United States District Court, N.D. California
ORDER DENYING PETITION FOR WRIT OF HABEAS CORPUS;
DENYING CERTIFICATE OF APPEALABILITY
Garcia-Wehr has filed a pro se petition for a writ
of habeas corpus challenging the validity of his state
August 5, 2010, a jury convicted Garcia-Wehr of second degree
murder with an enhancement for intentionally and personally
discharging a firearm causing great bodily injury or death.
On February 18, 2011, he was sentenced to forty years to life
in prison. He appealed, asserting the following claims: the
prosecutor’s peremptory strike of an African-American
juror violated Batson v. Kentucky, 476 U.S. 79
(1986); juror misconduct; prosecutorial misconduct; and
instructional errors. On November 6, 2012, in an unpublished
decision, the California Court of Appeal affirmed the
judgment. His petition for review in the California Supreme
Court was summarily denied on February 13, 2013.
April 29, 2014, Garcia-Wehr filed a habeas petition in the
Contra Costa County Superior Court asserting the following
claims: ineffective assistance of trial and appellate
counsel; insufficient evidence supported the conviction;
violation of due process based on judicial bias; and
cumulative error. The petition was denied on June 26, 2014.
On July 9, 2014, Garcia-Wehr filed a habeas petition in the
California Court of Appeal, which was denied for failure to
demonstrate exhaustion in the Superior Court.
Garcia-Wehr’s second habeas petition in the Court of
Appeal was denied on the ground that the claims were
procedurally barred for untimeliness and other reasons and,
in any event, Garcia-Wehr did not “articulate a prima
facie case for relief.” Ex. 11. The California Supreme
Court summarily denied the petition on January 14, 2014. Ex.
January 20, 2015, Garcia-Wehr filed this federal petition
asserting the aforementioned claims and an additional claim
challenging the constitutionality of the Antiterrorism and
Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996 (“AEDPA”). He
also requests an evidentiary hearing. On April 8, 2015, the
Court ordered respondent to show cause why the petition
should not be granted. On June 2, 2015, Garcia-Wehr filed a
motion to stay this petition to exhaust two claims in state
court, which the Court denied on the ground that the claims
had been exhausted. The fully-briefed petition is now before
the Court for review. Because the claims lack merit, the
petition is denied as is the request for an evidentiary
federal court may entertain a habeas petition from a state
prisoner “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). Under AEDPA,
a district court may not grant habeas relief unless 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 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); Williams v. Taylor, 529 U.S. 362, 412
(2000). This is a highly deferential standard for evaluating
state court rulings: “As a condition for obtaining
habeas corpus from a federal court, a state prisoner must
show that the state court’s ruling on the claim being
presented in federal court was so lacking in justification
that there was an error well understood and comprehended in
existing law beyond any possibility for fairminded
disagreement.” Harrington v. Richter, 562 U.S.
86, 103 (2011). Additionally, habeas relief is warranted only
if the constitutional error at issue “‘had
substantial and injurious effect or influence in determining
the jury’s verdict.’” Penry v.
Johnson, 532 U.S. 782, 795 (2001) (quoting Brecht v.
Abrahamson, 507 U.S. 619, 637 (1993)).
there is no reasoned opinion from the highest state court to
consider the petitioner’s claims, the court looks to
the last reasoned opinion of the highest court to analyze
whether the state judgment was erroneous under the standard
of § 2254(d). Ylst v. Nunnemaker, 501 U.S. 797,
801-06 (1991). In this case, the California Court of Appeal
is the highest court to issue a reasoned decision on
Garcia-Wehr’s claims on direct review.
habeas review, the California Superior Court issued a
reasoned decision on the prosecutorial misconduct claim. The
other claims were denied by the Court of Appeal as
procedurally defaulted and for failure to articulate a prima
facie case for relief The standard of review under AEDPA is
different where the state court gives no reasoned explanation
of its decision on a petitioner’s federal claim. When
confronted with such a decision, a federal court should
conduct “an independent review of the record” to
determine whether the state court’s decision was an
objectively unreasonable application of clearly established
federal law. Plascencia v. Alameida, 467 F.3d 1190,
1197-98 (9th Cir. 2006). This independent review is not de
novo review; the ultimate question is still whether the state
court applied federal law in an objectively reasonable
manner. Kyzar v. Ryan, 780 F.3d 940, 949 (9th Cir.
trial proceedings and the evidence presented against
Garcia-Wehr are described thoroughly by the California Court
of Appeal in its opinion upholding the conviction on direct
appeal. See People v. Garcia-Wehr, 2012 WL 5412939,
*1-3 (Cal.App. Nov. 6, 2012) (unpublished). This Court now
rules as follows on the claims presented by the habeas
â¢ The Ninth Circuit has already rejected Garcia-Wehr's
contention that AEDPA is unconstitutional. See Crater v.
Galaza, 491 F.3d 1119, 1126, 1129 (9th Cir. 2007).
â¢ Even if Garcia-Wehr's claim for insufficiency of the
evidence is not procedurally defaulted, it fails on the
merits. The California Court of Appeal accurately described
the evidence presented at trial, and in light of that
evidence there would be no basis for concluding that
“no rational trier of fact could have found proof of
guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.” Jackson v.
Virginia,443 U.S. 307, 324 (1979). In particular, a
jury could have inferred that Garcia-Wehr acted with
“wanton disregard” for human life, which would
support his conviction for second degree murder. People
v. Dellinger,49 Cal.3d 1212, 1218 (1989). And although
Garcia-Wehr argues that the witnesses ...