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Felipe Garcia v. R.J. Subia

March 28, 2011

FELIPE GARCIA,
PETITIONER,
v.
R.J. SUBIA, WARDEN,
RESPONDENT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: John A. Houston United States District Judge

ORDER OVERRULING PETITIONER'S OBJECTIONS; ADOPTING THE MAGISTRATE JUDGE'S REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION; DENYING PETITION FOR WRIT OF HABEAS CORPUS IN ITS ENTIRETY; AND DENYING A CERTIFICATE OF APPEALABILITY INTRODUCTION

Petitioner Felipe Garcia ("Garcia" or "petitioner"), a state prisoner proceeding pro se, filed a petition for writ of habeas corpus pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254, challenging his conviction in state court following a jury trial. After the petition was fully briefed by the parties, the Honorable Peter C. Lewis, United States Magistrate Judge, issued a report and recommendation ("report") recommending that the petition be denied in its entirety. Petitioner filed objections to the report. After careful consideration of the entire record in this matter, and for the reasons set forth below, this Court ADOPTS the report and recommendation, DENIES the petition in its entirety, and DENIES a certificate of appealability.

BACKGROUND

1. Factual Background

The magistrate judge, in the report, detailed the factual history of this case as presented by the state court in its denial of petitioner's writ of habeas corpus, correctly noting that the state court's factual determinations are presumed correct absent clear and convincing evidence rebutting the presumption.*fn1 See Doc. # 16 at 2 (citing 28 U.S.C. § 2254(e)(1)). The facts presented in the report are as follows:

The prosecution's evidence at trial established that in January 2002, while Garcia was in Fidel Mora's apartment with Mora, Marcos Garcia (Marcos) and Macio Watts, Garcia pulled out a gun and ordered Marcos to tie up Watts with a lamp cord. Garcia then took Watts's car keys and drove off in Watts's car. Before leaving, Garcia took the phone from the apartment and threatened to hurt anyone who called the police. Watts later recovered his car with several items missing from it. Mora, Marcos and Watts testified at trial and identified Garcia as the perpetrator. The jury convicted Garcia of carjacking and first degree robbery.

Id. (quoting Supp. Lodgment 8 at 2-3). An earlier jury had already found petitioner guilty of similar charges during proceedings conducted prior to the appeal at issue here. Id. Petitioner's trial was originally set to begin on August 12, 2002, but petitioner submitted a letter to the trial court seeking to represent himself at trial. Id. Petitioner also filed a motion to disqualify the judge, which was granted. Id. The trial began on September 10, 2002, despite the fact that petitioner's request to represent himself was never ruled upon. Id. Petitioner was convicted and subsequently sentenced to twenty-two years in prison. Id.

Petitioner appealed his conviction and sentence to the California Court of Appeal based on his unresolved request to represent himself at trial. Id. The Court of Appeal reversed the judgment, remanding the case back to the trial court "'for a hearing on whether Garcia is competent to represent himself and knowingly wishes to do so.'" Id. (quoting Supp. Lodgment 8 at 6). The Court of Appeal further instructed that "'[i]f the court finds [Garcia] is competent to represent himself, it shall hold a new trial. If the court finds [he] is not competent to represent himself or knowingly chooses not to do so, the jury verdict and sentence will take effect.'" Id.

Petitioner chose to represent himself at his new trial and was assisted by a privately retained co-counsel. Id. at 3. After a jury was impaneled and just prior to the start of trial proceedings, petitioner was assaulted in jail, suffering serious injuries that included a shattered jaw, a broken collar bone, along with injury to his back and eyes. Id. Petitioner claimed that the injuries impaired his memory and ability to focus. Id. Due to these injuries, the jury panel was dismissed and the trial date was continued. Id. The trial court subsequently held two lengthy hearings in order to determine whether petitioner would continue to represent himself in light of the injuries. Id.

The Court of Appeal found the trial court, during these hearings, "made it unequivocally clear that it was Garcia's choice whether to represent himself at trial" based on the fact that it was clear "[t]he trial court viewed Garcia's recent injuries as a new circumstance to be dealt with by giving Garcia the right to elect whether to continue with self-representation." Id. (quoting Supp. Lodgment 8 at 3-4). Thereafter, petitioner chose to continue to represent himself at trial.

Petitioner was dressed in civilian clothes and not restrained during trial. Id. Prior to petitioner's injuries, the trial court asked petitioner whether he would like the court to instruct the jury to not draw inferences regarding petitioner's custodial status since there was a possibility the jurors might glimpse petitioner while he was being transported to and from court. Id. Petitioner declined such an instruction. After the trial resumed, the issue was again addressed by the court but petitioner did not request an instruction at that time either. Id. During trial, petitioner pointed out to the court that jurors had seen him in shackles on two separate occasions but did not request an instruction regarding his custodial status in response to these incidents. Id. //

The jury ultimately found petitioner guilty of carjacking and robbery and petitioner was sentenced to prison for eighteen years. Id. at 4. The magistrate judge also noted that petitioner raised concerns regarding "problems with the deputy sheriffs" at his sentencing hearing. Id.

2. Procedural History

Petitioner appealed his convictions to the California Court of Appeal. The Court of Appeal affirmed the convictions on August 31, 2006. Petitioner then filed two separate petitions for review before the California Supreme ...


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