "Opposition to Respondent[']s Reply for Writ of Habeas Corpus," which I construe as a traverse. On January 9, 2008, Johnson filed a motion to expand the record in this case; the respondents did not oppose this motion, and it was granted by Magistrate Judge Kimberly J. Mueller on May 30, 2008. On June 6, 2008, Johnson filed a document titled "Traverse and Supporting Points and Authorities," which I construe as a supplement or addendum to his traverse filed on September 20, 2007. On December 9, 2008, the case was reassigned to me.

This petition is governed by Title 28, United States Code section 2254, as amended by the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996 (AEDPA). Section 2254(a) provides that a district court may entertain an application for writ of habeas corpus "only on the ground that [the state prisoner] is in custody in violation of the Constitution or laws or treaties of the United States." 28 U.S.C. § 2254(a).

To obtain federal habeas relief, Johnson must satisfy either section 2254(d)(1) or section 2254(d)(2). See Williams v. Taylor, 529 U.S. 362, 403 (2000). As ...


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