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Leobardo C. Campos Jr v. Darrell Adams

September 6, 2012


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Alex Kozinski Chief Circuit Judge Sitting by designation


A jury convicted Leobardo Campos Jr. of first-degree murder and assault with a firearm. Campos petitions for a writ of habeas corpus under 28 U.S.C. § 2254, claiming that (1) the jury instructions were inadequate, (2) his Batson motion was erroneously denied, (3) his sentence violates the Eighth Amendment and (4) his trial counsel rendered ineffective assistance.


A love triangle, a truck stop and three guns-what could possibly go wrong? Leobardo Campos loved the mother of his child, Sabrina Gutierrez, but she loved another man, Edward Sanchez. One night, Campos drove to the truck stop where both Sabrina and Edward worked. After a heated conversation with Sabrina, Campos pulled out a gun and walked toward Edward, who was also armed.

What happened next is unclear. Campos claims he obeyed Edward's order to drop his gun, and that shortly after doing so, Terrill Ingwersen, an off-duty corrections officer, began firing at Edward. Although we don't know who fired first, it's clear that all three men fired and that Edward died from two gunshot wounds, one inflicted by Campos and one by Terrill. Either shot would have been independently fatal.

A jury convicted Campos of first-degree murder and assault with a firearm. On direct appeal, Campos claimed that the jury instructions were invalid, the trial court erroneously denied his Batson motion*fn1 and his sentence was cruel and unusual. The Court of Appeal affirmed, and the California Supreme Court denied review. After his direct appeals failed, Campos filed original habeas petitions in the California trial, appellate and supreme courts alleging ineffective assistance of trial counsel. All three courts denied his petition. He then sought federal habeas review.


This petition is governed by the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act (AEDPA). 28 U.S.C. § 2254. Under AEDPA, a federal court can't grant habeas relief unless the state court's adjudication "resulted in a decision that was contrary to, or involved an unreasonable application of" clearly established Supreme Court precedent, or "resulted in a decision that was based on an unreasonable determination of the facts in light of the evidence presented in the State court proceeding." Id. § 2254(d)(1), (2).

We can't issue the writ simply because we conclude the state court "applied clearly established federal law erroneously or incorrectly. Rather, that application must also be unreasonable." Williams v. Taylor, 529 U.S. 362, 411 (2000). We defer to the state courts even if they don't cite Supreme Court decisions, and even if they're unaware of them. Early v. Packer, 537 U.S. 3, 8 (2002) (per curiam). "[S]o long as neither the reasoning nor the result of the state-court decision contradicts" Supreme Court precedent, the state court decision is not unreasonable. Id. Finally, we may not grant relief unless the state court's constitutional error had a "substantial and injurious effect or influence in determining the jury's verdict." Brecht v. Abrahamson, 507 U.S. 619, 637 (1993) (internal quotation marks omitted).

I. Claims on Direct Appeal

Except for his ineffective assistance claim, Campos raised all of his federal claims on direct appeal. "In determining whether a state court decision is contrary to federal law, we look to the state's last reasoned decision," which in this case was the Court of Appeal's decision. Avila v. Galaza, 297 F.3d 911, 918 (9th Cir. 2002); see also Ylst v. Nunnemaker, 501 U.S. 797, 803 (1991).

A. Jury Instructions

Campos argues that the jury instructions at his trial were deficient. He claims that Edward's death was not a reasonably foreseeable consequence of his actions because any events that happened after he dropped his gun were traceable not to him, but to the off-duty corrections officer, Terrill. Therefore, the trial court should have instructed the jury on intervening and superseding causes sua sponte.

Habeas relief on claims of invalid jury instructions is reserved for those cases where "the ailing instruction by itself so infected the entire trial that the resulting conviction violates due process." Cupp v. Naughten, 414 U.S. 141, 147 (1973); see also Waddington v. Sarausad, 555 U.S. 179, 191 (2009). This is not one of those cases. The trial judge used California's model jury instruction and explained, "When the conduct of two or more persons contributes concurrently as a cause of the death, the conduct of each is a cause of death if that conduct was also a substantial factor contributing to the result." Rep.'s Tr. on Appeal 890--91 (using 1 Cal. Jury Instructions, Criminal 3.41 (6th ed. 1996)). Even without an explicit explanation of intervening or superseding causation, this instruction was sufficient to inform the jury of the relevant California law. See People v. Fiu, 81 Cal. Rptr. 3d 32, 41 (Cal. Ct. App. 2008). But the judge also went beyond the model instruction, stating, ...

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