United States District Court, E.D. California
JASON R. BRANNIGAN, Petitioner,
DAVID BAUGHMAN, Warden, California State Prison-Sacramento, Respondent.
K. SINGLETON, JR. Senior United States District Judge
R. Brannigan, a California state prisoner proceeding pro
se, filed a Petition for a Writ of Habeas Corpus with
this Court pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254. Brannigan is in
the custody of the California Department of Corrections and
Rehabilitation and incarcerated at California State
Prison-Sacramento. Respondent has answered, and Brannigan has
January 3, 2011, Brannigan was charged with corporal injury
of a cohabitant (Count 1); two counts of criminal threats
(Counts 2 and 6); false imprisonment (Count 3); two counts of
willful harm or injury or endangerment to a child (Counts 4
and 5); and felony vandalism (Count 7). The information
alleged as to all counts that Brannigan had been convicted of
a prior serious felony and had one prior strike and had
served a prior prison term. It further alleged as to Counts 1
through 6 that Brannigan had committed the crimes while on
bail and that, as to Count 1, that Brannigan had previously
committed assault likely to cause great bodily injury. On
direct appeal of his conviction, the California Court of
Appeal recounted the following facts underlying the charges
[Brannigan] began to abuse the victim (his girlfriend) a
month after he moved in with her and her children. One day in
mid-June 2009 they were running errands in her car.
[Brannigan] was upset because she talked to another man and
became enraged when she would not stop crying. He called her
a whore, socked her in the jaw and punched the inside roof of
the car, ripping the head liner and popping the sunroof out
of its seal.
On the way home, [Brannigan] “kept driving
crazy.” He was “weaving in and out of
traffic” and driving at excessive speeds. When
[Brannigan] turned a corner, the victim heard her car make a
“clicking sound” for the first time. After that
day, she heard the same clicking sound whenever she drove the
car and turned a corner. The car was hard to drive, and it
shook on one side when she reached a certain speed.
When the victim took her car in for repair a month or so
later, the mechanic told her the “CV joint was
busted.” The repair cost more than $500.
People v. Brannigan, No. C067460, 2012 WL 1850916,
at *1 (Cal.Ct.App. May 22, 2012).
January 18, 2011, a jury found Brannigan guilty on Counts 1,
2, 3, 6, and 7 and found him guilty on Counts 4 and 5 to the
lesser included offense of misdemeanor child endangerment.
The jury also found true all the enhancement allegations. The
trial court subsequently sentenced Brannigan to an aggregate
imprisonment term of 18 years and 8 months and imposed
various fines and fees.
counsel, Brannigan appealed his conviction, arguing that: 1)
the vandalism conviction (Count 7) was not supported by
substantial evidence; 2) the $200 court security fee should
be reduced to $40; and 3) the abstract of judgment should be
corrected to reflect that the trial court imposed the middle
term on the making criminal threats conviction (Count 6).
Respondent agreed that the abstract of judgment should be
corrected but otherwise opposed the appeal. The Court of
Appeal unanimously affirmed the judgment against Brannigan in
an unpublished, reasoned opinion issued on May 22, 2012.
Brannigan, 2012 WL 1850916, at *3. Brannigan
petitioned the California Supreme Court for review of his
claim that the vandalism conviction was not supported by
substantial evidence. The Supreme Court summarily denied the
petition for review on August 29, 2012.
August 30, 2013, Brannigan, proceeding pro se, moved
in this Court for an extension of time to file a federal
petition for a writ of habeas corpus. See 28 U.S.C.
§ 2244(d)(1)(A). This Court, through a
previously-assigned Magistrate Judge, denied the request,
noting that it could not extend time when there was presently
no action pending before the Court. Docket No. 3. The Court
did, however, allow Brannigan 30 days from the date of its
order to file a petition and pay the filing fee or apply for
in forma pauperis status. Id. Brannigan filed his
initial petition within 30 days of the Court's order.
Docket No. 7. In that initial petition, Brannigan argued
that: 1) the jury's verdict that he committed felony
vandalism was not supported by sufficient evidence that he
acted with malicious intent when the drove the victim's
car or that he caused damage to the car; 2) the prosecution
failed to disclose evidence favorable to him in violation of
Brady v. Maryland by failing to disclose a work order
form indicating that the victim's car had sustained
damage prior to the incident where Brannigan had driven it
aggressively; 3-9) trial counsel was ineffective for failing
to call as witnesses: a) Parole Agent Crane; b) Sam Frye; c)
Samantha Frye; d) Natasha Frye; e) Shawnee Anderson; f) Dr.
Bedi; g) Dr. Kaye Nelson; and 10) trial counsel was
ineffective for failing to convey a plea offer.
Following a Court order, Brannigan moved in this Court to
stay the initial petition to raise his unexhausted claims
(Claims 2 through 10) in state court.
his motion for a stay in this Court was pending, Brannigan
filed a pro se petition for habeas relief in the
California Supreme Court dated June 23, 2014. In that
petition, Brannigan argued that the State failed to disclose
evidence favorable to him in violation of Brady v.
Maryland by failing to disclose the work order form
from the victim's car repair as well as testimony made in
the Superior Court Family Court Services which he contended
was in conflict with the victim's and his ex-wife's
testimony. Brannigan additionally argued that trial counsel
was ineffective for failing to conduct a reasonable pre-trial
investigation; specifically, for failing to obtain the work
order form and the impeachment testimony from family court.
Finally, Brannigan claimed that his right to confrontation
was violated by the introduction of the victim's medical
records. The Supreme Court denied the petition without
comment on September 10, 2014.
before the state habeas petition was denied, this Court,
through a previously-assigned District Court Judge, denied
Brannigan's stay request and directed Brannigan to file
an amended petition that included only exhausted claims.
Docket No. 31. Brannigan then filed an Amended Petition for a
Writ of Habeas Corpus (“Petition, ” which is the
operative pleading in this case) dated October 23, 2014.
Docket No. 34. Briefing is now complete, and the case is
before the undersigned judge for adjudication.
pro se Amended Petition before this Court, Brannigan
presents the same 5 claims that he raised in his pro
se habeas petition filed in the California Supreme
Court. He argues that: 1) his conviction for felony vandalism
was not supported by sufficient evidence that he acted with
malicious intent when the drove the victim's car or that
he caused damage to the car; 2) the prosecution committed a
Brady violation by failing to disclose a work order
form indicating that the victim's car had sustained
damage prior to the incident where Brannigan had driven it
aggressively; 3) the prosecution committed a Brady
violation by failing to disclose testimony from Family Court
that conflicted with the testimony of the victim and his
ex-wife; 4) trial counsel failed to conduct a reasonable
pre-trial investigation; specifically, for failing to obtain
the work order form and the impeachment testimony from family
court; 5) the admission of the victim's medical records
violated his right to confrontation.
STANDARD OF REVIEW
the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996
(“AEDPA”), 28 U.S.C. § 2254(d), this Court
cannot grant relief unless the decision of the state court
was “contrary to, or involved an unreasonable
application of, clearly established Federal law, as
determined by the Supreme Court of the United States, ”
§ 2254(d)(1), or “was based on an unreasonable
determination of the facts in light of the evidence presented
in the State court proceeding, ” § 2254(d)(2). A
state-court decision is contrary to federal law if the state
court applies a rule that contradicts controlling Supreme
Court authority or “if the state court confronts a set
of facts that are materially indistinguishable from a
decision” of the Supreme Court, but nevertheless
arrives at a different result. Williams v. Taylor,
529 U.S. 362, 406 (2000).
Supreme Court has explained that “clearly established
Federal law” in § 2254(d)(1) “refers to the
holdings, as opposed to the dicta, of [the Supreme Court] as
of the time of the relevant state-court decision.”
Id. at 412. The holding must also be intended to be
binding upon the states; that is, the decision must be based
upon constitutional grounds, not on the supervisory power of
the Supreme Court over federal courts. Early v.
Packer, 537 U.S. 3, 10 (2002). Where holdings of the
Supreme Court regarding the issue presented on habeas review
are lacking, “it cannot be said that the state court
‘unreasonabl[y] appli[ed] clearly established Federal
law.'” Carey v. Musladin, 549 U.S. 70, 77
(2006) (citation omitted).
extent that the Petition raises issues of the proper
application of state law, they are beyond the purview of this
Court in a federal habeas proceeding. See Swarthout v.
Cooke, 131 S.Ct. 859, 863 (2011) (per curiam) (holding
that it is of no federal concern whether state law was
correctly applied). It is a fundamental precept of dual
federalism that the states possess primary authority for
defining and enforcing the criminal law. See, e.g.,
Estelle v. McGuire, 502 U.S. 62, 67-68 (1991) (a
federal habeas court cannot reexamine a state court's
interpretation and application of state law); Walton v.
Arizona, 497 U.S. 639, 653 (1990) (presuming that the
state court knew and correctly applied state law),
overruled on other grounds by Ring v. Arizona, 536
U.S. 584 (2002).
applying these standards on habeas review, this Court reviews
the “last reasoned decision” by the state court.
See Robinson v. Ignacio, 360 F.3d 1044, 1055 (9th
Cir. 2004) (citing Avila v. Galaza, 297 F.3d 911,
918 (9th Cir. 2002)). A summary denial is an adjudication on
the merits and entitled to deference. Harrington v.
Richter, 562 U.S. 86, 99 (2011). Under the AEDPA, the
state court's findings of fact are presumed to be correct
unless the petitioner rebuts this presumption by clear and
convincing evidence. 28 U.S.C. § 2254(e)(1);
Miller-El v. Cockrell, 537 U.S. 322, 340 (2003).
has not replied to Respondent's answer. The relevant
statute provides that “[t]he allegations of a return to
the writ of habeas corpus or of an answer to an order to show
cause in a habeas corpus proceeding, if not traversed, shall
be accepted as true except to the extent that the judge finds
from the evidence that they are not true.” 28 U.S.C.
§ 2248; see also Carlson v. Landon, 342 U.S.
524, 530 (1952). Where, as here, there is no traverse filed
and no evidence offered to contradict the allegations of the
return, the court must accept those allegations as true.
See Phillips v. Pitchess, 451 F.2d 913, 919 (9th
initial matter, Respondent urges the Court to dismiss a
number of claims (Grounds 3, 4, and 5) ...