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Anthony Jerome Hairston v. K. Harrington

January 18, 2012


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Timothy J Bommer United States Magistrate Judge


Petitioner, Anthony Jerome Hairston, is a state prisoner proceeding, pro se, with a petition for writ of habeas corpus pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254. Petitioner is currently serving a determinate sentence of 13 years in prison after being convicted on three misdemeanor counts of resisting or evading arrest (Cal. Penal Code § 148(a)(1)) and one felony count of making a criminal threat (Id. § 422).*fn1 A sentencing enhancement for the personal use of a firearm was also found to be true (Id. § 12022.5(a)). Petitioner raises five claims in this federal habeas petition; specifically: (1) the evidence adduced at trial was insufficient to support a conviction for making a criminal threat ("Claim I"); (2) the trial court erred in failing, sua sponte, to instruct the jury on the lesser included offense of attempted criminal threat ("Claim II"); (3) the conviction on three counts of evading arrest from the same incident violated Petitioner's rights under the Fourteenth Amendment ("Claim III"); (4) the trial court erred by not staying the imposition of sentence on the second and third evading arrest convictions ("Claim IV"); and, (5) the trial court erred in sentencing Petitioner to the upper term for both the use of a firearm enhancement and criminal threat charge based on aggravating factors not proved to the jury beyond a reasonable doubt ("Claim V"). For the reasons stated herein, the federal habeas petition should be denied.


Braulio Meraz lived in an Oak Park apartment complex with his wife and four children. On February 20, 2007, Meraz was outside in the complex's parking lot talking with a friend who was working on a car. Patrice Watson was also there.

A maroon, four-door sedan pulled into the parking lot, with rap music blaring from inside. Three people exited the car. Defendant, the car's driver, was rapping and singing.FN3 Meraz told his friend that defendant's singing sounded like a song Elmo from Sesame Street had rapped.

FN3. Meraz and Watson both identified defendant at trial as the driver of the car.

Defendant heard Meraz's remark. He asked Meraz if he was trying to be funny. Surprised, Meraz stood back and went about his business. He also replied angrily and called defendant "boy." Watson testified that defendant told Meraz to watch his "M F" mouth, and then words went back and forth.

Defendant and his companions walked up a flight of stairs and into an apartment. Watson stated that before defendant went inside, he broke the window of one of the apartments. Meraz did not see that act or hear any glass breaking.

A man nicknamed "Pumpkin" came out of the upstairs apartment and asked Meraz if the three men had been "tripping" with him.

Pumpkin said he would handle it. Meraz, thinking the incident amounted to nothing, did not respond, and he went back to talking with his friends.

Eventually, defendant and his two companions came out from the apartment. Watson testified that defendant stood at the railing, telling Meraz he did not know who he was messing with. Defendant said he ran Oak Park. As defendant walked down the stairs, he told Meraz, "I've got something for you." Defendant and Meraz renewed their verbal confrontation. Meraz told defendant he was not scared. At the bottom of the stairs, defendant told Watson to tell Meraz he had better respect him.

Meraz testified that he did not hear, or could not recall, any of these statements by defendant. He claimed he did not exchange any words with defendant while defendant was coming down the stairs. He did, however, watch defendant come down the stairs, and he gave defendant "hard looks" while he walked back to his car. His fists may even have been clenched. Meraz was prepared to fight. Defendant and his companions got back into their car. Meraz walked up to the car in an aggressive manner. When he put his hands on the passenger door and looked in, he saw defendant seated in the driver's seat holding a handgun up to his chest. The gun was pointed away from Meraz. Defendant repeatedly asked Meraz, "[I]s there a problem, bitch? Is there a problem bitch? Is there a fucking problem, bitch?" Defendant put his left hand down to the side, pulled out another gun, and handed it to his front-seat passenger. The passenger in the backseat leaned forward and also displayed a gun.

Meraz suddenly felt his life was in danger. He threw up his hands, backed away from the car, and told defendant he did not want any trouble "like that." Meraz backed away as far has he could to a fence. As defendant backed the car up to leave, he and his passengers continued calling Meraz a "bitch" and asking if there was "a fucking problem." Meraz believed they were doing anything they could to get him to respond. Afraid of being shot, Meraz said nothing. He "sort of blacked out to what they were saying" at that time. However, as the car drove away, Meraz heard someone from inside the car say, "[Y]ou better not be here when we get back."

Watson testified she saw defendant point his gun at Meraz as he started to back the car out. At that point, Watson moved away from Meraz. One of the passengers in the car said to her, "[Y]eah, mom, go in the house." Believing the three men "were about to light [Meraz] up," Watson went into her apartment. She told her daughter and niece to take her grandchild into the room and lie down on the floor.

Meraz was able to remember the car's license plate. He ran to his apartment and called 9--1--1. He feared for his life and that of his family, and he believed the men would return to harm them. He told the operator the three men were going to come back because that was what they had said, and he wanted the police to get to the complex quickly in case the men returned.

Approximately 15 minutes after receiving the dispatch based on Meraz's call, Sacramento County Sheriff's Deputy Donny Vettel noticed he was driving behind defendant's car. Defendant pulled into an apartment complex and parked the car. Deputy Vettel activated his lights. Defendant and the rear-seat passenger got out of the car and ran. The deputy yelled at the men to stop, but they ran around a building and out of sight. Deputy Vettel did not pursue them. No one remained in defendant's car.

As Sheriff's Deputy Robert Patton drove past the apartment complex, he saw defendant and another person running through the complex and jumping over a wall surrounding a garbage dumpster. Deputy Patton exited his car, identified himself, and ordered the two men to put their hands over their heads. Defendant and his companion looked at the deputy, jumped back over the wall, and ran through the complex. Deputy Patton ran after them, but when the two men ran in separate directions, the deputy stopped his pursuit.

Sheriff's Deputy Robert White arrived at the complex to assist Deputy Vettel. As Deputy White was driving around the complex, defendant ran towards Deputy White's car. Defendant's right hand was in his pants. Deputy White slammed on his brakes, got out of his car, pointed his gun at defendant, and commanded defendant to stop. Defendant turned, ran away through a parking lot, and ran behind a concrete retaining wall and out of the deputy's sight. Seconds later, defendant ran around the retaining wall and jumped over a fence into a park. Both of defendant's hands were now visible. Deputy White jumped onto the fence, pointed his gun at defendant, and told him to lie down and give up. Defendant did. Deputy White searched ...

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