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Martinez v. Soto

United States District Court, C.D. California

November 19, 2014

J. SOTO, Warden, Respondent

Edward J. Martinez, Petitioner, Pro se, Lancaster, CA.

For J. Soto, Warden, Respondent: Seth Patrick McCutcheon, CAAG - Office of Attorney General, Los Angeles, CA.



The Court submits this Report and Recommendation to the Honorable Andrew J. Guilford, United States District Judge, pursuant to 28 U.S.C. Section 636 and General Order 05-07 of the United States District Court for the Central District of California.


On May 29, 2014, Edward J. Martinez (" Petitioner"), a prisoner in state custody, filed a Petition for Writ of Habeas Corpus pursuant to 28 U.S.C. Section 2254 (" Petition"). On August 1, 2014, Respondent filed an Answer to the Petition. Petitioner filed a Reply on August 29, 2014.

The matter is ready for decision. For the reasons set forth below, the Court recommends that the Petition be denied.


In Los Angeles County Superior Court case number YA077857, a jury found Petitioner guilty of one count of second degree murder (Cal. Penal Code § 187(a)). It was also determined that four prior strike conviction allegations under California's Three Strikes Law (Cal. Penal Code § § 1170(a)-(d), 667(b)-(i)), and four serious felony conviction allegations (Cal. Penal Code § 667(a)(1)), were true. The trial court sentenced Petitioner to a total term of fifteen years plus forty-five years to life in state prison. (Respondent's Lodged Document (" LD") 1, Clerk's Transcript (" CT") at 306; LD 5 at 2.)

Petitioner appealed (LD 8), and on January 15, 2014, the California Court of Appeal modified Petitioner's custody credits but otherwise affirmed the judgment. (LD 5.) Petitioner filed a petition for review in the California Supreme Court (LD 6), which was denied on March 26, 2014. (LD 7.)

The Petition was filed on May 29, 2014.


Prosecution Evidence

Daniel Vigil lived at the Torrance Motel in the City of Torrance. He was good friends with Timothy Hillis, who also lived at the Torrance Motel. Vigil knew defendant only slightly. Vigil knew that Hillis had been married to defendant's sister at one time. Hillis walked with a limp and used a walking stick. It looked like a branch of a tree--smaller at the bottom and larger at the top.
On April 20, 2010, during a conversation at Hillis's doorway, Hillis mentioned to Vigil that he had had a fight with defendant earlier. As Hillis spoke, Vigil noticed defendant approaching. Defendant said to Vigil, " You better get out of the way." Defendant told Hillis, who was not wearing a shirt, to get dressed and meet him in the alley. Hillis approached defendant, and the two men began yelling at each other. They got each other into semi-headlocks and began punching each other. After a few minutes of this tussling, Hillis went back into his room and came back out carrying his walking stick like a bat. He hit defendant with it several times in the shoulder, neck, and head area. Hillis was very angry. Defendant backed up a bit and then came back towards Hillis and began throwing jabs at his mid-section. At that point, Vigil noticed a knife in defendant's hand. He saw defendant land at least 10 blows with the knife. When Vigil saw that defendant had dropped the knife, he kicked it over to another resident, Joseph De La Cruz. After dropping the knife, defendant walked away. Hillis walked back to his room and lay down on his bed. Vigil tried to render aid to Hillis.
The testimony of De La Cruz, who was unavailable, was read into the record. On April 20, 2010, De La Cruz resided at the Torrance Motel on the same hallway as Hillis. De La Cruz knew that defendant visited Hillis sometimes and that they were related by marriage. On that day, at approximately 1:00 p.m., De La Cruz heard an argument in the hallway between defendant and Hillis. Later on, at approximately 3:30 p.m., he heard a commotion outside his door. He looked out and saw two people " rumbling" on the floor. Vigil, who was looking at the two fighters, kicked a knife over to De La Cruz. De La Cruz saw blood on the men tumbling around. De La Cruz kicked the knife inside his room and called 911. De La Cruz did not leave his room again until the police arrived. He then saw that there was blood all over the walls in the hallway.
The parties stipulated that Hillis's autopsy showed that he died as a result of multiple sharp instrument wounds.
Officer Josh Burden of the City of Torrance Police Department received the report of a stabbing and responded to the Torrance Motel. His investigation led him to look for defendant at the Brighton Motel, which was across the street. Officer Burden first spotted defendant standing in the doorway of a fire escape balcony wearing dark lenses and a blue robe. Seeing that defendant matched the description he had been given of a suspect, he motioned to defendant to come down and also told him to do so. Defendant waved his hands and shook his head, indicating " no" and went back inside. Defendant reappeared, and this time he obeyed the officer's orders to come out. Defendant had fresh blood behind and on his left ear. Defendant, who was not clean-shaven, said he had cut himself shaving. Officer Burden noticed more blood on defendant's left ankle and on his feet. Defendant did not indicate he had been attacked, nor did he ask for help. Defendant was taken into custody and booked.
The parties stipulated that a passing motorist, Launica Samadi, was driving past the Torrance Motel when she saw an older Hispanic male covered in blood run in front of her car. He ran across the street and entered the Brighton Motel. They also stipulated that Marcus Droubay was carrying his bicycle up the stairs at the Torrance Motel when he saw defendant pass by him with blood on his feet. Defendant did not ask for assistance.
Donald Stevanus lived at the Brighton Motel and saw defendant standing near the fire escape on the day of Hillis's death. Defendant was agitated and had blood on the front of him. Defendant asked Stevanus to call his sister for him. He gave Stevanus a card with a number. He said something bad had happened and to tell his sister he had trouble. Stevanus believed ...

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