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Marquiest Leon Murphy v. T. Felker

October 27, 2011

MARQUIEST LEON MURPHY,
PETITIONER,
v.
T. FELKER,
RESPONDENT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: George H. King United States District Judge*fn2

ORDER DENYING (1) PETITION FOR WRIT OF HABEAS CORPUS; AND (2) CERTIFICATE OF APPEALABILITY

On July 27, 2011, we deemed Petitioner's June 9, 2011 Petition to be his First Amended Petition ("FAP"), but stated that it does not supersede his initial Petition. Respondent had previously answered the claims in the initial Petition. In that Order, we directed Respondent to also answer the separate claims set forth in the FAP. Respondent has now done so, and Petitioner has filed his reply. The claims in the initial Petition and the FAP are now ready for decision.

I. Initial Petition

In his initial Petition, Petitioner raised nine claims. Because some of these claims should be grouped for analytical purposes, we rule on them as follows:

A. Insufficiency of the Evidence Claims (Claims One, Two, Seven, and Eight)

Petitioner claims there was insufficient evidence to prove that he was responsible for the shootings, thus undermining the sufficiency of the evidence to support his attempted murder convictions. Moreover, he argues that there was insufficient evidence to support the personal use of a firearm and the great bodily injury enhancements.

Viewing the evidence in the light most favorable to the prosecution, we conclude that a reasonable jury could have found the essential elements of the crime/enhancement beyond a reasonable doubt. Jackson v. Virginia, 443 U.S. 307, 319 (1979). Moreover, we conclude that the state courts' rejection of these claims was neither contrary to, nor involved an unreasonable application of, clearly established federal law, as determined by the Supreme Court, nor was based on an unreasonable determination of the facts in light of the evidence presented. 28 U.S.C. § 2254(d). Accordingly, we conclude that Petitioner is not entitled to habeas relief on Claims One, Two, Seven, and Eight.

B. Improper Admission of Gang Evidence (Claim Three)

Petitioner claims the trial court improperly admitted gang evidence in his trial. We disagree. The evidence that was admitted was relevant at least as to motive. In any event, habeas relief is not available for mere error under state evidence law. To implicate Petitioner's constitutional rights, the admission of the evidence must have so fatally infected the proceedings as to render them fundamentally unfair. Jammal v. Van de Kamp, 926 F.2d 918, 919 (9th Cir. 1991). Given the totality of the evidence at trial, the admission of the gang evidence did not render Petitioner's trial fundamentally unfair. The state courts' rejection of this claim likewise is neither contrary to, nor involved an unreasonable application of, clearly established federal law, as determined by the Supreme Court, nor was based on an unreasonable determination of the facts in light of the evidence presented. 28 U.S.C. § 2254(d). Petitioner is not entitled to habeas relief on Claim Three.

C. Prosecutorial Misconduct (Claims Four, Five, and Six)

Petitioner claims the prosecutor committed misconduct (1) during closing argument, (2) in suggesting that defense counsel had coached a witness,*fn1 and (3) by presenting false testimony. A federal habeas court determines whether there was a violation of due process, not whether any purported misconduct should be corrected under a court's supervisory powers. Darden v. Wainwright, 477 U.S. 168, 181 (1986). Our review is limited to determining whether the prosecutor's conduct so infected the trial with unfairness as to make the resulting conviction a denial of due process. Donnelly v. DeChristoforo, 416 U.S. 637, 643 (1974).

In this case, none of these instances of alleged prosecutorial misconduct comes close to violating Petitioner's due process rights for, among other reasons, those set forth by the State Court of Appeal's decision and the Respondent's Answer. We thus conclude that the state courts' denial of relief is neither contrary to, nor involved an unreasonable application of, clearly established federal law, as determined by the Supreme Court, nor was based on an unreasonable determination of the facts in light of the evidence presented. 28 U.S.C. § 2254(d).

D. Sentencing Error (Claim Nine)

Petitioner claims the trial court erred by imposing an upper term based on facts that were neither found by a jury nor admitted by him. See Cunningham v. California, 549 U.S. 270, 274 (2007). However, the state courts' determination that there was an adequate independent basis for the upper term due to, among other things, the court's finding that Petitioner had suffered numerous prior convictions was neither contrary to, nor involved an unreasonable application of, clearly established federal law, as determined by the Supreme Court, nor was based on an unreasonable ...


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