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Smith v. Muniz

United States District Court, E.D. California

November 2, 2017

WINFRED LEE SMITH, Petitioner,
v.
W. MUNIZ, Respondent.

          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. Petitioner challenges a judgment of conviction entered against him on May 18, 2012, in the Sacramento County Superior Court on charges of possession of a firearm by a felon, carrying a concealed weapon, and possession of ammunition by a felon. He seeks federal habeas relief on the following grounds: (1) his Fourth and Fourteenth Amendment rights were violated because the trial court denied his motion to suppress the gun and ammunition used to convict him, both of which were discovered after he was unlawfully detained and searched; (2) his Fifth and Fourteenth Amendment rights were violated by the trial court's decision to admit evidence of his in-custody statements over his Miranda objection; and (3) his Sixth and Fourteenth Amendment rights were violated when the trial court allowed the prosecution to introduce evidence that he possessed a knife and was on methamphetamine on the day of the incident, despite the fact that he was not charged with crimes related to that conduct. Upon careful consideration of the record and the applicable law, the undersigned recommends 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         In its unpublished memorandum and opinion affirming petitioner's judgment of conviction on appeal, the California Court of Appeal for the Third Appellate District provided the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 convicted defendant Winfred Lee Smith of possession of a firearm by a felon (former Pen. Code, § 12021, subd. (a)(1) [now § 29800, subd. (a)(1) (Stats. 2010, ch. 711, § 6) ] [count 1]; unless stated otherwise, statutory references that follow are to the Penal Code), carrying a concealed weapon (former § 12025, subd. (a)(2) [now § 25400, subd. (a) (Stats. 2010, ch. 711, § 6) ] [count 2], and possession of ammunition by a felon (former § 12316, subd. (b)(1) [now § 30305, subd. (a)(1) (Stats. 2010, ch. 711, § 6) ] [count 3]. In a bifurcated proceeding, the court found true the enhancement allegations that defendant had suffered three strike priors (§§ 667, subds. (b)-(i), 1170.12, subds. (b) & (c)) and served seven separate prison terms. (§667.5.)

         Defendant was sentenced as a third striker to 25 years to life on count 1, a concurrent term of 25 years to life on count 3, and seven years for each of the prior prison terms. The court stayed a 25-year-to-life sentence on the count 2 conviction pursuant to section 654.

         On appeal, defendant contends the trial court erroneously (1) denied his motion to suppress evidence that he was carrying a gun and ammunition as the fruit of an unlawful detention and search; (2) admitted evidence of defendant's in-custody statements over his Miranda objection; and (3) allowed the prosecution to introduce evidence that he was on methamphetamine and carrying a knife on the day of the incident even though he was not charged with any crimes related to that conduct. We find no error and affirm the judgment.

         Facts And Proceedings

         Around 3:30 p.m. on November 7, 2011, Sacramento County Deputy Sheriff Shaun Hampton was on routine patrol in the area of 37th Avenue and Nina Way, which borders a well-known high crime area where prostitution, narcotics activity, and gang violence are prevalent. After seeing defendant walking down the street away from him, Deputy Hampton parked his patrol car and got out of the car and approached defendant from behind. The officer did not turn his emergency lights on. Defendant turned around to face the officer. At that point, Deputy Hampton saw defendant was carrying a black nylon bag approximately 6 by 12 inches wide with two zippered pouches, a smaller one in the front and a larger compartment in the back.

         Deputy Hampton began talking to defendant in a casual manner, asking him how he was doing and where he was going. In response, defendant immediately jumped back and blurted out that he was not on probation or parole. Defendant's hands were fidgety.

         After telling him to relax and that it was okay, Deputy Hampton asked defendant for his identification. Defendant handed his wallet to Deputy Hampton and then began to reach inside one of the black bag's zippered pouches. Upon seeing defendant reaching into the bag, Deputy Hampton handed the wallet back to defendant and asked him to remove his identification himself. Defendant tucked the black bag under his arm, found his identification and gave it to Deputy Hampton.

         While writing down defendant's information, Deputy Hampton saw defendant acting in a strange manner. Defendant was very fidgety and was speaking rapidly. He was also sweating profusely even though it was a relatively cool afternoon in November. Given defendant's rapid speech pattern, his excessive sweating, and his extremely fidgety behavior, Deputy Hampton believed defendant might be under the influence of a controlled substance.

         Defendant began pulling what appeared to be a computer cord out of the bag's larger compartment, which by that time was partially opened. While doing so, defendant was attempting to unzip the large compartment even further. Although Deputy Hampton repeatedly asked defendant to stop touching the black bag, defendant continued pulling on the computer cord until he removed it completely and dropped it on the ground.

         Defendant then began to reach inside the bag. Concerned for his safety due to the bag's unknown contents, Deputy Hampton told defendant to stop reaching into the bag. Defendant, however, continued to reach into the bag and repeatedly stated, "I just want to show you what I got." He also kept claiming, "I ain't got nothing." Deputy Hampton asked defendant between five and eight times to stop reaching into the bag.

         When defendant continued to reach into the bag, Deputy Hampton began backing up to put some distance between them given their close proximity. Defendant was acting very erratically and then reached into the bag with an open hand. The deputy drew his service weapon and ordered defendant to drop the bag, which he did. Deputy Hampton asked defendant to turn around and place his hands behind his head. Defendant began rapidly looking around in all directions as if to run, but he eventually complied and was handcuffed.

         After handcuffing defendant, Deputy Hampton asked defendant whether he had anything illegal on him. Defendant responded that he had a methamphetamine pipe in his pants pocket. Deputy Hampton retrieved the pipe and placed defendant in the back of the patrol car.

         Deputy Hampton checked for law enforcement records relating to defendant. He then picked the black bag up, turned on his in-car camera, and searched the bag. In the bag, Deputy Hampton found a large knife, a loaded semi-automatic .22 caliber handgun, and 30 rounds of .22 caliber ammunition. The in-car camera recorded the conversations between defendant and Deputy Hampton while defendant was handcuffed in the back seat of the patrol car.

         Defendant's blood was later drawn at the county jail to determine whether he was under the influence of any narcotics or other controlled substances. Defendant's blood sample tested positive for methamphetamine; the sample amount indicated that defendant had likely used the narcotic within the preceding 24 hours.

         Defendant was charged with carrying a concealed weapon and being a felon in possession of both a firearm and ammunition. At the preliminary hearing, defendant moved under section 1538.5 to suppress the gun and ammunition evidence as the fruit of an unlawful detention and search in violation of the Fourth Amendment. The People opposed the motion arguing that neither Deputy Hampton's initial contact with defendant nor his request to see defendant's identification constituted a detention, that Deputy Hampton had reasonable suspicion to detain defendant, and that the search of defendant's bag was incident to his lawful arrest. The trial court judge, sitting as a magistrate, denied the motion, deemed the complaint an information, and held defendant to answer.

         Defendant raised the suppression issue again in a motion to dismiss the information under section 995, arguing the magistrate erred in denying his previous motion to suppress because he was unlawfully detained from the moment the officer stopped to talk to him. The People opposed the motion, arguing defendant was not detained until the officer drew his gun, that the detention was lawful, and that the officer had probable cause to arrest defendant for being under the influence of a controlled substance, and later, probable cause to arrest defendant for carrying a concealed weapon and being a felon in possession of the weapon and ammunition. After hearing argument, the trial court denied the motion.

         During trial defendant moved to exclude certain pretrial statements he made while sitting in the patrol car which were recorded on Deputy Hampton's in-car camera. According to defendant, the recorded statements were the result of a custodial interrogation without proper Miranda warnings. After hearing argument, the court denied the motion.

         Defendant also tried to exclude evidence that a knife was found in the black bag and that he had tested positive for methamphetamine on the day of his arrest because he was not charged with any offenses based on such evidence. The court denied the motion to exclude the evidence.

         The jury convicted defendant on all counts, and the court later found all enhancement allegations true. Following sentencing, defendant timely appealed.

         People v. Smith, No. C071695, 2014 WL 6693822, at *l-3 (Cal.Ct.App. Nov. 26, 2014), reh'g denied (Dec. 11, 2014), review denied (Feb. 11, 2015). Petitioner then filed a petition with the California Supreme Court seeking review of the Court of Appeal's denial of his Fourth Amendment claims. Lodg. Doc. No. 11 (Petition for Review and Order Denying Review). The Supreme Court summarily rejected that petition. Id.

         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, 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.[1] 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 state4aw 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 Ylstv. 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. Petitioner's Claims

         A. Denial of Petitioner's Motion to Suppress

         In his first ground for federal habeas relief, petitioner contends that his Fourth and Fourteenth[2] Amendment rights were violated when the trial court denied his motion to suppress. ECF No. 1 at 5.[3] On appeal, petitioner argued that he was detained "almost as soon as [the deputy] first made contact with him." ECF No. 1 at 50. He went on to argue that neither his detention nor the deputy's search of the pouch - where the gun, knife, and ammunition were found - was justified by the circumstances. Id. at 57-62. The California Court of Appeal disagreed, reasoning:

         Defendant contends the trial court improperly denied his motion to suppress because the gun and ammunition were discovered after he was unlawfully detained and searched in violation of the Fourth Amendment. In defendant's view, he was illegally detained almost from the moment Deputy Hampton contacted him, and certainly when the officer asked him not to touch the zippered bag. We disagree.

         Standard and ...


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