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Giugni v. Wofford

United States District Court, E.D. California

June 6, 2014

TYLER A. GIUGNI, Petitioner,
C. WOFFORD, Warden, Avenal State Prison, [1] Respondent.


JAMES K. SINGLETON, Jr., Senior District Judge.

Tyler A. Giugni, a state prisoner proceeding pro se, filed a Petition for Writ of Habeas Corpus with this Court pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254. Giugni is currently in the custody of the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation and is incarcerated at Avenal State Prison. Respondent has answered, and Giugni has replied.

I. BACKGROUND/PRIOR PROCEEDINGS The California Court of Appeal outlined the background of this case as follows:

Giugni and [Stephen] Armstrong were convicted of beating a homeless man so seriously that he became permanently disabled.
Joseph Pettaway is an African-American man who in the summer of 2005 was living in his car in the parking lot of the Parkway Community Church in Fairfield. On the night of August 17, 2005, Pettaway visited a friend, John Strassberg, who lived in an apartment that was adjacent to the parking lot. Pettaway left Strassberg's apartment around midnight to go to sleep in his car. Sometime thereafter, the power in that area went out, and while the power was out, Strassberg heard yelling outside. He went outside to look but did not see anything.
In the early morning hours of August 18, 2005, D'Mann Thompson was walking through the church parking lot when he saw someone lying on the ground. Thompson touched the man and asked whether he was all right, but left when he heard the man moan.
That same morning, shortly before 3:00 a.m., Fairfield Police Officer William Shaffer was on patrol when he received a report that a man was down in the parking lot of the Parkway Community Church. Shaffer drove to the church and found Pettaway on the ground outside of his car. He was covered in blood. Pettaway was treated at a nearby hospital and then airlifted to a facility in Roseville for more treatment.
Pettaway's injuries were life-changing. He experienced a severe brain injury and multiple fractures to his face and skull, but no injuries to any other part of his body. As a result of his brain injuries, Pettaway suffers from significant memory loss and a major loss of motor function. He is unable to walk or stand on his own. He is unable to sit without assistance. He is unable to control his body functions. He can only see shadows. Pettaway now resides in a convalescent home.
Authorities investigating the crime ultimately focused on three young men as possible culprits: appellants Giugni and Armstrong, who were 19 and 18 years old respectively, and Corey Reitmeier, who was 17 years old. The theory of the crime was that all three young men attacked Pettaway after a night of excessive drinking.
In December 2006, an information was filed charging Giugni, Armstrong, and Reitmeier with three counts: (1) attempted premeditated murder ([California Penal Code] §§ 187, 664), (2) aggravated mayhem (§ 205), and second degree robbery. (§§ 211, 212.5, subd. (c).)2 As is relevant here, the information alleged as to all three counts that the defendants personally had inflicted serious bodily injury within the meaning of section 12022.7, subdivision (b).
FN2 The prosecutor subsequently dismissed the robbery counts against Giugni and Armstrong.
The case proceeded to trial where the prosecution presented evidence primarily from four witnesses who had contact with the defendants on the night of the crime: Eric Moosbuchner, Samantha Horton, Angelica Pina, and Christine Meza.
Moosbuchner testified that on the night of August 17, 2005, he met Horton and Pina at a bar. After the bar closed around 2:00 a.m., Moosbuchner agreed to drive both of them to Horton's apartment in Fairfield. At that time, Horton was living with Giugni's brother Will Giugni. When Horton, Pina and Moosbuchner arrived, it was dark because the power was out. Moosbuchner agreed to accompany the women inside. When they opened the door, a man was standing there. Then two other men came walking out of a back room. Horton appeared to know the man in the doorway and he and Horton began to bicker as they walked around the apartment. When the man sat down, Moosbuchner noticed his leg was covered in blood. Moosbuchner asked the man whether he had been in an accident. The man replied, "No. We pulled some nigger out of a car and beat the shit out of him, kicked his ass.'" Moosbuchner was shocked and he said, "So you think that's nice?'" Deciding that he did not want to be part of what was occurring, he quickly left the apartment.
Horton's recollection was similar in some respects but different in others. She testified that when they opened the door to her apartment Giugni was in front of them, and that two other young men whom she did not know but whom she later identified as being Armstrong and Reitmeier, came out of her bedroom. According to Horton, all three men described what had happened: Armstrong said they had been fighting a "nigger" in the parking lot and that he had kicked the man. Reitmeier said he had kicked the man. Giugni also said they had beaten the man.
Pina testified that when they arrived at the apartment complex, there were "a lot" of police cars in the church's parking lot. When they opened the door to Horton's apartment, they heard noises coming from the back. Horton and Moosbuchner went to investigate and found two people hiding under Horton's bed. Then another man, whom Pina identified as Will Giugni's brother, came out of the patio area. According to Pina, the men said someone tried to jump them in the parking lot and that they "beat the crap'" out of him. Pina said the boys were "boasting" and "bragging about beating the crap out of somebody."
Christine Meza testified that on August 18, 2005, near 4:00 a.m., she received a phone call from Cory Reitmeier who asked for a ride. Meza picked up Reitmeier and Giugni and drove them to a friend's house. On the way, Reitmeier and Giugni told her that an angry man had attacked Reitmeier after they had bumped into his car and that they "beat the shit out of the guy." Reitmeier then pulled a wallet out of his jacket. The identification inside indicated it belonged to an older black man named Joseph. According to Meza, Giugni had blood on his hand and on his pants. She later told a detective that Giugni had "blood all over him'" and that "[y]ou could just smell it.'"
Both Reitmeier and Armstrong testified on their own behalf. Reitmeier said that on the night in question, he, Giugni, and Armstrong were drinking "a lot" of vodka and beer at Will Giugni's apartment. At some point they decided to go home. As they walked through a parking lot, Reitmeier bumped into a car and a "very large" man came out yelling at them. The man took a swing at Reitmeier, who tried to and may have hit him. However, Reitmeier was so drunk he ended up supporting himself against the car. He could not remember much else except that they all went back to the apartment to hide. He and Armstrong hid under the bed.
Reitmeier also presented testimony from a psychologist who stated that Reitmeier's personality was incompatible with the extreme violence. In addition, Reitmeier presented testimony from five witnesses all of whom stated that he is not a violent person.
Armstrong testified that on the night in question, he, Giugni, and Reitmeier went to Will Giugni's apartment where the three of them finished a half gallon of vodka. After the power went out, the three of them decided to go to the apartment complex where Reitmeier and Armstrong lived. As they passed through the church parking lot, Armstrong heard a "knock" on a car. Suddenly, a man ran up to Reitmeier, shouted at him, and took a swing at him. Armstrong ran to Reitmeier and tried to hit the man, but he did not connect. Giugni then ran up to the man and hit him in the face. Armstrong heard three loud cracks and the man fell down grabbing Armstrong's legs. When Armstrong kicked his leg in attempt to get free, his shoe flew off. Armstrong tried to find his shoe, and as he did, he saw Giugni doing a "little dance thing" next to the man's body. Armstrong then heard a siren and he, Giugni and Reitmeier ran back to Will Giugni's apartment.
Armstrong also presented testimony from four character witnesses who stated that Armstrong was neither a racist nor a violent person.
Giugni elected not to testify on his own behalf; however, he did present testimony from a Fairfield police detective who stated that Giugni's father, a captain in the Fairfield Police Department, had not taken part in the investigation and had not been informed of the results. The parties also stipulated that Will Giugni had called his father on the night in question who told him that someone had been beaten up in the parking lot.
The jurors considering this evidence acquitted Giugni of attempted murder, but convicted him of aggravated mayhem and found the great bodily injury allegation to be true. The jurors acquitted Armstrong of attempted murder and aggravated mayhem, but found him guilty of simple mayhem and found the great bodily injury allegation to be true. The jurors acquitted Reitmeier of attempted murder and mayhem but convicted him of battery with serious bodily injury (§ 243, subd. (d)) and petty theft.
Subsequently, the court sentenced Giugni to life in prison with the possibility of parole plus a consecutive five-year term for the great bodily injury finding. The court sentenced Armstrong to four years on the mayhem count plus an additional five years for the great bodily injury finding for a total term of nine years.

People v. Giugni, Nos. A124528, A125552, 2011 WL 1134749, at *1-3 (Cal.Ct.App. Mar. 29, 2011).

Giugni filed a counseled appeal, arguing that 1) the trial court erred when it denied his motion for acquittal at the close of the prosecution's case; 2) the court erred when it denied his motion to sever his trial from that of his co-defendants; 3) he received ineffective assistance of counsel; 4) the court erred when instructing the jury; and 5) the court erred when it imposed a great bodily injury enhancement. The Court of Appeal concluded that the trial court erred in imposing the great bodily injury enhancement but affirmed in all other respects. Giugni, 2011 WL 1134749, at *1.

Giugni filed a counseled petition for review with the California Supreme Court, arguing that: 1) there was insufficient evidence that he intended to permanently disable Pettaway; 2) he was deprived of his right to a fair trial when the trial court denied his motion to sever; and 3) the trial court erred in instructing the jury. The California Supreme Court summarily denied review. Giugni filed his pro se Petition with this Court on January 5, 2012.


In his Petition before this Court, Giugni argues that: 1) there was insufficient evidence that he "intended to disable the victim"; 2) he was denied his "state-created right" to dismissal at the close of the prosecution's case; 3) the court erred when it denied his motion to sever his trial from that of his co-defendants; 4) trial counsel was ineffective for failing to request a particular instruction; and 5) the trial court erred in instructing the jury on self-defense.


Under the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996 ("AEDPA"), 28 U.S.C. § 2254(d), this Court cannot grant relief unless the decision of the state court was "contrary to, or involved an unreasonable application of, clearly established Federal law, as determined by the Supreme Court of the United States, " § 2254(d)(1), or "was based on an unreasonable determination of the facts in light of the evidence presented in the State court proceeding, " § 2254(d)(2). A state-court decision is "contrary" to federal law "if the state court applies a rule that contradicts the governing law set forth" in controlling Supreme Court authority or "if the state court confronts a set of facts that are materially indistinguishable from a decision" of the Supreme Court, but nevertheless arrives at a different result. Williams v. Taylor, 529 U.S. 362, 406 (2000).

The Supreme Court has explained that "clearly established Federal law" in § 2254(d)(1) "refers to the holdings, as opposed to the dicta, of [the Supreme Court] as of the time of the relevant state-court decision, " Williams, 529 U.S. at 412, and not circuit precedent, see Renico v. Lett, 559 U.S. 766, 778-79 (2010). The holding must also be intended to be binding upon the states; that is, the decision must be based upon constitutional grounds and not on the supervisory power of the Supreme Court over federal courts. Early v. Packer, 537 U.S. 3, 10 (2002). Thus, where holdings of the Supreme Court regarding the issue presented on habeas review are ...

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