United States District Court, N.D. California
ORDER DENYING PETITION FOR A WRIT OF HABEAS
CHARLES R. BREYER United States District Judge
Walter Lee Bell, a state prisoner at Kern Valley State Prison
in Delano, California, seeks a writ of habeas corpus under 28
U.S.C. § 2254 invalidating a special circumstance murder
conviction from Contra Costa County Superior Court. Per order
filed on December 8, 2015, the court found that the petition
appears to state cognizable claims for relief under §
2254, when liberally construed, and ordered respondent to
show cause why a writ of habeas corpus should not be granted.
Respondent has filed an answer to the order to show cause and
petitioner has filed a traverse.
Statement of the Case
Contra Costa County District Attorney filed an information
charging petitioner with the January 20, 2009 murder of Rylan
Fuchs. Cal. Penal Code § 187. The information further
alleged that petitioner committed the murder while engaged
in, and an accomplice to, the commission and attempted
commission of a robbery, id. § 190.2(a)(17),
and personally and intentionally discharged a firearm causing
great bodily injury and death, id. §
12022.53(b), (c), (d).
13, 2013, a jury found petitioner guilty as charged. On June
21, 2013, the Contra Costa County Superior Court sentenced
him to a prison term of 25 years to life consecutive to life
without possibility of parole.
December 31, 2014, the California Court of Appeal affirmed
the judgment of conviction and, on March 11, 2015, the
Supreme Court of California denied review.
October 29, 2015, petitioner filed the instant federal habeas
Statement of the Facts
California Court of Appeal summarized the facts of the case
The Prosecution Case
On January 20, 2009 shortly after 9:00 p.m., 17-year-old
Rylan Fuchs was shot once in the neck while standing in front
of his home on El Capitan Drive in Danville. He was shot from
a distance of more than two or three feet. Fuchs’s
parents heard a bang and went out the front door to
investigate. Fuchs’s mother called 911. Fuchs was taken
to the hospital where he died the next morning.
There was no exit wound. The bullet recovered at the autopsy
was a hollow-point .38-caliber bullet that had been chambered
in a .38-special or .357-magnum, and was almost certainly
fired from a revolver. A hollow-point bullet is designed to
kill a human target. It lodged in the left side of the neck
after transecting the left carotid artery and jugular vein.
Based on the bullet’s trajectory and other factors,
Fuchs may have been on his knees or bending to the right when
shot. The gun was never found.
Contra Costa County Sheriff’s deputies and fire
department personnel responded to the report of a gunshot
injury and set up a crime scene. No drugs or shell casings
were found. A cell phone was found sitting on a truck parked
in the driveway of Fuchs’s home. No weapons or