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Taja v. Ducart

United States District Court, C.D. California

December 3, 2014

GERALD A. TAJA JR., Petitioner,
C. E. DUCART, Warden, Respondent

Gerald A Taja, Jr, Petitioner, Pro se, Crescent City, CA.

For C E Ducart, Respondent: Matthew C Mulford, LEAD ATTORNEY, CAAG - Office of Attorney General, San Diego, CA.


Honorable Jay C. Gandhi, United States Magistrate Judge.



On June 14, 2010, a jury convicted Gerald A. Taja Jr. (" Petitioner") of attempted premeditated murder, aggravated assault, and active gang participation.[1] (Lodg. No. 1, Clerk's Transcript (" CT") at 334-35, 340-42, 405-06, 408.) The jury further found true that Petitioner had been vicariously armed with a firearm, had committed his crimes while on bail, and had committed his crimes in furtherance of a street gang. (Id. at 334-35, 402-04, 407, 409-410.) Additionally, the trial court found true that Petitioner had suffered a prior strike conviction and a prior serious felony conviction. (Id. at 434.) For his crimes, Petitioner was sentenced to state imprisonment for forty-one years to life. (Id. at 497-98, 522-25.)

Before this conviction, Petitioner underwent another trial on the same charges, which resulted in a hung jury and a mistrial. (Lodg. No. 8, Reporter's Augmented Transcript (" RAT") at 677-680; Ex. A at 1.)

After his conviction, Petitioner appealed, and the California Court of Appeal affirmed the conviction in a reasoned decision. (Lodg. Nos. 10-13.) Petitioner's state habeas petition was likewise denied. (Lodg. Nos. 14-15.)

The Court has reviewed the record, and the evidence is accurately summarized in the California Court of Appeal's decision on direct review, which is attached as Exhibit A. (Lodg. No. 13); see also 28 U.S.C. § 2254(e)(1) (facts presumed correct). The Court discusses facts below as are pertinent to habeas relief.



Petitioner asserts a single ground for relief, which fails on this record. See 28 U.S.C. § 2254(d) (Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act) (" AEDPA"); Harrington v. Richter, 562 U.S. 86, 131 S.Ct. 770, 786, 178 L.Ed.2d 624 (2011).

Specifically, Petitioner argues that the retrial that resulted in his conviction constituted double jeopardy, in violation of the Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments.

As a rule, the Fifth Amendment's Double Jeopardy Clause " protects against successive prosecutions for the same offense after acquittal or conviction." Monge v. California, 524 U.S. 721, 727-28, 118 S.Ct. 2246, 141 L.Ed.2d 615 (1998) (citation omitted). However, " when a judge discharges a jury on the grounds that [it] cannot reach a verdict, the Double Jeopardy Clause does not bar a new trial for the defendant before a new jury." Renico v. Lett, 559 U.S. 766, 773-74, 130 S.Ct. 1855, 176 L.Ed.2d 678 (2010) (citation omitted); see also United States v. Sanford, 429 U.S. 14, 15-16, 97 S.Ct. 20, 50 L.Ed.2d 17 (1976) (per curiam) (citation omitted) (finding that after a deadlocked jury resulted in a trial court's sua sponte declaration of mistrial, " manifest necessity" allowed retrial); Oregon v. Kennedy, 456 U.S. 667, 672, 102 S.Ct. 2083, 72 L.Ed.2d 416 (1982) (" [T]he hung jury remains the prototypical example" of the " manifest necessity" required to " lift[] the double jeopardy bar to a second trial.").

Here, because the jury in Petitioner's first trial was deadlocked as to the charges against Petitioner, [2] the trial court did not abuse its discretion in declaring a mistrial and the Court of Appeals did not act unreasonably in affirming the conviction that resulted from Petitioner's retrial.[3] See Renico, 559 U.S. at 774-74, 776-79; ( see also RAT at 666-80; Ex. A at 8-15).

Thus, on this record, Petitioner's retrial constituted neither double jeopardy nor a constitutional violation. See Renico, 559 U.S. at 773-74, 776-79; Sanford, 429 U.S. at 15-16; Kennedy, 456 U.S. at 672.

Accordingly, Petitioner's claim does not merit federal habeas relief.



In accordance with the foregoing, IT IS RECOMMENDED that the Court issue an Order: (1) approving and accepting this Report and Recommendation; (2) directing that Judgment be entered dismissing this action with prejudice; (3) denying an evidentiary hearing; and (4) denying a certificate of appealability. See 28 U.S.C. § 2253; Fed. R. App. P. 22(b); Cullen v. Pinholster, 131 S.Ct. 1388, 1398, 179 L.Ed.2d 557 (2011); Slack v. McDaniel, 529 U.S. 473, 484, 120 S.Ct. 1595, 146 L.Ed.2d 542 (2000).

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