United States District Court, E.D. California
K. SINGLETON, JR. Senior United States District Judge.
Brian Rogers, a state prisoner proceeding pro se,
filed a Petition for a Writ of Habeas Corpus with this Court
pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254. Rogers is in the custody
of the California Department of Corrections and incarcerated
at Salinas Valley State Prison. Respondent has answered, and
Rogers has replied.
January 22, 2010, Rogers was charged with the first-degree
murder of Juanita Johnson. The information further alleged
that Rogers intentionally and personally discharged a firearm
causing death or great bodily injury. Rogers pled not guilty
and denied the allegation. On direct appeal of his
conviction, the California Court of Appeal laid out the
following facts underlying the charges against Rogers:
of the Body and Initial Investigation
At about 8:25 a.m. on Thanksgiving Day, November 25, 2004,
Sothat Lee’s (Lee) cousin discovered a lifeless female
body outside Lee’s front door. Lee’s cousin was
visiting from San Diego and had arrived about six hours
earlier; no body was there then.
Lee lived at the intersection of 43rd Avenue and 40th Street
in Sacramento. That intersection dead-ended within a block in
both street directions, because of Highway 99, which ran
diagonally through the area. Next to Highway 99’s sound
wall in this area was a small triangular grassy field
(sometimes referred to as an easement). On the opposite
corner of the block from Lee’s house was Pacific
Elementary School, at the intersection of 44th Avenue and
The body was later identified as that of the victim, Juanita
Johnson. Police officers followed a blood trail from
Lee’s house to the triangular grassy field, where the
evidence-most prominently, a large amount of pooled blood,
and the beginning of the trail-indicated the shooting had
taken place. Just a few feet away, officers discovered a
fresh condom still containing a white substance.
Johnson died from a single, not immediately fatal, gunshot
wound to her face, which entered her right cheek, exited just
below her left earlobe, and severed a major artery (the left
maxillary). Gunpowder stippling found on Johnson’s
right cheek indicated she had been shot from a distance of
one and a half to four feet. The forensic pathologist
conducting the autopsy, who was not a ballistics expert,
believed the bullet fragments that were recovered from
Johnson were from a small to medium caliber gun (.22-caliber
to .38-caliber). Johnson’s body did not exhibit any
classic defensive wounds.
The pathologist took swabs from Johnson’s oral,
vaginal, and rectal cavities.
Activities Before the Murder
Johnson, who occasionally worked as a prostitute, had a
casual relationship with Bernard Holland, who called her
“Joyce.” Around 4:00 a.m. on Thanksgiving Day,
November 25, 2004, Johnson left Holland’s house to go
on a “date” (prostitution), after the rock
cocaine the two had been smoking with two others, ran out.
Johnson never returned to Holland’s house; she was
supposed to be back by 8:00 a.m., as the two of them planned
to spend Thanksgiving with Johnson’s family.
Holland provided the police his DNA sample as well as his
.38-caliber revolver, neither of which linked him to
Case and DNA Evidence
Johnson’s case went cold, until July 2009, when DNA
test results linked [Rogers] to the matter.
The sperm in the condom recovered at the apparent shooting
scene came from a single source matching [Rogers’] DNA
profile. The sperm recovered from Johnson’s vagina
matched [Rogers’] DNA profile. And the sperm found in
Johnson’s rectum yielded a partial profile consistent
with [Rogers’] DNA profile.
Furthermore, the sperm concentration on the vaginal swab
disclosed a “4-plus” concentration (the highest
score possible). A 4-plus concentration was consistent with
the victim being motionless and/or horizontal shortly after
intercourse; one would generally expect the concentration to
diminish if, following intercourse, the person remained
upright, walked some distance, and engaged in normal physical
activities for some period of time.
The police interviewed [Rogers] twice: first on August 7,
2009, and again on October 1, 2009.
In both interviews, [Rogers] initially denied any familiarity
with the apparent shooting scene, although evidence from his
former girlfriend and from a clerk at the Pacific Elementary
School disclosed that [Rogers] had driven regularly by that
scene over a period of years, when he ferried his children to
that school from the fall of 2001 to the spring of 2005. The
school was just one block from the apparent crime scene.
Confronted with some of this evidence, [Rogers] eventually
conceded in the second interview that the crime scene did
look a little familiar.
[Rogers] steadfastly maintained that he never owned a gun,
never had a gun, never shot a gun, never possessed a gun, and
never bought a gun, until overwhelming contrary evidence from
his former girlfriend and from his own mother forced him to
concede that he had possessed a gun (around the time of the
murder), a “little .22, ” which “stayed
under the mattress” and which he later sold to someone
named “Buddy” (who could not be located).
Evidence showed that when [Rogers’] former girlfriend
moved out of [Rogers’] home toward the end of 2005, she
discovered the gun under the mattress and gave it to
[Rogers’] mother; when [Rogers] learned the gun was
missing, he angrily and repeatedly called the former
girlfriend demanding it.
[Rogers] denied recognizing Johnson, denied ever having sex
with her, and denied ever hurting her. When confronted with
the condom-DNA evidence, he acknowledged he may have had sex
Finally, [Rogers] claimed that the time period around 4:00 to
6:00 in the morning were “not [his] hours” and
that he had been faithful to his former girlfriend, but his
former girlfriend and other evidence (including from [Rogers]
himself) contradicted these claims.
Interview with ...