United States District Court, E.D. California
ORDER DENYING PETITION FOR WRIT OF HABEAS CORPUS AND
DECLINING TO ISSUE CERTIFICATE OF APPEALABILITY
MICHAEL J. SENG UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE
is a state prisoner proceeding pro se with a
petition for writ of habeas corpus pursuant to 28 U.S.C.
§ 2254. Respondent, warden of Central California
Women’s Facility, Chowchilla, is represented by Julie
A. Hokans of the office of the California Attorney General.
Both parties have consented to Magistrate Judge jurisdiction
under 28 U.S.C. § 636(c). (ECF Nos. 7-8.)
is currently incarcerated pursuant to a judgment of the
Superior Court of California, County of Tulare, following her
no contest pleas on October 13, 2011 to first degree robbery,
grand theft with use of a firearm, elder abuse, second degree
commercial burglary, and an enhancement for a prior
conviction. (Clerk's Tr. at 306-07.) On December 14,
2011, the trial court sentenced Petitioner to a determinate
term of eight (8) years in state prison. Id.
filed a direct appeal with the California Court of Appeal,
Fifth Appellate District. (Lodged Doc. 1.) On February 4,
2013, the court affirmed the judgment. (Lodged Doc. 4.)
Petitioner filed a petition for review with the California
Supreme Court on March 18, 2013. (Lodged Doc. 7.) The Supreme
Court summarily denied the petition on May 15, 2013. (Lodged
Doc. 8.) Petitioner did not seek collateral review of her
convictions in the state courts.
filed the instant federal habeas petition on July 3, 2014.
(Pet., ECF No. 1.) In the amended petition, Petitioner
presents a single claim, namely, that she was forced to
testify against her co-defendants in violation of her Fifth
Amendment rights. (Pet.)
filed an answer to the petition on November 5, 2014, and
Petitioner filed a traverse to the answer on December 10,
2014. (Answer and Traverse, ECF Nos. 13, 15.) Accordingly,
the matter stands fully briefed and ready for adjudication.
STATEMENT OF THE FACTS, 
On May 9, 2010, 81-year-old Israel Reyna was inside his home
when three females came to the door and asked about buying
some plants from him. Reyna went outside to show the women
the plants, at which point he was grabbed from behind by a
male and forced to the ground. The man held a gun to
Reyna's head and demanded his money. The man removed
Reyna's wallet from his pants and took about $140. The
man then removed Reyna's belt and used it to tie
Reyna's hands in front of him. After awhile, when he felt
it was safe to do so, Reyna got up and went inside the house
where he noticed a cell phone and two rifles were missing.
Detective Kevin Kroeze spoke with Alexis Solis about the
incident. Solis said that she was a passenger in a truck
along with Melchor and Tiffany Robinson; Julian Alderete was
driving the truck. On the way back from a trip to a casino,
Alderete drove the truck to a home outside Goshen, where he
told the three females to contact the "old man" at
the residence to distract him and that Alderete was going to
hide in the bushes. After the women made contact with the man
in the residence, Solis saw Alderete "put up his finger
across his mouth as if to say be quiet or not say
anything." Solis became scared and returned to the
truck. At one point, she looked back and saw Alderete put a
gun to the man's head and force him to the ground. Solis
stayed near the truck with Robinson. A few minutes later,
Melchor returned to the truck. On redirect examination,
Detective Kroeze testified that he believed that Solis had
said Melchor returned to the truck with a cell phone and
Detective Kroeze spoke with Melchor on June 7, 2011,
following her arrest on a warrant in Kings County. Melchor
was advised of and waived her Miranda[fn3] rights.
She first claimed that when she arrived at the house, she did
not know what was going on, but she later admitted that
Alderete knew the man and did not want the man to recognize
him. Melchor told Detective Kroeze she had taken a box with
jewelry from the house.
FN3: Miranda v. Arizona (1966) 384 U.S. 436.
On May 12, 2011, a criminal complaint filed in Tulare County
charged Melchor and Alderete jointly with various counts
stemming from the robbery and burglary that took place on May
9, 2010. Alderete was also charged with additional crimes not
involving Melchor. The preliminary hearing was scheduled for
both defendants on July 5, 2011, but Melchor was not able to
be transported as originally planned because she had pending
matters in Kings County.
While Melchor was awaiting her preliminary hearing, the
prosecution went to trial against Alderete and filed a motion
on July 25, 2011, to compel Melchor to testify in
Alderete's case, offering use immunity under section
1324. At a hearing on August 2, 2011, Melchor objected,
asserting that her Fifth Amendment right could only be
protected by a grant of transactional immunity. The trial
court granted use immunity and ordered Melchor to testify
because it believed she was adequately protected.[fn4]
FN4: On our own motion, we take judicial notice of the order,
which is contained in Julian Alderete's appellate file.
(Evid. Code, § 452, subd. (d).)
At Alderete's trial, Melchor answered the
prosecution's questions, including that she knew Robinson
and Solis; that she had known Alderete for 40 years; and that
she had spoken to Detective Kroeze. When she was asked if she
had gone to a house in Goshen on May 9, 2010, with Alderete,
Melchor pled the Fifth Amendment and was directed by the
trial court to answer additional questions. After the trial
court assured her that none of her testimony could be used
against her, Melchor acknowledged that she had gone to the
house in Goshen with Alderete, Solis and Robinson and that
everyone had gotten out of the car. Melchor testified that
all of the women, including herself, met with the old man and
that Alderete was behind them. When Melchor was asked if she
had seen Alderete do anything, she said "no, " and
refused to answer any more questions. The trial court then
found her in contempt.
The following day at trial, Melchor continued to assert her
Fifth Amendment right, with her own attorney further arguing
for her right to transactional immunity. After Melchor's
counsel informed Melchor that she needed to answer the
questions if she did not wish to be held in contempt, Melchor
stated that she would, but neither the prosecution nor the
defense made any further inquiries of her.
Melchor's preliminary hearing was then held on August 15,
2011; she was held to answer. An information was filed August
25, 2011, charging Melchor with the same crimes she was
earlier charged with, this time individually.
On August 29, 2011, Melchor pleaded not guilty to the charges
and denied the allegations. That same day, Melchor filed a
motion to dismiss the information pursuant to section 1099,
which was heard and denied on September 15, 2011.
On October 13, 2011, Melchor withdrew her not guilty plea and
pleaded no contest to the counts in the information and
admitted the prior conviction allegations associated with one
count. The trial court gave an indicated sentence of eight
years in state prison. At sentencing on December 14, 2011,
the trial court struck Melchor's prior strike conviction
and sentenced her to a total of eight years in state prison.
Melchor requested and was granted a certificate of probable
People v. Melchor, 2013 Cal.App. Unpub. LEXIS 896,
1-6 (Feb. 4, 2013).
by way of a petition for writ of habeas corpus extends to a
person in custody pursuant to the judgment of a state court
if the custody is in violation of the Constitution or laws or
treaties of the United States. 28 U.S.C. § 2254(a); 28
U.S.C. § 2241(c)(3); Williams v. Taylor, 529
U.S. 362, 375 fn.7 (2000). Petitioner asserts that he
suffered violations of his rights as guaranteed by the U.S.
Constitution. In addition, the conviction challenged arises
out of the Tulare County Superior Court, which is located
within the jurisdiction of this court. 28 U.S.C. §
2241(d); 2254(a). Accordingly, the Court has jurisdiction
over the action.
Legal Standard of Review
April 24, 1996, Congress enacted the Antiterrorism and
Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996 (“AEDPA”),
which applies to all petitions for writ of habeas corpus
filed after its enactment. Lindh v. Murphy, 521 U.S.
320, 326 (1997); Jeffries v. Wood, 114 F.3d 1484,
1499 (9th Cir. 1997). The instant petition was filed after
the enactment of the AEDPA; thus, it is governed by its
AEDPA, an application for a writ of habeas corpus by a person
in custody under a judgment of a state court may be granted
only for violations of the Constitution or laws of the United
States. 28 U.S.C. § 2254(a); Williams v.
Taylor, 529 U.S. at 375 n. 7 (2000). Federal habeas
corpus relief is available for any claim decided on the
merits in state court proceedings if the state court's
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 ...