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Banford v. Arnold

United States District Court, N.D. California

March 28, 2017

ERIC ANTHONY BANFORD, Petitioner,
v.
ERIC ARNOLD, Respondent.

          ORDER DENYING PETITION FOR WRIT OF HABEAS CORPUS

          WILLIAM H. ORRICK, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         INTRODUCTION

         Petitioner Eric Anthony Banford seeks federal habeas relief from his state convictions on grounds that (1) the trial court erred in refusing to use his preferred jury instructions; (2) the trial court failed to adequately respond to the jury's question; (3) the trial court erred in admitting evidence of an uncharged attempted burglary; and (4) there was cumulative error. Each of these claims lack merit. The petition for habeas relief is DENIED.

         BACKGROUND

         In 2011, while intoxicated with cocaine, Banford killed a motorcyclist after driving his car into oncoming traffic in an attempt to avoid the police. In 2013, a San Mateo County Superior Court jury found Banford guilty of second degree murder, vehicular manslaughter, evasion of a peace officer resulting in death, and a hit and run from an accident resulting in death. The jury also found true many sentencing enhancements. On the basis of these convictions and enhancements, Banford was sentenced to 59 years to life in state prison. (Ans., Ex. F at 1-2 (State Appellate Opinion, People v. Banford, No. A140446, 2015 WL 4749231 (Cal.Ct.App. Aug. 11, 2015) (unpublished).)

         Banford's attempts to overturn his convictions in state court were unsuccessful. This federal habeas petition followed.

         STANDARD OF REVIEW

         Under the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996 (“AEDPA”), this Court may entertain a petition for writ of habeas corpus “in behalf of a person in custody pursuant to the judgment of a State court 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). The petition may not be granted with respect to any claim that was adjudicated on the merits in state court 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).

         “Under the ‘contrary to' clause, a federal habeas court may grant the writ if the state court arrives at a conclusion opposite to that reached by [the Supreme] Court on a question of law or if the state court decides a case differently than [the] Court has on a set of materially indistinguishable facts.” Williams (Terry) v. Taylor, 529 U.S. 362, 412-13 (2000).

         “Under the ‘unreasonable application' clause, a federal habeas court may grant the writ if the state court identifies the correct governing legal principle from [the] Court's decisions but unreasonably applies that principle to the facts of the prisoner's case.” Id. at 413. “[A] federal habeas court may not issue the writ simply because that court concludes in its independent judgment that the relevant state court decision applied clearly established federal law erroneously or incorrectly. Rather, that application must also be unreasonable.” Id. at 411. A federal habeas court making the “unreasonable application” inquiry should ask whether the state court's application of clearly established federal law was “objectively unreasonable.” Id. at 409.

         DISCUSSION

         I. Jury Instructions

         Banford claims the trial court violated his right to due process when it refused to give the jury his preferred instructions regarding malice. The state appellate court summarized the facts as follows:

The trial court instructed the jury regarding malice aforethought using the language of CALCRIM No. 520 [(‘First or Second Degree Murder With Malice Aforethought')], as follows:
‘The defendant is charged in Count 1 with murder in violation of Penal Code section 187.
To prove that the defendant is guilty of this crime, the People must prove that: 1. The defendant committed an act that caused the death of another person; AND 2. When the defendant acted, he had a state of mind called malice aforethought.
There are two kinds of malice aforethought, express malice and implied malice. Proof of either is sufficient to establish the state of mind required for murder.
The defendant acted with express malice if he unlawfully intended to kill. Express malice does ...

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