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McGill v. Gipson

United States District Court, Northern District of California

December 29, 2014

NATHAN ANGELO MCGILL, Petitioner,
v.
CONNIE GIPSON, Respondent.

DENYING PETITION FOR WRIT OF HABEAS CORPUS AND DENYING CERTIFICATE OF APPEALABILITY RE: DKT. NO. 14

JAMES DONATO, United States District Judge.

This is a habeas corpus case filed pro se by a state prisoner pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254. The Court ordered respondent to show cause why the writ should not be granted. Respondent filed an answer and a memorandum of points and authorities in support of it, and lodged exhibits with the Court. Petitioner filed a reply. The petition is denied.

BACKGROUND

After a jury trial, petitioner was found guilty of murder and robbery. People v. McGill, No. A129485, 2012 WL 151738, at *1 (Cal.Ct.App. Jan. 19, 2012). The trial court found that petitioner had prior serious felony and strike allegations and sentenced him to a term of 62 years to life in state prison. Id. The California Court of Appeal affirmed the conviction. Id. at 4. Petitions to the California Court of Appeal and California Supreme Court were denied. Resp. Exs. 6, 9-12.

The California Court of Appeal summarized the facts of the crime as follows:

The murder was of longtime methamphetamine dealer Jody Reynolds at his trailer home on semi-rural property in Santa Rosa on January 20, 2009. Reynolds was beaten and shot twice, with different guns, during a robbery carried out by Felix Alvarado and Ernest Cassidy, William Hammack, and McGill. All were originally charged, as well as Eric Duran, a customer of Reynolds who set up Reynolds and directed the perpetrators to where Reynolds lived. Duran avoided a possible life term for murder through a plea agreement under which he agreed to testify against the others, and McGill was tried here on an information amended to include just the charges against him.
Evidence tying McGill to the planning and execution of the robbery/murder included: his arrival with the other three at Hammack's place by car just afterward, wearing a face mask; talk there in the presence of Duran about what happened; Duran splitting stolen drugs five ways; McGill threatening Duran, while holding a gun, that he would be dead if he said anything; a duffle bag with guns in it, including a revolver likely used to shoot the dealer, found in the house where McGill lived; and his DNA being found on a magazine with the guns. This appeal, however, focuses on statements McGill made to Detective Chris Vivian in two interviews, a day apart, at the Sonoma County Sheriffs Investigation Bureau, after McGill's arrest about a week after the crimes. In those interviews, McGill was talkative, after Miranda warnings, and admitted being part of the planning for what was supposed to be just a robbery. In the course of the five and a half hours of the first interview (from about 5:30 to 11:00 p.m., he painted himself as a veteran (40 years old) who was anxious about the others' inexperience, showed them how to do it, wrote it down for them, had them practice at his house, and specifically warned them against shooting the dealer-that it was "a red light." He told who was involved, what happened at the shooting, that four guns were used, which ones he provided or fixed for them, but consistently in the first interview, denied being there. He said there were five perpetrators and named four, including Duran in their number, but denied being the fifth and never gave a fifth name. He said he was going to do it but backed off when he got "the red light" from his "people" about the dealer. Still, the others were "my boys, " he said, so he had to "make sure they're doing shit right." He said it was "destined to go bad, " but, "If I was there, this wouldn't a happened. Only toward the end of the second interview, which ran some three hours from 9:00 p.m., did McGill admit being there. He said he stayed outside the house until he heard shots fired, then was angry and "ready to shoot them all."

McGill, 2012 WL 151738, at * l-2.

STANDARD OF REVIEW

A district court may not grant a petition challenging a state conviction or sentence on the basis of a claim that was reviewed 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). The first prong applies both to questions of law and to mixed questions of law and fact, Williams v. Taylor, 529 U.S. 362, 407-09 (2000), while the second prong applies to decisions based on factual determinations, Miller-El v. Cockrell, 537 U.S. 322, 340 (2003).

A state court decision is "contrary to" Supreme Court authority, that is, falls under the first clause of § 2254(d)(1), only 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 Supreme] Court has on a set of materially indistinguishable facts." Williams, 529 U.S. at 412-13. A state court decision is an "unreasonable application of Supreme Court authority, falling under the second clause of § 2254(d)(1), if it correctly identifies the governing legal principle from the Supreme Court's decisions but "unreasonably applies that principle to the facts of the prisoner's case." Id. at 413. The federal court on habeas review 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." Id. at 411. Rather, the application must be "objectively unreasonable" to support granting the writ. Id. at 409.

Under 28 U.S.C. § 2254(d)(2), a state court decision "based on a factual determination will not be overturned on factual grounds unless objectively unreasonable in light of the evidence presented in the state-court proceeding." See Miller-El, 537 U.S. at 340; see also Torres v. Prunty, 223 F.3d 1103, 1107 (9th Cir. 2000). The federal court presumes the correctness of the state court's factual findings, and the petitioner bears the burden of rebutting that presumption by clear and convincing evidence. 28 U.S.C. § 2254(e)(1).

The state court decision to which § 2254(d) applies is the "last reasoned decision" of the state court. See Ylstv. Nunnemaker, 501 U.S. 797, 803-04 (1991); Barker v. Fleming, 423 F.3d 1085, 1091-92 (9th Cir. 2005). When there is no reasoned opinion from the highest state court to consider the petitioner's claims, the Court looks to the last reasoned opinion. See Nunnemaker at 801-06; Shacklefordv. Hubbard, 234 F.3d 1072, 1079 n.2 (9th Cir. 2000). The standard of review under AEDPA is somewhat different where the state court gives no reasoned explanation of its decision on a petitioner's federal claim and there is no reasoned lower court decision on the claim. In such a case, a review of the record is the only means of deciding whether the state court's decision was objectively reasonable. Himes v. Thompson, 336 F.3d 848, 853 (9th Cir. 2003); Delgado v. Lewis, 223 F.3d 976, 981-82 (9th Cir. 2000). When confronted with such a decision, a ...


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