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Martinez v. California Court of Appeal

United States District Court, C.D. California

May 22, 2017

JESUS MARTINEZ, Petitioner,
v.
CALIFORNIA COURT OF APPEAL, Respondent.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER (1) DISMISSING PETITION FOR WRIT OF HABEAS CORPUS AND ACTION WITHOUT PREJUDICE; AND (2) DENYING RESPONDENT'S MOTION TO DISMISS PETITION AS MOOT

          Honorable Jacqueline Chooljian UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.

         I. SUMMARY

         On February 1, 2017, Jesus Martinez (“petitioner”), a pretrial detainee awaiting trial in Santa Barbara County Superior Court (“SBSC”), formally filed a Petition for Writ of Habeas Corpus (“Petition”) pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2241.[1]Petitioner claims that the dismissal and refiling of charges against him violates his constitutional right to a speedy trial. He seeks the immediate dismissal of his pending criminal case.

         On March 10, 2017, respondent filed a motion to dismiss the Petition (“Motion to Dismiss”), arguing that the Petition should be dismissed because it does not raise a federal question and contains only unexhausted claims or, alternatively, that petitioner's claim fails on the merits because he has not shown any prejudice under Barker v. Wingo, 407 U.S. 514, 530-33 (1972) (courts reviewing a Sixth Amendment speedy trial claim generally look at four factors including prejudice to the defendant).[2]

         On April 14, 2017, petitioner filed a “Motion to Proceed with Petitioners [sic] Writ of Habeas Corpus, etc., ” with an attached memorandum of points and authorities, which the Court has construed as petitioner's opposition to the Motion to Dismiss (“Opposition”). Petitioner argues, inter alia, that he does not have to show prejudice because the Petition is a “pretrial appeal” concerning his speedy trial rights, whereas Barker concerned post-conviction proceedings, and explains how he believes he has been prejudiced. See Opposition at 2, 10-14.

         On April 27, 2017, respondent filed a reply (“Reply”) with attached exhibits (“Reply Ex.”), addressing petitioner's factual allegations.

         The parties have consented to proceed before the undersigned United States Magistrate Judge. As explained below, in light of the pendency of the state proceedings, this Court must abstain from considering petitioner's claim pursuant to Younger v. Harris, 401 U.S. 37 (1971), [3] and must dismiss this action without prejudice. Accordingly, respondent's Motion to Dismiss is denied as moot.

         II. PETITIONER'S STATE COURT PROCEEDINGS[4]

         On March 1, 2016, petitioner and a co-defendant were charged in SBSC Case No. 1493533, with multiple offenses stemming from an alleged rape that occurred on February 28, 2016. Petitioner waived time for arraignment. On March 3, 2016, petitioner pleaded not guilty and denied all special allegations in a complaint, and waived time for a preliminary hearing. On March 10, 2016, petitioner was arraigned on an amended complaint, and again pleaded not guilty and denied all special allegations. On March 17, 2016, petitioner filed a peremptory challenge to the assigned judge. The case was reassigned to Department 12, Hon. Michael Carrozzo, for all purposes. On April 14, 2016, petitioner appeared for a preliminary hearing and waived time. On May 16, 2016, petitioner appeared for a preliminary hearing and again waived time. On June 2, 2016, petitioner appeared for a preliminary hearing, but a subpoenaed witness failed to appear. Petitioner again waived time. On June 30, 2016, petitioner appeared for a preliminary hearing and again waived time. On August 8, 2016, petitioner appeared for a preliminary hearing setting and again waived time. On August 23, 2016, the court rescheduled the preliminary hearing to August 30, 2016. On August 30, 2016, the court held a preliminary hearing and found sufficient cause to hold petitioner to answer for the charged crimes.

         On September 12, 2016, petitioner was arraigned on an information, pleaded not guilty, and denied all special allegations. Petitioner tendered no time waiver and his last day for trial was noted to be November 14, 2016. There were several pretrial hearings between September 12, 2016 and November 14, 2016. On November 8, 2016, the prosecution filed a motion to continue the jury trial pursuant to California Penal Code section 1050(g)(2) because the then-assigned prosecutor - Deputy District Attorney (“DDA”) Von Deroian - was engaged in another trial; the prosecution asked the court to trail petitioner's trial until DDA Deroian became available. See Reply Ex. 1A (Motion with Declaration of DDA Von Deroian stating that she then was in trial which might not conclude until the week of November 28, 2016); see also Cal. Penal Code § 1050(g)(2) (allowing for continuances upon “good cause, ” including when the prosecutor for a sexual assault case has another trial in progress; continuances are limited to a maximum of 10 court days).

         The trial court heard the motion to continue on November 14, 2016, when petitioner returned for trial. The trial court told the prosecution it could only get a continuance for 10 days under Section 1050(g), and that if DDA Deroian remained unavailable on the tenth day, the court would dismiss the case for failure to proceed on a speedy trial. The court indicated that another alternative was for the prosecution to then dismiss the case and to refile it, thereby starting a new 60-day clock for bringing petitioner to trial. See Supp. Lodgment Ex. 3 (minutes); see also Lodgment Ex. 1 at RT at 2-7 (hearing transcript). The prosecution elected the latter option and sought dismissal of the case without prejudice. The trial court granted such motion and dismissed the charges in Case No. 1493533. The prosecution then refiled the charges the same day in Case No. 1499126. Petitioner again pleaded not guilty to a complaint and denied the special allegations. See Supp. Lodgment Ex. 2 (minutes); Lodgment Ex. 1 at ¶ 8-12.

         On November 22, 2016, a preliminary hearing in Case No. 1499126 was held in Department 10 before the Hon. James Iwasko, who found cause to hold petitioner to answer the charges. On December 19, 2016, petitioner returned to Department 12 before Judge Carrozzo, and again pleaded not guilty and denied all special allegations in an information. The last day for trial was noted to be February 17, 2017. Several readiness and settlement conferences occurred before petitioner appeared on February 6, 2017, for another readiness and settlement conference. At this conference, petitioner waived time until April 30, 2017, to follow up on DNA results. See Supp. Lodgment Ex. 2 (minutes); Supp. Lodgment Ex. 1 at ¶ 2-3 (conference transcript). At the next conference on February 27, 2017, petitioner waived time until May 31, 2017. See Supp. Lodgment Ex. 2 (minutes); Lodgment Ex. 4 at ¶ 2 (conference transcript).

         At the February 27, 2017 conference, the trial court noted that petitioner had filed a pro se motion to dismiss that had not been given to either counsel. (Lodgment Ex. 4 at ¶ 3; see also Lodgment Ex. 3 (copy of petitioner's motion to dismiss)). The prosecutor informed the trial court that petitioner had filed habeas petitions with the California Court of Appeal and California Supreme Court on December 15, 2016, and January 11, 2017, respectively, that the foregoing petitions had been denied, and that petitioner had filed the instant Petition with this Court. (Lodgment Ex. 4 at ¶ 4; see also Lodgment Ex. 2 (copy of habeas petition filed with the California Supreme Court which varies from the current Petition but asserts a federal speedy trial constitutional claim based upon the prosecution's dismissal and refiling of charges against petitioner)).[5] Petitioner conferred with his counsel and withdrew the motion, with the understanding that if petitioner's counsel felt it was an appropriate motion to file, she would do so on petitioner's behalf. (Lodgment Ex. 4 at ¶ 5-6).

         III. ...


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