United States District Court, N.D. California, San Jose Division
EDDIE M. VARGAS, Plaintiff,
MIKE KNOWLES, Defendant.
ORDER DENYING MOTION TO AMEND PETITION FOR WRIT OF
HABEAS CORPUS RE: DKT. NO. 240
J. DAVILA UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
habeas corpus proceeding under 28 U.S.C. § 2254,
Petitioner Eddie M. Vargas (“Petitioner”)
challenges his August 15, 1997 conviction in Santa Clara
County Superior Court for first-degree murder and conspiracy
to commit murder. Presently before the Court is
Petitioner’s motion for leave to file an amended habeas
petition. Dkt. No. 240. Specifically, Petitioner seeks leave
to add certain claims for habeas relief that Petitioner has
only recently exhausted in state court habeas proceedings.
Respondent Mike Knowles (“Respondent”) opposes
the motion on the grounds that the new claims are
procedurally defaulted and untimely. Dkt. No. 241. After
reviewing the parties’ submissions, the Court agrees
with Respondent. The motion to amend the habeas petition is
accusations against Petitioner center on his involvement in
the murder of Eli Rosas (“Rosas”), a member of
the Northern Structure gang. Raul Reveles
(“Reveles”) and Timo Hernandez
(“Hernandez”), two brothers, were convicted in a
separate trial of stabbing Rosas to death. The
prosecution’s theory was that Petitioner had ordered
and authorized the killing of Rosas by the brothers. The key
evidence at Petitioner’s trial was the testimony of two
cooperating gang members, Louie Chavez (“Chavez”)
and Jerry Salazar (“Salazar”). Chavez and Salazar
testified that, on the night that Rosas was killed, they held
a three-way conference call with Petitioner, during which
Petitioner gave them the verbal authorization to tell Reveles
and Hernandez to kill Rosas. Largely on the basis of this
evidence, Petitioner was convicted on both counts and
sentenced to 60 years to life.
timely appealed the judgment and sentence. In conjunction
with his direct appeal, Petitioner sought a writ of habeas
corpus in the state appellate court. The Sixth District Court
of Appeal denied the direct appeal in People v.
Vargas, 91 Cal.App.4th 506 (2001), as well as
Petitioner’s habeas petition. The California Supreme
Court denied review on December 11, 2001, rendering
Petitioner’s conviction final. On October 1, 2002,
Petitioner filed a pro per petition for habeas corpus in the
California Supreme Court. On April 30, 2003, the petition was
denied as well.
24, 2003, Petitioner filed another pro per habeas petition
with this Court, pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254. Dkt. No.
1. Petitioner included 14 claims for relief, all of which he
and Respondent agreed he had exhausted in his previous state
habeas petitions. Dkt. No. 20-1 at 2. On June 15, 2005,
Petitioner moved for the appointment of counsel pursuant to
18 U.S.C. § 3006A(a)(2). On July 21, 2005, the Court
appointed counsel (“previous counsel”). Dkt. No.
142. On August 29, 2007, through previous counsel, Petitioner
filed a traverse, which amended and supplemented the original
petition by adding several new claims. Dkt. No. 154.
traverse, Petitioner identified four “areas” of
evidence that he contended would undermine the trial
testimony from Chavez and Salazar about the phone call with
Petitioner. Id., ¶ 9. The first was the
testimony of Roland Saldivar (“Saldivar”), a
close friend of Salazar’s who was staying with him on
the night of the Rosas murder. Id., ¶ 9-1.
Saldivar’s statements to a police investigator
contradicted aspects of the trial testimony from Chavez and
Salazar. Id. The second area was Chavez’
testimony at the Reveles trial, which contradicted
Salazar’s testimony at Petitioner’s trial.
Id., ¶ 9-2. The third area was testimony from
Petitioner’s former sister-in-law, Michele Valderrama
(“Valderrama”), who testified for the prosecution
at Petitioner’s trial. Id., ¶ 9-3. Her
trial testimony, as well as some statements she had made
before trial, contradicted some of the trial testimony that
Chavez and Salazar offered. Id. The fourth area was
the testimony of Chico Guzman (“Guzman”), who had
conducted a personal investigation of the killing.
Id., ¶ 9-4. Guzman testified that Chavez and
Salazar had told him a different story than the one they gave
at trial. Id. By failing to highlight these
contradictions despite Petitioner’s requests,
Petitioner contended that his trial counsel had been so
ineffective as to violate the Sixth Amendment’s
guarantee of counsel. Id., ¶¶s 10-17.
23, 2008, the Court held that Petitioner had not yet
exhausted these new claims in state court. Dkt. No. 172. On
November 18, 2008, the Court granted Petitioner’s
motion to stay federal proceedings to allow Petitioner to
file a state habeas petition and exhaust the new claims. Dkt.
No. 189. On June 11, 2010, frustrated with the progress of
his state petition, Petitioner moved to replace previous
counsel. Dkt. No. 192. The Court denied the motion on March
28, 2011. Dkt. No. 195.
on February 4, 2011, Petitioner filed a supplemental petition
for habeas corpus in state court. Dkt. No. 240-1, Ex. A. On
February 16, 2011, the Superior Court denied the petition as
procedurally barred. Id., Ex. B. On November 14,
2011, this Court reopened the case at Petitioner’s
request. Dkt. No. 207. On November 28, 2012, the Court
granted Petitioner’s renewed request to appoint new
counsel, citing irreconcilable differences between Petitioner
and previous counsel. Dkt. Nos. 224, 226. Through his new
counsel, on April 3, 2015, Petitioner filed the instant
motion, in which he seeks to amend his previous petition to
add the four claims discussed above. Dkt. No. 240.
petition for a writ of habeas corpus “may be amended or
supplemented as provided in the rules of procedure applicable
to civil actions.” 28 U.S.C. § 2242; see
also Fed.R.Civ.P. 81(a)(4). Under Federal Rule of Civil
Procedure 15(a), a habeas petitioner may seek leave of court
to amend his pleading at any time during the proceeding.
See Mayle v. Felix, 545 U.S. 644, 655 (2005).
“The [C]ourt should freely give leave when justice so
requires.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 15(a). However, the Court may
deny a motion for leave to amend a habeas petition if the
respondent shows bad faith, undue delay, prejudice to the
respondent, or that amendment would be futile. Nunes v.
Ashcroft, 375 F.3d 805, 808 (9th Cir. 2003) (citing
Bonin v. Calderon, 59 F.3d 815, 845 (9th Cir.
1995)). “Futility alone can justify the denial of a
motion for leave to amend.” Id. (citing
Bonin, 59 F.3d at 845).
urges the Court to deny the motion to amend on the grounds
that the proposed claims are futile because they are
procedurally defaulted and untimely. Respondent also contends
that Plaintiff has not made a sufficient showing of actual
innocence such that he may obtain collateral review. The
Court considers each argument in turn.