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Saxton v. Paramo

United States District Court, C.D. California

June 16, 2017

DAVID SAXTON, Petitioner,
v.
DANIEL PARAMO, Respondent.

          ORDER ACCEPTING FINDINGS AND RECOMMENDATION OF MAGISTRATE JUDGE

          VALERIE BAKER FAIRBANK United States District Judge.

         Pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636, the Court has reviewed the Petition, the other records on file herein, the Report and Recommendation of the United States Magistrate Judge (“Report”) and the Objections. Further, the Court has engaged in a de novo review of those portions of the Report and Recommendation to which objections have been made. The Court accepts the findings and recommendation of the Magistrate Judge.

         A. Petitioner's Motion for Leave to Amend Grounds One and Two After the Report was issued, Petitioner filed a motion for leave to amend Grounds One and Two of his petition for writ of habeas corpus (“Petition”). (Dkt. No. 64.) Petitioner explains that upon reviewing the Report, he “recognized that the traverse contained inadequate briefing with respect to ground one: (Insufficient Evidence) and two: (Brady Violation).” (Motion at 2.) Petitioner seeks to cure the inadequate briefing by amending the Petition. (Id. at 2-3.)

         A petition for writ of habeas corpus must “(1) specify all the grounds for relief available to the petitioner; (2) state the facts supporting each ground; (3) state the relief requested; (4) be printed, typewritten, or legibly handwritten; and (5) be signed under penalty of perjury by the petitioner or by a person authorized to sign it for the petitioner under 28 U.S.C. § 2242.” Rule 2(c) of the Rules Governing Section 2254 Cases in the United States District Courts.

         Petitioner's proposed amendments do not change the grounds for relief in Ground One (insufficient evidence of dissuading a witness) and Ground Two (Brady violation). (Petition at 19, 26.)[1]

         Petitioner does not identify any new facts in his proposed amendments to Grounds One and Two. Petitioner cites the same footage and testimony. (Compare Petition at 19-25 & Amended Reply, Dkt. No. 45 at 7-13 with Dkt. No. 64 at 4-8.) The court reaches the same conclusion on Ground Two. (Compare Petition at 26-30 & Amended Reply, Dkt. No. 45 at 13-16 with Dkt. No. 64 at 8-11.) Accordingly, Petitioner's motion for leave to amend Grounds One and Two is DENIED WITHOUT PREJUDICE AS UNNECESSARY. See Bonin v. Calderon, 59 F.3d 815, 846 (9th Cir. 1995) (affirming denial of leave to amend habeas petition when proposed amendments were “duplicative of existing claims”). This ruling does not preclude Petitioner from raising any fact or argument in his proposed amendments, all of which have been considered in connection with Grounds One and Two.

         B. Ground One: Dissuading a Witness

         Petitioner argues that there was insufficient evidence to support his conviction for dissuading a witness, Mr. Bell. Petitioner bears the burden of demonstrating that no rational trier of fact could have agreed with the jury, and that the state court's decision was objectively unreasonable. Cavazos v. Smith, 565 U.S. 1, 2 (2011) (per curiam).

         The California Supreme Court summarily denied Ground One. (LD 11.) “[A] habeas court must determine what arguments or theories . . . could have supported, the state court's decision; and then it must ask whether it is possible fairminded jurists could disagree that those arguments or theories are inconsistent with the holding in a prior decision of this [Supreme] Court.” Harrington v. Richter, 562 U.S. 86, 102 (2011). “[A] state prisoner must show that the state court's ruling on the claim being presented in federal court was so lacking in justification that there was an error well understood and comprehended in existing law beyond any possibility for fairminded disagreement.” Id. at 103.

         The crime of dissuading a witness requires that the prosecution prove four elements beyond a reasonable doubt: (1) Bell was a witness or victim; (2) Petitioner, with the specific intent to do so, prevented or dissuaded or attempted to prevent or dissuade Bell from attending or giving testimony at any trial, proceeding or inquiry authorized by law; (3) Petitioner acted knowingly and maliciously; and (4) the act of preventing, dissuading, or the attempt thereto, was accompanied by force or by an express or implied threat of force or violence upon the person or property of Bell. (Report at 18); People v. Young, 34 Cal.4th 1149, 1211-12 (2005).

         Petitioner states that, at page 19 of the Report, the magistrate judge appeared to misconstrue Bell's testimony about the assault as testimony about the dissuading charge. On page 19, the magistrate judge reviewed Bell's testimony at trial that he did not want to testify, felt pressured when he spoke to police and was afraid of being labeled a snitch. (Report at 19.)

         Petitioner argues that the relevant evidence consists of Bell's conflicting testimony about the attacks at the Twin Towers jail and the courthouse holding cell; Bell's preliminary hearing testimony; Officer Ortiz's testimony about these altercations; and video of the altercation in the courthouse holding cell.

         A habeas court considers “‘all of the evidence admitted by the trial court, ' regardless whether that evidence was admitted erroneously.” McDaniel v. Brown, 558 U.S. 120, 131 (2010) (citation omitted). The prosecution called Bell to testify at trial. Bell testified that there was an altercation with Petitioner at the Twin Towers jail on the day Bell testified at the preliminary hearing. (4RT 916-17.) Bell did not want to answer any more questions. (Id. at 917.) The morning of the preliminary hearing, Bell was put in the same jail cell with Petitioner and others. Bell and Petitioner got into an altercation, pushing and shoving each other. They stopped; no deputy broke it up. Petitioner had a bunch of papers, including statements by Bell and Bell's brother. (Id. at 931-35.) The next time Bell saw Petitioner, they were in the courthouse holding tank with other inmates. (Id. at 937.) They got into a fight. Petitioner said he had paperwork that Bell had written a statement. Bell was afraid because he did not want to be labeled as a snitch. (Id. at 938-39.) Bell testified at the preliminary hearing. Bell testified at trial that “if it was up to me, I would walk out that door, but I can't.” (Id. at 940.)

         The prosecutor questioned Bell about his prior testimony. Bell had testified at the preliminary hearing that Petitioner confronted him at the jail with paperwork and they got into a “fistfight altercation.” (Id. at 942-43.) Petitioner said Bell snitched on him. (Id. at 942.) Petitioner had shown him paperwork with Bell's name and statements. Other inmates said they had seen the paperwork. (Id. at 945.) Bell identified the paperwork at the preliminary hearing. (Id. at 946-47.) Bell further testified that before the second fistfight, Petitioner showed the paperwork, ...


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