United States District Court, S.D. California
ORDER: (1) DENYING PETITION FOR WRIT OF HABEAS
CORPUS; [DOC. NO. 1] (2) ADOPTING REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION;
AND [DOC. NO. 15] (3) DENYING CERTIFICATE OF
MARILYN D. UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT JUDGE
April 20, 2015, Petitioner Jennifer Trayers, a state prisoner
proceeding pro se, filed a petition for writ of habeas corpus
pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254, challenging her state
court conviction for second degree murder. (Doc. No. 1.) On
January 14, 2016, Respondent filed a response to the
petition. (Doc. No. 12.) On February 8, 2016, Petitioner
filed a traverse. (Doc. No. 14.) On May 10, 2016, the
magistrate judge issued a report and recommendation
recommending that the Court deny the petition. (Doc. No. 15.)
After careful consideration, the Court denies
Petitioner’s petition for writ of habeas corpus and
adopts the magistrate judge’s report and
Court adopts the facts from the California Court of
Appeal’s opinion denying Petitioner’s direct
appeal and affirming her conviction. (See Doc. No.
13-18, Lodgment No. 7.) This Court, pursuant to 28 U.S.C.
§ 2254(e)(1), presumes the following relevant facts to
A. The People’s Case
Dr. Trayers was an emergency medicine physician at the Balboa
Naval Medical Center in San Diego. When Jennifer killed him
on December 4, 2010, they had been married for 18 years.
1. Stabbing death of Dr. Trayers After he attended a
holiday party on the night of December 3, Dr. Trayers worked
a night shift at the Balboa Naval Hospital until 6:00
o’clock the next morning. He was next scheduled to work
at 11:00 a.m. on Sunday, December 5, and coworkers became
worried when he did not come to work. They began attempting
to reach him by phone on Sunday evening. Friends went to the
Trayers’ home, and, although both of the Trayers’
cars were there, they saw no sign of anything out of the
ordinary other than that the Trayers were not at home.
Coworkers called police late Sunday night.
Police officers went to the Trayers’ home on Sunday
night to conduct a welfare check, but observed that
everything was quiet. Officers returned the next morning,
December 6, and one of them looked through a window into a
bedroom and saw a female (Jennifer) lying face up on the
floor, with her clothing covered in blood, next to the left
(or east) side of the bed (viewing the scene from the foot of
The officers forcibly entered the Trayers’ home and
found that Jennifer was barely alive with what were later
determined to be self-inflicted knife wounds. A
military-style knife with a blade about seven inches in
length was found on the floor under the edge of the left
(east) side of the bed very close to where Jennifer was
Dr. Christina Stanley, a forensic pathologist who examined
Jennifer in the hospital, testified that Jennifer had
suffered about three dozen stab wounds or sharp force
injuries primarily over a small area of her chest, many of
which were superficial, and she had lost a significant amount
of blood and was in shock. Her most significant injury was to
an artery in the wall of her abdomen, but the wound did not
go inside her abdomen.
Dr. Michael Sise, a vascular surgeon and trauma medical
director at Scripps Mercy Hospital who treated
Jennifer’s multiple knife wounds, opined that the
wounds were self-inflicted. Dr. Sise explained that he found
no wounds of self-defense, which are usually on the hands. He
also explained that the multiple wounds in the central area
of Jennifer’s chest were “hesitation marks,
” a term that trauma surgeons use to describe
superficial wounds that may have penetrated the skin but had
not penetrated deeply.
The police officers who entered the Trayers’ home found
Dr. Trayers dead and face down on the floor on the right (or
west) side of the bed- opposite where Jennifer was found on
the floor on the left side of the bed-in a fetal position
facing the bed and leaning against the side of the bed with
the bedding around his lower extremities. The bedding around
Dr. Trayers’s body, as well as the pillows and the
fitted sheet on the bed in the area near the headboard, were
cut. A kitchen or chef’s knife was found near Dr.
Trayers’s left calf under the bedding. He had a strand
of hair-later determined to be Jennifer’s-in his left
According to a deputy medical examiner for the County of San
Diego who examined Dr. Trayers’s body at the scene of
the killing, Dr. Trayers had suffered numerous stab wounds:
two in the chest, six in the back, one in the back of the
head, one in the right forearm, one on the tip of the right
index finger, one on the tip of the right middle finger, and
another by the left thumb. One of the chest wounds, which
could have been a fatal wound, went through the heart and the
right lung. The multiple superficial incised wounds to Dr.
Trayers[‘s] hands were consistent with defensive wounds
inflicted as he was attempting to block or grab the knife.
A large saturation of Dr. Trayers’s blood was found on
the pillows, sheets, and mattress on Dr. Trayers’s
right (west) side of the bed, and his blood spatter was on
the west side of the headboard, the wall, and the nightstand
on his side of the bed. A blood spatter expert found the
blood evidence was consistent with Dr. Trayers’s having
been stabbed while lying on the bed under the bedding, having
flung a hand that was cut from the palm to the forearm, and
having moved and ended up on the floor where the officers
found him with the bedding (a comforter and sheet) around
The results of forensic toxicology testing indicated the
presence of Zolpidem, a prescription sleep aid, in both
Jennifer’s system and that of Dr. Trayers. The amount
in Dr. Trayers’[s] system was within the normal
therapeutic range for a single dose. Zolpidem is commonly
used by emergency physicians as a sleep aid because they work
different shifts and sometimes have trouble falling asleep.
One empty bottle of Zolpidem, which had been prescribed for
Dr. Trayers, was found on the left side of the bed within
three or four feet of the military-style knife in the area
where Jennifer was found, and another nearly empty bottle was
found in a medicine box.
Three of four stacked manila envelopes found on a shelf near
the Trayers’ kitchen contained 218 pages of printouts
of screen captures and numerous text messages to and from Dr.
Trayers’s phone, e-mails, and photographs of Dr.
Trayers. Most of the documents were correspondence between
Dr. Trayers and Danielle Robins (discussed, post)
discussing how much they loved each other and their future
plans together. There was also a lengthy e-mail from Jennifer
2. Dr. Trayers’[s] relationship with Danielle
Robins and the events culminating in his death Robins
testified that she met Dr. Trayers in August 2010 on a
Mercy-class hospital ship when she was a medical student, and
they developed a friendship. They both returned to San Diego
County after their journey on the ship. Robins eventually
started an emergency room rotation at Balboa Naval Medical
Center where Dr. Trayers worked, and they began to have an
affair at the end of September. They exchanged numerous
e-mail and text messages in which they expressed their love
for each other.
During this same time period, Dr. Trayers and Jennifer
attended marriage counseling, and Dr. Trayers was conflicted
about whether he should continue his affair with Robins. In
late November or early December, he told Robins a false story
that Jennifer was pregnant, and Robins told him they would
have to end the affair. Unbeknownst to Dr. Trayers and
Robins, Jennifer was reading their e-mail communications.
Early in the morning on December 4, Dr. Trayers texted
Robins, who was in Maryland, that he had finished his shift
and had about 30 minutes of dictation to complete. At around
7:15 a.m., Dr. Trayers, who was at home, sent his last text
message to Robins telling her he was going to sleep. He took
some Zolpidem to help him sleep.
About an hour later, Jennifer replaced her husband’s
photographs on Facebook with photos of themselves in happier
times. Shortly thereafter, using her husband’s e-mail
account, Jennifer sent Robins two e-mails with attachments,
one of which was a lengthy eight-page letter written by
Jennifer and addressed to “Little Miss Grass is Not
Greener on My Side.” In her letter, Jennifer accused
Robins of having ruined her husband’s marriage, career,
and future. Jennifer wrote, “I was the last person he
was with.” Within minutes of sending the e-mail to
Robins, Jennifer deleted Dr. Trayers’s Gmail account.
On a shelf near the kitchen, Jennifer left manila envelopes
containing copies of her e-mailed letter to Robins and
e-mails between Dr. Trayers and Robins. It is undisputed that
Jennifer killed Dr. Trayers that morning with a knife.
3. Additional evidence Jennifer’s mother,
Deborah Smith, testified that she spoke with Jennifer by
telephone on the morning of December 4 right after she texted
Jennifer at around 9:00 a.m. Jennifer told her she and Fred
(Dr. Trayers) were sleeping in.
a. Evidence of Jennifer's extramarital affair
Orvill Webb testified he met Jennifer in Florida in 2001 or
2002, and they [had] a sexual affair that began around 2002
and ended in late 2004 or 2005.
B. Defense Case
Jennifer testified on her own behalf. She and Dr. Trayers,
who was in the Navy training to be a pilot, met in 1991 and
married in 1992. In 1997, they moved to Fallon, Nevada, so
Dr. Trayers could teach at the Top Gun flight school. In
Fallon, Dr. Trayers met Danielle Merket, a civilian who was
conducting some sort of psychological research on pilots. The
two continued to have contact after Merket left Fallon.
Jennifer testified that she and her husband moved to Fort
Lauderdale in 2001, and her husband started medical school.
Dr. Trayers contacted Merket, who lived in Orlando, and they
started spending time together. Jennifer eventually became
convinced they were having an affair.
Jennifer began to have a sexual relationship with Webb in
early 2003 because she was upset her husband was in love with
Merket and felt their marriage was over. Dr. Trayers learned
about the relationship a couple months after it started and
blamed himself for not paying attention to Jennifer and not
being home. The couple stayed together, but the marriage was
Jennifer testified that when they moved from Florida to San
Diego in 2005, they agreed to put the affairs behind them and
renewed their vows in 2007 on their 15th anniversary.
Jennifer became angry when she caught Fred e-mailing Merket
late in 2007, but she remained in the marriage. She testified
that her relationship with Dr. Trayers from early 2010 to
early August of that year was good, there was never a time
when she used physical violence against him, and he did not
use physical violence against her.
Jennifer testified that when Dr. Trayers returned from the
Mercy ship cruise in early September, she became suspicious
over the amount of time he spent sending text messages to
someone else on his phone. She became anxious because she
felt something was wrong and started losing weight and not
sleeping. The couple began going to counseling in late
September, but Dr. Trayers continued to deny anything was
Jennifer stated she installed spyware software on their home
computer and Dr. Trayers's laptop in early October that
allowed her to see what he was communicating by e-mail. The
first e-mail she read was from Dr. Trayers to another woman
about what he had done with her that day. She mistakenly
thought Dr. Trayers was communicating with Danielle Merket.
Jennifer testified she felt sick when she read that e-mail,
and she began to print the emails. She confronted Dr. Trayers
in mid-October about the hundreds of text messages the phone
bill showed he had sent to a phone number in Maryland, and he
told her he was simply helping a medical student (Danielle
Robins) in Maryland.
Jennifer testified she read one e-mail from Danielle Robins
that called Dr. Trayers “Mr. Wonderful” and
suggested he was with Robins exclusively. Jennifer started
feeling better when she deduced from the e-mails that Dr.
Trayers’s relationship with Robins was ending, but then
in late November she saw one informing Dr. Trayers that
Robins was returning to Camp Pendleton. Jennifer testified
she continued feeling anxious and losing weight. In late
November, Dr. Trayers removed photos of the two of them from
his Facebook page.
The eight-page e-mail that Jennifer sent to Robins was
actually a journal Jennifer began in October. She testified
she made her last entry on December 1. She made no entry on
the morning of December 4. She stated that when she wrote her
entries-such as, “I will have the joy of knowing I got
to spend quality time with him, ” and “I got to
see him every day, ” which she acknowledged seemed to
be in the past tense-she had no plan to kill her husband, but
was considering suicide. By the end of November, she was
sleeping only one or two hours a night.
Jennifer also testified that on December 3, before Dr.
Trayers left for the holiday party and then work, he sat down
on the couch with her and told her he would never leave her
and that he wanted to start being honest with her and
communicating more. Jennifer wanted him to admit his affair
with Robins, but did not confront him about it because she
had not told him she was reading his ...