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Rowemanns v. Katavich

United States District Court, E.D. California

July 13, 2017

DAWAN D. ROWEMANNS, SR., Petitioner,
v.
WARDEN J. KATAVICH, Respondent.

          ORDER AND FINDINGS AND RECOMMENDATIONS

          EDMUND F. BRENNAN UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE

         Petitioner is a state prisoner proceeding without counsel with a petition for a writ of habeas corpus pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254. He challenges a judgment of conviction entered against him on March 17, 2005[1] in the Sacramento County Superior Court on charges of battery with serious bodily injury (Cal. Pen. Code § 243(d)) and battery (Cal. Pen. Code § 242). He seeks federal habeas relief on the following grounds: (1) juror misconduct which the trial court failed to address warrants reversal of his conviction; (2) the trial court did not give the jury proper instructions on superseding cause; (3) his trial counsel was ineffective in failing to request either an instruction on superseding cause or an evidentiary hearing on juror misconduct; and (4) the trial judge failed to perform his “ministerial” duties.[2] Upon careful consideration of the record and the applicable law, it is recommended that petitioner's application for habeas corpus relief be denied.

         I. Background

         In its unpublished memorandum and opinion affirming petitioner's judgment of conviction on appeal, the California Court of Appeal for the Third Appellate District provided the following factual summary:

A jury found defendant Dawan Donte Rowe-Manns guilty of battery with serious bodily injury (Pen.Code, 1 § 243, subd. (d)) on Brandi Marshall (Brandi) and battery (§ 242) on her boyfriend, Zackary Doyle (Zack). In a court trial, the court found defendant had a prior strike conviction and sentenced him to 13 years in state prison.
Defendant contends reversal of his conviction is required because of: (1) juror misconduct; (2) error in instructing the jury on causation; and (3) the cumulative prejudicial effect of the foregoing errors. We conclude defendant's failure to pursue his claim of juror misconduct in the trial court forfeits that issue for appeal. We also conclude that there was neither instructional error as asserted by defendant nor was there prejudice due to cumulative error.
FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND
During the afternoon of March 5, 2004, Brandi, her ten-year-old sister Megan, Zack, and Steven Caldwell arrived on bicycles outside the gate to the apartment complex where Brandi lived. Defendant and his wife also lived in the complex and were sitting in a car parked outside the gate. Brandi and Zack were acquainted with defendant and his wife. Brandi's friend Tara was parked nearby in her car.
Brandi testified that as she walked over to speak with Tara, defendant approached her and Zack, yelling at Zack that he had been in defendant's apartment. Brandi screamed for help, opened the gate to the complex, and then ran back to aid Zack. Defendant struck Brandi on the right side of her face, beneath her right eye, causing Brandi to fall and hit her head on the cement, rendering her unconscious. As Brandi regained consciousness, she saw that her neighbor, Katherine Tucker, was holding a young girl who was trying to break away from her. Brandi described the girl as a short, skinny teenager with pigtails. Brandi, Megan, and Zack got into Tara's car and Tara drove them to Zack's residence where they called 911.
Megan, 11 years old at the time of trial, testified that defendant struck Zack only once, but “another guy” also hit Zack. Defendant then struck Brandi once in the face below her eye, causing Brandi to fall and strike her head on the cement curb. While Brandi was on the ground a young girl was trying to hit Brandi and was pulling her hair.
Brandi was treated at a hospital for facial bone fractures and the loss of a tooth from her partial plate.
Katherine Tucker, who also lived in the complex, testified that upon returning to the complex she saw a small girl on top of Brandi, repeatedly hitting Brandi in the face. Tucker was able to pull the girl off Brandi.
Deputy Sheriff Christopher Bittle responded to the 911 call and drove to Zack's home where he interviewed Brandi. Brandi gave no names, but said she was attacked by a black male and black female who were in a car. The black male got out from the passenger side and began yelling at Zack and then hit Zack in the face. When Brandi tried to intervene, the black female got out of the car and was yelling at her. The black male then struck Brandi, causing her to black out, but she did not know for how long. Brandi also said that a second black male and a black female came out from the complex, and the black male started hitting Zack. Two black females also hit Brandi in the face.
Caldwell, who did not know defendant or his wife, testified that after defendant hit Zack, Brandi pushed defendant. The black female then got out of the driver's side of the car and she and Brandi pulled each other's hair. The black male struck Brandi and she fell to the ground crying and looking for her tooth.

People v. Rowe-Manns, No. C072576, 2014 WL 7334314, at *1-2 (Cal.Ct.App. Dec. 23, 2014), review denied (Feb. 25, 2015).

         II. Standards of Review Applicable to Habeas Corpus Claims

         An application for a writ of habeas corpus by a person in custody under a judgment of a state court can be granted only for violations of the Constitution or laws of the United States. 28 U.S.C. § 2254(a). A federal writ is not available for alleged error in the interpretation or application of state law. See Wilson v. Corcoran, 562 U.S. 1, 5 (2010); Estelle v. McGuire, 502 U.S. 62, 67-68 (1991); Park v. California, 202 F.3d 1146, 1149 (9th Cir. 2000).

         Title 28 U.S.C. § 2254(d) sets forth the following standards for granting federal habeas corpus relief:

An application for a writ of habeas corpus on behalf of a person in custody pursuant to the judgment of a State court shall not be granted with respect to any claim that was adjudicated on the merits in State court proceedings unless the adjudication of the claim -
(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.

         For purposes of applying § 2254(d)(1), “clearly established federal law” consists of holdings of the United States Supreme Court at the time of the last reasoned state court decision. Thompson v. Runnels, 705 F.3d 1089, 1096 (9th Cir. 2013) (citing Greene v. Fisher, ___ U.S.___, 132 S.Ct. 38 (2011); Stanley v. Cullen, 633 F.3d 852, 859 (9th Cir. 2011) (citing Williams v. Taylor, 529 U.S. 362, 405-06 (2000)). Circuit court precedent “may be persuasive in determining what law is clearly established and whether a state court applied that law unreasonably.” Stanley, 633 F.3d at 859 (quoting Maxwell v. Roe, 606 F.3d 561, 567 (9th Cir. 2010)). However, circuit precedent may not be “used to refine or sharpen a general principle of Supreme Court jurisprudence into a specific legal rule that th[e] [Supreme] Court has not announced.” Marshall v. Rodgers, 133 S.Ct. 1446, 1450 (2013) (citing Parker v. Matthews, 132 S.Ct. 2148, 2155 (2012) (per curiam)). Nor may it be used to “determine whether a particular rule of law is so widely accepted among the Federal Circuits that it would, if presented to th[e] [Supreme] Court, be accepted as correct. Id. Further, where courts of appeals have diverged in their treatment of an issue, it cannot be said that there is “clearly established Federal law” governing that issue. Carey v. Musladin, 549 U.S. 70');">549 U.S. 70, 77 (2006).

         A state court decision is “contrary to” clearly established federal law if it applies a rule contradicting a holding of the Supreme Court or reaches a result different from Supreme Court precedent on “materially indistinguishable” facts. Price v. Vincent, 538 U.S. 634');">538 U.S. 634, 640 (2003). Under the “unreasonable application” clause of § 2254(d)(1), 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.[3] Lockyer v. Andrade, 538 U.S. 63, 75 (2003); Williams, 529 U.S. at 413; Chia v. Cambra, 360 F.3d 997, 1002 (9th Cir. 2004). In this regard, a federal habeas court “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. Rather, that application must also be unreasonable.” Williams, 529 U.S. at 412. See also Schriro v. Landrigan, 550 U.S. 465, 473 (2007); Lockyer, 538 U.S. at 75 (it is “not enough that a federal habeas court, in its independent review of the legal question, is left with a ‘firm conviction' that the state court was ‘erroneous.'”). “A state court's determination that a claim lacks merit precludes federal habeas relief so long as ‘fairminded jurists could disagree' on the correctness of the state court's decision.” Harrington v. Richter, 562 U.S. 86, 101 (2011) (quoting Yarborough v. Alvarado, 541 U.S. 652, 664 (2004)). Accordingly, “[a]s a condition for obtaining habeas corpus from a federal court, 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.” Richter, 562 U.S. at 103.

         If the state court's decision does not meet the criteria set forth in § 2254(d), a reviewing court must conduct a de novo review of a habeas petitioner's claims. Delgadillo v. Woodford, 527 F.3d 919, 925 (9th Cir. 2008); see also Frantz v. Hazey, 533 F.3d 724, 735 (9th Cir. 2008) (en banc) (“[I]t is now clear both that we may not grant habeas relief simply because of § 2254(d)(1) error and that, if there is such error, we must decide the habeas petition by considering de novo the constitutional issues raised.”).

         The court looks to the last reasoned state court decision as the basis for the state court judgment. Stanley, 633 F.3d at 859; Robinson v. Ignacio, 360 F.3d 1044, 1055 (9th Cir. 2004). If the last reasoned state court decision adopts or substantially incorporates the reasoning from a previous state court decision, this court may consider both decisions to ascertain the reasoning of the last decision. Edwards v. Lamarque, 475 F.3d 1121, 1126 (9th Cir. 2007) (en banc). “When a federal claim has been presented to a state court and the state court has denied relief, it may be presumed that the state court adjudicated the claim on the merits in the absence of any indication or state-law procedural principles to the contrary.” Richter, 562 U.S. at 99. This presumption may be overcome by a showing “there is reason to think some other explanation for the state court's decision is more likely.” Id. at 785 (citing Ylst v. Nunnemaker, 501 U.S. 797, 803 (1991)). Similarly, when a state court decision on a petitioner's claims rejects some claims but does not expressly address a federal claim, a federal habeas court must presume, subject to rebuttal, that the federal claim was adjudicated on the merits. Johnson v. Williams, ____ U.S.___, ___, 133 S.Ct. 1088, 1091 (2013).

         Where the state court reaches a decision on the merits but provides no reasoning to support its conclusion, a federal habeas court independently reviews the record to determine whether habeas corpus relief is available under § 2254(d). Stanley, 633 F.3d at 860; Himes v. Thompson, 336 F.3d 848, 853 (9th Cir. 2003). “Independent review of the record is not de novo review of the constitutional issue, but rather, the only method by which we can determine whether a silent state court decision is objectively unreasonable.” Himes, 336 F.3d at 853. Where no reasoned decision is available, the habeas petitioner still has the burden of “showing there was no reasonable basis for the state court to deny relief.” Richter, 562 U.S. at 98.

         A summary denial is presumed to be a denial on the merits of the petitioner's claims. Stancle v. Clay, 692 F.3d 948, 957 & n. 3 (9th Cir. 2012). While the federal court cannot analyze just what the state court did when it issued a summary denial, the federal court must review the state court record to determine whether there was any “reasonable basis for the state court to deny relief.” Richter, 562 U.S. at 98. This 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 [the Supreme] Court.” Id. at 102. The petitioner bears “the burden to demonstrate that ‘there was no reasonable basis for the state court to deny relief.'” Walker v. Martel, 709 F.3d 925, 939 (9th Cir. 2013) (quoting Richter, 562 U.S. at 98).

         When it is clear, however, that a state court has not reached the merits of a petitioner's claim, the deferential standard set forth in 28 U.S.C. § 2254(d) does not apply and a federal habeas court must review the claim de novo. Stanley, 633 F.3d at 860; Reynoso v. Giurbino, 462 F.3d 1099, 1109 (9th Cir. 2006); Nulph v. Cook, 333 F.3d 1052, 1056 (9th Cir. 2003).

         III. ...


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