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Steven Allen Jones v. Mike Mcdonald

March 15, 2012


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


Petitioner, Steven Allen Jones, is a state prisoner proceeding with acounseled petition for writ of habeas corpus pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254. Petitioner is currently serving a sentence of life in prison without the possibility of parole plus 75 years to life in prison after a jury convicted him of first degree murder, attempted murder, robbery, and several related enhancements. Petitioner raises five claims in this federal habeas petition; specifically: (1) his convictions violate due process as they are based on the uncorroborated testimony of an accomplice ("Claim I"); (2) trying Petitioner as the gunman where the state had previously alleged in a separate trial that a different accomplice was the gunman violated due process ("Claim II"); (3) the trial court's admission of evidence of past crimes violated due process ("Claim III"); (4) the trial court violated due process when it instructed the jury that it could find that petitioner fled from the crime and could infer consciousness of guilt from that finding, where the only evidence of flight was the uncorroborated testimony of an accomplice ("Claim IV"); and, (5) his trial counsel was ineffective for failing to object on Confrontation Clause grounds to the introduction of the statements of an accomplice who was tried at a separate trial ("Claim V"). For the reasons stated herein, the federal habeas petition should be denied.


Defendants Steven Allen Jones, Jr. [Petitioner] and David Darrao Jones FN1 appeal from the judgment of conviction after a jury found them guilty in count one of the first degree murder of John Jarvis ( Pen.Code, § 187, subd. (a)), FN2 in count two of the attempted murder of Ian Michael Gonzales (664/187, subd. (a)) and in count three of robbery of both men. (§ 211.) The jury found true as to both defendants the special circumstance that the murder was committed in the commission of a robbery (§ 190.2, subd. (a)(17)) and the sentence enhancement that a principal was armed with a firearm. (§ 12022, subd. (a)(1); Counts 1, 2, and 3.) As to Steven, the jury further found the murder and the attempted murder were willful, deliberate and premeditated (§§ 189/664, subd. (a)), that he personally and intentionally discharged a firearm proximately causing great bodily injury or death to Jarvis and Gonzales (§ 12022 .53, subd. (d); Counts 1, 2 and 3) and personally inflicted great bodily injury on Jarvis and Gonzales. (§ 12022.7, subd. (a); Counts 2, 3.)

FN1. Although defendants have the same family name, they are not related. In the interests of clarity we shall refer to them by their given names. We mean no disrespect.

FN2. All further section references are to the Penal Code unless otherwise specified.

Steven was sentenced to prison for life without the possibility of parole, plus 75 years to life.FN3 David was sentenced to prison for life without the possibility of parole plus 11 years.FN4 . . . .

FN3. Steven was sentenced to prison for life without the possibility of parole for first degree murder (§§ 187, 190.2, subd. (a)(17)), plus a consecutive life term for the attempted murder (§§ 664/187), and three consecutive terms of 25 years to life, one for the robbery (§ 211), one for the section 12022.53, subdivision (d) enhancement associated with count one and one for the section 12022.53, subdivision (d) enhancement associated with count two. The sentences on the remaining enhancements were stayed.

FN4. David was sentenced to prison for life without the possibility of parole for first degree murder (§ 187/190.2, subd. (a)(17)), plus consecutive terms of seven years for attempted murder (§ 187/664, subd. (a)), three years for robbery (§§ 211, subd. (c), 213, subd. (a)(2)), and one year for the arming enhancement on count three. (§ 12022, subd. (a)(1).)


In a nutshell, the murder and attempted murder resulted from a drug deal gone bad. The evidence shows that defendant David agreed to buy four pounds of marijuana from John Jarvis and Ian Michael Gonzales for $12,000. Instead, he stole the marijuana from the back of Jarvis's truck and then jumped into a waiting getaway car occupied by defendant Steven and two other cohorts. Jarvis and Gonzales pursued the getaway car in Jarvis's truck, repeatedly ramming the car, which eventually spun around and knocked the truck into a ditch. After the truck was immobilized, Steven exited the car and shot the two men, killing Jarvis and wounding Gonzales. As both defendants challenge the sufficiency of the evidence in several respects, we set forth the facts in some detail.

The Prosecution's Evidence A. The Trip to Eureka

Leon Flanagan of Richmond met Steven in August or September 2003. Steven was in a rap group and introduced himself to Flanagan as "Steve O." In late September, the two men spoke about driving to Eureka where a well-known Bay Area rapper was performing and Flanagan was planning to perform at an after-party at Club West. They planned to drive to the concert and Flanagan arranged to use his father's green Ford Taurus. His friend, James Gordon, agreed to drive because Flanagan did not have a driver's license.

In the late afternoon on Saturday, November 1, 2003, Flanagan and Gordon drove to Steven's residence and picked him up along with David, who was also a member of Steven's rap group. Gordon was driving, Flanagan was sitting in the front passenger seat, and Steven and David were seated in the back seats. By the time they arrived at Club West in Eureka, they were told it was too late to perform, so the foursome stayed awhile and then checked into a motel for the night.

B. The Marijuana Deal

Gonzales lived in Trinity County and grew and sold marijuana. On November 1, he went with some friends to the rap concert in Eureka. The concert ended around midnight and Gonzales and his friends decided to go to the after-party at Club West. While they were standing in line smoking marijuana, they met a group of three or four African-American men from the Bay Area who were interested in buying about five pounds of marijuana for approximately $15,000. One of them was David, to whom Gonzales spoke to for about an hour outside the club. Before leaving, Gonzales told the men to contact him at his home around noon the following day.

The next morning on November 2, 2003, Gonzales had several telephone conversations with Jarvis who needed money and wanted to sell some marijuana. It was agreed that Jarvis would sell David four pounds of marijuana and that he would receive $11,000 and Gonzales would receive $1,000 or $1,200. The Bay Area men telephoned Gonzales around 10:30 or 11:00 a.m. and told him they had the money, so he arranged to meet them at a rest stop on Highway 299 near Salyer.

Jarvis and his girlfriend, Devon Owen, picked Gonzales up in Jarvis's pick-up truck and headed to the rest area to meet the buyers. The marijuana was in a large garbage bag in the back of Jarvis's truck. Because Jarvis and Gonzales did not know the buyers, it was decided that Gonzales's father, William Thurman, would drive separately to the rest area to monitor the sale. Thurman took a .30-30 deer rifle with him and he and Gonzales took radios to communicate. Thurman arrived at the rest stop, parked his Blazer, and busied himself by making minor repairs on the vehicle while he waited for Jarvis and Gonzales to arrive. Meanwhile, after stopping at a gas station to buy gas, defendants and their two friends decided to take Highway 299 so they could drive Gordon to Vallejo where he lived. They drove for awhile and then stopped at a rest stop in Salyer where they all used the restroom and the telephone. Flanagan wanted to leave but Steven indicated that he was waiting for someone to arrive so he could buy some marijuana. After waiting a few minutes, they started to leave but then saw Gonzales arrive in Jarvis's truck. The two vehicles pulled into adjacent parking spaces, although Gordon backed the Taurus into the space. Jarvis and Owen walked over to the restrooms while Gonzales spoke with David, showed him the marijuana, and smoked some of it with him. David told Gonzales he wanted to go to another location to conduct the transaction because they had been at the rest area too long and Gonzales suggested a secluded road a short distance away.

Gonzales walked over to Jarvis and Owen to tell them about the plan and while they were talking, Owen saw David get out of the Taurus and hesitate. Then she heard several voices coming from the Taurus yelling "Just do it. Go get it. Just do it. Just do. Get it." David walked around the back of the car, grabbed the bag of marijuana from the back of Jarvis's truck, ran back to the Taurus, and entered the passenger side of the car.

Meanwhile, Jarvis and Gonzales ran toward the Taurus, which had began to move. Jarvis grabbed a hold of David's shirt trying to retrieve the marijuana and grabbed onto the door frame as David jumped into the moving car. Hoping to stop the car, Gonzales stepped in the path of the Taurus but moved aside when it became apparent the car was not going to stop. As the Taurus sped up, Jarvis lost his footing and was dragged 10 to 12 feet until the door closed on his hand and he let go and rolled away. The Taurus left the rest area and Jarvis and Gonzales ran to the pickup truck to pursue them and Thurman followed them.

C. The Vehicle Chase

The Taurus and the pick-up truck drove east on Highway 299 and when Jarvis caught up with the Taurus, he rammed the back of it several times hoping to stop the car and retrieve his marijuana. Gordon continued driving and at Steven's direction, turned onto Denny Road where Gonzales signaled them to pull over but Gordon proceeded across a bridge as Jarvis continued ramming the back of the car.

The vehicles drove down Denny Road until they came to a hairpin turn. Steven was holding a gun out the window and had been firing it at Jarvis's truck. The truck rammed the Taurus again, which caused the Taurus to spin around and knock the truck into a ditch. After pulling out of the ditch and hitting the Taurus again, the truck fell back into the ditch and was immobilized. The Taurus stalled and came to a stop about 10 or 12 feet past the truck. While Gordon attempted to restart the car, Steven got out, and retrieved something from the trunk.FN5 He then walked towards the disabled truck, where holding a gun double-handed, fired five shots into the truck, paused and fired another series of shots. He walked briskly back to the car and said "Get me out of here. Get me out of here. Please get me out of here" and Gordon drove back towards the bridge.

FN5. One eyewitness testified that he saw someone holding a pistol outside the rear driver's side window of the Taurus as the Taurus and the truck went by. Another eyewitness testified that she saw an African-American man holding a gun as he exited the back seat of the Taurus on the driver's side.

Gonzales was hit twice in the back but was able to check on Jarvis who was losing consciousness and died within minutes from wounds caused by a single bullet.

Meanwhile, Gonzales radioed his father and told him Jarvis had been killed. He warned Thurman that the Taurus was heading his way. Thurman stopped his Blazer on the other side of the bridge and blocked the road. As the Taurus headed toward him, Steven waived a pistol at Thurman who stood behind the door of his vehicle and fired a bullet through the radiator of the Taurus. Gordon stopped the car and refused to drive any more, so Steven changed places with him, tossing a revolver into the river before getting into the driver's seat. Steven then turned the car around and sped back up Denny Road passing Jarvis's truck and the assembly of people who had gathered to assist Jarvis. About one or two miles up the road, one of the tires blew out and Steven pulled the Taurus into a small turn out on the side of the road.

When Flanagan walked away from the car to make a call from his cell phone, David and Steven pushed the Taurus off a steep embankment and then fled taking the bag of marijuana, which had been in the back seat in their possession. Gordon and Flanagan wandered around the area until 5:40 p.m. when they were picked up and arrested by Trinity County Sheriff's deputies about one mile from the crime scene.

D. The Investigation

A criminalist processed the Taurus for evidence. He collected clothing, cigarette butts, and a sample of fabric from the back seat closer to the driver's side where he observed a red stain.

A few days after the crime, the Trinity County Sheriff's Department recovered the gun that Steven had thrown into the river. It was a .38 caliber Smith and Wesson revolver that held six shells and contained five expended cartridges and one empty cylinder. The ballistic evidence showed the bullet recovered from Jarvis's body was a .38 caliber bullet consistent with the revolver recovered from the river but results from a comparison of the bullet and the weapon were not conclusive.

During a police interview on November 10, 2003, Gonzales identified Gordon and Flanagan from photographic lineups as two of the men in the Taurus.

By the beginning of December, the Sheriff's Department had Steven's and David's first names but were unable to locate them over the next few months. On January 8, 2004, a Richmond police officer spotted David seated in a vehicle. After detaining and searching him, he found 18 clear plastic baggies of marijuana in David's possession. The next day, when Detective Nawrock arrived to take David into custody and explained why he was there, David put his head down and cried.

On July 16, 2004, Flanagan spoke with Detective Nawrock and the prosecuting attorney. At that time, Flanagan identified Steven and David from photographic lineups and told them David had taken the marijuana and Steven was the shooter.

In 2004, Gordon was tried separately and convicted, and Flanagan was charged jointly with Steven and David. On May 3, 2005, Flanagan entered a negotiated plea in which he agreed to plead guilty to voluntary manslaughter and possession of a weapon and receive a sentence of 10 years imprisonment in exchange for his truthful testimony at Steven's and David's trial.

DNA profiles were developed from the items collected from the Taurus, including the red stain on fabric taken from the back seat, a baseball cap, and a head wrap, and ...

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