United States District Court, S.D. California
ORDER: (1) OVERRULING PETITIONER'S OBJECTIONS;
(2) ADOPTING REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION; AND (3) DENYING
PETITION FOR WRIT OF HABEAS CORPUS
Cynthia Bashant United States District Judge.
October 28, 2015, Petitioner Jose Najera
(“Najera”), a state prisoner proceeding pro
se and in forma pauperis, filed a Petition for
Writ of Habeas Corpus pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254,
challenging his March 4, 2013 conviction in San Diego
Superior Court for second degree murder. (ECF No. 1 at 6.)
Petitioner asserts that former California Penal Code §
22(b) (“former § 22(b)”) violates federal
due process by excluding relevant exculpatory evidence.
August 19, 2016, United States Magistrate Judge Jill L.
Burkhardt issued a Report and Recommendation
(“Report”) recommending that this Court deny the
petition. (ECF No. 10.) Petitioner filed an Objection to the
Report and Recommendation (“Objection”) in which
he reasserts his claim that former § 22(b) violates due
process, and also argues that the magistrate judge failed to
properly review the record before reaching her legal
conclusions. Petitioner also requests an evidentiary hearing.
Respondents have not replied.
On the morning of April 25, 2007, Najera was driving a stolen
car. He had two passengers: his friend, David Lopez, and
Lopez's girlfriend, Rachel Gaxiola. At approximately 9:00
a.m., San Diego County Sheriff's deputies attempted to
stop Najera's car, having received a report it was
stolen. Najera initially pulled the car over to the side of
the road but then made a sharp U-turn and rapidly
accelerated; Najera narrowly missed oncoming traffic and
drove on the wrong side of a divided roadway at speeds up to
80 miles per hour for just under a minute. The chase
finally ended when Najera collided head-on with a 76-year-old
motorist, Jean Cooke. . . .
All four people involved in the collision were taken to the
hospital, where Lopez was pronounced dead. Gaxiola had
several severe bone fractures; she spent the next two and a
half months in the hospital and was still in “constant
pain” at the time of the trial. Cooke also suffered
several broken bones and a collapsed lung; she still
experienced symptoms of her injuries, including difficulty
standing, at the time of trial.
Najera was treated for several fractures and lacerations.
Najera admitted to doctors at the hospital that he had used
methamphetamine the evening before the collision and heroin
approximately five hours before the collision. These
admissions were confirmed by later blood tests and consistent
with the fact that a usable amount of methamphetamine was
found in his pants pocket.
(ECF No. 8-7 at 3-4.)
was ultimately convicted in San Diego County Superior Court
of second degree murder, gross vehicular manslaughter while
intoxicated, and other charges. Najera timely filed an appeal
with the California Court of Appeal on May 6, 2013. (ECF No.
8-1 at 163.) The California Court of Appeal affirmed
Najera's conviction. (ECF No. 8-7 at 1-15.) Subsequently,
Najera filed a petition for review in the Supreme Court of
California, which summarily denied the petition on November
12, 2014. (ECF Nos. 8-8, 8-9 at 1.)
timely filed the instant Petition on October 28, 2015. (ECF
Review of Magistrate Judge's Report and
Court reviews de novo those portions of a report and
recommendation to which objections are made. 28 U.S.C. §
636(b)(1)(C). The Court may “accept, reject, or modify,
in whole or in part, the findings or recommendations made by
the magistrate judge.” Id. But the statute
makes clear that “the district judge must review the
magistrate judge's findings and recommendations de novo
if objection is made, but not otherwise.”
United States v. Reyna-Tapia, 328 F.3d 1114, 1121
(9th Cir. 2003) (en banc) (emphasis in original); see
also Schmidt v. Johnstone, 263 F.Supp.2d 1219, 1226 (D.
Ariz. 2003) (concluding that where no objections were filed,
the district court had no obligation to review the magistrate
judge's report de novo). “Neither the Constitution
nor the statute requires a district judge to review, de novo,
findings and recommendations that the parties themselves
accept as correct.” Reyna-Tapia, 328 F.3d at
1121. This legal rule is well-established in the Ninth
Circuit and this district. See Wang v. Masaitis, 416
F.3d 992, 1000 n.13 (9th Cir. 2005) (“Of course, de
novo review of a[n] R & R is only required when an
objection is made to the R & R.”).
Federal Habeas Review
power of a federal court to grant habeas relief on behalf of
state prisoners is governed by 28 U.S.C. § 2254, as
amended by the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act
of 1996 (“AEDPA”). See Lindh v. Murphy,
521 U.S. 320, 326-27 (1997). Under AEDPA, a habeas petition
will not be granted on any claim adjudicated on the merits in
state court, unless that adjudication: (1) resulted in a
decision that was contrary to or involved an unreasonable
application of clearly established federal law; or (2)
resulted in a decision that was based on an unreasonable
determination of the facts in light of the evidence presented
at the state court proceeding. 28 U.S.C. § 2254(d);
see also Early v. Packer, 537 U.S. 3, 7-8 (2002).
purposes of AEDPA, the phrase “clearly established
federal law” means “the governing principle or
principles set forth by the Supreme Court at the time the
state court renders its decision.” Lockyer v.
Andrade, 538 U.S. 63, 72 (2003). A state court decision
is “contrary to” clearly established federal law
if it applies a rule that contradicts governing Supreme Court
law, or if it confronts a set of facts that is
“materially indistinguishable” from a decision of
the Supreme Court, but reaches a different result. Brown
v. Payton, 544 U.S. 133, 141 (2005) (citing Williams
v. Taylor, 529 U.S. 362, 405-06 (2000)). A state court
decision involves an “unreasonable application”
of clearly established federal ...