United States District Court, E.D. California
ORDER & FINDINGS AND RECOMMENDATIONS
GREGORY G. HOLLOWS, Magistrate Judge.
Introduction and Summary
Petitioner claims that he was unfairly denied discovery into his claim for juror misconduct, and that this federal court, sitting in habeas corpus jurisdiction, should make up for that detriment, as well as hold an evidentiary hearing assuming that discovery would turn up actionable facts. Habeas jurisprudence after the passage of AEDPA complicates the request.
For the reasons set forth below, discovery and an evidentiary hearing are denied. Because the outcome here directs the outcome for the merits of the petition, the undersigned recommends that the petition be denied.
The underlying facts concerning the crimes are not important to the outcome here, but the charges and counts of conviction play a role in analyzing the discovery/juror misconduct issues presented. The California Court of Appeal concisely summarized the charges and counts of conviction/acquittal/deadlock:
Defendant Neng Saypao Pha was charged with eight crimes against his wife: (1) assault with a firearm (count one); (2) inflicting corporal injury (counts two, six, and eight); (3) making a criminal threat (counts three and seven); (4) false imprisonment (count four); and (5) dissuading a witness (count five).
The jury found defendant guilty of one count of inflicting corporal injury (count two), one count of making a criminal threat (count three), and the false imprisonment charge (count four). It deadlocked on the charge of assault with a firearm and one count of inflicting corporal injury. The jury found defendant not guilty of the charge of dissuading a witness, one count of inflicting corporal injury, and one count of making a criminal threat. The jury also found that defendant personally used a firearm in committing counts three and four. The trial court sentenced defendant to an aggregate term of 15 years in prison.
People v. Pha, 2011 WL 6882938 *1 (2011).
The underlying claim for which discovery is sought is a type of "juror misconduct." Petitioner asserts that one juror, who had disclosed in voir dire that she had been molested in her youth, became so affected and biased by the prosecution's presentation of the case, that her memories of the incident overwhelmed her such that she lost all objectivity in reviewing the evidence in this case. Petitioner believes that this juror was either dishonest when she related in voir dire that she could fairly view the evidence, or became unduly biased during the course of trial, resulting in a Fifth Amendment due process violation and/or Sixth Amendment right to jury trial violation. Petitioner seeks discovery, and presumably an evidentiary hearing afterwards, to discover the extent of bias, if any, and also the extent to which she shared her life's experience with other jurors. The issues as raised by the parties are:
1. Whether discovery can ever be had in a habeas proceeding on any claim other than a Brady claim;
2. Assuming an affirmative answer to issue 1 above, whether discovery in a federal habeas is governed by the Cullen v. Pinholster standards announced for evidentiary hearings, or pre-AEDPA discovery standards;
a. Do the standards for evidentiary hearings announced in Cullen v. Pinholster apply to federal habeas discovery;
b. If so, whether the state court discovery ruling was a de facto ruling "on the merits;"
3. Whether in either event, discovery and/or an evidentiary are to be allowed.
Background to the Juror Misconduct Issue
The California Court of Appeal set forth the necessary factual background for discovery into the juror misconduct issue:
During voir dire, one of the prospective jurors notified the court and counsel that there was a matter relating to someone who had been a victim of a crime, which she did not "think... would effect (sic) the case" but which she wanted to discuss in private. Outside the presence of the rest of the prospective jurors, she disclosed that she "was molested when [she] was little." In response to questions from the court, she said the molestation was not reported and there was never an arrest, and she did not think it would have anything to do with the case. Defense counsel declined the opportunity to ask any further questions, and in response to a question from the prosecutor, the prospective juror said she had "sensitivity to ...