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Ronaldo Medrano Ayala v. Michael Martel

March 12, 2012


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Barry Ted Moskowitz, Chief Judge United States District Court


Petitioner and Respondent have filed cross-motions for summary judgment as to Claim 76 of the Third Amended Petition for Writ of Habeas Corpus (the "Third Amended Petition"). For the reasons discussed below, Petitioner's motion is DENIED and Respondent's motion is GRANTED.


On April 29, 2011, Petitioner filed his Third Amended Petition, which added Claim 76. In Claim 76, which is based on testimony and other evidence from the evidentiary hearing, Petitioner alleges that the prosecution violated his constitutional rights by failing to disclose consideration given to prosecution witness Juan Meza and by failing to correct Meza's false trial testimony on this topic.

At the trial in 1988, Meza explained that in 1987, he was arrested for possession for sale of cocaine and other criminal violations. (RT 14623-31.) On March 24, 1987, Meza entered a plea of guilty to possession of cocaine for sale. (RT 14631.) In exchange for the guilty plea, the District Attorney's office dismissed the remaining charges and another pending case and agreed that the sentence in that case would run concurrently with the sentences in two probation violation cases. (RT 14623-28.) Under the plea agreement, Meza's maximum exposure was four years in state prison. (RT 14582.)

Prior to sentencing on the possession for sale conviction but after entering into the plea agreement, Meza spoke with the District Attorney's Office regarding his knowledge of Petitioner's involvement in the murders. (RT 1463.) Meza and the District Attorney's Office entered into an agreement regarding Meza's cooperation in connection with the investigation and prosecution of Petitioner. (RT 14637-40.)

At trial, Meza explained that in exchange for his cooperation, the District Attorney's Office agreed that after Meza testified at trial, they would seek his release under Cal. Penal Code § 1170(d). (RT 14638-39.) Meza testified that there was no promise that he would absolutely be released. (RT 14420). Meza recalled that Gloria Michaels from the District Attorney's Office attended the sentencing hearing in July 1987, and that he was sentenced under § 1170(d). (RT 14633.)

Meza testified that he understood that he was also going to get "witness protection benefits" for himself and his family in exchange for his cooperation. (RT 14639, 14419.) He also confirmed that his agreement with the District Attorney's Office provided that Meza's testimony would not be used against him in the course of any criminal action. (RT 14421.)

The written agreement between Meza and the District Attorney's Office was entered into evidence at trial. (RT 14420.) The written agreement with the District Attorney's Office is dated August 1, 1988, and provides that Meza is obligated to provide true information to law enforcement officers and testify fully and truthfully during court proceedings. (Pet. EH Ex. 327.) The agreement explains that Meza has "use and derivative use immunity," meaning that "nothing which Juan Manuel Meza says pursuant to this agreement can be used against him and nothing which is derived from information and testimony which he has provided can be used against him." The agreement also provides that Meza and his wife will receive witness protection benefits. With respect to Meza's prison sentence, the agreement provides that the District Attorney's Office will ensure that Meza serves his prison sentence in a specified institution where reasonable measures can be taken to provide for his safety and that the District Attorney's Office will seek application to modify Meza's sentence for early release on parole immediately following his testimony.

At the evidentiary hearing in June, 2010, Meza testified that he had been given assurances from an unidentified person(s) that he would be released right after his testimony. (EHT 1971). He understood that after he testified, the District Attorney's Office would file a petition under Cal. Penal Code § 1170(d), the judge would recall his sentence, and he would be released. (EHT 1900, 1916).

At the evidentiary hearing, Meza also testified that he believed his immunity extended to any offenses he had committed while incarcerated at the CDC: "That's why I asked for the immunity, you know, just in case an old case or an old assault or a stabbing, whatever I did in the past, they wouldn't come back and recharge me for it." (EHT 1965.) Meza testified that Agent DeLaTorre with the SSU, along with Gloria Michaels and investigator Michael Rolan, came to talk to him in July of 1987. (EHT 1895-99.) Meza confirmed that DeLaTorre wanted to talk to him about CDC activities and testified that he believed that if anything "came up" while he was talking to DeLaTorre, he wouldn't be charged with those crimes. (EHT 1901.)


In Claim 76, which is based on Meza's testimony and other evidence presented at the evidentiary hearing, Petitioner claims that the prosecution violated his constitutional rights, including his rights under the Fifth, Sixth, Eighth, and Fourteenth Amendments, by failing to disclose that (1) Meza was an opportunistic killer who likely killed in prison but nonetheless received a "free pass" for any and all criminal offenses committed while in the custody of the CDC; (2) Meza was essentially guaranteed an immediate release after he testified against Petitioner, and the process to release him was set in motion a year prior to his testimony; (3) the prosecution had files, redacted immunity agreements, debriefing files and memoranda of the efforts taken to effectuate Meza's near immediate release; and (4) Meza had meetings with California Department of Corrections' SSU agent ...

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