IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT FOR THE EASTERN DISTRICT OF CALIFORNIA
September 26, 2012
CANDICE LEWIS, PETITIONER,
WALTER MILLER, RESPONDENT.
FINDINGS AND RECOMMENDATIONS
Petitioner is a state prisoner proceeding through counsel with an application for a writ of habeas corpus pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254. She challenges a 2008 judgment of conviction entered against her in the Sacramento Superior Court on charges of first degree murder with the special circumstance that the murder was committed during the course of a robbery; second degree robbery; attempted use of a forged access card; and use on four occasions of a forged access card. She seeks relief on the grounds that: (1) her Fourteenth Amendment right to due process was violated by the admission into evidence of her statements to police; (2) the admission into evidence of statements by her co-defendant's brother violated her Sixth Amendment right to confrontation of the witnesses against her; (3) her sentence constitutes cruel and unusual punishment; (4) her trial and appellate counsel rendered ineffective assistance; and (5) the cumulative effect of errors at her trial violated her right to due process.
Upon careful consideration of the record and the applicable law, the undersigned recommends that petitioner's application for habeas corpus relief be denied.
I. Factual Background*fn1
Defendant Candice Lewis and co-defendant Eric Ramsey lured a 62-year-old victim to an area where they robbed him of his money and car and killed him by either strangling him or running him over with his car. They then used or attempted to use his credit card at various locations. Tried in front of dual juries, defendant and Ramsey were found guilty of first degree murder, second degree robbery, attempted use of a forged access card, and use on four occasions of a forged access card.*fn2 Defendant's jury found a felony-murder special circumstance to be true.
Sentenced to prison for 25 years to life, defendant appeals.*fn3 She contends the court should have excluded her statements during an initial interview with police as well as her statements thereafter, that is, statements made during a recorded conversation with Ramsey at the police station, their joint interview with the police, and their interview with the police at the crime scene. She claims that in the initial interview with the police, she did not voluntarily waive her rights pursuant to Miranda v. Arizona (1966) 384 U.S. 436. She also claims that her statements were involuntary. We reject her claims and affirm the judgment.
FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND
On August 31, 2006, Detective Michael Lange interviewed defendant at the police station. The interview was recorded and shows the following: Defendant, who is young and pregnant, waits in a room for about an hour before the interview begins.*fn4 About 40 minutes into her wait, she is upset and knocks on the door. She wants to see a nurse, complaining that the baby is kicking. She explains the baby kicks when she feels stress. The detective lets her leave the room to walk around. She returns a short time later and says she is better. Defendant asks if the detective has spoken with her mother.
The detective responds that he had spoken with defendant's mother, that she knew that defendant was at the police station, and that she went to church but planned to return. Defendant did not ask to see or talk to her mother and responded, "Okay," to the detective's explanation. The detective then returns to start the interview. He states, "I have to read you your rights since you're down here at the police station." "I'm gonna read those rights to you and then we can -- and move on and talk." Defendant [sic] then reads defendant her rights pursuant to Miranda. Defendant responds "Un-huh" or nods affirmatively after each right. More than an hour into the interview, during which defendant is caught in one lie after another and confesses to the crimes, she asks if she is going to be able to talk to her mother. The detective responds that defendant's mother plans to call when she is finished at church. Defendant responds, "Oh, she's still in church?" The detective states that defendant's mother planned to call and he needed to leave to check his messages. Defendant states, "Okay." The detective returned and informed defendant that he and defendant's mother had traded messages. The detective then brings up an allusion defendant had made earlier that it was Ramsey's plan to rob the victim. Defendant states that while Ramsey mentioned such a plan, he never told her the details, and she assumed it was just talk. The detective then tells her that Ramsey told another officer she was the mastermind. The detective then tells defendant to think about that while he leaves the room to respond to a call from defendant's mother. He steps into the hall. When he returns, he tells defendant that her mother is concerned about defendant and the baby. The officer reiterates that Ramsey is "putting most of this on you." Defendant denies it was her idea. At the end of the interview, the detective has defendant write a letter of apology to the victim's family. Defendant asks if her mother was coming to the police station. The detective responds that defendant's mother will not be coming immediately but "know[s] what's going on." Defendant responds, "Okay." Apparently, while defendant was being interviewed by Detective Lange, Ramsey was interviewed by Detective Pat Higgins. After their individual interviews, defendant and Ramsey were interviewed together. Later, they sat together in the interview room with the tape running unbeknownst to them. Subsequently, they led the detectives to the crime scene where the interviews continued. Defendant was then transported to juvenile hall.
Prior to trial, defendant filed an in limine motion "to not allow [defendant]' s statement to law enforcement and all fruits of the statement."
After a hearing, the court found defendant understood her Miranda rights and waived them. The court therefore denied defendant's motion to suppress the statements.
Dckt. 19-1 at 2-5.
II. Procedural Background
After the California Court of Appeal affirmed her judgment of conviction, petitioner filed a petition for review in the California Supreme Court. Resp.'s Lodg. Doc. 5. Therein, she claimed that the trial court erred in denying her motion to suppress her statements to police. Id. On November 19, 2009, that petition was summarily denied. Resp.'s Lodg. Doc. 6.
On February 18, 2010, petitioner, proceeding in pro per, filed a petition for writ of habeas corpus in the Sacramento County Superior Court (Case No. 10F01060), claiming that the trial court improperly denied her motion to suppress her statements to police; and that the combination of her trial counsel's ineffective assistance, "cumulative error," and "prejudicial error by the court" violated her right to due process.*fn5 Resp.'s Lodg. Doc. 7. By order dated April 6, 2010, the Superior Court denied that petition on the grounds that petitioner's claim regarding her statements to police had been raised and rejected on appeal, and her claim of ineffective assistance of counsel was unsupported by any specific factual allegations. Resp.'s Lodg. Doc. 8.
On February 3, 2011, petitioner, now proceeding through counsel, filed another petition for writ of habeas corpus in the Sacramento County Superior Court (Case No. 11F00682). Resp.'s Lodg. Doc. 9. Therein, she claimed that: (1) the admission into evidence of statements by her co-defendant's brother violated her Sixth Amendment right to confrontation of the witnesses against her; (2) her sentence constitutes cruel and unusual punishment, in violation of the Eighth Amendment; (3) her trial and appellate counsel rendered ineffective assistance; and (4) the cumulative effect of the errors at her trial violated her Fourteenth Amendment right to due process. Id. By order dated March 7, 2011, the Superior Court denied that petition on the grounds that it was an impermissible successive petition, that it was untimely, that it sought to raise issues which could and should have been raised on appeal, and that the claims contained therein lacked merit in any event. Resp.'s Lodg. Doc. 10.
Petitioner subsequently filed a petition for writ of habeas corpus in the California Court of Appeal, raising the same four claims that she raised in her second habeas petition filed in the Superior Court. Dckt. 14-1 at 2-52. By order dated May 12, 2011, the Court of Appeal summarily denied that petition "on the merits," without issuing an order to show cause. Dckt. 14-2. On May 18, 2011, petitioner filed a petition for review in the California Supreme Court, raising the same four claims. Dckt. 14-3. The Supreme Court ordered respondent to file an answer to the petition, in which he should address:
Whether petitioner established a prima facie case for relief, such that this court should grant the petition for review, and transfer the matter to the Court of Appeal with instructions to issue an order to show cause.
Resp.'s Lodg. Doc. 17, at 1. After respondent filed his answer, the California Supreme Court summarily denied the petition for review. Id. at 2.
Petitioner commenced the instant action by filing a petition for writ of habeas corpus in this court on February 14, 2011.
III. Standards for a Writ of Habeas Corpus
An application for a writ of habeas corpus by a person in custody under a judgment of a state court can be granted only for violations of the Constitution or laws of the United States. 28 U.S.C. § 2254(a). A federal writ is not available for alleged error in the interpretation or application of state law. See Wilson v. Corcoran, 562 U.S.___, ___, 131 S. Ct. 13, 16 (2010); Estelle v. McGuire, 502 U.S. 62, 67-68 (1991); Park v. California, 202 F.3d 1146, 1149 (9th Cir. 2000).
Title 28 U.S.C. § 2254(d) sets forth the following standards for granting federal habeas corpus relief:
An application for a writ of habeas corpus on behalf of a person in custody pursuant to the judgment of a State court shall not be granted with respect to any claim that was adjudicated on the merits in State court proceedings unless the 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 presented in the State court proceeding.
For purposes of applying § 2254(d)(1), "clearly established federal law" consists of holdings of the United States Supreme Court at the time of the state court decision. Stanley v. Cullen, 633 F.3d 852, 859 (9th Cir. 2011) (citing Williams v. Taylor, 529 U.S. 362, 405-06 (2000)). Nonetheless, "circuit court precedent may be persuasive in determining what law is clearly established and whether a state court applied that law unreasonably." Stanley, 633 F.3d at 859 (quoting Maxwell v. Roe, 606 F.3d 561, 567 (9th Cir. 2010)).
A state court decision is "contrary to" clearly established federal law if it applies a rule contradicting a holding of the Supreme Court or reaches a result different from Supreme Court precedent on "materially indistinguishable" facts. Price v. Vincent, 538 U.S. 634, 640 (2003). Under the "unreasonable application" clause of § 2254(d)(1), a federal habeas court may grant the writ if the state court identifies the correct governing legal principle from the Supreme Court's decisions, but unreasonably applies that principle to the facts of the prisoner's case.*fn6
Lockyer v. Andrade, 538 U.S. 63, 75 (2003); Williams, 529 U.S. at 413; Chia v. Cambra, 360 F.3d 997, 1002 (9th Cir. 2004). In this regard, a federal habeas court "may not issue the writ simply because that court concludes in its independent judgment that the relevant state-court decision applied clearly established federal law erroneously or incorrectly. Rather, that application must also be unreasonable." Williams, 529 U.S. at 412. See also Schriro v. Landrigan, 550 U.S. 465, 473 (2007); Lockyer, 538 U.S. at 75 (it is "not enough that a federal habeas court, in its independent review of the legal question, is left with a 'firm conviction' that the state court was 'erroneous.'"). "A state court's determination that a claim lacks merit precludes federal habeas relief so long as 'fairminded jurists could disagree' on the correctness of the state court's decision." Harrington v. Richter, 562 U.S.___,___,131 S. Ct. 770, 786 (2011) (quoting Yarborough v. Alvarado, 541 U.S. 652, 664 (2004)). Accordingly, "[a]s a condition for obtaining habeas corpus from a federal court, a state prisoner must show that the state court's ruling on the claim being presented in federal court was so lacking in justification that there was an error well understood and comprehended in existing law beyond any possibility for fairminded disagreement." Harrington,131 S. Ct. at 786-87.
If the state court's decision does not meet the criteria set forth in § 2254(d), a reviewing court must conduct a de novo review of a habeas petitioner's claims. Delgadillo v. Woodford, 527 F.3d 919, 925 (9th Cir. 2008); see also Frantz v. Hazey, 533 F.3d 724, 735 (9th Cir. 2008) (en banc) ("[I]t is now clear both that we may not grant habeas relief simply because of § 2254(d)(1) error and that, if there is such error, we must decide the habeas petition by considering de novo the constitutional issues raised.").
The court looks to the last reasoned state court decision as the basis for the state court judgment. Stanley, 633 F.3d at 859; Robinson v. Ignacio, 360 F.3d 1044, 1055 (9th Cir. 2004). If the last reasoned state court decision adopts or substantially incorporates the reasoning from a previous state court decision, this court may consider both decisions to ascertain the reasoning of the last decision. Edwards v. Lamarque, 475 F.3d 1121, 1126 (9th Cir. 2007) (en banc). "When a federal claim has been presented to a state court and the state court has denied relief, it may be presumed that the state court adjudicated the claim on the merits in the absence of any indication or state-law procedural principles to the contrary." Harrington, 131 S. Ct. at 784-85. This presumption may be overcome by a showing that "there is reason to think some other explanation for the state court's decision is more likely." Id. at 785 (citing Ylst v. Nunnemaker, 501 U.S. 797, 803 (1991)). Where the state court reaches a decision on the merits but provides no reasoning to support its conclusion, a federal habeas court independently reviews the record to determine whether habeas corpus relief is available under § 2254(d). Stanley, 633 F.3d at 860; Himes v. Thompson, 336 F.3d 848, 853 (9th Cir. 2003). "Independent review of the record is not de novo review of the constitutional issue, but rather, the only method by which we can determine whether a silent state court decision is objectively unreasonable." Himes, 336 F.3d at 853. Where no reasoned decision is available, the habeas petitioner still has the burden of "showing there was no reasonable basis for the state court to deny relief." Harrington, 131 S. Ct. at 784.
When it is clear, however, that a state court has not reached the merits of a petitioner's claim, the deferential standard set forth in 28 U.S.C. § 2254(d) does not apply and a federal habeas court must review the claim de novo. Stanley, 633 F.3d at 860; Reynoso v. Giurbino, 462 F.3d 1099, 1109 (9th Cir. 2006); Nulph v. Cook, 333 F.3d 1052, 1056 (9th Cir. 2003).*fn7
IV. Petitioner's Claims
A. Admissibility of Petitioner's Statements to Police
In petitioner's first ground for relief, she claims that her confession to police was involuntary.*fn8 Dckt. 2-1 at 8 (Pet.). She notes that at the time she was interrogated she was 16 years old and five months pregnant. Id. She argues that "no juvenile at that age has a grasp of the significance of his or her actions," and states that she herself did not fully understand her predicament. Id. at 10. She notes that during the course of the police interview she appeared to be in pain, especially prior to the interrogation when she was left alone in the room. Id. at 8. Petitioner argues that "her pregnancy is a matter that should have been given far more consideration than has been afforded to it by the courts thus far." Id. at 11. She notes that, at one point, she had to take a walk in the hallway in order to alleviate her discomfort. Id. at 8. She points out that during the interview she asked for a nurse "but was offered no medical attention." Id. at 11. Petitioner also notes that she told the interrogating officer she usually experienced pain when she was "stressed out." Id. She argues that "pregnant women have intense hormonal fluctuations that may distort their interpretation of their situation." Id. at 12.
Petitioner also notes that she asked the detective several times whether he had talked to her mother, and at one point asked whether she was going to talk to her mother. Id. at 8-9. She argues that the officer's responses to these questions were "designed to allay Ms. Lewis' concerns and preclude her from directly asking to speak to her mother." Id. at 9. Petitioner also argues that the officer failed to tell her mother that she was being interrogated for murder and that, if her mother had been told this, she "likely would have immediately sought the assistance of an attorney." Id. at 13.
Petitioner states that she had "virtually" no experience dealing with law enforcement or the criminal justice system, that she was "desperate and confused," and that she "did not evince any of the character traits of a mastermind or otherwise highly developed intellectual or emotional abilities." Id. at 10. Petitioner also notes that in the secretly recorded conversation between herself and co-defendant Ramsey after their joint interrogation, it is clear that she did not understand the gravity of her situation. Id. She states that the detective did not inform her of the seriousness of the consequences she faced, nor did he tell her that her interrogation involved a murder. Instead, he led her to believe that he was concerned about her truancy and the use of stolen credit cards. Id. at 10-11. Petitioner notes that it was not until the end of the interview that the detective informed her she had been arrested because of the murder. Petitioner argues that "the officer's decision not to immediately inform Ms. Lewis of the reason for her arrest also permitted him to elicit contradictory responses that were later used to impeach her at trial." Id. at 11. She asserts that "this sort of underhanded technique may be understandable when dealing with an adult, but not a child." Id.
Petitioner states that she and co-defendant Ramsey both believed that Ramsey was solely responsible for the murder. Id. She explains that her answers to the police interrogator were designed to "mitigate the harm that could befall Mr. Ramsey." Id. She further explains that she was a troubled child who had run away from home, experimented with drugs, and suffered from depression. Id. at 12. She states that the victim "had taken advantage of her vulnerability to obtain sexual favors from her." Id.
Finally, petitioner argues that her initial coerced police interrogation "directly precipitated the subsequent statements that she made when she was left alone in the room with Mr. Ramsey and when both defendants were taken by police to the crime scene." Id. She states that all of her statements to police should be suppressed as "fruit of the poisonous tree." Id.
1. Decision of the California Court of Appeal
The California Court of Appeal rejected all of these arguments, reasoning as follows:
Defendant contends the "[t]he totality of circumstances demonstrate that [she] did not voluntarily waive her Miranda rights" and that she did not voluntarily confess to police. She bases these contentions on similar arguments: she invoked her privilege against self-incrimination by asking to speak with her mother; she was young, pregnant, in pain, and naive; the detective's introductory comments "softened" the impact of the Miranda advisements; and the detective's lie that Ramsey had called her the mastermind of the crimes suggested "coercion." As we explain, we agree with the trial court the statements were properly admitted.
The determination of whether a Miranda waiver and a confession by a juvenile defendant was voluntary, knowing, and intelligent is based on the totality of circumstances. (Fare v. Michael C. (1979) 442 U.S. 707, 724-725 [61 L.Ed.2d 197, 212]; see People v. Neal (2003) 31 Cal.4th 63, 79, 84.) Here, the totality of circumstances demonstrates a voluntary, knowing, and intelligent waiver of Miranda and confession by defendant.
In the initial interrogation of defendant by Detective Lange, the detective admonished defendant of her Miranda rights. After reciting each right, he asked defendant if she understood the right, and she acknowledged either by words or by nodding that she did. There was nothing in the detective's introductory comments that would trick defendant into believing the reading of the rights was a mere technicality, that she was not required to respond, or that she was not allowed to exercise her rights.
Although defendant did not expressly waive her rights, her subsequent statements demonstrate an implied waiver. (People v. Cruz (2008) 44 Cal.4th 636, 667-668.) At the interview, defendant appeared intelligent and her answers were clear and responsive. Her youth and pregnancy did not impair her judgment. She did not request to see or speak to her mother. Instead, she asked whether she was going to talk to her mother at some point. This did not amount to an invocation of her rights. (See People v. Hector (2000) 83 Cal.App.4th 228, 237 [minor's request to speak to her parents is an indication the minor wishes to invoke her Miranda right].)
Defendant responded voluntarily to the detective's questions and confessed on her own. Nothing in the interview suggests the detective used any "physical or psychological pressure" to obtain defendant's statements; she "was not worn down by improper interrogation tactics, lengthy questioning, or trickery or deceit" nor were there any improper promises. (People v. Whitson (1998) 17 Cal.4th 229, 248-249.) While the officer did lie to defendant with the mastermind comment, the use of deception by law enforcement is permissible when it is not likely to produce an untrue statement. (People v. Farnam (2002) 28 Cal.4th 107, 182-183.) There was nothing in the statement that would have induced defendant to confess absent her own free will.
Indeed, the portrait that emerged of defendant from the interrogation was of a criminally-sophisticated, intelligent 16-year-old who understood what the detective was telling her, who decided on her own she wanted to waive her Miranda rights and confess after being caught in one lie after another.
The trial court did not err in concluding defendant knowingly, intelligently, and voluntarily waived her rights under Miranda and confessed to police. The trial court therefore ruled correctly that defendant's statements during the initial interview and in subsequent interviews were admissible.
Dckt. 19-1 at 5-8.
2. Applicable Legal Standards
The Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution demands that confessions be made voluntarily. See Lego v. Twomey, 404 U.S. 477, 483-85 (1972). In determining whether a confession is voluntary, "the question is 'whether the defendant's will was overborne at the time he confessed.'" Haynes v. Washington, 373 U.S. 503, 513 (1963); see also Amaya-Ruiz v. Stewart, 121 F.3d 486, 494 (9th Cir. 1997) (the test is "whether . . . the government obtained the statement by physical or psychological coercion or by improper inducement so that the suspect's will was overborne."). "The line of distinction is that at which governing self-direction is lost and compulsion, of whatever nature or however infused, propels or helps to propel the confession." Collazo v. Estelle, 940 F.2d 411, 416 (9th Cir. 1991) (en banc) (quoting Culombe v. Connecticut, 367 U.S. 568, 602 (1961)); see also Pollard v Galaza, 290 F.3d 1030, 1033 (9th Cir. 2002) ("Under the Fourteenth Amendment, a confession is involuntary only if the police use coercive means to undermine the suspect's ability to exercise his free will."); Henry v. Kernan, 197 F.3d 1021, 1027 (9th Cir. 1999). In the end, a reviewing court must ask: "Is the confession the product of an essentially free and unconstrained choice by its maker? If it is, if he has willed to confess, it may be used against him. If it is not, if his will has been overborne and his capacity for self-determination critically impaired, the use of his confession offends due process." Doody v. Ryan, 649 F.3d 986, 1008 (9th Cir. 2011) (quoting Schneckloth v. Bustamonte, 412 U.S. 218, 225--26 (1973)).
"There is no 'talismanic definition of 'voluntariness" that is 'mechanically applicable.'" Clark v. Murphy, 331 F.3d 1062, 1072 (9th Cir. 2003), overruled in part on other grounds by Lockyer v. Andrade, 538 U.S. 63 (2003) (quoting Schneckloth, 412 U.S. at 224). Rather, voluntariness is to be determined in light of the totality of the circumstances. See Miller v. Fenton, 474 U.S. 104, 112 (1985). This includes consideration of both the characteristics of the petitioner and the details of the interrogation. Schneckloth, 412 U.S. at 226 (The court must examine "the factual circumstances surrounding the confession, assess [ ] the psychological impact on the accused, and evaluate [ ] the legal significance of how the accused reacted."). "The factors to be considered include the degree of police coercion; the length, location and continuity of the interrogation; and the defendant's maturity, education, physical condition, mental health, and age." Brown v. Horell, 644 F.3d 969, 979 (9th Cir. 2011). See also United States v. Haswood, 350 F.3d 1024, 1027 (9th Cir. 2003) ("Courts . . . often consider the following factors: the youth of the accused, his intelligence, the lack of any advice to the accused of his constitutional rights, the length of detention, the repeated and prolonged nature of the questioning, and the use of physical punishment such as the deprivation of food or sleep."); Henry, 197 F.3d at 1026 ("[v]oluntariness depends on such factors as the surrounding circumstances and the combined effect of the entire course of the officers' conduct upon the defendant"). The totality-of-the-circumstances test to determine voluntariness applies "even where interrogation of juveniles is involved," because "[t]he totality approach ... mandates ... inquiry into all the circumstances surrounding the interrogation," such as "the juvenile's age, experience, education, background, and intelligence . . . ." Fare v. Michael C., 442 U.S. 707, 725 (1979).
"A confession is involuntary if coerced either by physical intimidation or psychological pressure." Haswood, 350 F.3d at 1027; United States v. Tingle, 658 F.2d 1332, 1335 (9th Cir. 1981) ("subtle psychological coercion suffices . . . at times more effectively 'to overbear a rational intellect and a free will' "). Officials cannot extract a confession "by any sort of threats or violence, nor . . . by any direct or implied promises, however slight, nor by the exertion of any improper influence." Hutto v. Ross, 429 U.S. 28, 30 (1976) (quoting Bram v. United States, 168 U.S. 532, 542-43 (1897)). False promises or threats may render a confession invalid. See, e.g., Lynumn v. Illinois, 372 U.S. 528, 534 (1963) (confession found to be coerced by officers' false statements that state financial aid for defendant's infant children would be cut off, and her children taken from her, if she did not cooperate); Rogers v. Richmond, 365 U.S. 534, 541-45 (1961) (defendant's confession was coerced when it was obtained in response to a police threat to take defendant's wife into custody); Spano, 360 U.S. 315, 323 (1959) (confession found to be coerced where police instructed a friend of the accused to falsely state that petitioner's telephone call had gotten him into trouble, that his job was in jeopardy and that loss of his job would be disastrous to his three children, his wife and his unborn child). However, "misrepresentations made by law enforcement in obtaining a statement, while reprehensible, do not necessarily constitute coercive conduct." Pollard, 290 F.3d at 1034. Additionally, encouraging a suspect to tell the truth is not coercion. Amaya-Ruiz, 121 F.3d at 494. Nor is it coercive to recite potential penalties or sentences, including the potential penalties for lying to the interviewer. Haswood, 350 F.3d at 1029.
Finally, "[w]arnings and a waiver are not dispositive of a confession's voluntariness." Doody, 548 F.3d at 860. Compliance with Miranda does not conclusively establish the voluntariness of a subsequent confession. Berkemer v. McCarty, 468 U.S. 420, 433 n. 20 (1984). "Moreover, when analyzing the voluntariness of a confession following Miranda warnings, the delivered warnings, even if sufficient to satisfy Miranda"s prophylactic rule, must be examined in detail, as they are part of the circumstances pertinent to the voluntariness inquiry." Doody, 548 F.3d at 860.
Where an involuntary confession is improperly admitted at trial, a reviewing court must apply a harmless error analysis, assessing the error "in the context of other evidence presented in order to determine whether its admission was harmless beyond a reasonable doubt." Arizona v. Fulminante, 499 U.S. 279, 308 (1991). In the context of habeas review, the standard is whether the error had substantial and injurious effect or influence in determining the jury's verdict. See Brecht v. Abrahamson, 507 U.S. 619, 637 (1993); Beatty v. Stewart, 303 F.3d 975, 994 (9th Cir. 2002); Henry, 197 F.3d at 1029. The analysis must be conducted with an awareness that "a confession is like no other evidence," and that "a full confession may have a 'profound impact' on the jury." Fulminante, 499 U.S. at 296. See also Henry, 197 F.3d at 1029-30.
This court has reviewed the videotape of petitioner's interrogation and agrees with the California Court of Appeal that petitioner's confession to police was not given involuntarily. There is no evidence petitioner was coerced to confess to a crime she did not commit or that she was intimidated or worn down by improper interrogation tactics, lengthy questioning, or anything else. On the contrary, petitioner answered the detective's questions fully and freely during an interrogation that was not unduly lengthy and never harsh. There is also no evidence that petitioner's will was overborne by the overall circumstances or the conduct of the interrogation. Petitioner was alert and articulate throughout the interrogation, she was offered breaks whenever she appeared to be in pain or upset, and she was given food and water and allowed to walk outside the interview room. The interrogation was not conducted in an uncomfortable location and petitioner was frequently asked how she felt and whether she needed anything.
Although petitioner was pregnant, there is no evidence the pregnancy interfered with her ability to respond to the detective's questions, that it prevented her from paying attention or following during the interview, or that it caused her to falsely confess. The one occasion in which petitioner appeared to be in pain occurred before the questioning began and was resolved by a short walk in the hallway outside the interview room. In fact, before the interrogation began, petitioner assured the detective that she was fine and ready to proceed. Of course, pregnant women are not categorically incapable of being interrogated, and there is no presumption that pregnancy itself results in involuntary statements. Certainly, that was not the case here. To the extent petitioner's pregnancy may have caused her to be in some physical discomfort, there is no evidence on the videotape that the discomfort interfered in any substantial way with the questioning. Nor is there evidence that hormonal changes compromised petitioner's ability to understand what was going on.
It is true that petitioner was not advised at the beginning of the interrogation that she was being questioned about a murder, nor did she appear to understand that her involvement in the crime exposed her to the same penal consequences as Ramsey. However, petitioner has failed to explain how her misapprehension in this regard caused her will to be overborne or rendered her statements involuntary. Certainly many suspects are mistaken about the extent of the possible consequences of their actions. In this case, petitioner appeared to be a very intelligent sixteen year-old and there is no evidence she lacked sufficient education or maturity to be able to understand that she was facing serious consequences as a result of what she and Ramsey had done. In this regard, the interrogating officer's questions centered on her use of the victim's credit cards. The fact that she knew the victim had also been murdered almost certainly informed her understanding of the possible reasons for her arrest.
In addition, petitioner was advised of her constitutional rights prior to the interrogation. She did not appear to be confused as to their meaning and she continued to answer the detective's questions. Further, although petitioner asked several times whether the detective had spoken with her mother and whether she would be speaking with her mother, she never directly asked to speak with her mother. A review of the videotape of petitioner's interrogation does not reflect that petitioner was unwilling to talk to the police unless she spoke to her mother first or unless her mother was present. On the contrary, she told the detective that she did not have a good relationship with her mother. Petitioner's mother did not ask the detective if she could speak with petitioner and declined to come to the police station to see her. Reporter's Transcript on Appeal (RT) at 70-71; Clerk's Transcript on Appeal (CT) at 335. Under these circumstances, this court concludes that the fact petitioner did not talk to her mother is not dispositive of this claim.*fn9
It is true that the detective told petitioner that Ramsey had implicated her as the mastermind of the crime. However, petitioner told Ramsey during their recorded conversation that she did not believe this. Accordingly, while reprehensible, this use of deception does not constitute coercive conduct. This false statement by the interrogating detective, which petitioner did not believe, would not have caused her will to be overborne.
While petitioner may have been afraid or apprehensive about her situation, "a defendant's mental state alone does not make a statement involuntary." United States v. Turner, 926 F.2d 883, 888 (9th Cir. 1991) (citing Colorado v. Connelly, 479 U.S. 157, 169-71 (1986)). Rather, "[c]oercive conduct by police must have caused [her] to make the statements." Id. at 888. There is no evidence here that coercive conduct by the police caused petitioner to confess. In addition, petitioner had given statements to the police, after being advised of her Miranda rights, in a petty theft case within two years prior to her interrogation in this case. CT at 172, 176, 178. Accordingly, she was not completely unfamiliar with police interrogations.
As explained above, a criminal defendant's age is a relevant factor in determining whether a confession or a waiver of a constitutional right was voluntary. See Doody, 649 F.3d at 1008 ("The fact that Doody was a juvenile is of critical importance in determining the voluntariness of his confession"). See also Withrow v. Williams, 507 U.S. 680, 693 (1993) (noting that a defendant's "maturity" is one of the factors used to determine if a defendant's confession was voluntary); Schneckloth, 412 U.S. at 226 (stating that determination whether consent to search a car was voluntary is made under the totality of circumstances, including "the youth of the accused"); In re Gault, 387 U.S. 1, 45 (1967) ("This court has emphasized that admissions and confessions of juveniles require special caution"). In Haley v. Ohio, 332 U.S. 596, 599-601 (1948), the United States Supreme Court observed that juvenile defendants are generally more susceptible to police coercion than adults and that due process demands that a defendant's juvenile status be taken into consideration when determining the proper procedural safeguards that attach to a custodial interrogation. The court ultimately concluded that the murder confession made by the fifteen year old defendant without consultation with counsel or parents "cannot be judged by the more exacting standards of maturity" and that defendant's due process rights had been violated.
In Gallegos v. Colorado, 370 U.S. 49 (1962), the United States Supreme Court was called upon to review the conviction of a petitioner convicted of the first degree murder of an elderly man which took place in the context of a robbery. At the time of the offense the petitioner was fourteen years of age. At trial the prosecution introduced evidence of his confession, which he signed without the benefit of a lawyer, parent or other adult. In finding that the confession was obtained in violation of the Constitution, the Supreme Court observed:
The prosecution says that the boy was advised of his right to counsel, but that he did not ask either for a lawyer or for his parents. But a 14-year-old boy, no matter how sophisticated, is unlikely to have any conception of what will confront him when he is made accessible only to the police. That is to say, we deal with a person who is not equal to the police in knowledge and understanding of the consequences of the questions and answers being recorded and who is unable to know how to protest his own interests or how to get the benefits of his constitutional rights.
There is no guide to the decision of cases such as this, except the totality of circumstances that bear on the two factors we have mentioned. The youth of the petitioner, the long detention, the failure to send for his parents, the failure immediately to bring him before the judge of the Juvenile Court, the failure to see to it that he had the advice of a lawyer or a friend -- all these combine to make us conclude that the formal confession on which this conviction may have rested (see Payne v. Arkansas, 356 U.S. 560, 568, 78 S.Ct. 844, 850, 2 L.Ed.2d 975) was obtained in violation of due process. 370 U.S. at 53.
In Taylor v. Maddox, 366 F.3d 992 (9th Cir. 2004), the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit concluded that a confession given to police by a sixteen year-old boy was involuntary where his repeated requests to speak to his mother and to his attorney were ignored, there was no evidence the police detectives even attempted to locate defendant's mother, he was taken from his home at gunpoint in the middle of the night and interrogated until 3:00 a.m., and detectives "engaged in hard-ball tactics to get him to confess before he had a chance to seek the advice of any adult as to how he should proceed." Id. at 1013-14. Factors relevant to the court's decision included "[defendant's] relative youth, the time of night when he was questioned, the length of the interrogation, the absence of an attorney or parent, the fact that he 'was given no food, offered no rest break, and may or may not have been given any water,' (citation to state court record omitted), and the denial of his requests to speak with his mother." Id. at 1015. Further, the fact that the police detective "threatened [defendant] by jabbing his ring in [defendant's] face and diagramming a grim future if [defendant] did not confess," convinced the court that the defendant's will was overborne. Id. at 1016. In Doody, the seventeen year old defendant's confession was deemed involuntary where it involved: an extraordinarily lengthy interrogation of a sleep-deprived and unresponsive juvenile under relentless questioning for nearly thirteen hours by a tag team of detectives, without the presence of an attorney, and without the protections of proper Miranda warnings. The intensive and lengthy questioning was compounded by Doody's lack of prior involvement in the criminal justice system, his lack of familiarity with the concept of Miranda warnings, and the staging of his questioning in a straight-back chair, without even a table to lean on.
Doody, 649 F.3d at 1009.
The circumstances of petitioner's interrogation were not nearly as coercive as the circumstances present in Taylor or Doody. It is true that petitioner's young age at the time of the interrogation is a factor weighing in favor of her argument. However, this factor, standing alone, is insufficient to demonstrate that her confession was involuntary. Petitioner was not sleep deprived, she did not ask to speak to an adult*fn10 or an attorney, she was not denied food and rest breaks, she was not threatened by the detective, the interrogation was not unduly lengthy, and she had some involvement with the criminal justice system, including the Miranda warnings. After weighing all of the relevant circumstances discussed above, this court concludes that petitioner's statements to police were not the product of police coercion which caused her will to be overborne. The decision of the California Court of Appeal rejecting petitioner's claim that her confession was involuntary is not contrary to or an unreasonable application of federal law. Accordingly, petitioner is not entitled to relief on this claim.*fn11
B. Confrontation Clause Error
Citing Bruton v. United States, 391 U.S. 123 (1968), petitioner claims that the trial judge violated her rights under the Confrontation Clause when he allowed Lito Ramsey, the brother of Eric Ramsey, to testify about incriminating statements made to him by Eric Ramsey. Pet. at 14. The facts surrounding this claim are the following.
Lito Ramsey testified before both juries that he had a conversation with petitioner and Eric Ramsey in the bedroom of his apartment shortly after the murder was committed. RT at 183-85. He testified that "they said that they wanted to -- that they did rob some guy." Id. at 185. When he was asked whether they were "both telling you that they robbed this guy," Lito responded, "One's telling me, the other is agreeing." Id. He stated that petitioner "brought up" the subject. Id. Petitioner stated that "they robbed some guy." Id. at 186. Lito further testified that "they" told him they met the victim at a hotel, that Eric Ramsey "knocked him out," and that "they" robbed him. Id. He also stated that "they" told him they moved the body of the victim "to not cause any attention and then they left." Id. He testified that Eric Ramsey told him he was "in the bushes waiting," that he "knocked him out from behind," and that "he took the car." Id. at 186-87, 188, 192. He further testified that "they" told him they had a "plan" to rob the victim. Id. at 189. Petitioner told Lito that the victim was flirting with her and that "they felt like that was a good opportunity to use against him to rob him." Id. at 190. Eric Ramsey told Lito that he didn't like the fact the victim was flirting with petitioner. Id. at 191. Lito also testified that "they" told him they put the victim's body in the bushes. Id. at 192. Petitioner told him that they planned to rob the victim. Id. at 192-93.
Petitioner argues that Lito's testimony violated her right to confront Eric Ramsey, who did not testify at trial, about the conversation related by Lito. Pet. at 14-19. She notes that Lito did not always clarify who said what, but rather used the word "they" to describe who was talking. Id. at 16-17. She argues that this "blurr[ed] the lines between statements made by [petitioner] and those made by Eric Ramsey." Id. at 17. Petitioner also argues that the fact she might have appeared to Lito to be in agreement with the statements being made by Eric Ramsey does not cure the constitutional violation that resulted from Lito's testimony because she "had a right to cross examine Eric Ramsey regarding the inculpatory statements he made during this conversation." Id. at 18.
1. State Court Proceedings
As explained above, on February 3, 2011, petitioner filed a petition for writ of habeas corpus in the Sacramento County Superior Court (case No. 11F00682), in which she raised this Confrontation Clause claim for the first time. Resp.'s Lodg. Doc. 9. The Superior Court concluded that the habeas petition was an impermissible successive petition, untimely, and raised issues that could and should have been raised on appeal. Dckt. No. 19-1 at 11-12. The court reasoned as follows:
1. This is an impermissible successive petition.
On February 18, 2010, petitioner filed a petition for writ of habeas corpus, alleging her conviction should be set aside because the trial court erred in allowing introduction of her videotaped confession. (Sacramento County Superior Court case 10F01060.) That petition was denied April 6, 2010.
A successive petition for writ of habeas corpus is an abuse of the writ and thus barred absent exceptional circumstances not alleged here. (See In re Robbins (1998) 18 Cal.4th 770, 811-812, 812 fn. 32; In re Clark (1993) 5 Cal.4th 750, 774-775); People v. Welch (1993) 5 Cal.4th 228; and In re Harris (1993) 5 Cal.4th 813, 842.) Petitioner attempts to avoid the Robbins/Clark bar by arguing that her name was impermissibly signed on her previous pro per petition by her mother, who was acting on behalf of petitioner under power of attorney. Petitioner argues that in signing her name to her prior pro per petition, her mother was engaged in the unauthorized practice of law. No authority is cited for this proposition. There is no allegation that petitioner's mother drafted the petition, provided legal advice or otherwise engaged in the practice of law. Rather, petitioner's mother simply signed petitioner's name to petitioner's pro per petition pursuant to the mother's power of attorney.
Nor is it tenable for petitioner to seek to so abuse the judicial process. Petitioner does not deny that her mother was authorized to sign the pro per petition for her; nor does petitioner assert that the prior petition was submitted without her knowledge and approval. Had the prior petition been granted, would petitioner have disavowed it? This is an unexcused successive petition.
2. The petition is untimely
Assuming, arguendo, that petitioner may now disavow her prior pro per petition, the instant petition is still untimely. The California Supreme Court affirmed petitioner's conviction on November 19, 2009. Petitioner's delay in bringing this petition is independently subject to the Robbins.Clark bar.
3. The petition seeks to raise issues which could and should have been addressed on appeal.
Habeas corpus does not serve as a second appeal. (In re Waltreus (1965) 62 Cal.2d 218, 225.) This rule covers issues that could have been raised on appeal but were not, as well as matters that were raised on appeal and decided. (In re Harris, supra, 5 Cal.4th at 829, and In re Waltreus at 225.)
Respondent argues that all of petitioner's claims for relief contained in the habeas petition before this court, with the exception of her claim regarding the voluntariness of her confession, are barred from federal review by the doctrine of procedural default. Answer at 27-30. He contends that the Superior Court's reliance on the procedural bars described above to deny her claims precludes this court from considering the merits of petitioner's claims here. Id.
Petitioner counters that under the unique circumstances of this case, her claims are not subject to a procedural default. Traverse at 4-9. She notes that after the Superior Court issued its decision, she filed a petition for writ of habeas corpus in the California Court of Appeal, raising the same four claims that she raised in her second habeas petition filed in the Superior Court. Dckt. No. 14-1 at 2-52. The Court of Appeal summarily denied that petition "on the merits," without issuing an order to show cause. Dckt. No. 14-2. Thereafter, after petitioner filed a petition for review in the California Supreme Court, the Supreme Court ordered respondent to file an answer addressing the merits of petitioner's claims. Resp.'s Lodg. Doc. 17, at 1. Respondent's answer argued, among other things, that the petition should be denied because it was untimely. Resp.'s Lodg. Doc. 15 at 4-9. Citing Trigueros v. Adams, 658 F.3d 983 (9th Cir. 2011), petitioner argues that the Supreme Court's order for further briefing on the merits signified that the Supreme Court's subsequent denial of her petition is "presumed to be on the merits and represents that Court's implicit rejection of the State's procedural arguments."*fn12
Traverse at 5.
As a general rule, "[a] federal habeas court will not review a claim rejected by a state court 'if the decision of [the state] court rests on a state law ground that is independent of the federal question and adequate to support the judgment." Walker v. Martin, 562 U.S.___, ___, 131 S. Ct. 1120, 1127 (2011) (quoting Beard v. Kindler, 558 U.S. ___, ___, 130 S. Ct. 612, 615 (2009). See also Maples v. Thomas, ___U.S.___, ___, 132 S. Ct. 912, 922 (2012); Greenway v. Schriro, 653 F.3d 790, 797 (9th Cir. 2011); Calderon v. United States District Court (Bean), 96 F.3d 1126, 1129 (9th Cir. 1996) (quoting Coleman v. Thompson, 501 U.S. 722, 729 (1991)). However, a reviewing court need not invariably resolve the question of procedural default prior to ruling on the merits of a claim. Lambrix v. Singletary, 520 U.S. 518, 524-25 (1997); see also Franklin v. Johnson, 290 F.3d 1223, 1232 (9th Cir. 2002): ("Procedural bar issues are not infrequently more complex than the merits issues presented by the appeal, so it may well make sense in some instances to proceed to the merits if the result will be the same"); Busby v. Dretke, 359 F.3d 708, 720 (5th Cir. 2004) (noting that although the question of procedural default should ordinarily be considered first, a reviewing court need not do so invariably, especially when the issue turns on difficult questions of state law). Under the circumstances presented here, petitioner's claims can be resolved more easily by addressing them on the merits. Accordingly, the court assumes that petitioner's claims are not defaulted.
As explained above, in addition to relying on procedural grounds to deny petitioner's habeas petition, the California Superior Court also denied each of petitioner's claims on the merits. With respect to her Confrontation Clause claim, the Superior Court reasoned as follows:
a) There was no Aranda/Bruton error
Petitioner argues the trial court erred in admitting testimony by her co-defendant's brother recounting a conversation in which incriminating statements were made by petitioner and/or her co-defendant. Petitioner argues this violated Bruton v. United States (1968) 391 U.S. 123 and People v. Aranda (1965) 63 Cal.2d 518. (Petitioner also claims ineffective assistance of trial and appellate counsel in failing to raise the claim.) The claim fails. First, a statement by petitioner's co-defendant in a non-custodial setting that is against the accomplice's penal interest or that is a spontaneous statement is admissible against petitioner. (People v. Smith (2005) 135 Cal.App.4th 914, People v. Cervantes (2004) 118 Cal.App.4th 162, People v. Greenberger (1997) 58 Cal.App.4th 298, People v. Duke (1999) 74 Cal.App.4th 23, and Padilla v. Terhune (9th Cir. 2002) 309 F.3d 614.)
Additionally, the challenged statements were either made directly by petitioner, or were made by her co-defendant and she assented to them such as to render them adoptive admissions. The statements are thus not subject to Bruton-Aranda. (People v. Roldan (2005) 35 Cal.4th 646; People v. Combs (2004) 34 Cal.4th 821; People v. Castille (2005) 129 Cal.App.4th 863; and People v. Osuna (1969) 70 Cal.2d 759).*fn13
Dckt. No. 19-1 at 12-13.
2. Applicable Legal Standards
The Sixth Amendment to the United States Constitution grants a criminal defendant the right "to be confronted with the witnesses against him." U.S. Const. amend. VI. "The 'main and essential purpose of confrontation is to secure for the opponent the opportunity of cross-examination.'" Fenenbock v. Director of Corrections for California, ___ F.3d ___, 2012, No. 11-15880, 2012 WL 3743171, at *5 (9th Cir. Aug. 30, 2012) (quoting Delaware v. Van Arsdall, 475 U.S. 673, 678 (1986)). The Confrontation Clause applies to the states through the Fourteenth Amendment. Pointer v. Texas, 380 U.S. 400, 406 (1965).
In 2004, the United States Supreme Court held that the Confrontation
Clause bars the state from introducing into evidence out-of-court
statements which are "testimonial" in nature unless the witness is
unavailable and the defendant had a prior opportunity to cross-examine
the witness, regardless of whether such statements are deemed
reliable. Crawford v. Washington, 541 U.S. 36 (2004).*fn14
The Crawford rule applies only to hearsay statements that are
"testimonial" and does not bar the admission of non-testimonial
hearsay statements. Id. at 42, 51, 68. See also Whorton v. Bockting,
549 U.S. 406, 420 (2007) ("the Confrontation Clause has no application
to" an "out-of-court non-testimonial statement.")
Although the Crawford court declined to provide a comprehensive definition of the term "testimonial," it stated that "[s]tatements taken by police officers in the course of interrogations are . . . testimonial under even a narrow standard." Crawford, 541 U.S. at 52. The court also provided the following "formulations" of a "core class" of testimonial statements: (1) "ex parte in-court testimony or its functional equivalent -- that is, material such as affidavits, custodial examinations, prior testimony that the defendant was unable to cross-examine, or similar pretrial statements that declarants would reasonably expect to be used prosecutorially;" (2) "extra-judicial statements . . . contained in formalized testimonial materials, such as affidavits, depositions, prior testimony, or confessions;" and (3) "statements that were made under circumstances which would lead an objective witness reasonably to believe that the statement would be available for use at a later trial." Id. at 51-52. The court in Crawford also pointed out that the Sixth Amendment Confrontation Clause "does not bar the use of testimonial statements for purposes other than establishing the truth of the matter asserted." Id. at 59, n.9. However, "state evidence rules do not trump a defendant's constitutional right to confrontation," and a reviewing court "ensures that an out-of-court statement was introduced for a 'legitimate, non-hearsay purpose' before relying on the not-for-its-truth rationale to dismiss the Confrontation Clause's application." (citation omitted). Williams v. Illinois, ___ U.S. ___, 132 S.Ct. 2221, 2226 (2012).
In Bruton v. United States, 391 U.S. 123 (1968), the case relied on by petitioner, the Supreme Court held that a defendant is deprived of his Sixth Amendment right of confrontation when a facially incriminating confession of a non-testifying co-defendant is introduced at their joint trial, even if the jury is instructed to consider the confession only against the co-defendant. 391 U.S. at 135. "Under Bruton and its progeny 'the admission of a statement made by a non-testifying co-defendant violates the Confrontation Clause when that statement facially, expressly, or powerfully implicates the defendant.'" United States v. Hernandez-Orellana, 539 F.3d 994, 1001 (9th Cir. 2008) (quoting United States v. Mitchell, 502 F.3d 931, 965 (9th Cir. 2007)).*fn15 However, after the issuance of the Crawford decision, "[i]t is . . . necessary to view Bruton through the lens of Crawford," and "the threshold question in every case is whether the challenged statement is testimonial. If it is not, the Confrontation Clause 'has no application.'" United States v. Figueroa-Cartagena, 612 F.3d 69, 85 (1st Cir. 2010). Accordingly, the rule set forth in Bruton, which is premised on the Confrontation Clause, does not apply to statements which are non-testimonial. United States v. Johnson, 581 F.3d 320, 326 (6th Cir. 2009) ("Because it is premised on the Confrontation Clause, the Bruton rule, like the Confrontation Clause itself, does not apply to non-testimonial statements."). See also Fernandez v. Adams, No. CV 08-3544 PSG (JC), 2011 WL 1344520, *19 n.23 (D.C. Cal. Mar. 1, 2011) (petitioner's Confrontation Clause claim "fails to the extent it is intended to be separately predicated upon Bruton.").
Further, Confrontation Clause violations are subject to harmless error
v. Washington, 232 F.3d 1197, 1205-06 (9th Cir. 2000).*fn16
"In the context of habeas petitions, the standard of review
is whether a given error 'had substantial and injurious effect or
influence in determining the jury's verdict.'" Christian v. Rhode, 41
F.3d 461, 468 (9th Cir. 1994) (quoting Brecht v. Abrahamson, 507 U.S.
619, 637 (1993)). Factors to be considered when assessing the
harmlessness of a Confrontation Clause violation include the
importance of the testimony, whether the testimony was cumulative, the
presence or absence of evidence corroborating or contradicting the
testimony, the extent of cross-examination permitted, and the overall
strength of the prosecution's case. Delaware v. Van Arsdall, 475 U.S.
673, 684 (1986).*fn17
With these standards in mind and after a careful review of the record, this court concludes that petitioner's Confrontation Clause claim lacks merit and must be denied. The court assumes for purposes of its analysis of this claim that petitioner did not adopt the statements made by Eric Ramsey to his brother Lito, and that those statements implicated petitioner in the crimes. Even making this assumption, however, Lito's statements were not "testimonial" and therefore are not prohibited by the Confrontation Clause. Eric Ramsey's statements to Lito were not made under circumstances which would lead an objective witness to believe they would be available for later use at a trial. Nor were they made to a government officer, as was the case in Crawford. Finally, the statements do not fall within the "per se" examples of testimonial evidence offered by the Crawford court, all of which involve out-of-court statements elicited by a government officer with a view to prosecution. Rather, Eric Ramsey made his statements to a family member during a private and personal conversation, with no expectation that his remarks would be used by a prosecutor at a later trial. Petitioner and Eric Ramsey had not even been contacted by law enforcement when the conversation with Lito Ramsey took place. Under these circumstances, Ramsey's statements were not testimonial, as that term is defined in Crawford. See Jensen v. Pliler, 439 F.3d 1086 (9th Cir. 2006) (statements made by declarant to his attorney were non-testimonial and therefore not barred by the Confrontation Clause); United States v. Manfre, 368 F.3d 832, 838 n.1 (8th Cir. 2004) (statements made by declarant to family members were not "testimonial" because they were "not the kind of memorialized, judicial-process-created evidence of which Crawford speaks"); Gonzales v. Clark, No. CV 08-02251-AG (VBK), 2009 WL 3233906, *8 (C.D. Cal. Sept. 30, 2009) (petitioner's private statements to his aunt not testimonial in nature).
Petitioner argues that in making the statements to Lito Ramsey, she and Eric Ramsay were confessing to the crimes in order to get advice, knowing that they were "likely the targets of investigation." Traverse at 22. She argues that, "in doing so, they were bringing Lito into the picture and thereby recasting him as a witness to a pivotal conversation and all three parties to that conversation were, therefore, aware of its evidentiary potential." Id. Without citation to authority, petitioner contends that, under these circumstances, the statements made by Eric Ramsey to Lito Ramsey were "testimonial." This court rejects that argument. There is no evidence in the record that any of the three participants in the conversation were aware that Lito might be a witness at a later trial, or even that petitioner and Eric would be charged with any crime. Based on the authorities cited above, the statements made by petitioner and Eric Ramsey to Lito Ramsey in this case were not "testimonial." Accordingly, their admission into evidence at petitioner's trial was not precluded by the Confrontation Clause.
Even if the trial court violated petitioner's rights under the Confrontation Clause in admitting the testimony of Lito Ramsey, any error was harmless. Petitioner told the interrogating police detectives that she and Eric Ramsey planned to steal the victim's car and knock him out, and she and Eric Ramsey gave a full description of how the murder occurred. CT at 374, et seq. Petitioner and Eric Ramsey also went with police detectives to the scene of the crime and explained exactly what had happened. Id. at 362-70. In a joint interrogation, petitioner and Ramsey explained the circumstances of the crime again. Id. at 371-84. Petitioner also discussed the details of the crime in a tape-recorded conversation with Eric Ramsey at the jail, in which she made clear her complicity in the events that transpired. At trial, petitioner admitted she and Ramsey planned to steal the victim's car. RT at 352-53. Further, the statements attributed to Eric Ramsey by Lito Ramsey did not specifically implicate petitioner in the crime. On the contrary, those statements reflect only that petitioner and Eric Ramsey planned to rob the victim. Id. at 192-83. Under these circumstances, the admission into evidence of Lito Ramsey's testimony would not have had a substantial and injurious effect or influence on the verdict.
The decision of the California courts denying petitioner's claim under the Confrontation Clause is not contrary to or an unreasonable application of federal law. Accordingly, petitioner is not entitled to relief on this claim.
C. Cruel and Unusual Punishment
In her next ground for relief, petitioner claims that her sentence of twenty-five years to life for felony murder constitutes cruel and unusual punishment. Pet. at 21. She argues that this case presents a "novel situation" because of her young age at the time of the crime, the fact that she was pregnant, her history of drug addiction, the presentation of evidence indicating that she did not intend to murder the victim, and the fact that the victim "took advantage of her youth to obtain sex." Id. at 25; Traverse at 34.
She argues: this court must determine that a sentence of 25 years-to-life is grossly disproportionate for [a] juvenile offender (pregnant at the time) who had no intent to cause the death of the victim and who did not participate whatsoever in the killing of the victim. Indeed, the specific facts of the present case reveal that the death was likely entirely accidental and that Ms. Lewis had objected to even participating in the underlying felony.
Pet. at 21.
1. State Court Proceedings
The California Superior Court rejected these arguments, reasoning as follows:
Petitioner claims her sentence of 25-years-to-life constitutes cruel and unusual punishment in violation of the Eighth Amendment and Graham v. Florida (2010) 176 L.Ed. 2d 825. (She additionally argues trial and appellate counsel were ineffective in failing to raise this claim).
Petitioner notes she was 16 years old at the time of the crime. However, the Supreme Court in Graham held only that a sentence of life without possibility of parole constitutes cruel and unusual punishment when imposed for a non-homicide committed by a minor under age 18. Graham is inapposite to the facts of this case. First, petitioner was convicted of first degree felony-murder, with the special circumstance that the murder occurred during the commission of robbery. Additionally, she was not sentenced to life without possibility of parole. Indeed, in sentencing petitioner to 25-years-to-life under Penal Code section 190.5, the trial court considered petitioner's age and the circumstances of the offense, thereby avoiding the failings addressed in Graham.
There is no violation of the Eighth Amendment in this case where petitioner and her co-defendant planned to rob the victim age 62, ran him over with his own car, transported the victim's body in the trunk of his car, disposed of the body in a field, stole the victim's car and used his credit cards.*fn18
Dckt. 19-1 at 13. ////
2. Applicable Legal Standards
The United States Supreme Court has held that the Eighth Amendment includes a "narrow proportionality principle" that applies to terms of imprisonment. See Harmelin v. Michigan, 501 U.S. 957, 996 (1991) (Kennedy, J., concurring). See also Taylor v. Lewis, 460 F.3d 1093, 1097 (9th Cir. 2006). However, successful challenges in federal court to the proportionality of particular sentences are "exceedingly rare." Solem v. Helm, 463 U.S. 277, 289-90 (1983). See also Ramirez v. Castro, 365 F.3d 755, 775 (9th Cir. 2004). "The Eighth Amendment does not require strict proportionality between crime and sentence. Rather, it forbids only extreme sentences that are 'grossly disproportionate' to the crime." Harmelin, 501 U.S. at 1001 (Kennedy, J., concurring) (citing Solem v. Helm).
In Lockyer v. Andrade, the United States Supreme Court held that it was not an unreasonable application of clearly established federal law for the California Court of Appeal to affirm a "Three Strikes" sentence of two consecutive 25 year-to-life imprisonment terms for a petty theft with a prior conviction involving theft of $150.00 worth of videotapes. Andrade, 538 U.S. at 75. In Ewing v. California, 538 U.S. 11, 29 (2003), the Supreme Court held that a "Three Strikes" sentence of 25 years-to-life in prison imposed on a grand theft conviction involving the theft of three golf clubs from a pro shop was not grossly disproportionate and did not violate the Eighth Amendment. And in Crosby v. Schwartz, 678 F.3d 784, 791-92 (9th Cir. 2012), the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit held that a sentence of 26 years to life under California's Three Strikes Law for defendant's failure to annually update his registration as a sex offender and failure to register within five days of a change of address did not constitute cruel and unusual punishment, in violation of the Eighth Amendment.
In assessing the compliance of a non-capital sentence with the proportionality principle, a reviewing court must consider "objective factors" to the extent possible. Solem, 463 U.S. at 290. Foremost among these factors are the severity of the penalty imposed and the gravity of the offense. "Comparisons among offenses can be made in light of, among other things, the harm caused or threatened to the victim or society, the culpability of the offender, and the absolute magnitude of the crime." Taylor, 460 F.3d at 1098.*fn19
This court finds that petitioner's sentence does not fall within the type of "exceedingly rare" circumstance that would support a finding that her sentence violates the Eighth Amendment. Petitioner's sentence of twenty-five years to life is certainly a significant penalty. However, petitioner and her co-defendant were convicted of the very serious crime of first degree felony murder. In Harmelin, the petitioner received a sentence of life without the possibility of parole for possessing 672 grams of cocaine. In light of the Harmelin decision, as well as the decisions in Andrade and Ewing, which imposed sentences of twenty-five years to life for petty theft convictions, and Crosby, which imposed a sentence of twenty-six years to life for failing to register as a sex offender, the sentence imposed on petitioner is not grossly disproportionate. Because petitioner does not raise an inference of gross disproportionality, this court need not compare petitioner's sentence to the sentences of other defendants in other jurisdictions. This is not a case where "a threshold comparison of the crime committed and the sentence imposed leads to an inference of gross disproportionality." Solem, 463 U.S. at 1004-05.
The court recognizes that the United States Supreme Court has issued several opinions on the subject of lengthy sentences imposed on juvenile defendants. In Thompson v. Oklahoma, 487 U.S. 815, 823 (1988), the Supreme Court held that the Eighth and Fourteenth Amendments prohibited the execution of a fifteen year-old defendant convicted of first degree murder. In Roper v. Simmons, 543 U.S. 551 (2005), the Supreme Court held that the Eighth and Fourteenth Amendments prohibited the execution of defendants under the age of eighteen. In Graham v. Florida, ___ U.S. ___, 130 S.Ct. 2011 (2010), the Supreme Court held that the Eighth Amendment prohibits the imposition of a sentence of life without parole on a juvenile offender who did not commit homicide. And in Miller v. Alabama, ___ U.S. ___, 132 S.Ct. 2455 (2012), the Supreme Court held that a mandatory sentence of life without the possibility of parole for those under the age of 18 at the time of their crimes violates the Eighth Amendment's prohibition on cruel and unusual punishment. Here, however, petitioner was sentenced to life with the possibility of parole. That sentence is inarguably harsh, but it allows for the "meaningful opportunity to obtain release based on demonstrated maturity and rehabilitation." Graham, 130 S.Ct. at 2030. This fact distinguishes the instant case from the cases cited above.
The court also notes that petitioner was sentenced pursuant to a California statute that provides that a defendant who is found guilty of first degree special circumstance murder, as petitioner was, "shall" be sentenced to life without parole or, at the discretion of the court, 25 years to life. Cal. Penal Code § 190.5; RT at 751; Pet. at 39 n.4; CT at 687. The judge who sentenced petitioner noted that "those who are 16 or 17 years old who commit murder with special circumstances must be sentenced to life without possibility of parole unless the Court finds good reason and exercises its discretion to impose the less severe sentence of 25 years to life. The sentence of life without possibility of parole is thus the presumptive punishment unless the Court finds good cause." RT at 751. The judge found mitigating circumstances and exercised his discretion to sentence petitioner to twenty-five years to life rather than the presumptive sentence of life without the possibility of parole. Id. He took into consideration that petitioner: was five months pregnant at the time of the crime with a history of emotional problems. Miss Lewis was not the actual killer. And if sentenced to life without possibility of parole, she would serve a longer term than the actual killer. The defendant had a minor prior criminal record as a juvenile. And, finally, the victim was, to some degree, a participant in the events that led up to his death.
Id. at 755. On the other hand, the judge noted that the trial evidence showed petitioner planned the robbery; that she took advantage of the victim's confidence in her; and that she lied "repeatedly to virtually everyone involved," including Eric Ramsey, her mother, her aunt, the victim, and the police. Id. at 754.
The judge ultimately concluded that life with the possibility of parole was the appropriate sentence under the circumstances of this case. He explained:
In the fullness of time, if the defendant matures, is productive and discipline free in prison, takes advantage of the programs offered, sometime 25 years or more from now the parole board may conclude that she is then suitable for parole. If so, the board's decision will be subject to review and reversal at that time by whoever is governor.
This Court is by no means recommending the defendant be granted parole when she becomes eligible or even predicting some day she will be suitable for parole. Rather, the Court is simply unwilling to hold today that she will never ever possibly be suitable for parole.
Id. at 756.
In order to prevail on her Eighth Amendment claim, petitioner must demonstrate that the state court decisions rejecting the claim constitute an objectively unreasonable application of federal law. Petitioner is unable to do this under the facts of this case. Even though petitioner was a juvenile at the time she committed her crimes, the decision of the state courts that the Eighth Amendment did not prohibit a sentence of twenty-five years to life for first degree murder is not contrary to or an unreasonable application of the United States Supreme Court cases cited above. Accordingly, petitioner is not entitled to relief on this claim.
D. Ineffective Assistance of Counsel
Petitioner claims that her trial and appellate counsel rendered ineffective assistance through several errors of counsel. After setting forth the applicable legal principles, the court will address these claims below.
1. Legal Standards
To support a claim of ineffective assistance of counsel, a petitioner must first show that, considering all the circumstances, counsel's performance fell below an objective standard of reasonableness. Strickland v. Washington, 466 U.S. 668, 687-88 (1984). After a petitioner identifies the acts or omissions that are alleged not to have been the result of reasonable professional judgment, the court must determine whether, in light of all the circumstances, the identified acts or omissions were outside the wide range of professionally competent assistance. Id. at 690; Wiggins v. Smith, 539 U.S. 510, 521 (2003). "Counsel's errors must be 'so serious as to deprive the defendant of a fair trial, a trial whose result is reliable.'" Richter, 131 S.Ct. at 787-88. (quoting Strickland, 466 U.S. at 687). Surmounting the bar imposed by Strickland was "never an easy task," and "establishing that a state court's application of Strickland was unreasonable under § 2254(d) is all the more difficult." Id. at 788.
Second, a petitioner must establish that he was prejudiced by counsel's deficient performance. Strickland, 466 U.S. at 693-94. Prejudice is found where "there is a reasonable probability that, but for counsel's unprofessional errors, the result of the proceeding would have been different." Id. at 694. A reasonable probability is "a probability sufficient to undermine confidence in the outcome." Id. "The likelihood of a different result must be substantial, not just conceivable." Richter, 131 S.Ct. at 792.
The Strickland standards apply to appellate counsel as well as trial counsel. Smith v. Murray, 477 U.S. 527, 535-36 (1986); Miller v. Keeney, 882 F.2d 1428, 1433 (9th Cir. 1989). However, an indigent defendant "does not have a constitutional right to compel appointed counsel to press non-frivolous points requested by the client, if counsel, as a matter of professional judgment, decides not to present those points." Jones v. Barnes, 463 U.S. 745, 751 (1983). Counsel "must be allowed to decide what issues are to be pressed." Id. Otherwise, the ability of counsel to present the client's case in accord with counsel's professional evaluation would be "seriously undermined." Id. See also Smith v. Stewart, 140 F.3d 1263, 1274 n.4 (9th Cir. 1998) (Counsel is not required to file "kitchen-sink briefs" because it "is not necessary, and is not even particularly good appellate advocacy.") There is, of course, no obligation to raise meritless arguments on a client's behalf. See Strickland, 466 U.S. at 687-88 (requiring a showing of deficient performance as well as prejudice). Thus, counsel is not deficient for failing to raise a weak issue. See Miller, 882 F.2d at 1434. In order to establish prejudice in this context, petitioner must demonstrate that, but for counsel's errors, he probably would have prevailed on appeal. Id. at 1434 n.9.
2. Trial Counsel
a. Logical Connection between the Homicide and the Robbery
Petitioner raises several claims concerning trial counsel's failure to focus the jury's attention on the lack of a connection between the homicide and the underlying robbery with respect to petitioner's involvement in the crimes. She contends that Eric Ramsey was acting on his own "private animus" when he attacked the victim, and that she had no knowledge or intent that this would occur. Pet. at 31-32. She states that Eric Ramsey was "the driving force behind this entire ordeal" and that she was "unable to avoid the tragedy that occurred." Id. at 32. She argues that the failure to make this point to the jury violated the state court ruling in People v. Cavitt, 33 Cal.4th 187 (2004). Id. at 29-35. She also argues that her trial counsel should have requested a "clarifying instruction" that "would have provided additional guidance to the jury with respect to the logical nexus between the alleged robbery and the death of Mr. Raimer." Id. at 32.
Petitioner also faults trial counsel's failure to "draw the jury's attention to this element of the offense during her closing argument." Id. She claims that counsel's closing argument was "unfocused and, at times, thoroughly perplexing." Id. Petitioner acknowledges that the jury was instructed on felony murder, and was advised that there must be a logical connection between the act causing the death and the robbery which must involve "more than just their occurrence at the same time and place." Id. at 33. However, she contends that "without any reinforcement by [trial counsel], the jury was not likely to be able to understand or apply that instruction to the facts of the case." Id. Petitioner suggests that trial counsel could have requested a supplemental jury instruction derived from language contained in the Cavitt decision. Id. at 34-35. In the traverse, petitioner argues that her trial counsel rendered ineffective assistance in: (1) failing to raise the issue of "whether or not there was a logical connection between the homicide and the underlying crime in their opening statement and closing argument;" (2) failing to call witnesses to demonstrate "that there was no logical connection between the homicide and the underlying crime;" (3) failing to request an instruction "calling attention to and clarifying the logical connection element;" (4) failing to "focus direct and cross examination on this issue;" and (5) failing to "raise this issue and the corresponding ineffectiveness of trial counsel on appeal." Traverse at 40.
The California Superior Court rejected petitioner's claim regarding trial counsel's failure to request a clarifying instruction. The court reasoned as follows:
c) Trial counsel was not ineffective in failing to request a clarifying instruction.
Petitioner argues trial counsel was ineffective in failing to request a clarifying jury instruction regarding the requirement of a logical nexus between the robbery and the death of the victim, for purposes of felony murder. Trial counsel was not ineffective. Petitioner admits the jury was instructed there must be a logical connection between the act causing the death and the robbery, and that the connection must involve more than just their occurrence at the same time and place. (CALCRIM 540B). She nevertheless asserts that trial counsel should have requested a clarifying instruction based on People v. Cavitt (2004) 33 Cal.4th 187: That there be a logical nexus "between the homicidal act and the underlying felony the non-killer committed or attempted to commit." Petitioner argues trial counsel alternatively could have requested that the court provide an example relied on in Cavitt, in which the non-killer watched while the killer shot his lifelong enemy through the window during the course of a burglary.
The trial court properly instructed the jury based on CALCRIM 540B, addressing when a co-participant allegedly committed [a] fatal act. The jury was instructed that when another person did the act resulting in the death and petitioner committed or aided and abetted the underlying robbery, there must be a logical connection between the act causing the death and the robbery: The connection between the fatal act and the robbery must involve more than just their occurrence at the same time and place. The instruction given was thus sufficient to convey the requirement that there be a logical nexus between the act causing death and the underlying felony, as discussed in Cavitt.
Petitioner's claim of ineffective assistance of counsel fails. It is not reasonably probable that the court would have given any additional instruction had trial counsel requested. Nor is it reasonably probable that the outcome would have been different had such instruction been given. As such, the claim of ineffective assistance of counsel fails. (Strickland v. Washington (1984) 466 U.S. 668.)
Dckt. No. 19-1 at 13-14.
Petitioner has failed to demonstrate that the Superior Court's decision rejecting this claim of ineffective assistance of counsel was contrary to or an unreasonable application of Strickland and Richter. As noted by the state court, petitioner's jury was correctly instructed on the requirement of a logical nexus between the robbery and the death of the victim in order to find petitioner guilty of felony murder. This court must presume that jurors follow a trial court's instructions, and there is no evidence that petitioner's jurors failed to do so here. Francis v. Franklin, 471 U.S. 307, 324 n.9 (1985); Tak Sun Tan v. Runnels, 413 F.3d 1101, 1115 (9th Cir. 2005). There is no reasonable probability that the outcome of petitioner's trial would have been different if trial counsel had requested an unspecified clarifying instruction. The decision of the California Superior Court that the jury instruction on felony murder given at petitioner's trial did not violate the decision in Cavitt may not be challenged in this federal habeas proceeding. This Court is bound by the state court's interpretation of state law. Waddington v. Sarausad, 555 U.S. 179, 129 S.Ct. 823, 832 n.5 (2009) ("we have repeatedly held that 'it is not the province of a federal habeas court to re-examine state-court determinations on state-law questions"); Rivera v. Illinois, 556 U.S. 148, 158 (2009) ("[A] mere error of state law . . . is not a denial of due process") (quoting Engle v. Isaac, 456 U.S. 107, 121, n. 21 (1982) and Estelle v. McGuire, 502 U.S. 62, 67, 72-73 (1991)); Bradshaw v. Richey, 546 U.S. 74, 76 (2005) "a state court's interpretation of state law . . . binds a federal court sitting in federal habeas"); Lewis v. Jeffers, 497 U.S. 764, 780 (1990) (federal habeas corpus relief does not lie for errors of state law).
Petitioner has also failed to demonstrate that her trial counsel rendered ineffective assistance in failing to address the lack of a connection between her intent and the resulting homicide in her closing or opening argument, in failing to address this issue during direct and cross-examination of witnesses, or in failing to call witnesses to demonstrate that there was no "logical connection" between the robbery and the homicide. Petitioner's conclusory allegations that further investigation into possible witnesses, or further argument or cross-examination, would have resulted in a different verdict are clearly insufficient to establish either deficient performance or prejudice. See Jones v. Gomez, 66 F.3d 199, 204 (9th Cir. 1995) ("'[c]onclusory allegations which are not supported by a statement of specific facts do not warrant habeas relief'") (quoting James v. Borg, 24 F.3d 20, 26 (9th Cir. 1994)). Simply speculating, or stating, that further argument and/or investigation would have led to a different verdict does not establish prejudice.
Further, although petitioner complains that her trial counsel failed to call witnesses to establish a lack of connection between the robbery and the homicide, petitioner has not identified any witnesses who would have testified in her favor or presented any evidence as to what any witness would have testified to which would have aided the defense. See Bragg v. Galaza, 242 F.3d 1082, 1088 (9th Cir. 2001) (petitioner failed to establish prejudice where he did "nothing more than speculate that, if interviewed," the witness would have given helpful information); United States v. Harden, 846 F.2d 1229, 1231-32 (9th Cir. 1988) (no ineffective assistance because of counsel's failure to call a witness where, among other things, there was no evidence in the record that the witness would testify); United States v. Berry, 814 F.2d 1406, 1409 (9th Cir. 1987) (appellant failed to meet prejudice prong of ineffectiveness claim because he offered no indication of what potential witnesses would have testified to or how their testimony might have changed the outcome of the hearing). Without direct evidence that specific witnesses would have testified in a manner that might have led to a different result at trial, petitioner's allegations are insufficient to support her claims in this regard. The court also notes that petitioner testified at trial that she did not know about Eric Ramsey's plan to assault the victim. The jury apparently did not believe her testimony.
Petitioner has failed to demonstrate either deficient performance or prejudice with respect to this claim of ineffective assistance of counsel. Accordingly, she is not entitled to habeas relief.
b. Failure to Object to Testimony of Lito Ramsay on Sixth
Petitioner also claims that her trial counsel rendered ineffective assistance in failing to object to the trial testimony of Lito Ramsey on Sixth Amendment grounds. Pet. at 35-36. She argues that counsel "placed the entire weight of Ms. Lewis' life upon the success of that Miranda issue, and once it was decided against Ms. Lewis, [counsel] made no other major evidentiary challenges." Id. at 36. She argues that Lito's testimony constituted a major part of the evidence against her, and contends that had counsel "made appropriate objections, the evidentiary terrain of the trial would have been markedly different." Id.
Petitioner is unable to establish prejudice with respect to this claim. For the reasons set forth above, Lito's testimony did not violate petitioner's rights under the Confrontation Clause. Accordingly, an objection to Lito Ramsey's testimony based on the Sixth Amendment would have been futile. See Miller, 882 F.2d at 1434 (noting that if a petitioner challenges a futile objection, he fails both Strickland prongs).
c. Failure to Call Child Psychologist
In the traverse, petitioner claims that her trial counsel rendered ineffective assistance by failing to call an expert witness in child psychology at the sentencing proceedings to testify to the impact her age, mental health, history of drug abuse, and history of sexual abuse had on her personal culpability for the crimes. Traverse at 34-39. She also asserts that "had a psychiatrist or psychologist testified on Ms. Lewis' behalf, there would have been a significant chance that the jury may have understood, and been more sympathetic towards Mr. Lewis' situation thereby resulting in a different verdict." Id. at 34. She suggests various areas that trial counsel "could and should have explored via expert testimony and/or psychological testimony." Id. at 35. She argues that her case "represents what is perhaps the least culpable defendant convicted of felony murder in the case law." Id. at 39.
This claim is not contained in the petition filed with this court. Of course, a traverse is not the proper pleading in which to raise additional grounds for relief. Cacoperdo v. Demosthenes, 37 F.3d 504, 507 (9th Cir. 1994); see also Greenwood v. Fed. Aviation Admin., 28 F.3d 971, 977 (9th Cir. 1994) ("we review only issues which are argued specifically and distinctly in a party's opening brief"). Even if the claim had been properly raised, it lacks merit. Petitioner fails to explain what additional testimony a child psychiatrist would have given that would have changed the outcome of the trial. Accordingly, she has not demonstrated the second prong of the Strickland analysis. Matylinsky v. Budge 577 F.3d 1083, 1097 (9th Cir. 2009) (petitioner failed to demonstrate prejudice where he failed to show "what additional testimony his suggested forty-one witnesses would give in order to change the outcome of the trial); Wildman v. Johnson, 261 F.3d 832, 839 (9th Cir. 2001) (speculating as to what expert witness would say is not enough to establish prejudice); Dows v. Wood, 211 F.3d 480, 486-87 (2000) (no ineffective assistance of counsel for failure to call witnesses where petitioner did not identify an actual witness, provide evidence that the witness would testify, or present an affidavit from the alleged witness). Accordingly, she is not entitled to relief on this claim.
3. Appellate Counsel
Petitioner claims that her appellate counsel rendered ineffective assistance in failing to raise on appeal the claims contained in the instant petition, and particularly her claims that Lito Ramsey's testimony violated the Confrontation Clause and that her sentence constitutes cruel and unusual punishment. Petitioner argues that, while the Miranda claim raised by appellate counsel was meritorious, appellate counsel "disregarded several vital issues that would probably have resulted in reversal." Pet. at 36. She also contends that appellate counsel did not obtain relevant trial records in order to identify additional appellate issues, and was generally unprepared. Id. at 36-37.
This court has concluded that the claims for relief contained in the instant petition are not meritorious. For the reasons described above, petitioner cannot demonstrate that she probably would have prevailed if her appellate counsel had raised these claims on appeal. See Jones v. Ryan, No. 10-99006, ___ F.3d ___, 2012 WL 3517610, *6 (9th Cir. Aug. 16, 2012) ("It should be obvious that the failure of an attorney to raise a meritless claim is not prejudicial"); Rhoades v. Henry, 638 F.3d 1027, 1036 (9th Cir. 2011) (no prejudice from trial counsel's failure to investigate or raise two claims on appeal where "neither would have gone anywhere"). Appellate counsel's decision not to include these claims in petitioner's direct appeal in state court, but instead to focus on a claim that counsel believed was more meritorious, was "within the range of competence demanded of attorneys in criminal cases." McMann v. Richardson, 397 U.S. 759, 771 (1970). Accordingly, petitioner is not entitled to relief on her claim that her appellate counsel rendered ineffective assistance.
E. Cumulative Error
Petitioner claims that she was denied due process as a result of the cumulative impact of the errors at her trial, including those of trial and appellate counsel. Pet. at 39-40.
She makes the following argument:
Being convicted on the basis of improper testimony describing incriminating statements made by a non-testifying co-defendant, being assisted by an attorney who filed virtually no pretrial motions and objected to virtually none of the evidence that was admitted, receiving a disproportionate punishment, and having an appellate attorney who simply regurgitated a single failed trial argument amounted to a gross series of injustices for Mr. Lewis. Each of these violations, viewed independently, was such that it undermined the verdict in this case.
Id. at 40.
The Ninth Circuit has concluded that under clearly established United States Supreme Court precedent, the combined effect of multiple trial errors may give rise to a due process violation if it renders a trial fundamentally unfair, even where each error considered individually would not require reversal. Parle v. Runnels, 505 F.3d 922, 927 (9th. Cir. 2007) (citing Donnelly v. DeChristoforo, 416 U.S. 637, 643 (1974) and Chambers v. Mississippi, 410 U.S. 284, 290 (1973)). See also Hayes v. Ayers, 632 F.3d 500, 524 (9th Cir. 2011) (if no error of constitutional magnitude occurred at trial, "no cumulative prejudice is possible"). "The fundamental question in determining whether the combined effect of trial errors violated a defendant's due process rights is whether the errors rendered the criminal defense 'far less persuasive,' Chambers, 410 U.S. at 294, and thereby had a 'substantial and injurious effect or influence' on the jury's verdict." Parle, 505 F.3d at 927 (quoting Brecht, 507 U.S. at 637).
This court has addressed each of petitioner's claims raised in the instant petition and has concluded that no error of constitutional magnitude occurred at her trial in state court. This court also concludes that the alleged errors, even when considered together, did not render petitioner's defense "far less persuasive," nor did they have a "substantial and injurious effect or influence on the jury's verdict." Accordingly, petitioner is not entitled to relief on her claim of cumulative error.
V. Request for Evidentiary Hearing
Petitioner requests an evidentiary hearing on the following issues: "whether trial and appellate counsel were ineffective, whether the trial court erred in denying Ms. Lewis' Miranda motion, the effect that calling a child psychologist would have had on the trial, and the specifics of who was speaking during the crucial conversation between Candice Lewis, Eric Ramsay, and Lito Ramsey." Traverse at 43. She requests a hearing at which she would call "Ms. Lewis' trial and appellate attorneys, Mr. Lito Ramsey, Mr. Eric Ramsey, a child psychology expert, Ms. Candice Lewis, and any other witnesses necessary to the resolution of these claims." Id.
Pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254(e)(2), an evidentiary hearing is appropriate under the following circumstances:
(e)(2) If the applicant has failed to develop the factual basis of a claim in State court proceedings, the court shall not hold an evidentiary hearing on the claim unless the applicant shows that-
(A) the claim relies on(I) a new rule of constitutional law, made retroactive to cases on collateral review by the Supreme Court, that was previously unavailable; or
(ii) a factual predicate that could not have been previously discovered through the exercise of due diligence; and
(B) the facts underlying the claim would be sufficient to establish by clear and convincing evidence that but for constitutional error, no reasonable fact finder would have found the applicant guilty of the underlying offense;
28 U.S.C. § 2254(e)(2).
Under this statutory scheme, a district court presented with a request for an evidentiary hearing must first determine whether a factual basis exists in the record to support a petitioner's claims and, if not, whether an evidentiary hearing "might be appropriate." Baja v. Ducharme, 187 F.3d 1075, 1078 (9th Cir. 1999). See also Earp v. Ornoski, 431 F.3d 1158, 1166 (9th Cir. 2005); Insyxiengmay v. Morgan, 403 F.3d 657, 669-70 (9th Cir. 2005). A federal court must take into account the AEDPA standards in deciding whether an evidentiary hearing is appropriate. Schriro v. Landrigan, 550 U.S. 465, 474 (2007). A petitioner must also "allege facts that, if proved, would entitle him to relief." Schell v. Witek, 218 F.3d 1017, 1028 (9th Cir. 2000). In addition, the Supreme Court has recently held that federal habeas review under 28 U.S.C. § 2254(d)(1) "is limited to the record that was before the state court that adjudicated the claim on the merits" and "that evidence introduced in federal court has no bearing on" such review. Cullen v. Pinholster, 563 U.S. ___, ___, 131 S. Ct. 1388, 1398, 1400 (2011).
The court concludes that no additional factual supplementation is necessary and that an evidentiary hearing is not appropriate with respect to the claims raised in the instant petition. In addition, for the reasons described above, petitioner has failed to demonstrate that the state courts' decision on his claims is an unreasonable determination of the facts under § 2254(d)(2). See Schriro, 550 U.S. at 481. Accordingly, an evidentiary hearing is not necessary or appropriate in this case.
For all of the foregoing reasons, IT IS HEREBY RECOMMENDED that petitioner's application for a writ of habeas corpus be denied.
These findings and recommendations are submitted to the United States District Judge assigned to the case, pursuant to the provisions of 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(l). Within fourteen days after being served with these findings and recommendations, any party may file written objections with the court and serve a copy on all parties. Such a document should be captioned "Objections to Magistrate Judge's Findings and Recommendations." Failure to file objections within the specified time may waive the right to appeal the District Court's order. Turner v. Duncan, 158 F.3d 449, 455 (9th Cir. 1998); Martinez v. Ylst, 951 F.2d 1153 (9th Cir. 1991). In his objections petitioner may address whether a certificate of appealability should issue in the event he files an appeal of the judgment in this case. See Rule 11, Federal Rules Governing Section 2254 Cases (the district court must issue or deny a certificate of appealability when it enters a final order adverse to the applicant).