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Carlos T. Campaz, Jr v. James A. Yates

March 30, 2012




Carlos Campaz, a state prisoner, proceeds pro se with a petition for writ of habeas corpus pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254. Campaz stands convicted of first degree murder in the Sacramento County Superior Court, case number 045F07255, for which he is serving a life sentence in state prison.


The California Court of Appeal, Third District, summarized the evidence adduced at the joint trial of Campaz and his co-defendants, John Douglas White and Robert Moreno Montoya, for the murder of Jerimi Millican, as follows:

On August 5, 2004, around 8:00 a.m., park maintenance workers discovered the victim's body in a restroom at Gardenland Park near Northgate Boulevard in Sacramento. The cause of death was multiple stab wounds; the time of death was estimated at 5:00 a.m. Marie Ceragioli, who was friendly with Campaz and performed home improvement work at White's house, testified that a few days after the killing, she was at a restaurant with Campaz when he admitted his participation. Campaz said, "Doug [White] got me twenty-five to life. I think I'm in some serious trouble, and I'm like what's going on."

Ceragioli testified at trial that Campaz told her the following: White planned to beat the victim "badly" for raping White's sister when White had been too young to do anything about it, and Campaz went to "back him up" to stop anyone from interfering. Campaz and White waited at the park. Montoya brought the victim there on the pretext of a drug buy. They went into the park bathroom, where White started screaming and "just going crazy," "whaling on [the victim] ... in a rage" with two knives, one of which had spikes. Campaz was in shock; he did not expect this and had no idea White had a knife. The victim tried to run out of the bathroom, but Campaz panicked and pushed the victim back in. (Although there was some evidence that Campaz, in recounting the incident to Ceragioli, displayed a stabbing gesture rather than a pushing gesture, the jury found Campaz did not personally use a knife.) The victim fell, and White continued the attack. Campaz told White to stop because the victim was dying. In later conversations with Ceragioli, Campaz changed details, e.g., he said Montoya also stabbed the victim and the planned beating was over drug debts rather than rape. At some point, Campaz and White told Ceragioli they took money and drugs from the victim to make it look like a drug transaction. White threw the weapons in the river. They tried but failed to burn their escape vehicle-a stolen truck in White's possession. (The police found White's blood and the victim's blood in the truck.)

Ceragioli called the crime "tip line," believing she could stay anonymous, but a police detective contacted her. She told the detective on August 20, 2004, that Campaz said the plan was to murder the victim. At the preliminary hearing, Ceragioli said Campaz thought the plan was to beat the victim, not murder him. At trial, Ceragioli said Campaz said the plan was to beat the victim badly enough to hospitalize him.

At trial, Ceragioli was asked about her preliminary hearing testimony, where she said the plan according to Campaz was to "beat" the victim, but she did not say "badly." She testified at trial that the amount of information was overwhelming, and "you guys were very vague at prelim." She said Campaz said the plan was to beat the victim "badly" and "put him in the hospital."

At trial, Ceragioli acknowledged she used methamphetamine during some of the conversations with Campaz and White. She was asked about her preliminary hearing testimony, where at one point she invoked the Fifth Amendment to a question about her own drug use but at another point answered "no" to a question, "have you in fact used methamphetamine yourself." At trial, she said she interpreted this latter question as referring to the specific time of the murder.

Ceragioli did construction work at White's house even after learning of the killing. White said he stepped over the victim to "take a piss," and White bragged about getting an uninvolved acquaintance, Anthony Martinez, to confess on audiotape. Ceragioli testified she felt it was her duty to keep returning to the home of someone she believed to be a killer, because she used to work in the victim witness program in the San Diego District Attorney's office.

Campaz always carried a distinctive Protech pocket knife given to him by Ceragioli. After the killing, he gave it to her, and she turned it over to the police. It had a small pinkish stain, which did not test positive as blood but was more likely rust.

Campaz eventually agreed to turn himself in to the police, and Ceragioli made the call.

In cross-examination of Ceragioli, the Campaz defense elicited that Ceragioli was angry with her ex-lover, Geri Quintana, for supporting Campaz, and left threatening phone messages. Ceragioli received a $500 reward from the police but also had to relocate due to threats she received warning her not to testify against White. Ceragioli admitted prior hospitalizations for mental health problems.

Martinez testified he and others consumed drugs at White's house the night of the killing. Martinez saw the victim leave the house with Montoya; Campaz and White left with them or a few minutes later. Martinez was awakened when the three later returned without the victim. Campaz appeared nervous and scared. White left briefly, and Campaz and Montoya argued over who killed the victim. White returned and said he killed the victim for raping White's sister, and he was going to kill Martinez so he could not snitch. White told Campaz to stab Martinez, but Campaz said no, Martinez was like a brother to him. White held a machete to Martinez's throat and forced him to say, "I killed Jerimi" into a tape recorder.

Michael Gardner testified he was sleeping at White's house the night in question, was awakened and saw White, Campaz and Montoya on the roof, and later overheard a conversation between Campaz and Montoya, in which Gardner believes he heard Montoya say something to the effect "did we hurt him?" or "did we kill him?" After a couple of seconds or minutes, Campaz said something like "keep quiet" or "don't tell [White]."

Timothy Chacon testified White phoned him around 6:00 a.m. on August 5, 2004, needing a ride. White was upset and crying. He said, "I" and "we" "fucked up." Chacon drove to the levee. White got out of the car. Chacon saw a splash in the water. Days later, White was on drugs and said he killed someone who owed money for methamphetamine, but Chacon did not believe him.

In the first trial (wherein Campaz and Montoya were convicted but White's jury deadlocked), White testified in his own defense, in front of all three juries. White denied any animosity toward the victim at the time of the killing. White was previously upset with the victim for failing to return a truck and money borrowed from White. The victim later returned the truck and money, and everything was fine between them. White's sister was raped years earlier, but not by the victim, and White denied accusing the victim of rape.

On August 4, 2004, White spent much of the day consuming marijuana and methamphetamine with Campaz, who arrived already "wired." They continued the party that night with Montoya, the victim, and others. They consumed alcohol and smoked marijuana and methamphetamine. The victim and Montoya borrowed from White a blue pickup truck (stolen by someone else) and went to the park to buy drugs from Montoya's cousin. Later, White and Campaz went to the park in a friend's red pickup truck. They found Montoya and the victim sitting on a bench. White went into the park bathroom to urinate and then joined the others outside. Because it was windy, Montoya, Campaz, and the victim went into the bathroom to smoke some methamphetamine. White stayed outside and smoked marijuana. Campaz came out, saying, "Let's get the fuck out of here." Montoya then came out with a blank look on his face. White looked into the bathroom and saw the victim face down on the ground.

White, Campaz, and Montoya drove in White's truck to the red pickup, but they saw a police car and kept going. Campaz said, "Man we fucked up. We fucked up." They drove to White's house, but the other party people were still there, sleeping, so White had Campaz and Montoya get up on the roof and remove their bloody clothes. White testified he was afraid of Campaz from having been threatened by him several weeks earlier, when White saw Campaz stab a friend, Fernando Perez, for allegedly stealing a Play Station. By now, it was daylight. White called a friend, Tim Chacon, for help. Chacon drove White to the river, where White threw two knives, a wallet, a key ring and a cell phone off a bridge. White wrapped the bloody clothes in a blanket and set fire to it. White testified he told Chacon, "I fucked up" but did not say he hurt anyone.

The next day, White briefly "whal[ed] on" Anthony Martinez over a suspected theft. White said it was Campaz who ordered Martinez to say into a tape recorder operated by White, "I, Anthony Martinez, killed Jerimi Millican at Gardenland Park." White said Ceragioli told him he better not snitch on Campaz. White testified he was afraid of Campaz because White thought Campaz was a member of the Norteno street gang. White admitted to being a Norteno associate while in jail during the trial.

White admitted he lied in his statement to the police.

Tomas Wayne testified he loaned his red pickup truck to his friend, Campaz. Several days after the killing, Wayne discovered his truck near the park and called the Crime Alert tip line. Wayne reported that Montoya said he was being blamed for the killing but all he did was drop the victim off at the park. Wayne previously saw White showing off a knife with spikes.

Campaz did not testify but put on a defense case that included testimony of Dr. John Wicks, an expert in clinical psychology, in an attempt to impeach Ceragioli. Dr. Wicks reviewed Ceragioli's mental health records, which revealed a diagnosis of borderline personality disorder with features consistent with methamphetamine abuse.

Dr. Wicks testified that persons with severe personality disorders tend to have amorphous memories and distort information, particularly when stressed. Threatening phone messages left by Ceragioli are consistent with an ongoing personality disorder. Methamphetamine abuse can also cause brain damage affecting memory function, exacerbating the problems related to the personality disorder.

People v. Campaz, No. L 1680543, 2010 WL 1680543, at 1-4 (Cal. App. 3 Dist. 2010).

Campaz, White, and Montoya were tried jointly to three separate juries. Campaz's jury found him guilty of first degree murder but found "Not True" the two allegations of (1) lying in wait and (2) personally using a deadly and dangerous weapon (a knife). The court sentenced him to an indeterminate term of twenty-five years to life. On appeal, the California Court of Appeal, Third ...

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