Searching over 5,500,000 cases.


searching
Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

Quinteros v. Paramo

United States District Court, S.D. California

May 8, 2017

Lionel Quinteros, Petitioner,
v.
Daniel Paramo, Warden, Respondent.

          ORDER REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION DENYING PETITION FOR WRIT OF HABEAS CORPUS

          Hon. Jill L. Burkhardt, United States Magistrate Judge

         This Report and Recommendation is submitted to United States District Judge Janis L. Sammartino pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1) and Local Civil Rule HC.2 of the United States District Court for the Southern District of California.

         I. INTRODUCTION

         Petitioner Lionel Quinteros (“Petitioner”) is a state prisoner who is proceeding pro se and in forma pauperis with a Petition for Writ of Habeas Corpus by a Person in State Custody pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254. (ECF No. 1 at 1, hereinafter “Pet.”)

         Petitioner challenges his December 21, 2012 San Diego County Superior Court conviction where a jury found him guilty of assault with a deadly weapon by a prisoner. (ECF No. 13-1 at 8.) Petitioner was sentenced to prison for a term of eight years. (Id. at 2.)

         Petitioner appealed the superior court's judgment to the California Court of Appeal. (ECF No. 13-1 at 8.) The California Court of Appeal affirmed the judgment of the superior court. (ECF No. 13-1 at 8.) Petitioner filed a petition for review to the California Supreme Court. (ECF No. 13-1 at 8.) The California Supreme Court denied the petition. (ECF No. 13-1 at 9.) Petitioner did not file a petition for certiorari in the United Sates Supreme Court. (Pet. at 1.)

         On August 12, 2015, Petitioner filed the instant Petition for a Writ of Habeas Corpus (“Petition”) pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254. (See Pet. at ECF No. 13-1 at 9.) For the following reasons, the Court finds that the state court adjudication of the claims raised in the Petition is not contrary to, nor does it involve an unreasonable application of, clearly established federal law, and is not based on an unreasonable determination of the facts. Accordingly, the Court RECOMMENDS the Petition be DENIED.

         II.UNDERLYING FACTS

         This Court gives deference to state court findings of fact and presumes them to be correct. See 28 U.S.C. § 2254(e)(1); see also Parke v. Raley, 506 U.S. 20, 35-36 (1992) (holding that findings of historical fact, which include inferences properly drawn from such facts, are entitled to statutory presumption of correctness). The relevant facts drawn from the state court record follow.

         Petitioner was incarcerated at the Richard J. Donovan Correctional Facility. Petitioner and a group of prison inmates attacked a fellow inmate, Victoriano Ortiz, in the prison yard of the Richard J. Donovan Correctional Facility while he was walking laps with another inmate, Geronimo Polina. (ECF No. 13-1 at 7; ECF No. 14-1 at 7-8.) Ortiz was punched, kicked, and slashed with a razor blade by the group of prison inmates, which included Polina, Alberto Macias, and Petitioner. As a result of this attack, Petitioner and two co-defendants (Polina and Macias) were charged with and jointly tried for conspiracy to commit murder, attempted murder, and assault with a deadly weapon by a prisoner. (ECF No. 13-1 at 7.) Each of Petitioner's crimes was alleged to have been committed for the benefit of, at the direction of, or in association with a criminal street gang. (ECF No. 13-1 at 7-8.) Petitioner had four prior strike convictions within the meaning of California Penal Code §§ 667(b)-(i), 1170.12, and 668. (ECF No. 13-1 at 8.)

         The record reflects that the three co-defendants, including Petitioner, sat through a joint trial wearing leg chains that were strung to an I-bolt on the floor, all of which was concealed from the jury by a table skirt. (ECF No. 14-1 at 27.) During the morning of December 13, 2012, after defendants rested their cases, the prosecution called its first rebuttal witness, Officer Bravo. (ECF No. 14-1 at 10; ECF No. 14-9 at 26-27.) Soon after this rebuttal witness was called to the stand, one of Petitioner's co-defendants, Macias, slash attacked his attorney with a razor blade while in the presence of the jury. (Id.; ECF No. 13-1 at 12; ECF No. 14-1 at 26; ECF No. 14-3 at 225.) Within minutes of this attack, and still in the presence of the jury, security personnel unchained all three co-defendants from the ground to remove them from the courtroom. (ECF No. 14-10 at 6-7.) There is no evidence as to whether any juror actually saw any defendant's leg restraints.

         In the hours that followed the attack on December 13, 2012, superior court proceedings were held outside the presence of the jury. During these proceedings, Petitioner's counsel moved for a mistrial. (ECF No. 13-1 at 13; ECF No. 14-3 at 226; ECF No. 14-9 at 38.) Following these proceedings, and outside the presence of the defendants, the jury returned to the courtroom so that the court could excuse the jury for the day. (ECF No. 14-3 at 226.) Before excusing the jury on December 13, 2012, the court admonished the jury that they “not let what happened in the courtroom affect what you think the evidence does or does not show about what happened at Donovan.” (ECF No. 14-9 at 39-42.)

         The next day, on December 14, 2012, the superior court conducted in camera interviews of the jurors and the alternate jurors to determine the effect of the courtroom attack on the jury. (ECF No. 13-1 at 15; ECF No. 14-18 at 4-31.) Upon questioning, Juror Number Two stated that he would “certainly try” to not let the incident with Macias affect his deliberations with regard to Petitioner, but the juror indicated that “there's got to be an effect” and noted that he observed “a young man that had a very bad temper.” (ECF No. 13-1 at 16.) The trial court asked Juror Number Two if he could set aside what happened in court, to which the juror replied, “Yes, we could go through our notes and tally it up and figure what's correct.” (ECF No. 13-1 at 16.) The court did not excuse Juror Number Two, but did excuse two other sitting jurors who indicated that they did not believe they could be fair and impartial. (ECF No. 13-1 at 16.)

         After the court completed the in camera interviews, Petitioner's counsel renewed his mistrial motion. Petitioner's counsel argued that the incident with Petitioner's co-defendant, Macias, painted Petitioner in a bad light, even though Petitioner was not involved in the incident. (ECF No. 13-1 at 16; ECF No. 14-9 at 62-68.) Petitioner's counsel also argued that the courtroom incident undermined Petitioner's trial defense of downplaying Ortiz's injuries. (Id.) Petitioner's counsel argued that, when Petitioner's co-defendant Macias committed a violent act in front of the jury, it reinforced any bias that the defendants were violent men. (ECF No. 14-14 at 30.) Petitioner's counsel further alleged that the jurors could not put the courtroom incident aside even if they said they could. (ECF No. 13-1 at 16; ECF No. 14-9 at 67-68.)

         The trial judge denied Petitioner's motion for a mistrial. (ECF No. 13-1 at 13.) The court stated that it did not see how the incident with Macias undercut any argument that Petitioner's counsel intended to make as to the severity of Ortiz's injuries. (ECF No. 13-1 at 16.) The court also stated that Petitioner sat still during the attack and appeared to be unaware of what Macias was going to do. (ECF No. 13-1 at 16.) The court denied the motions for mistrial because the remaining jurors indicated that they could be fair and impartial and the court had to “take them at their word” and “trust them.” (ECF No. 13-1 at 16.)

         Also on December 14, 2012, a brief hearing was held where the defendants as well as all jurors were present together in the same courtroom for the first time after the attack. (ECF No. 14-3 at 227-28.) Defendants wore handcuffs during the hearing. (Id.) The Court issued a media admonishment and directed the jury to return on December 19th for instructions, closing arguments, and deliberations. (Id. at 228; ECF No. 14-9 at 61-62.)

         Thereafter, on December 19, 2012, trial resumed for instructions, closing arguments, and deliberations.[1] (ECF No. 14-3 at 231; ECF No. 14-10 at 4, 18-20.) With the exception of Macias, defendants were not handcuffed, and their leg chains were concealed by a table skirt. (ECF No. 14-10 at 16.) Prior to deliberations, the jury was instructed that it must decide the case based only on the evidence presented in the courtroom. (ECF No. 13-1 at 17.) The court also gave the jury the following special limiting instruction:

Your task is deciding what occurred on July 5th, 2010, at R.J. Donovan State Prison. Once you agree upon the facts - - on what the facts are in this case, you are to apply the law set forth in these instructions to those facts.
Ultimately, you will decide whether this case has been proven beyond a reasonable doubt. If it has not been proven beyond a reasonable doubt, you must find the defendants, or any individual defendant against whom the case has not been proven, not guilty.
In reaching your determination, you are not to consider anything that you observed or heard in the courtroom on December 13th, 2012. Those events should not enter into or affect your deliberations in any way.

(ECF No. 14-10 at 30-31; ECF No. 13-1 at 16-17 (italics omitted).)

         Ultimately, the jury convicted Petitioner on the charge of assault with a deadly weapon by a prisoner, but acquitted Petitioner of the conspiracy to commit murder and the attempted murder charges. (ECF No. 13-1 at 8; ECF No. 14-3 at 241-43.) The jury also found the government had not proved the street-gang allegation as to any of the charges. (Id.) Petitioner admitted to the prior strike allegations. (ECF No. 13-1 at 8.) Petitioner was sentenced to prison for a term of eight years. (ECF No. 13-1 at 2.)

         Petitioner's counsel filed a motion for a new trial in the superior court, arguing that Petitioner's presumption of innocence and right to a fair trial were taken away by the courtroom attack involving Macias. (ECF No. 13-1 at 17.) The court denied the motion, finding that this was not the case, and relying in part on the fact that the jury only convicted Petitioner of assault on a prison inmate, and not of conspiracy to commit murder and attempted murder. (ECF No. 13-1 at 17.) Additionally, the court found that its decision was supported by the fact that the jury did not find the related gang allegations to be true. (ECF No. 13-1 at 17.)

         Petitioner appealed the superior court's judgment and raised several claims, two of which were similar to those now raised in the Petition before this Court. (ECF No. 13-1 at 8.) The two similar claims were: (1) the jury was exposed to inherently prejudicial influences as a result of Macias's courtroom attack on his attorney; and (2) the jury seeing Petitioner in restraints and handcuffs was inherently prejudicial. (ECF No. 14-14 at 30, 35.) The California Court of Appeal affirmed the judgment of the superior court. (ECF No. 13-1 at 8.)

         Petitioner next filed a petition for review to the California Supreme Court. Petitioner asserted three grounds for relief: (1) whether Petitioner's due process right to an impartial jury was violated when the jury saw him shackled; (2) whether the jury's viewing of Petitioner shackled was so prejudicial that it denied Petitioner his due process right to an impartial jury; and (3) whether Macias's attack on his attorney at trial was so inherently prejudicial that Petitioner was deprived of his due process right to an impartial jury. (ECF No. 13-1 at 8-9.) The California Supreme Court denied the petition. (ECF No. 13-1 at 9.)

         Finally, Petitioner filed a federal petition for writ of habeas corpus in this district, the Petition before this Court. (ECF No. 13-1 at 9.) Petitioner's grounds for relief are (1) Petitioner's right to an impartial jury was violated when the superior court permitted the jury to serve as the ultimate trier-of-fact despite the fact that the jury witnessed Petitioner's co-defendant, Macias, attack his attorney, and (2) Petitioner's right to due process was violated when the superior court allowed the Petitioner to be visibly restrained in front of the jury. (Pet. at 12.) Respondent filed a response to the Petition. (ECF No. 13-1 at 9.) Petitioner did not file a traverse.

         III. STANDARD OF REVIEW

         Title 28, United States Code, § 2254, subsection (a) provides the scope of review for federal habeas corpus claims:

The Supreme Court, a Justice thereof, a circuit judge, or a district court shall entertain an application for a writ of habeas corpus in [sic] 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).

         Additionally, Petitioner's habeas claims are subject to the provisions of the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act (“AEDPA”), codified at 28 U.S.C.§ 2254(d). See Lindh v. Murphy, 521 U.S. 320, 326 (1997) (Federal courts reviewing any petition filed in federal court after the April 24, 1996 enactment of “AEDPA, ” will apply its provisions). Under AEDPA, a petitioner must overcome a high threshold to obtain relief:

Federal habeas relief may not be granted for claims subject to [28 U.S.C.] § 2254(d) unless it is shown that the earlier state court's decision was contrary to federal law then clearly established in the holdings of [the Supreme] Court, § 2254(d)(1); or that it involved an unreasonable application of such law, § 2254(d)(1); or that it was based on an unreasonable determination of the facts in light of the record before the state court, § 2254(d)(2).

Harrington v. Richter, 562 U.S. 86, 100 (2011) (internal quotation and citation omitted).

         “Clearly established Federal law, ” as understood in the context of § 2254(d)(1), consists of holdings of Supreme Court decisions. Williams v. Taylor, 529 U.S. 362, 365 (2000) (stating that the phrase “clearly established Federal law, ” as determined by the United States Supreme Court, refers to “the holdings, as opposed to the dicta, of [the Supreme] Court's decisions as of the time of the relevant state-court decision”). Habeas corpus relief cannot be granted under § 2254(d)(1) “so long as ‘fair-minded ...


Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.