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Davis v. Biter

United States District Court, S.D. California

July 28, 2015

JAMAL A. DAVIS, Petitioner,
MARTIN BITER, WARDEN, Kern Valley State Prison Respondent.


ROGER T. BENITEZ, District Judge.

Petitioner JAMAL A. DAVIS, a state prisoner proceeding pro se, filed a petition for a writ of habeas corpus under 28 U.S.C. § 2254, challenging his conviction in California state court for conspiracy to commit murder. (Docket No. 8.) On December 19, 2014, after thoroughly considering both Petitioner and Respondent's arguments, U.S. Magistrate Judge Barbara Lynn Major issued a Report and Recommendation, recommending that the petition be denied. (Docket No. 44.) Pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(b), the Court has conducted a de novo review of the entire file, including Petitioner's objections to the report. (Docket No. 45.) For reasons discussed below, the Court ADOPTS the Report and Recommendation and DENIES the petition.


The Magistrate Judge's report relied upon the facts from the California Court of Appeal's reasoned opinion. (Lodgment 6.) Absent clear and convincing evidence to the contrary, the Court presumes the state court's factual determinations to be correct.[1] 28 U.S.C. § 2254(e)(1); Miller-El v. Cockrell, 537 U.S. 322, 340 (2003) (holding that a state court's decision will not be overturned on factual grounds unless the factual determinations were objectively unreasonable in light of the evidence presented); see also Taylor v. Maddox, 366 F.3d 992, 999-1000 (9th Cir. 2004) ("[A] federal court may not second-guess a state court's fact-finding process unless, after review of the state-court record, it determines that the state court was not merely wrong, but actually unreasonable."). Because the Court writes primarily to the parties, it is unnecessary to reiterate the full facts of this case. As such, for a detailed description of the case's factual and procedural history, the Court refers to the Report and Recommendation. Here, the Court draws the following overview from the California Court of Appeal's opinion:

This case arises from the gang-related shooting of two victims, Ricky Wyatt (who died) and Philemon Winston (who survived), and defendant's subsequent conduct of walking in a neighborhood "hunting" for other victims to shoot on behalf of his gang. Defendant is a member of the West Coast Crips gang. The prosecution's theory was that the shootings and subsequent hunting for other victims were committed by West Coast Crips gang members in retaliation for an earlier shooting of a West Coast Crips gang member by a rival Lincoln Park gang member. The witnesses to the Wyatt/Winston shooting described three assailants, and the prosecution alleged that defendant was one of the three. Testifying on his own behalf, defendant did not dispute that he was present during the Wyatt/Winston shooting, but claimed that he did not know his two companions (West Coast Crips gang members Donald Bandy and Greg Wanton) were planning to shoot someone. The jury acquitted defendant of the allegations based on the Wyatt/Winston shooting. With respect to a conspiracy to commit murder allegation based on the conduct after the Wyatt/Winston shooting, the prosecution's theory was that this offense was committed by defendant, defendant's twin brother (Jamel Davis), and another gang member (Rashad Ware). Defendant did not dispute that he was present, but claimed he had no intention of actually shooting someone but was merely pretending to engage in the "hunting" activity to avoid disciplinary action against him by his gang.

(Lodgment 6 at 2.)

On August 21, 2009, a jury in San Diego County found Petitioner guilty of one count of conspiracy to commit murder (California Penal Code (Penal Code) §182(a)(1)) and found that Petitioner committed the offense to benefit a criminal street gang (Penal Code §186.22(b)). The jury acquitted Petitioner of one count of murder, one count of attempted murder, and another count of conspiracy to commit murder. (Lodgment 1 at 444, 538.) The trial court sentenced Petitioner to an indeterminate term of twenty-five years to life in state prison. ( Id. at 444, 542.) Petitioner immediately appealed his conviction to the California Court of Appeal, which affirmed Petitioner's conviction in a written opinion on June 28, 2011. (Lodgments 2, 4, 5, 6.) On August 31, 2011, the California Supreme Court denied Petitioner's petition for review without comment or citation to authority. (Lodgments 7, 8.)

Petitioner filed his initial federal petition on November 14, 2012, pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254. On December 5, 2013, Petitioner filed his first amended petition, the claims of which the Court addresses. On August 20, 2014, Respondent filed an Answer and Memorandum of Points and Authorities in Support of the Answer. On December 14, 2014, the Magistrate Judge submitted a Report and Recommendation, recommending the petition's dismissal because Petitioner failed to (1) present any evidence suggesting that the California Court of Appeal's denial of his claims was contrary to, or an unreasonable application of, clearly established federal law; and (2) make any argument that further factual development was necessary to warrant an evidentiary hearing. On February 6, 2015, Petitioner filed his objections to the report, which asserted the same claims that he raised in his first amended petition.


District courts may "accept, reject, or modify, in whole or in part, the findings or recommendations made by the magistrate judge." 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1). If a party objects to any portions of a magistrate judge's report, the district court "shall make a de novo determination of those portions of the report... to which objection is made." Id.

"Habeas corpus is an extraordinary remedy' available only to those persons whom society has grievously wronged....'" Juan H. v. Allen, 408 F.3d 1262, 1270 (9th Cir. 2005) ( quoting Brecht v. Abrahamson, 507 U.S. 619, 633-34 (1993)). Federal courts may review petitions for writ of habeas corpus by persons in custody pursuant to a state court judgment "only on the ground that he is in custody in violation of the Constitution or laws or treaties of the United States." 28 U.S.C. § 2254(a); Williams v. Taylor, 529 U.S. 362, 375 n.7 (2000).

The petition is governed by the Anti-Terrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996 ("AEDPA"). Under AEDPA Section 2254(d), a habeas writ will not be granted regarding any claim adjudicated on the merits by the state court unless that adjudication (1) resulted in a decision that was contrary to, or involved an unreasonable application of, clearly established federal law; or (2) resulted in a decision that was based on an unreasonable determination of the facts in light of the evidence presented at the state court proceeding. 28 U.S.C. § 2254(d); Early v. Packer, 537 U.S. 3, 8 (2002).

Under the "contrary to" clause, a federal habeas court may grant relief if the state court arrived at a decision opposite to that reached by the Supreme Court on a question of law, or if it decided a case differently from the Supreme Court on a set of materially indistinguishable facts. Williams, 529 U.S. at 405-06; Lockyer v. Andrade, 538 U.S. 63, 73 (2003). Under the "unreasonable application" clause, the court may grant relief if (a) the state court correctly identified the governing legal principle from Supreme Court decisions but unreasonably applied those decisions to the facts of a particular case; or (b) if the state court either unreasonably extended or refused to extend a legal principle from Supreme Court precedent to a new context where it should or should not apply. See Williams at 407; Andrade, 538 U.S. at 63 & 73.

A state court, however, need not cite Supreme Court precedent when resolving a habeas corpus claim. See Early, 537 U.S. at 8. Indeed, as long as neither the reasoning nor the result of the state court decision contradicts Supreme Court precedent, the decision will not be "contrary to" clearly established federal law. Ylst v. Nunnemaker, 501 U.S. 797, 805-06 (1991). For purposes of § 2254(d), "clearly established federal law" means "the governing ...

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