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Spinner v. Wofford

United States District Court, C.D. California, Eastern Division

February 17, 2015

JESSE J. SPINNER, Petitioner,
C. WOFFORD, Warden, Respondent.


PAUL L. ABRAMS, Magistrate Judge.



On June 6, 2011, in Riverside County Superior Court, petitioner pleaded guilty to one count of forcible rape of Jane Doe 2 (Cal. Penal Code § 261(a)(2), count one); one count of aggravated assault of Jane Doe 1 (Cal. Penal Code § 245(a)(1), count ten); and one count of false imprisonment of Jane Doe 3 (Cal. Penal Code § 236, count eleven).[1] (Clerk's Transcript ("CT") 141-44; Reporter's Transcript ("RT") 1-6). On that same day, petitioner was sentenced to an agreed term of four years in state prison, and the remaining eight counts against him were dismissed and stricken pursuant to the plea agreement. (RT 1, 5-6). On July 13, 2011, petitioner filed a notice of appeal in the superior court "based on the sentence or other matters occurring after the plea." (CT 145). On July 27, 2011, petitioner filed another notice of appeal in the superior court, challenging the validity of the plea. (CT 146). He also requested a certificate of probable cause under California Penal Code section 1237.5. (CT 147). On July 28, 2011, the superior court denied the request. (Id.). Petitioner then filed a "Petition for Mandate" in the California Court of Appeal (Lodgment No. 4), which the court of appeal denied on November 15, 2011. (Lodgment No. 5). On January 26, 2012, the court of appeal affirmed petitioner's convictions. (Lodgment No. 10). There is no record of petitioner filing a petition for review in the California Supreme Court.[2]

On March 21, 2013, petitioner constructively filed a habeas petition in the Riverside County Superior Court, which was denied on March 27, 2013, on the ground that the petition "fails to state a prima facie factual case supporting the petitioner's release [and]... makes assertions regarding the applicable law that are contrary to established California case decisions." (Lodgment Nos. 11, 12). On March 25, 2013, petitioner constructively filed a petition for writ of habeas corpus in the California Supreme Court, which was summarily denied on June 12, 2013. (Lodgment Nos. 13, 14).

On July 9, 2013, in the Eastern District of California, petitioner filed a Petition for Writ of Habeas Corpus by a Person in State Custody. (Dkt. No. 1). On July 16, 2013, the case was transferred to this District. (Dkt. No. 3). On September 24, 2013, petitioner filed a First Amended Petition, the operative pleading in this action. (Dkt. No. 21). On November 14, 2013, respondent filed an Answer to the FAP. (Dkt. No. 26). On January 6, 2014, petitioner filed a Traverse. (Dkt. No. 29).

Accordingly, this matter has been taken under submission, and is ready for decision.[3]



The Court adopts the following factual summary set forth in the California Court of Appeal's opinion affirming petitioner's conviction:[4]

Jane Doe 3 and [petitioner] met in January 2004, and were in a relationship for about 18 months. During that time period, they had a child together, and would have consensual sex. However, about five to 10 times, between March 2004 and October 2005, [petitioner] assaulted and forcibly raped and sodomized Jane Doe 3.
On October 13, 2006, [petitioner] picked up Jane Doe 2 from her residence in Los Angeles. Upon [petitioner]'s request, Jane Doe 2 agreed to spend the night at [petitioner]'s house. [Petitioner] requested that Jane Doe 2 stay in his bedroom to watch television together and talk for a while before she slept in the guest bedroom. Jane Doe 2 agreed, and lay on the bed next to [petitioner]. [Petitioner] thereafter repeatedly raped, assaulted, and sodomized Jane Doe 2. He also repeatedly forced her to orally copulate him, and prevented her from leaving his residence. Jane Doe 2 eventually text messaged her friend that she had been raped. When police arrived at [petitioner]'s residence, on October 14, 2006, Jane Doe 2 opened the front door and ran out of the residence completely naked.
[Petitioner] attacked Jane Doe 1 on May 28, 2009. In that instance, [petitioner] raped and prevented Jane Doe 1 from leaving his residence. He also attempted to have Jane Doe 1 orally copulate him.

(Lodgment No. 10 at 2-3).



1. GROUND ONE: Ineffective assistance of trial counsel on the grounds that counsel: (a) failed to conduct a reasonable pre-trial investigation; (b) failed to move to exclude the alleged victims as unreliable; (c) failed to call upon petitioner's retained expert witness to support such a motion to exclude; (d) failed to seek relief from prejudicial joinder of the victims; (e) failed to impeach or attack the credibility of the victims; (f) did not expound upon petitioner's "esteemed background" that would convey the "motives of the alleged victims to extort financial gain and renumeration [sic]" from petitioner; (g) never requested certain discovery; (h) never objected to the prosecution's efforts to taint petitioner's character; (i) ignored the request of expert witness, Larry Smith, "to present exculpatory evidence and discovery, in addition to forensic video footage which would have revealed character evidence that could have led to an acquittal"; (j) did not put on a vigorous defense; and (k) otherwise failed to investigate and prepare for trial. (FAP at 6, 11-20).[5]

2. GROUND TWO: Petitioner's plea was not voluntary because it was "unlawfully induced or not made voluntarily with understanding of the nature of the charge and the consequences of the plea." (FAP at 6). Petitioner states that he was convicted "on the basis of an amended information that alleged charges under Penal Code section 245(a)(1) that were not alleged in the criminal Complaint, or supported by evidence taken at a preliminary hearing." (FAP at 84-88). He asserts that although he may have agreed to waive the right to the preliminary hearing on the two newly added charges (counts ten and eleven), he did not "waive his right to proof beyond a reasonable doubt' as to every fact that went to his punishment." (FAP at 85).

3. GROUND THREE: Ineffective assistance of trial counsel on the grounds that counsel: (a) failed to object to the prosecution's use of petitioner's son's mother as the prosecution's only alleged victim, with no other evidence to support her claims; (b) failed to introduce evidence from the victim's psychological evaluation showing that the results revealed the alleged victim "scored lower on the administered trauma test in comparison to someone who has never experienced trauma"; (c) failed to "make the defendant's revered reputation [sic] throughout the community"; and (d) failed to object that there was no evidence to establish any offenses committed between June 2004 and October 2005. (FAP at 5, 6; Traverse at 6).

4. GROUND FOUR: Ineffective assistance of appellate counsel for failing to raise all arguable issues on appeal. (FAP at 7).



The Petition was filed after the enactment of the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996 ("the AEDPA"). Pub. L. No. 104-132, 110 Stat. 1214 (1996). Therefore, the Court applies the AEDPA in its review of this action. See Lindh v. Murphy , 521 U.S. 320, 336, 117 S.Ct. 2059, 138 L.Ed.2d 481 (1997).

Under the AEDPA, a federal court may not grant a writ of habeas corpus on behalf of a person in state custody "with respect to any claim that was adjudicated on the merits in State court proceedings unless the 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). As explained by the Supreme Court, section 2254(d)(1) "places a new constraint on the power of a federal habeas court to grant a state prisoner's application for a writ ...

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