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King v. Soto

United States District Court, N.D. California

June 2, 2017

KEITH H. KING, Petitioner.
v.
JOHN SOTO, Warden Respondent.

          ORDER DENYING PETITION FOR WRIT OF HABEAS CORPUS

          BETH LAB SON FREEMAN United States District Judge.

         Keith H. King Petitioner, a state prisoner represented by counsel, filed a petition for a writ of habeas corpus pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254 challenging his state criminal conviction for first degree burglary under California Penal Code § 459-460(a). Pet., ECF 1. Petitioner asserts three claims: (1) the trial court violated his due process rights by denying his request to change his plea to not guilty by reason of insanity (“NGI”); (2) the trial court violated his right to present a defense by limiting the scope of the expert witness's testimony; and (3) the trial court violated his constitutional rights by not instructing the jury that an individual juror could not find him guilty of burglary if the juror was unable to conclude which of the target offenses he committed. Id. Respondent filed an answer addressing the merits of Petitioner's claims, and exhibits in support thereof. ECF 11, 13-15. Petitioner filed a traverse. ECF 20. Having reviewed the briefs and the underlying record, the Court concludes that Petitioner is not entitled to relief and DENIES the petition.

         I. BACKGROUND

         In 2011, Petitioner was tried and convicted in Santa Clara County Superior Court. A jury found Petitioner guilty of first degree burglary. Pet. 1-2; Cal. Penal Code § 459. On September 23, 2011, the trial court sentenced Petitioner to 29 years to life in state prison. Pet. 2.

         Petitioner appealed and, on June 20, 2013, the California Court of Appeal issued a written opinion affirming the judgment. Ex. 6 to Answer (“Cal.Ct.App. Order”), ECF 15-3. On September 18, 2013, the California Supreme Court denied the petitions for review in both the direct review and habeas cases. Ex. 9-10 to Answer, ECF 15-5. Petitioner initiated the instant petition in this Court on August 1, 2014. Pet.

         II. SUMMARY OF EVIDENCE AT TRIAL

         In its written opinion, the state appellate court fairly and accurately summarized the factual background of Petitioner's case at trial as follows:

A. The Burglary
On June 6, 2005, Lorena Wright lived on Grey Ghost Avenue in San Jose with her husband and three-month-old daughter. Wright's husband had gone to work at about 5:30 a.m. that day.
At about 6:00 a.m., Wright was awakened by a noise. She went into her dining room, carrying the baby, and saw defendant outside her house. Defendant was trying to take the screen off a window and was talking to himself. Wright called 911.
Wright told the 911 dispatcher that someone was trying to get into her house. In a whisper, she remained in communication with the dispatcher for about 13 minutes. She heard defendant in the backyard, trying to open a door. She then heard him on the side of the house, trying to open a window near the fireplace. She eventually heard a noise “[l]ike he break it open.” About nine minutes after she first called 911, Wright heard defendant inside her house.
At trial, Wright described seeing defendant inside her guest bedroom, trying to open her large safe. She described how defendant was talking to himself each time she saw him, and how he was making a noise “kind of like” moaning.
About a minute after defendant's entry into the residence, the dispatcher informed Wright that an officer was pulling up in front of her house. The dispatcher instructed her to remain on the phone and “[s]tay in the bedroom” with the door locked, but after another two or three minutes, Wright went outside and contacted the officers.
San Jose Police Sergeant Russell Bence, one of the responding officers, went to the back of Wright's house. He saw defendant inside, walking towards the back door. Upon seeing the officer, defendant turned and walked towards the front of the house. When the officer ordered him down to the ground, defendant complied. Defendant was taken into custody.
The parties stipulated that “none of the witnesses in this case observed the defendant with an erection, with his pants off, his zipper down, or his private parts exposed.”
B. Defendant's Post-Arrest Statements
San Jose Police Officer Nicholas Barry interviewed defendant. He read the Miranda advisements, and defendant indicated he understood each one. Defendant began talking after the officer asked if he wanted to explain what had happened.
According to defendant, “a woman friend at a party told him to go over to [Wright's] house . . . because the woman there needed him to show her daughter the difference between a hard penis and a soft penis.” The woman at the house let him inside so he could “fuck in the safe because the safe was for fucking.” The man of the house “was so mad that he was there to fuck his woman that he removed the screens from the house to make [defendant] look bad, ” although “the man was also secretly turned on that he was there to fuck his woman.” Defendant was jittery during the interview process, which can be a sign of being under the influence of a controlled substance. However, Officer Barry did not suspect that defendant was under the influence and thus did not order a blood or urine sample.
C. Expert Witness Testimony
Dr. Brad Novak, a psychiatrist, testified for the defense. He evaluated defendant in 2008. He read police reports, mental health records, and interviewed defendant. He noted that defendant had been hospitalized for psychiatric problems five times in the months leading up to the incident. All of these hospitalizations were related to methamphetamine or alcohol use.
Dr. Novak believed that defendant suffered from several mental disorders at the time of the offense: amphetamine dependence, alcohol dependence, cocaine dependence in remission, opiate dependence in remission, amphetamine intoxication, alcohol intoxication, amphetamine-induced psychotic disorder with delusions, and antisocial personality disorder. In particular, he was suffering from paranoid delusions.
Dr. Novak explained that a psychosis is characterized by confusion and “a break from reality.” He opined that defendant's behavior at the time of the incident was consistent with someone who was intoxicated and psychotic. Defendant's statements were consistent with amphetamine intoxication, which can cause a person to become hypersexual and confused.
D. Pretrial Proceedings
On June 8, 2005, the District Attorney filed a complaint charging defendant with first degree burglary by entering an inhabited residence with the intent to commit theft. §§ 459, 460, subd. (a). The complaint alleged that defendant had four prior convictions that qualified as strikes, §§ 667, subds. (b)- (i), 1170.12, and three prior convictions that qualified as serious felonies. § 667, subd. (a).
On August 22, 2005, the trial court ordered defendant examined by a psychotherapist to provide trial counsel with information relevant to the decision “whether to enter or withdraw a plea based on insanity or to present a defense based on his or her mental or emotional condition.” Cal. Evid. Code § 1017.
On November 8, 2005, the trial court declared a doubt as to defendant's competency. The court appointed three doctors to examine him. On February 22, 2006, the trial court found defendant not competent to stand trial. On March 15, 2006, defendant was committed to the Department of Mental Health.
Criminal proceedings resumed on September 6, 2006, when the trial court found defendant had been restored to competency. The District Attorney then filed a first amended complaint, which added an additional strike allegation, § 667, subds. (b)-(i), 1170.12, and two additional prior serious felony allegations. § 667, subd. (a).
On October 30, 2006, the trial court again declared a doubt as to defendant's competency. The court appointed two doctors to examine him. On January 31, 2007, the trial court found defendant not competent to stand trial. Defendant was committed to the Department of Mental Health on February 28, 2007.
Criminal proceedings resumed on August 25, 2008, when the trial court found defendant had been restored to competency.
On September 18, 2008, the District Attorney filed a second amended complaint, which alleged that defendant committed burglary by entering an inhabited residence with the intent to commit theft and with the intent to commit a sexual assault. § 220. The second amended complaint alleged that defendant had five prior convictions that qualified as strikes, §§ 667, subds. (b)-(i), 1170.12, and as serious felonies. § 667, subd. (a).
On September 25, 2008, after a preliminary hearing, the District Attorney filed an information containing the same burglary charge and prior conviction allegations as in the second amended complaint.
Defendant entered a plea of not guilty by reason of insanity (NGI) on September 29, 2008. The trial court appointed three doctors to evaluate him. Two of the doctors disagreed about whether defendant was sane at the time of the offense. The third doctor did not render an opinion because defendant terminated the evaluation process early.
On March 4, 2009, the trial court again declared a doubt about defendant's competency.
On July 10, 2009, the parties stipulated that defendant was not competent to stand trial. The trial court committed him to the Department of Mental Health that day. On December 8, 2010, after a court trial regarding defendant's competency, the trial court found defendant competent to stand trial. On January 24, 2011, defendant withdrew his NGI plea and entered a not guilty plea.
E. Trial Proceedings
A jury trial began on March 16, 2011. On that date, the trial court granted defendant's request to bifurcate the prior conviction allegations, and defendant waived jury trial on those allegations.
On March 17, 2011, defendant moved to re-enter an NGI plea, but the trial court denied the motion. On March 21, 2011, the District Attorney filed a first amended information that made non-substantive changes to the burglary charge.
On March 24, 2011, the prosecution began presenting evidence.
On March 25, 2011, the District Attorney moved to file a second amended information. The prosecution proposed to add a third theory of burglary: that defendant entered the residence with the intent to commit indecent exposure. § 314. The trial court granted the motion on March 28, 2011.
On March 30, 2011, the jury found defendant guilty of burglary. On April 4, 2011, the trial court found all of the prior conviction allegations true.
At sentencing on September 23, 2011, the trial court imposed a 25-year determinate term for the five prior serious felony allegations with a consecutive indeterminate term of 29 years to life for the burglary.

Cal.Ct.App. Order 2-7.

         III. LEGAL STANDARD

         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). A federal writ of habeas corpus 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 claims: “(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); Williams v. Taylor, 529 U.S. 362, 412 (2000).

“[S]ection 2254(d)(1)'s ‘contrary to' and ‘unreasonable application' clauses have independent meaning.Bell v. Cone, 535 U.S. 685, 694 (2002) (quoting Williams v. Taylor, 529 U.S. 362, 404-05 (2000)). “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 Supreme] Court has on a set of materially indistinguishable facts.” Williams, 529 U.S. at 412-13. “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 Supreme] Court's decisions but unreasonably applies that principle to the facts of the prisoner's case.” Id. at 413. The only definitive source of clearly established federal law under 28 U.S.C. § 2254(d) is in the holdings of the Supreme Court as of the time of the relevant State court decision. Id. at 412.

         Under AEDPA, the federal habeas court must accord a high level of deference to State court decisions. See Harrington v. Richter, 131 S.Ct. 770, 783-85 (2011); Felkner v. Jackson, 131 S.Ct. 1305 (2011) (per curiam). A federal court on habeas review 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.” Williams, 529 U.S. at 411. Rather, the application must be “objectively unreasonable” to support granting the writ. Id. at 409. In other words, the writ may be granted only “where there is no possibility fairminded jurists could disagree that the state court's decision conflicts with [the United States Supreme Court's] precedents.” Harrington, 131 S.Ct. at 786 (2011). Furthermore, if constitutional error is found, habeas relief is warranted only if the error had a “substantial and injurious effect or influence in determining the jury's verdict.” Penry v. Johnson, 532 U.S. 782, 795 (2001) (quoting Brecht v. Abrahamson, 507 U.S. 619, 638 (1993)).

         The State court decision to which Section 2254(d) applies is the “last reasoned decision” of the State court. See Ylst v. Nunnemaker, 501 U.S. 797, 803-04 (1991); Barker v. Fleming, 423 F.3d 1085, 1091-92 (9th Cir. 2005). When there is no reasoned opinion from the highest State court considering a petitioner's claims, the court “looks through” to the last reasoned opinion. Ylst, 501 U.S. at 805. The last reasoned State court opinion on Petitioner's claims is the California Court of Appeal's denial of his direct appeal and habeas petition. See Cal.Ct.App. Order.

         IV. ...


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