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Ricky Lee Chatman v. Matthew Martel

January 10, 2013


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Jennifer L. Thurston United States Magistrate Judge


Ricky Lee Chatman ("Petitioner") is a state prisoner proceeding pro se with a petition for writ of habeas corpus pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254, which he filed on June 4, 2010. (Doc. 7). Respondent filed an answer to the petition on September 21, 2010. (Doc. 15). Having considered the record and the applicable law, for the following reasons, the Court recommends the petition for a writ of habeas corpus be DENIED.


Petitioner is in the custody of the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation ("CDCR") pursuant to a judgment of the Superior Court of California, County of Tulare, following his conviction by jury on January 25, 2007, for first degree murder perpetrated by firing a gun at persons outside of a motor vehicle with the intent to inflict death. On June 7, 2007, Petitioner was sentenced to an indeterminate term of life without the possibility of parole, plus an enhancement of twenty-five years to life for the use of a firearm. (Cal. Penal Code §§ 187(a), 12022.53(d)).

Petitioner filed a direct appeal in the California Court of Appeal, Fifth Appellate District, 2 which affirmed his conviction in an unpublished opinion on February 17, 2009. (See Doc. 15, Exh. 3 A). Petitioner filed a petition for review in the California Supreme Court, which denied the petition on 4 May 13, 2009. (Lodged Doc. 11). 5

On April 1, 2010, Petitioner filed a petition for writ of habeas corpus in Tulare County Superior Court, which was denied on April 5, 2010. (Lodged Doc. 12). The California Court of 7 Appeal denied his petition without comment on June 24, 2010. (Lodged Doc. 13 at 2). 8 Petitioner initiated the action in this Court by filing a petition for writ of habeas corpus on March 29, 2010. He filed an amended petition on June 4, 2010 (Doc. 7), to which Respondent filed an Answer on September 21, 2010 (Doc. 14). Petitioner did not file a Traverse.


The Court adopts the Statement of Facts in the unpublished decision by the Fifth DCA, which are presumed correct pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §§ 2254(d)(2), (e)(1). According to the Fifth DCA:

By February 17, 2004, rap artist Nathan Mathews, Jr., had released two albums. Magnum Burrell and Danny Moran were friends of Mathews. Chatman was dating Rose Martinez. Burrell and Moran were dating Rose's daughters, Stephanie and Becky. Becky had a child from a prior relationship with Eric Cole.

Chatman, Burrell, Moran and Cole often hung out with their girlfriends in an alleyway. Mathews often would drive through the alley with music playing. One day, when Mathews drove through the alley with music playing, Chatman told Curtis Bradley, "I'm gonna get that nigger."

On February 15, 2004, Cole, Chatman and Moran were together while Chatman was calling around looking for some guns. Burrell's name specifically was mentioned during these calls. A while later they met up with Lester Loman. The four climbed into Loman's rental car. Loman drove, Cole was the front passenger, and Chatman and Moran were in the back seat. They stopped at Chatman's sister's house. Chatman went inside and returned a few minutes later with a gun, which he set between his legs.

In the meantime, Burrell called Mathews. Mathews told his father and grandfather he was going to the store to get some "weed." Mathews took a great deal of money with him when he left for the store. Moran spoke to Burrell before Burrell and Mathews left for the store.

Mathews drove to a local liquor store and gas station, with Burrell in the passenger seat, and pulled into the station. Then Loman drove into the gas station. When Loman pulled alongside Mathews' car, Chatman fired a gun three or four times. Moran saw Chatman holding the gun and put it between his legs. Cole noticed Chatman wearing gloves and holding a smoking gun in his hand. Cole heard Chatman brag he "got one." After the shots were fired, Loman pulled away from the gas station.

Witnesses called police and officers arrived. The officers seized the store's video security tape. The shooting could not be seen on the tape, but the sound of three gunshots could be heard.

Meanwhile, Loman drove to Corcoran, where Cole's father lived. Cole's girlfriend, Taleisha James, was at the house. Moran and Chatman wanted to dispose of the gun. Chatman hid the gun in the fields. While in Corcoran, Chatman remarked, "That's one less nigger I got to worry about, might as well X him off the map."

Chatman also admitted, "I killed one of 'em." "Shot four times and the gun jammed."

Thereafter, the four men and James all left for Tulare in Cole's truck. On the drive to Tulare, Chatman laughed and bragged about shooting Mathews. The next day Chatman visited James and told her what to say regarding what "supposedly" happened the prior evening. Chatman also told James he was planning to go to Montana.

After Chatman was arrested, he asked Moran to lie in order to help him avoid conviction. Moran agreed because he was fearful for his life. Chatman specifically asked Moran to write a letter, which Moran did.

James received threatening phone calls and her son's bedroom window was shot. After the preliminary hearing, James received threats to her life should Chatman be convicted. [Footnote omitted] Chatman asked Bradley to "forget" the prior threat he had made about Mathews.

Mathews died as a result of a gunshot wound to the back of his head. He had been shot with a 7.62x39-millimeter high-velocity bullet from an assault rifle. Police later found a 7.62x39-millimeter casing on the ground at the Cole residence in Corcoran.

Loman, Moran and Cole all claimed the shooting was a total surprise to them. Loman, however, pled guilty to voluntary manslaughter in connection with the shooting. Cole testified pursuant to a plea agreement that reduced his possible prison term from life to 12 years. The trial court found Loman and Cole to be accomplices as a matter of law, and left the determination of whether Moran was an accomplice to the jury.

The jury convicted Chatman of murder. The jury also found two firearm enhancements true..

(Doc. 15, Exh. A; People v. Chatman, 2009 Cal. App. Unpub. LEXIS 1255 (Feb. 17, 2009)).


Relief under a petition for writ of habeas corpus extends to a person in custody pursuant to the judgment of a state court, if "he is in custody in violation of the Constitution or laws or treaties of the United States." 28 U.S.C. § 2254(a); 28 U.S.C. § 2241(c)(3); Williams v. Taylor, 529 U.S. 362, 375 n. 2 7 (2000). Petitioner asserts he suffered violations of his rights as guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution. 3

The challenged conviction arises out of Tulare County Superior Court, which is located within the 4 jurisdiction of this Court. 28 U.S.C. § 2254(a); 28 U.S.C. § 2241(d). 5


The Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996 ("AEDPA"), which applies to all petitions for writ of habeas corpus filed after its enactment, allows an inmate in state custody to seek a 8 writ of habeas corpus in federal court. 28 ...

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