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Davis v. Gower

United States District Court, N.D. California

April 1, 2014

JESSE DAVIS, Petitioner,
v.
B. GOWER, Warden, Respondent.

ORDER DENYING PETITION FOR WRIT OF HABEAS CORPUS

RICHARD SEEBORG, District Judge.

INTRODUCTION

Petitioner seeks federal habeas relief from his state convictions. For the reasons set forth below, the petition for such relief is DENIED.

BACKGROUND

In 2009, an Alameda County Superior Court jury found petitioner guilty of second degree murder, for which he received a sentence of 16 years-to-life in state prison. He was denied relief on state judicial review.[1] This federal habeas petition followed.

Evidence presented at trial showed that in 1990 petitioner beat and stabbed to death an adult female, Janet Harp, in her apartment.[2] Such evidence includes the presence of semen bearing his DNA profile in her corpse; testimony regarding her 60 physical injuries (including stab wounds to her lung and groin, blunt injuries, fractured upper and lower jaws, cheekbone, and nose); and his admission to police that he had had sex with, and beaten and tied up, Harp: "My temper gets the best of me."[3] (Ans., Ex. G (State Appellate Opinion) at 4, 5, 7-8; Ex. C (People's Exhibit 23B) at 15.) He also told police that she was alive when he left, and that he did not recall using a knife. ( Id., Ex. C at 8, 11, 14.) As grounds for federal habeas relief, petitioner claims the trial court violated his right to due process by (1) refusing to admit certain evidence; and (2) concluding that his confession was voluntary, and in consequence denying his motion to suppress.

STANDARD OF REVIEW

This Court may entertain a petition for writ of habeas corpus "in behalf of a person in custody pursuant to the judgment of a State court only on the ground that he is in custody in violation of the Constitution or laws or treaties of the United States." 28 U.S.C. § 2254(a). The petition may not be granted with respect to any claim that was adjudicated on the merits in state court unless the state court's adjudication of the claim: "(1) resulted in a decision that was contrary to, or involved an unreasonable application of, clearly established Federal law, as determined by the Supreme Court of the United States; or (2) resulted in a decision that was based on an unreasonable determination of the facts in light of the evidence presented in the State court proceeding." 28 U.S.C. § 2254(d).

"Under the contrary to' clause, a federal habeas court may grant the writ if the state court arrives at a conclusion opposite to that reached by [the Supreme] Court on a question of law or if the state court decides a case differently than [the] Court has on a set of materially indistinguishable facts." Williams (Terry) v. Taylor, 529 U.S. 362, 412-13 (2000).

"Under the unreasonable application' clause, a federal habeas court may grant the writ if the state court identifies the correct governing legal principle from [the] Court's decisions but unreasonably applies that principle to the facts of the prisoner's case." Id. at 413. "[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." Id. at 411. A federal habeas court making the "unreasonable application" inquiry should ask whether the state court's application of clearly established federal law was "objectively unreasonable." Id. at 409.

DISCUSSION

Petitioner claims that the trial court violated his right to due process by denying his motion to suppress his confession. More specifically, the trial court (I) unconstitutionally denied the admission of evidence, and (II) erred in its determination that the confession comported with constitutional requirements.

The state appellate court summarized the circumstances of the interrogation as follows: Sergeant Longmire, later the lead homicide investigator in Harp's case, interrogated petitioner on behalf of the Oakland Police Department, decided, pursuant to police policy, that some portions of the interview would be recorded by audiotape, and others would not. Those untaped segments were memorialized by contemporaneous handwritten notes taken by Longmire. (Ans., Ex. G at 5-6.) During the initial phase of the interview, petitioner stated that he had not seen Harp since a week before her death and denied being sexually involved with her. ( Id. at 6.) Based on the presence of petitioner's semen found in Harp's vagina, Longmire knew petitioner was not being entirely truthful. Petitioner was given a break of over two hours wherein he was left alone in the interview room. ( Id. at 6-7.) Three times during this period petitioner asked to go to the bathroom and was escorted to the public restroom by two officers, twice by Longmire. According to petitioner, Longmire told petitioner during one trip to the bathroom that police knew that he was guilty, but that Longmire could get petitioner released with just an ankle monitor if he told the truth. ( Id. at 10.) Petitioner further contends that Longmire assured him that he was too old to get the death penalty. ( Id. ) When the interview resumed, petitioner admitted that on the day of ...


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