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Dwayne Meredith v. Raul Lopez

June 29, 2012



Petitioner, a state prisoner, proceeds pro se with a second amended petition for writ of habeas corpus filed pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254. This matter proceeds before the undersigned pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(c) and the parties' consents, filed on June 18, 2010 and March 9, 2011.


The California Court of Appeal, Third Appellate District, summarized the facts underlying petitioner's criminal convictions in this case:

By the year 2006, Melvin Olsen, aged 93, had lived in a house on T Street in Sacramento for 70 years. He owned and occupied it alone.

In September of that year (all of the events we set forth in this opinion occurred in 2006 unless otherwise stated), Olsen entered a hospital, suffering from dementia and age-related physical problems. In October, he was transfer Before going into the hospital, Olsen asked Wayne W., his accountant and longtime friend, to take care of the house. Olsen did not ask or authorize Wayne W. To sell the house or to remove any personal belongings, According to his son, Olsen was "adamant that all of his things stayed just the way the are" because "he was planning on coming back." To Wayne W.'s knowledge, Olsen kept stock documents, cashier's checks, traveler's checks, and as much as $13,000 in cash in the house.

In keeping with Olsen's wishes, Wayne W. paid the utility bills and property taxes, hired a landscaper to maintain the yard, checked on the house periodically, picked up the mail, took trash cans out to the street, and went in occasionally to spray the air. Whenever he left the house, he locked the doors and secured the windows.

While it is somewhat unclear from the record, on December 26, Olsen may have been taken off life support.

On the morning of December 27, Wayne W. Drove to Olsen's house for the first time in a week; he had probably not been inside for two weeks. He pulled into the driveway, checked the mail, and walked back to his truck. At that point he saw two strangers, a black man and a white man, coming out of the garage. (He identified defendant in court as the black man.) When he asked them their names, they walked away in opposite directions; the white man crossed the front yard and walked down the street, while the black man went around the back. Wayne W. followed the white man, who turned around, got into a nearby parked car (the license plate number of which Wayne W. recorded), and sped off.

Wayne W. called 911, but because the police did not arrive quickly, he drove off looking for the black suspect. He spotted the man jumping a fence while talking on a cell phone, then lost sight of him. Encountering a UC Davis police officer, Wayne W. told him the story. Ultimately, the UC Davis police detained a car and two suspects, including the defendant, whom Wayne W. identified. Accompanying law enforcement into Olsen's house, Wayne W. found the bolts pulled out of the garage door and property strewn all over the inside of the house. When Olsen's son went in, he saw that all the drawers had been dumped out and the locked closets had been broken into. He made a list of missing valuables, including a mink stole, a man's Seiko watch, a string of pearls, silver bars, coins, $15,000 in cash, and firearms.

A criminalist checked the scene for latent prints, but found none. Neighbors reported that they had not seen or heard anything unusual on the morning of the crime.

When defendant was searched after his detention, he was found not to have any items on him from the list of Olsen's son. In addition to methamphetamine, however, the officers found a $100 traveler's check bearing Melvin Olsen's signature in defendant's wallet. According to Wayne W., Olsen had acquired traveler's checks for a trip, but kept the unused ones at home. Olsen's son testified that his father never would have thrown them away. The authorities also found a pen in defendant's jacket labeled "Mel Dor Enterprises," a name which combined the first syllables of Olsen's and his late wife's names; he had kept pens such as those in the house.

On December 31, suffering from pneumonia and having taken an unexpected turn for the worse, Olsen died without ever having returned home.

Defendant did not put on evidence [at trial].

In argument, trial counsel conceded defendant's guilt on count 2 (receiving stolen property) and count 3 (possessing methamphetamine) but disputed count 1 (first degree burglary) on factual and legal grounds. Counsel asserted that the evidence on this count was insufficient: defendant did not possess any stolen property other than that going to count 2; his fingerprints were not found at the scene; and, noting that the neighbors did not notice anything unusual on December 27, argued that others must have invaded the house before that date because so much property was missing. Counsel also asserted that even if defendant entered the house that day and took property, he could not legally have committed first degree burglary because by that time the house was no longer an inhabited dwelling.

People v. Meredith, 174 Cal.App.4th 1257, 1259-1261 (3rd Dist. 2009); Lodged Document (LD) 10 at 5-6.

A jury found petitioner guilty of residential burglary, receiving stolen property, and possession of methamphetamine. In a bifurcated proceeding, petitioner admitted that he had served two prior prison terms and that he had one prior "strike" conviction as alleged for sentence enhancement purposes. The trial court sentenced him to an aggregate state prison term of 15 years. Clerk's Transcript ("CT") at 255.

On December 16, 2008, petitioner, through counsel, filed an opening brief to the California Court of Appeal, Third Appellate District, alleging instructional error and a due process violation for being compelled to stand trial before a jury while wearing identifiable jail clothing. LD 4. The California Court of Appeal, Third Appellate District, affirmed the judgment in a published opinion. LD 10. The California Supreme Court denied a petition for review. LD 14.

In the meantime, petitioner filed a document titled petition for writ of habeas corpus in the California Court of Appeal, Third Appellate District, requesting to have new appellate counsel appointed in his direct appeal and to file a supplemental brief. The state appellate court treated the petition as a motion to discharge counsel and denied it the same day. LD 5. The California Supreme Court denied a petition for review on this issue. LD 7.

Petitioner sought habeas corpus relief in the California Supreme Court, alleging in a single ground for relief that "on three different occasions during trial the fact that petitioner was wearing jailhouse clothing was mentioned." LD 17 at 3, 17. The California Supreme Court denied the petition with citation to In re Waltreus, 62 Cal.2d 218, 225 (1965). LD 18.


I. Standards for a Writ of Habeas Corpus

Federal habeas corpus relief is not available for any claim decided on the merits in state court proceedings unless the state court's adjudication of the claim:

(1) resulted in a decision that was contrary to, or involved an unreasonable application of, clearly established Federal law, as determined by the Supreme Court of the United States; or

(2) resulted in a decision that was based on an unreasonable determination of the facts in light of the evidence ...

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