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William Thomas Coats v. Mike Mcdonald

April 4, 2011


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Kendall J. Newman United States Magistrate Judge


I. Introduction

Petitioner is a state prisoner proceeding without counsel, with an application for a writ of habeas corpus pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254. Petitioner challenges his 2007 conviction on charges of spousal abuse, criminal threats, and false imprisonment. The jury also found petitioner had sustained three prior strike convictions under California's Three Strikes Law. Petitioner was sentenced to 40 years to life in state prison. Petitioner raises four claims that trial counsel rendered ineffective assistance of counsel in violation of petitioner's Sixth Amendment rights.

After careful review of the record, this court concludes that the petition should be denied.

II. Procedural History

Petitioner was convicted by a jury of the crime of making criminal threats (California Penal Code § 422),*fn1 spousal abuse (California Penal Code § 273.5(a)),*fn2 and false imprisonment (California Penal Code § 236)*fn3 . (Clerk's Transcript ("CT") at 216.) Petitioner was sentenced on December 5, 2007. (CT at 216-17.)

Petitioner timely appealed, and on October 14, 2008, the California Court of Appeal, Third Appellate District, affirmed the judgment. (Respondents' Lodged Document ("LD") 4.) On November 25, 2008, petitioner filed a petition for review in the California Supreme Court. (LD 5.) On January 14, 2009, the California Supreme Court denied the petition for review. (LD 5.) Petitioner filed a petition for a writ of certiorari in the United States Supreme Court, which was denied on October 5, 2009.

On April 1, 2009, petitioner filed a petition for writ of habeas corpus in the California Court of Appeal, Third Appellate District, Case No. 09F02635. (LD 6.) The superior court denied the petition by reasoned opinion issued May 15, 2008. (LD 7.) Petitioner filed a petition for writ of habeas corpus in the California Supreme Court, which was denied without comment on August 19, 2009. (LD 10.)

Petitioner filed the instant petition on April 7, 2009. (Dkt. No. 1.)

III. Facts*fn4

The opinion of the California Court of Appeal contains the following factual summary of petitioner's offenses:

Prosecution case-in-chief

[Petitioner] and the victim, Tammy G., have known each other for 30 years. On New Year's Eve 2006 and in early January 2007, they began a dating relationship that included sexual activity. For two weeks to a month immediately prior to February 19, 2007, they lived together in the Sacramento area.[FN5]

[FN5.] The trial was in Sacramento County. Tammy testified that [petitioner] "recently moved up here." We reject [petitioner's] claim that "[t]he record reflects no evidence at all as to the supposed common dwelling location or type." Tammy's testimony supports an inference that the common dwelling was located in Sacramento County.

On the afternoon of February 19, the couple traveled through Fair Oaks in [petitioner's] car. Tammy was driving and [petitioner] was in the front passenger seat. The couple, who were both from the San Francisco Bay Area, began arguing because [petitioner] wanted Tammy to drive him to Redwood City but she did not want to do so. She testified that he "was acting kind of like a child," and was having "a little tantrum fit." Their argument "got a little bit out of hand," and he hit her "[t]wo times" on the mouth or upper lip. After being struck, she wanted to get out of the car and tried to do so. However, she was unfamiliar with the car and did not know how to unlock the door.

Tammy remembered little about the incident, which had occurred nine months prior to her testimony. She did not recall [petitioner] doing anything to prevent her from unlocking the door. She recalled a male approaching the car window and asking if she needed help. She said, "yes, I need help. Please help me get out of this car." The man tried to open the car but he could not do so. Tammy testified that following the man's attempt, "everything just kind of like went blank." She did not recall other people approaching the car. She did not recall [petitioner] pouring fingernail polish remover and rubbing alcohol on her clothing; nor did she recall telling a police officer that he had done so. She did not remember [petitioner] stating that he "was going to light [her] on fire and kill [her]"; nor did she remember telling an officer that he had said so. However, she did remember that an officer had "forced" her into an ambulance that took her to a hospital where she refused treatment. Shown photographs of her injuries that had been taken shortly after the incident, Tammy testified that, other than "two little tiny cuts" on the top of her lips, the injuries depicted could have been pre-existing because she "was drinking" and thus "fall [s] down a lot."

Sacramento County Sheriff's Deputy Jarred Hailey testified that he responded to a disturbance call and found Tammy in an ambulance with facial injuries. Her face was swollen and bruised, and she was bleeding from her mouth and nose. Hailey questioned Tammy but she was uncooperative and reluctant to answer any of his questions.

Eventually, Tammy told Deputy Hailey that [petitioner] had become very angry when she refused to drive him to Redwood City. As she drove down the street, he poured fingernail polish remover and rubbing alcohol on her clothing and told her he was going to "light her on fire" and "was going to kill her." [Petitioner] ignited a cigarette lighter, lit a piece of paper on fire and threw it in Tammy's direction. After throwing the burning paper, [petitioner] punched Tammy twice to the face and once to the back of the head, causing her to stop the car on the roadway. Several motorists and pedestrians appeared on the scene. Tammy tried to get out of the car but [petitioner] stopped her and held onto her. Eventually, people broke out the passenger window and restrained [petitioner], allowing Tammy to escape.

John Hernandez testified that while he and his family were driving through Fair Oaks, the blue car ahead of them made several stops, reverse moves, and restarts. When Hernandez pulled up alongside the car at a stop sign, he could see [petitioner], who was sitting in the passenger seat, striking Tammy with the closed fist of his right hand, while he held her hair with his left hand. Hernandez parked his car and told his passenger to call "911." Then he approached the passenger side of the blue car and told [petitioner] to open the door; [petitioner] did not respond and just kept on hitting Tammy. He appeared to be hitting her as hard as he could. She was crying and attempting to cover her face. Hernandez heard [petitioner] tell Tammy, "I'm going to kill you."

Hernandez testified that a person from another car approached the driver's side window, tried to open the door, and evidently inquired if Tammy was okay. Hernandez heard Tammy say, "no, I'm not okay. I need help."

Hernandez was convinced that "something was going to happen." He again told [petitioner] to open the door and warned that he would break the window if [petitioner] did not comply. [Petitioner] continued to hit Tammy, so Hernandez retrieved ...

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