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Gregory Zielesch v. G.D. Lewis

September 13, 2012


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Craig M. Kellison United States Magistrate Judge


Petitioner, a state prisoner proceeding pro se, brings this petition for a writ of habeas corpus pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254. Pending before the court are petitioner's petition for a writ of habeas corpus (Doc. 1), respondent's answer (Doc. 11), and petitioner's reply (Doc. 17). Also before the court is petitioner's motion for an evidentiary hearing (Doc. 18).


A. Facts*fn1

The state court recited the following facts, and petitioner has not offered any clear and convincing evidence to rebut the presumption that these facts are correct:

On the afternoon of November 17, 2005, Officer Stevens stopped Volarvich on a road outside of Woodland, California. Stevens approached the vehicle, lowered his head towards the driver's side window, and greeted Volarvich with a friendly, "How are you doing today?" Volarvich responded, "Pretty good," then shot Stevens in the face with a Taurus .357 magnum revolver. Death was instantaneous. Stevens collapsed on the side of the road, and Volarvich drove away.

The events that culminated in the murder of Officer Stevens began three days earlier at a motel in Woodland, where Volarvich and his girlfriend, Rebecca Pina, were staying. After a night of using methamphetamine, they failed to check out of the motel at the scheduled time on November 14. Woodland police officers, summoned to evict the holdover tenants, discovered marijuana on Pina and brass knuckles and methamphetamine on Volarvich. The officers arrested Volarvich.

Pina, who had been involved in an intimate relationship with defendant, drove Volarvich's car to defendant's house and asked for help with bail for Volarvich. Defendant reluctantly agreed and ultimately arranged a deal with a local bail bondsman whereby defendant would co-sign for the full amount of the $10,000 bond and pay $300 of the $1,000 bond premium, and Volarvich would pay the remaining $700 after he was released from jail.

When Volarvich was released from jail on November 16, defendant and Pina took Volarvich to defendant's house, where they "got high" on methamphetamine with Lindsey Montgomery, one of Pina's friends.

That afternoon, Volarvich and Pina gave defendant a ride to the Yolo County courthouse, where defendant attended a custody hearing regarding defendant's children with his estranged wife, Michelle. Michelle was living with Doug Shamberger, whom defendant "hated" and considered to be an "asshole." Defendant suspected that both Michelle and Shamberger had burglarized his house; and Shamberger had threatened defendant several times because Michelle paid periodic visits to defendant. In response to these threats, defendant bought a Taurus .357 magnum to protect himself from Shamberger.

On the way back to defendant's house following the custody hearing, defendant told Volarvich that he could "take care of" Shamberger as payment for defendant having bailed Volarvich out of jail. When Volarvich remarked that he "needed a piece," defendant replied he "had that taken care of." Volarvich asked: "[D]o you want Michelle done?" Defendant said no. Upon arriving at the house, the threesome again got high, and defendant gave Volarvich the .357 magnum Taurus revolver and $400 to pick up some more methamphetamine in Roseville.

At this point, Volarvich and Pina got into a heated argument. Volarvich called Montgomery, arranged to go to her house, and left defendant's house alone. He then picked up Montgomery and drove to a hotel in Rocklin. En route, Volarvich told Montgomery that defendant had given him a gun because defendant "wanted [Shamberger] taken out." After checking into a hotel room, Volarvich pulled defendant's gun out of a black bag to show Montgomery and started playing with the revolving chamber. Later that night, Volarvich and Montgomery went to Wal-Mart where Volarvich bought a laser sight. Back at the hotel room, Volarvich unsuccessfully attempted to attach the laser sight to the gun with electrical tape. He then tried to Super Glue the laser sight to the gun; this attempt also failed. Because Volarvich was afraid of sleeping past check-out time and being sent back to jail, he and Montgomery stayed up all night.

After leaving the hotel the morning of November 17, Volarvich and Montgomery went to a friend's house and smoked methamphetamine. They then drove back to Montgomery's house in Woodland. As Volarvich drove across the I-5 causeway, he pulled out the gun and started playing with the revolving chamber, spinning the chamber and loading it with bullets. Afraid she would get in trouble because Volarvich was playing with a gun while they drove down the causeway, Montgomery told him to put the gun down. Volarvich complied, placing it on the driver's side floorboard. They smoked more methamphetamine when they arrived at Montgomery's house.

Meanwhile, Pina was still at defendant's house. Furious that Volarvich had not returned with the methamphetamine he was supposed to buy the night before, defendant hit Pina in the head to rouse her from sleep and yelled that, because of her, Volarvich did not come back and that defendant "was out $400 plus the money for the bail bondsman." Unable to connect with Volarvich through his cell phone, Pina called Montgomery, told her that defendant had hit her because Volarvich had not returned, and asked if she had heard from him. Montgomery told Pina that she would "try to get a hold of him." At Montgomery's request, Volarvich called Pina and told her that he was on his way to pick her up.

When Volarvich left Montgomery's house, he was "upset" that defendant had hit Pina. Volarvich brought the gun with him because "he was worried that it was going to be a setup" and he did not want to go back to jail. According to Montgomery, Volarvich believed that either defendant or the bail bondsman was setting him up because he had taken defendant's $400 without returning with the methamphetamine and had not met with the bail bondsman the day before to sigh the bond paperwork.

Apparently on his way to defendant's house to pick up Pina, Volarvich used defendant's .357 magnum revolver to shoot and kill Officer Stevens, after Volarvich was pulled over by Stevens.

After the shooting, Volarvich called Montgomery, said that he "fucked up," asked if she could hear sirens, but hung up the phone before explaining further. When Volarvich called Montgomery back, he asked her to pick him up on El Dorado Drive. She agreed, borrowed a friend's car, and found Volarvich standing behind his car holding the license plate. Volarvich and Montgomery then switched cars and drove a short distance to Delta Drive, where they left Volarvich's car and returned to Montgomery's house. On the way to the house, Montgomery noticed that the black bag which had contained the gun was missing. When she asked Volarvich what had happened to it, he explained that he "had to get rid of the gun" and buried it near County Road 96 and County Road 24, which is precisely where the gun was found the next day. Montgomery also overheard Volarvich on the phone telling his mother that he had "shot the cop" but "didn't know if he was serious or not" and thought that "he was just tweaking." Volarvich then called two friends and secured a ride from Woodland to Roseville. During the drive, Volarvich again said he "had shot a cop," and added he did so because "he didn't want to go to jail."

When defendant told Pina an officer had been shot, she turned on the television and saw the news broadcast about the killing. She asked whether he had given Volarvich his gun. Defendant replied that Volarvich's "mentality was there."

Meanwhile, Montgomery received a call from Volarvich telling her to buy window decals to disguise his car. Acceding to Volarvich's request, Montgomery bought decals and window tinting from Wal-Mart, returned to Delta Drive to retrieve the car, and reattached the license plate that Volarvich had apparently removed. After receiving another call from Volarvich informing her where to meet him, Montgomery drove Volarvich's car back to the hotel in Rocklin. There, Volarvich confessed to Montgomery, explaining that when he was pulled over by Officer Stevens, "he just turned and shot him." According to Volarvich, he was "scared" because he "didn't want to go to jail" and believed that being pulled over was part of a set-up orchestrated by the bail bondsman.

Volarvich and Montgomery were arrested at the hotel during the early morning hours of November 18, the same day that defendant was arrested after his house was searched and officers discovered a rifle, methamphetamine, and drug paraphernalia. During questioning, defendant confirmed the antagonistic relationship between himself and Shamberger, and admitted that he had purchased the Taurus .357 magnum revolver in order to protect himself from Shamberger. But he denied asking Volarvich to kill Shamberger and denied giving Volarvich the gun that killed Officer Stevens. According to his version of events, defendant merely showed Volarvich the gun the night before the shooting and discovered that it was missing the next morning.

B. Procedural History

Petitioner was convicted of the first degree murder of Officer Stevens, conspiracy to commit the murder of Doug Shamberger, five counts of possession of a firearm by a felon, two counts of possession of methamphetamine, and unlawful possession of ammunition. The jury also found true that petitioner was on bail for a pending felony charge at the time of the crimes, and that he was arrested with a firearm during the commission of the crimes. Petitioner was sentenced to 50 years to life, plus seven years, with the possibility of parole. The conviction and sentence were affirmed on direct appeal and ...

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