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Hughes v. Walker

United States District Court, E.D. California

March 23, 2015

JAMES WALKER, Respondent.


GREGORY G. HOLLOWS, Magistrate Judge.


Petitioner is a state prisoner proceeding, through counsel, with a petition for a writ of habeas corpus pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254. A jury found petitioner guilty of first degree murder and attempted robbery and found true sentencing enhancements of felony murder and personal use of a firearm. Petitioner challenges his conviction and sentence on the following grounds: 1) Confrontation Clause violation by the introduction of prior testimony by Timothy Clay; and 2) prosecutorial misconduct by persuading a witness in the case not to appear at trial.

On December 17, 2014, the court issued an order denying petitioner's request for an evidentiary hearing to determine the credibility of Timothy Clay as it relates to petitioner's claims. ECF No. 74. This order was affirmed by the District Judge, the Honorable William B. Shubb, on February 23, 2015, ECF No. 78. That determination having been made, the undersigned turns to the merits of petitioner's claims. Upon careful consideration of the record and the applicable law, the undersigned will recommend that petitioner's application for habeas corpus relief be denied.


The facts have been repeated frequently throughout the course of this case. For completeness, the undersigned includes the California Court of Appeal for the Third Appellate District's description below:

The Crime
Defendant and his friend Jamar Woodson agreed to help Woodson's cousin, Alexander Glaude, find someone to sell him marijuana. Glaude followed defendant and Woodson as they drove from Fairfield to the apartment of O'Brian Buchanan at 1718 Santa Clara Street in Vallejo.
Buchanan lived on the ground floor of a two-story apartment building and a stairway to the second floor units was just outside his apartment door. A walkway along the north side of the building leads to a rear parking lot.
Glaude arrived there carrying $1, 753 in cash between 11 p.m. and midnight with his girlfriend, Lynesse Hamilton. He parked in the rear parking lot, told Hamilton he would return soon, and went inside. He returned about 15 minutes later and moved the car to a spot on Santa Clara Street, across from the apartment building. He left Hamilton waiting in the car with the engine running and returned to Buchanan's apartment.
Sometime later Hamilton noticed a man standing near the corner of Buchanan's apartment with a white shirt or towel covering his face. She thought he had a gun because of the way he was holding his hands, but she did not see any weapon. The man was of a medium build and dark complected or wearing a dark shirt. Glaude emerged from the apartment about 15 feet from where the man was standing and tussled with someone near the front of the building. Hamilton heard gunshots and was frightened. She ducked and then moved the car onto the street. As she did so she heard more gunshots. When Glaude did not appear after a couple of minutes, she drove to the next block and asked a woman to call 911.
Eileen Vargas lived on the second floor in Buchannan's apartment building. Shortly after midnight she heard men arguing in the stairwell area about "weed, " followed quickly by gunshots. She heard a muffled voice say "Don't look at my face" and "Do you want me to uncover my face?" Then the voice said "Get down on the ground" and demanded "Where's the money? and "Where's the shit?" After that she heard two series of gunshots that totaled about six shots. The first series of shots came from the front corner area of the building at the bottom of the stairs. The second series sounded like it came from the back of the building. Then she heard someone say "I've been shot in the hand."
Jerry Rozewski lived across the street from Buchanan's apartment complex. Shortly after midnight he also heard gunshots coming from the apartment. From his window he saw a man holding his left arm leave the apartment complex and get in the back seat of a car facing the wrong way on Santa Clara Street. Rozewski was unable to get a good view, but he could see that the man was an adult African-American with probably a shaved head.
Timothy Clay was 19 years old at the preliminary hearing. He was playing video games with four or five friends in Buchanan's apartment the night of the shooting, when Woodson (known as "Mar") and defendant (known as "Turtle, " "Wax, " or "Turtle Wax") arrived. Woodson and defendant kept entering and leaving the apartment. Their behavior made Clay nervous, so he left. He walked out to the front of the apartment complex and tried to call his friend Alton, who was still inside.
Detective Robert Reynolds interviewed Clay two days after the shooting. Reynolds testified that Clay initially denied that he witnessed the shooting and claimed he was inside the apartment at the time, but after further questioning Clay acknowledged that he was outside at the time, and he identified defendant as the shooter. He was in front of the apartment when he saw a man with a white shirt or cloth covering his face. He described the man as about six feet tall and weighing 220 to 230 pounds. The assailant was holding a gun in each hand and ordered Glaude and Woodson to lie on the ground. They complied at first, but then Glaude got up and fled. Defendant fired three shots. He hit Glaude at least once and shot himself in the hand. Glaude went down, but when defendant dropped one of his guns Glaude got up and fled down the walkway toward the back parking lot. Defendant picked up his gun and fired two or three more shots at Glaude. Then, defendant and Woodson ran across Santa Clara Street and got in a car.
Over defense objections, Clay was declared an unavailable witness and his preliminary hearing testimony was read to the jury. In the preliminary hearing Clay denied that he saw the shooting and was questioned about the statements he made to Detective Reynolds two days after the shooting. He disavowed his earlier statement to Detective Reynolds, and claimed he was merely repeating what Buchanan had told him might have happened. The prosecution impeached Clay's recantation with his prior statement to the detective.
After the shooting defendant and Woodson drove from Vallejo to San Francisco General Hospital to get defendant's hand treated. An emergency room surveillance tape showed that defendant arrived not wearing a shirt. When he was questioned by police in the emergency room, defendant said he had been robbed and shot in West Point. When officers went to West Point they found no evidence of a crime.
The Investigation
Vallejo Police Corporal Steve Darden arrived at the scene at 12:16 a.m. shortly after the shooting. Glaude was lying in shrubbery in the back of the complex. He had been shot and was in bad condition. Darden saw two distinct trails of blood leading from the area of the shooting, one led down the stairwell along the northeast side of the complex to where Glaude was laying in the bushes. The other went the opposite direction, to the spot on Santa Clara Street, where the injured shooter got in a car.
Several bullet fragments and two spent casings were found in the stairway area next to the entrance to Buchanan's apartment. Three more casings and additional bullet fragments were found near the driveway. Defendant's white T-shirt was in the stairwell with a bullet fragment on top of it.
DNA testing confirmed that blood on the T-shirt was defendant's. [N.1] His blood was also found in samples from both blood trails, indicating that defendant pursued Glaude down the north walkway to the parking lot before he fled south along the street to his car.
[N1] The genetic profile in the bloodstain would be expected to occur in only one in 433 quadrillion African-Americans.
A forensic pathologist testified that Glaude was shot four times: once through his right hand, twice in the front of his left thigh, and once in the center of his back. His hand was shot from a distance of a few inches, and the lethal wound to his back was fired from approximately one to two feet away.
Cell phone records showed defendant called Woodson around five minutes before the murder. In the four hours before the murder, Woodson called Glaude's cell phone 15 times. The final call was 10 minutes before the murder.
After he was arrested, defendant told his girl-friend in a telephone call from jail: "Hey, you know, where I fucked up at? [¶]... [¶] Going to the hospital."
Defendant testified that sometime on the day of the shooting, Glaude called Woodson to ask about buying marijuana. Woodson and defendant met Glaude in a parking lot in Fairfield and Glaude followed them in his car to Buchanan's apartment. Defendant went into the apartment with Woodson and Glaude and ...

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