United States District Court, C.D. California
January 14, 2015
ARNOLD NEWTON, Petitioner,
F. FOULK, Warden, Respondent
Arnold Newton, Petitioner, Pro se, Susanville, CA.
For F. Foulk, Warden, Respondent: Alene M Games, CAAG - Office of Attorney General, California Department of Justice, Los Angeles, CA.
REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION OF UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE
This Report and Recommendation is submitted to the Honorable David O. Carter, United States District Judge, pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636 and General Order 05-07 of the United States District Court for the Central District of California.
SUMMARY OF RECOMMENDATION
Arnold Newton (" Petitioner"), a California state prisoner proceeding pro se, has filed a Petition for Writ of Habeas Corpus (" Petition") pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254(d), challenging his conviction for attempted first-degree murder in Los Angeles County Superior Court. On habeas review, Petitioner sets forth three claims of alleged constitutional error: (1) insufficient evidence supporting Petitioner's gang-related sentencing enhancement; (2) insufficient evidence supporting Petitioner's attempted first-degree murder conviction; and (3) erroneous denial of Petitioner's request to disclose juror names and addresses. As discussed below, Petitioner's claims fail on their merits. Accordingly, the Court recommends the Petition be denied.
On May 6, 2011, following a jury trial of Petitioner in California Superior Court for the County of Los Angeles, Petitioner was convicted of attempted firstdegree murder, in violation of California Penal Code sections 187(a) and 664. Lodgment (" lodg.") No. 5 at 210. The jury also found the crime was committed for the benefit of, at the direction of, or in association with a criminal street gang with the specific intent to promote, further, and assist in criminal conduct by gang members, for the purposes of a sentencing enhancement under California Penal Code section 186.22(b)(1)(C). Id. On February 9, 2012, the trial court sentenced Petitioner to fifty-five years to life in state prison. Id. at 290.
On April 11, 2013, the California Court of Appeal affirmed Petitioner's conviction on direct appeal in a reasoned decision. Lodg. No. 2. On June 26, 2013, the California Supreme Court summarily denied review of the appeal. Lodg. No. 4.
On May 28, 2014, Petitioner filed the instant Petition and an accompanying attachment (" Petitioner's Memorandum") with this Court, raising three grounds in support of his claim to federal habeas relief. (ECF Docket No. (" dkt.") 1; 2). On November 12, 2014, Respondent filed an Answer to the Petition, with an accompanying Memorandum of Points and Authorities (" Respondent's Memorandum"). (Dkt. 19). On January 12, 2015, Petitioner filed a Traverse to the Answer. (Dkt. 23). The matter thus stands submitted and ready for decision.
In its reasoned decision affirming Petitioner's conviction on direct appeal, the California Court of Appeal summarized the evidence presented at Petitioner's trial. See Lodg. No. 2. Petitioner has not challenged the Court of Appeal's summary and thus, it is " presumed correct, " absent rebuttal by the Petitioner by clear and convincing evidence. 28 U.S.C. § 2254(e)(1). See also Cooper v. Brown, 510 F.3d 870, 919 (9th Cir. 2007) (" Factual determinations by state courts are presumed correct absent clear and convincing evidence to the contrary.") (internal citations and quotation marks omitted). The Court of Appeal's summary is excerpted below:
In the summer of 2010, Erika Jones lived in the Watts Arms Housing Complex with her young daughter. Erika's boyfriend, Dennis Hobson, stayed with her from time to time. Dominica Ealy and her daughter were also staying in the apartment. Appellant was the father of Dominica's child.
At the end of June or the beginning of July, someone broke several windows in Erika's residence. Erika believed that appellant was involved. Dominica gave Erika $250. They did not discuss the purpose of this payment. Erika believed that it was compensation for the broken windows. Dominica believed it was rent.
As a result of the broken windows, Erika's landlord told her that he needed to inspect her residence. He reminded her that she was not allowed to have other people living with her.
On July 15, 2010, Erika told Dominica that Dominica needed to leave for a few days, until the inspection was over. Dominica said that she had just given Erika $250 and it would not be easy for her to leave. Erika insisted. Dominica walked out. Shortly thereafter, a friend of Erika's came in and said, " Dominica outside, talking mess."
Erika went outside and asked Dominica if there was a problem. Dominica said there was not. Erika and her daughter then walked toward the complex's playground. Appellant came up to Erika and told her that if she did not give the $250 back to Dominica, he would snatch the gold chain off her neck. They argued for a few minutes, then appellant walked away.
Soon, appellant returned and started arguing with Erika again. Hobson walked up to see what was happening. Appellant said he was angry because his " baby mama was getting put out." Hobson tried to calm appellant down and explain the situation. He was not successful. Four or five gunshots were fired, hitting Hobson. Hobson ran toward the apartments and appellant ran in the same direction.
Los Angeles Police Officer Ivan McMillan investigated the scene and canvassed the area for witnesses and evidence. He did not obtain any information.
Los Angeles Police Officer Tim Pearce interviewed Erika and Hobson after the shooting. Unbeknownst to Erika and Hobson, the interviews were recorded. The recordings were played at trial and transcripts were entered into evidence.
Erika told police that appellant was the shooter. She also told police that appellant said, " On Baby Loc Crip if you don't give my baby mama $250, it's gonna be a problem, woo, woo." She also said that appellant said, " I'm like on G--O and Grape Street, if you don't give my baby mama $250 there's gonna be problems." Erika understood these statements as " banging" on her and Hobson.
Hobson told police that appellant was the shooter and identified appellant in a six-pack photographic lineup. Hobson told police that he would not testify that appellant shot him, however, as this " would make it all bad for [him]." He said he would rather run away than testify.
At trial, Erika said that she did not see anyone with a gun before, during or after the shooting. She denied telling police that appellant shot Hobson. She did not remember telling police that appellant made the above-quoted statements about his gang. She said that she could not hear most of what appellant and Hobson were arguing about. She said that she heard appellant say " On Baby Loc" and Hobson say " On Adams" during the argument.
At trial, Hobson said that he did not see who shot him, and did not tell police that appellant shot him. Hobson assumed he was shot because he was a gang member. He selected appellant from the lineup because appellant was present when the shooting occurred.
Officer McMillan testified at trial as a gang expert. He stated that appellant was an active member of the Grape Street gang. That gang's main territory ran through the Jordan Downs Housing Project, which included the Watts Arms complex where Erika lived. The primary activities of the gang were murder, attempted murder, witness intimidation, robberies, burglaries, grand theft and rape.
Officer McMillan explained that reputation is everything to a gang. A gang's reputation is based on and increased by violence. The resulting atmosphere of intimidation in the community makes it easier for the gang to carry out its criminal activities without fear of being caught or prosecuted.
Dominica testified on appellant's behalf at trial. She explained that she believed that the $250 she gave Erika was for rent. Dominica did not believe that she should have to move after making this payment. The two argued outside, in front of about 20 people. Appellant came up, joined the discussion and insisted that Erika return the money. Erika said that the money was for the repair of the broken windows. Appellant and Erika began to argue. Hobson joined the group, and began to argue with appellant. Dominica saw Hobson reach into his waistband for a gun handle. She ran away. As she ran, she heard gunshots. Dominica acknowledged that she did not mention Hobson's gun to police.
Lodg. No. 2 at 2-4.
CLAIMS FOR RELIEF
Petitioner's three claims, as presented in the Petition, are as follows:
(1) Claim One: Petitioner's gang-related sentencing enhancement was not supported by sufficient evidence, violating Petitioner's due process rights under the Fourteenth Amendment.
(2) Claim Two: Petitioner's attempted first-degree murder conviction was not supported by evidence proving each element of the offense beyond a reasonable doubt, violating Petitioner's due process rights under the Fourteenth Amendment.
(3) Claim Three: The trial court erroneously denied Petitioner's request to disclose juror names and addresses, violating his Sixth Amendment rights to a trial by jury.
Petitioner's Mem. at 1-2. In its Answer, Respondent contends all of Petitioner's claims fail on their merits.
STANDARD OF REVIEW
Petitioner's claims are subject to the provisions of the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996 (" AEDPA"). Under AEDPA, federal courts may grant habeas relief to a state prisoner " with respect to any claim that was adjudicated on the merits in State court proceedings" only if that adjudication:
(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). " '[C]learly established Federal law' for purposes of § 2254(d)(1) includes only 'the holdings, as opposed to the dicta, of th[e] [U.S. Supreme] Court's decisions'" in existence at the time of the state court adjudication. White v. Woodall, U.S., 134 S.Ct. 1697, 1702, 1706, 188 L.Ed.2d 698 (2014) (quoting Howes v. Fields, U.S., 132 S.Ct. 1181, 1187, 182 L.Ed.2d 17 (2012)). Additionally, however, " circuit court precedent may be persuasive in demonstrating what law is clearly established and whether a state court applied that law unreasonably." Maxwell v. Roe, 628 F.3d 486, 494 (9th Cir. 2010) (internal quotation marks omitted).
Overall, AEDPA presents " a formidable barrier to federal habeas relief for prisoners whose claims have been adjudicated in state court." Burt v. Titlow, U.S., 134 S.Ct. 10, 16, 187 L.Ed.2d 348 (2013). The federal statute presents " a difficult to meet . . . and highly deferential standard for evaluating state-court rulings, which demands that state-court decisions be given the benefit of the doubt." Cullen v. Pinholster, U.S., 131 S.Ct. 1388, 1398, 179 L.Ed.2d 557 (2011) (internal citation and quotation marks omitted). On habeas review, AEDPA places on petitioners the burden to show that the state court's decision " was so lacking in justification that there was an error well understood and comprehended in existing law beyond any possibility for fairminded disagreement." Harrington v. Richter, 562 U.S. 86, 131 S.Ct. 770, 786-87, 178 L.Ed.2d 624 (2011). Put another way, a state court determination that a claim lacks merit " precludes federal habeas relief so long as fairminded jurists could disagree" on the correctness of that ruling. Id. at 786. Federal habeas corpus review therefore serves as " a guard against extreme malfunctions in the state criminal justice systems, not a substitute for ordinary error correction through appeal." Id. (internal citation and quotation marks omitted).
Where the last state court disposition of a claim is a summary denial, this Court must review the last reasoned state court decision addressing the merits of the claim under AEDPA's deferential standard of review. Maxwell, 628 F.3d at 495. See also Berghuis v. Thompkins, 560 U.S. 370, 380, 130 S.Ct. 2250, 176 L.Ed.2d 1098 (2010) (when a state supreme court denies discretionary review of a decision on direct appeal, the appellate court's decision is the relevant state-court decision for purposes of AEDPA's standard of review).
Here, the California Court of Appeal's reasoned opinion disposing of Petitioner's direct appeal, see Lodg. No. 2, stands as the last reasoned decision on the merits of all three of Petitioner's claims on habeas review. Accordingly, the California Court of Appeal's reasoned decision must be reviewed under AEDPA's deferential standard of review for any claims adjudicated on the merits. See 28 U.S.C. § 2254(d).
A. Claim One Does not Warrant Habeas Relief
In Claim One, Petitioner argues there was insufficient evidence supporting his gang-related sentencing enhancement under California Penal Code section 186.22(b)(1). Petitioner's Mem. at 15-28. In its reasoned decision disposing of Petitioner's direct appeal on April 11, 2013, the California Court of Appeal rejected Claim One on its merits. See Lodg. No. 2 at 5-7. Accordingly, the Court reviews the Court of Appeal's reasoned disposition of Petitioner's claim as an " adjudication on the merits" subject to deference under AEDPA. See 28 U.S.C. § 2254(d).
1. Sufficiency of the Evidence Challenges
The standard on habeas review for assessing challenges to the sufficiency of evidence supporting a sentencing enhancement is the same as that for weighing the sufficiency of evidence underlying a criminal conviction under Jackson v. Virginia, 443 U.S. 307, 321, 99 S.Ct. 2781, 61 L.Ed.2d 560 (1979). See Garcia v. Carey, 395 F.3d 1099, 1102 (9th Cir. 2005).
When weighing the evidence on a sufficiency of the evidence claim under Jackson, this Court's inquiry is limited. Evidence is sufficient unless the charge was " so totally devoid of evidentiary support as to render [petitioner's] conviction [or sentencing enhancement] unconstitutional under the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment." Fish v. Cardwell, 523 F.2d 976, 978 (9th Cir. 1975) (internal quotation marks and citations omitted). The standard of review on a sufficiency of the evidence claim has long been whether, " after viewing the evidence in the light most favorable to the prosecution, any rational trier of fact could have found the essential elements of the crime beyond a reasonable doubt." Jackson, 443 U.S. at 319 (1979); see Gonzalez v. Knowles, 515 F.3d 1006, 1011 (9th Cir. 2008). This Court will not re-weigh the evidence to reach a result different from that of the jury. See Walters v. Maass, 45 F.3d 1355, 1358 (9th Cir. 1995) (" The reviewing court must respect the province of the jury to determine the credibility of witnesses, resolve evidentiary conflicts, and draw reasonable inferences from proven facts by assuming that the jury resolved all conflicts in a manner that supports the verdict."). Circumstantial evidence alone is sufficient to support the jury's finding. See Jackson, 443 U.S. at 324-25; Schad v. Ryan, 671 F.3d 708, 717 (9th Cir. 2011) (" Circumstantial evidence and reasonable inferences drawn from it may properly form the basis of a conviction.").
On federal habeas review under AEDPA, the Court must apply the standards of Jackson with an " additional layer of deference" to the state court's decision and may only overturn the decision if it constituted an " objectively unreasonable application" of Jackson. See Juan H. v. Allen, 408 F.3d 1262, 1274 & n.12 (9th Cir. 2005). In short, for a federal habeas court, " the only question under Jackson is whether th[e] [jury] finding was so insupportable as to fall below the threshold of bare rationality." Coleman v. Johnson, U.S., 132 S.Ct. 2060, 2065, 182 L.Ed.2d 978 (2012).
When assessing Claim One, the Court looks first to the requirements for gang-related sentencing enhancements under California Penal Code section 186.22(b)(1). See Jackson, 443 U.S. at 324 n.16 (noting that the Jackson standard is to be " applied with explicit reference to the substantive elements of the criminal offense as defined by state law").
2. Applicable California Law
Section 186.22(b)(1)'s sentencing enhancement has two prongs: (1) a defendant must have committed a crime " for the benefit of, at the direction of, or in association" with a criminal street gang; and (2) the defendant must have acted with the specific intent of assisting in any criminal conduct by gang members. People v. Albillar, 51 Cal.4th 47, 59, 119 Cal.Rptr.3d 415, 244 P.3d 1062 (2010). In regard to the first prong, " [e]xpert opinion that particular criminal conduct benefit[t]ed a gang by enhancing its reputation for viciousness can be sufficient to raise the inference that the conduct was 'committed for the benefit of . . . a[ ] criminal street gang'" within the meaning of section 186.22(b)(1). Id. at 63. In regard to the second prong, " the scienter requirement in section 186.22(b)(1)--i.e., 'the specific intent to promote, further, or assist in any criminal conduct by gang members'--is unambiguous and applies to any criminal conduct, without a further requirement that the conduct be 'apart from' the criminal conduct underlying the offense of conviction sought to be enhanced." Id. at 66.
3. The State Court Decision
On direct appeal, Petitioner claimed there was insufficient evidence supporting his sentencing enhancement under Section 186.22(b)(1). Lodg. No. 1 at 12-33. Petitioner argued there was no evidence he shot at Hobson in concert with other members of the Grape Street gang--the gang with which he was affiliated. Id. at 13-14, 22-23. Petitioner also claimed there was no evidence anyone other than Erika and Hobson was aware of Petitioner's gang membership during the shooting. Id. In support of this conclusion, Petitioner cited Hobson's own testimony that the incident was not at all gang-related. Id. at 14 (citing CT 154).
Petitioner also dismissed gang expert Ivan McMillan's opinion that the crime was committed to benefit Grape Street by intimidating the local community. Id. Officer McMillan's opinion, Petitioner argued, merely established Petitioner's actions " indirect[ly] benefit[ed]" Grape Street. Id. at 15. In short, Petitioner claimed the shooting resulted purely from a " family dispute gone awry" and that Petitioner merely acted out of " anger @ his girlfriend's perceived mistreatment." Id. at 15, 16, 21-22.
In its reasoned decision, the Court of Appeal rejected Petitioner's sufficiency of the evidence claim. Lodg. No. 2 at 5-7. The Court of Appeal inferred Petitioner ultimately shot at Hobson in order to preserve his gang's reputation for violence in the eyes of the community. Id. In support, the Court of Appeal cited the fact that the incident took place outdoors in Grape Street territory. Id. The Court of Appeal construed Petitioner's statement to Hobson that " I'm like on G-O and Grape Street, if you don't give my baby mama $250 there's gonna be problems, " as an attempt by Petitioner to use his gang membership to intimidate Hobson into paying Dominica. Id. In addition, the Court of Appeal noted a number of witnesses gathered, heard Petitioner threaten Hobson with his Grape Street membership, and then saw Hobson disregard Petitioner's gang-based threats. Id. at 6-7. Lastly, the Court of Appeal cited the testimony of Officer McMillan that the reputation of a gang is " everything" to its members and that reputation is increased through violent crime. Id. at 7. From such facts, the Court of Appeal concluded Petitioner shot Hobson--someone who had ignored Petitioner's gang-based threats--to maintain Grape Street's reputation in the eyes of witnesses at the scene. Id. Hence, the Court of Appeal concluded a jury could have reasonably found the requirements of the sentence enhancement had been met. Id.
The Court holds the Court of Appeal's decision was not unreasonable. While no other Grape Street gang members were involved in the shooting, Petitioner injected his gang membership into the dispute with Hobson while in Grape Street territory and in the presence of numerous witnesses. As the Court of Appeal noted, Petitioner's reference to his membership with Grape Street just prior to committing the shooting supports the Section 186.22(b)(1) finding. In addition, Officer McMillan's testimony established that a gang's reputation for violence in a community is of great importance to gang members. RT 1262. Thus, under the " doubly" deferential analysis under Jackson on federal habeas review, the Court must therefore conclude it was reasonable for the Court of Appeal to find the elements of Section 186.22(b)(1) met here. Accordingly, habeas relief is not warranted on Claim One.
B. Claim Two Does not Warrant Habeas Relief
In Claim Two, Petitioner argues there was insufficient evidence supporting his conviction for attempted first-degree murder. Petitioner's Mem. at 28-34. In its reasoned decision disposing of Petitioner's direct appeal on April 11, 2013, the California Court of Appeal rejected Claim Two on its merits. See Lodg. No. 2 at 8-9. Accordingly, the Court reviews the Court of Appeal's reasoned disposition of Petitioner's claim as an " adjudication on the merits" subject to deference under AEDPA. See 28 U.S.C. § 2254(d).
1. Sufficiency of the Evidence Challenges
The Court must analyze Claim Two according to the standard set forth in Jackson v. Virginia, 443 U.S. 307, 321, 99 S.Ct. 2781, 61 L.Ed.2d 560 (1979), described in Section VI.A.1. See Section VI.A.1 for a description of the Jackson standard.
2. Applicable California Law
Under California law, murder is defined as " the unlawful killing of a human being . . . with malice aforethought." Cal. Penal Code § 187. " [M]urder which is perpetrated by any kind of willful, deliberate and premeditated killing with express malice aforethought is murder of the first degree." People v. Visciotti, 2 Cal.4th 1, 61, 5 Cal.Rptr.2d 495, 825 P.2d 388 (1992) (internal quotation marks and citation omitted). " First degree willful, deliberate, and premeditated murder involves a cold, calculated judgment, including one arrived at quickly . . . and is evidenced by planning activity, a motive to kill, or an exacting manner of death." People v. Carasi, 44 Cal.4th 1263, 1306, 82 Cal.Rptr.3d 265, 190 P.3d 616 (2008).
In regard to a charge of attempted murder, the prosecution is required to prove the following elements: (1) the defendant had the specific intent to kill the alleged victim; and (2) he committed a direct but ineffectual act toward accomplishing the intended killing. See Cal. Penal Code § § 664, 187(a); People v. Houston, 54 Cal.4th 1186, 1217, 144 Cal.Rptr.3d 716, 281 P.3d 799 (2012). If it is willful, deliberate, and premeditated, it is attempted first-degree murder and if it is not, it is simply attempted murder. Cal. Penal Code § 664(a).
3. The State Court Decision
On direct appeal, Petitioner claimed there was insufficient evidence supporting his conviction for attempted first-degree murder. Lodg. No. 1 at 34-52. Petitioner argued there was insufficient evidence showing his shooting of Hobson was deliberate and premeditated. Id. at 35. Rather, Petitioner claimed the evidence showed an " impulsive shooting with no indication that it had been carefully considered and its consequences carefully weighed." Id.
In its reasoned decision, the Court of Appeal rejected Petitioner's sufficiency of the evidence claim. Lodg. No. 2 at 8-9. As an initial matter, the Court of Appeal identified two motives for the shooting: (1) Petitioner wished to get Dominica's money back; and (2) Petitioner wished to uphold the reputation of Grape Street. Id. at 8. The Court of Appeal inferred the shooting was a " premeditated and deliberate" attempt to fulfill both of these goals, noting the progressive escalation of the dispute between Petitioner and Hobson. Id. The Court of Appeal noted the dispute started with a verbal argument and that when it became clear Hobson would not return Dominica's money, Petitioner referenced his affiliation with Grape Street and made threats of violence. Id. When such threats did not cause Hobson to back down, Petitioner resorted to violence, shooting Hobson in the chest--a vital area. Id. As Hobson ran away, Petitioner shot him two more times, in the back and elbow. Id. Such " systemic escalation, " the Court of Appeal held, permitted the inference that Petitioner acted with a premeditated intent to kill Hobson and that the shooting was not simply spontaneous. Id. at 8-9. Hence, the Court of Appeal rejected Petitioner's sufficiency claim. Id.
The Court holds the Court of Appeal's decision was not unreasonable. While Petitioner may argue the evidence showed the shooting was an impulsive action in the midst of a verbal dispute, the Court must view the evidence in the light most favorable to the prosecution and the reviewing state court. Schad, 671 F.3d at 717; Juan H, 408 F.3d at 1274. The Court may not re-weigh the evidence and draw inferences to reach a result different from that of the jury. See Walters, 45 F.3d at 1358. Hence, the Court concludes the evidence permitted the inference that Petitioner deliberately shot Hobson in with the dual motive of gaining the return Dominica's money and maintaining the reputation of Grape Street. Moreover, the evidence permitted the inference of a deliberate escalation of force when Petitioner's verbal confrontation and threats failed. Finally, Petitioner's deliberate firing of additional shots after Hobson had turned and was running away further support the Court of Appeal's finding.
Consequently, the evidence was sufficient under Jackson to support Petitioner's attempted first-degree murder conviction. Hence, the Court concludes the Court of Appeal's rejection of Claim Two was not " contrary to" or an " unreasonable application" of Jackson. See Juan H, 408 F.3d at 1274; see also 28 U.S.C. § 2254(d)(1). Accordingly, habeas relief is not warranted on Claim Two.
C. Claim Three Does not Warrant Habeas Relief
In Claim Three, Petitioner argues the trial court erroneously denied Petitioner's request to disclose juror names and addresses, violating his Sixth Amendment right to a trial by jury. Petitioner's Mem. at 34-44. In its reasoned decision disposing of Petitioner's direct appeal on April 11, 2013, the California Court of Appeal rejected Petitioner's claim on its merits. See Lodg. No. 2 at 9-11. Accordingly, the Court reviews the Court of Appeal's reasoned disposition of Petitioner's claim as an " adjudication on the merits" subject to deference under AEDPA. See 28 U.S.C. § 2254(d).
1. Relevant Trial Court Proceedings
On July 17, 2011, after the jury rendered its verdict, Petitioner filed a motion to relieve his trial counsel because counsel failed to challenge a juror for bias. CT 224-26. On July 19, 2011, Petitioner's motion was granted and new counsel was appointed. Id. at 227.
On October 7, 2011, Petitioner's new trial counsel filed a petition to disclose the jurors' personal information, claiming (1) Petitioner had recognized a juror during voir dire from a charter school he had attended, (2) the juror disliked Petitioner, (3) the juror never informed the trial court she knew Petitioner, and (4) the juror became the jury foreperson and was in a position to prejudice other jurors against Petitioner. Id. at 232-39. At a hearing on the petition, the trial court denied the petition, finding defense counsel had failed to state a prima facie showing of good cause for disclosing personal juror information, as required by California Code of Civil Procedure sections 206(g) and 237(b). RT 2402. The trial court also denied the request when defense counsel attempted to renew it in a motion for a new trial premised on juror misconduct. Id. at 2704-05.
Federal habeas corpus relief may be granted " only on the ground that [the petitioner] is in custody in violation of the Constitution or laws or treaties of the United States." 28 U.S.C. § 2254(a). Mere errors in the application of state law are not cognizable on federal habeas review. Id.; Estelle v. McGuire, 502 U.S. 62, 67-68, 112 S.Ct. 475, 116 L.Ed.2d 385 (1991) (" [I]t is not the province of a federal habeas court to reexamine state-court determinations on state-law questions."); accord Pulley v. Harris, 465 U.S. 37, 41, 104 S.Ct. 871, 79 L.Ed.2d 29 (1984).
Here, Petitioner does not identify and the Court cannot find clearly established U.S. Supreme Court authority supporting the proposition that Petitioner's right to a jury trial required the trial court to provide him with the jurors' personal information. Indeed, the Ninth Circuit has held a criminal defendant does not have a clearly established constitutional right to a hearing on a juror misconduct claim, much less a right to a juror's personal information. See Grotemeyer v. Hickman, 393 F.3d 871, 881 (9th Cir. 2004) (holding no constitutional violation where state court denied further factual development of jury misconduct allegations); Tracey v. Palmateer, 341 F.3d 1037, 1045 (9th Cir. 2003), cert. denied, 543 U.S. 864, 125 S.Ct. 196, 160 L.Ed.2d 107 (2004) (" Clearly established federal law, as determined by the Supreme Court, does not require state or federal courts to hold a hearing every time a claim of juror bias [or misconduct] is raised."). Because of such precedent, a number of federal district courts have rejected habeas claims arising from the denial of requests for jurors' personal information. See, e.g., White v. Knipp, No. CV 11-3016 TLN-DAD, 2013 WL 5375611, at *38 (E.D. Cal. Sept. 24, 2013); Turner v. McEwen, No. ED CV 11-2069 VAP, 2013 WL 3778845, at *4 (C.D. Cal. July 17, 2013) (" [N]o federal law requires a state court to permit post-trial access to juror information even when evidence of misconduct exists."). Consequently, the Court concludes the Court of Appeal's rejection of Petitioner's claim did not contravene " clearly established Federal law, as determined by the Supreme Court of the United States." See 28 U.S.C. § 2254(d)(1). Accordingly, habeas relief is not warranted on Claim Three.
IT IS THEREFORE RECOMMENDED that the District Judge issue an order: (1) accepting the findings and recommendations in this Report; (2) directing that judgment be entered denying the Petition; and (3) dismissing the action with prejudice.