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Brannigan v. Baughman

United States District Court, E.D. California

September 6, 2017

JASON R. BRANNIGAN, Petitioner,
v.
DAVID BAUGHMAN, Warden, California State Prison-Sacramento,[1] Respondent.

          MEMORANDUM DECISION

          JAMES K. SINGLETON, JR. Senior United States District Judge

         Jason 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 not replied.

         I. BACKGROUND/PRIOR PROCEEDINGS

         On 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 against Brannigan:

[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).

         On 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.

         Through 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.

         On 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[2] 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.

         While 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[3] 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.

         Shortly 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.

         II. GROUNDS/CLAIMS

         In his 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.

         III. STANDARD OF REVIEW

         Under 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).

         The 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).

         To the 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).

         In 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).

         Brannigan 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 Cir. 1971).

         IV. DISCUSSION

         A. Timeliness

         As an initial matter, Respondent urges the Court to dismiss a number of claims (Grounds 3, 4, and 5) ...


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