United States District Court, N.D. California
SEAN M. ROONEY, Petitioner,
JOE A. LIZARRAGA, Respondent.
ORDER DENYING PETITION FOR WRIT OF HABEAS CORPUS;
DENYING CERTIFICATE OF APPEALABILITY
TIGAR UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
the Court is the above-titled petition for a writ of habeas
corpus, filed pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254 by petitioner
Sean M. Rooney, challenging the validity of a judgment
obtained against him in state court. Respondent has filed an
answer to the petition, and petitioner has filed a traverse.
For the reasons set forth below, the petition is denied.
2012, an Alameda County jury found petitioner guilty of first
degree murder and found true an allegation that petitioner
used a deadly weapon during the commission of the crime. Ex.
1 at 338, 409-410. The trial court subsequently sentenced
petitioner to 26 years to life in state prison. Id.
November 27, 2013, the California Court of Appeal affirmed
the conviction in an unpublished opinion. Ex. 7. On February
11, 2014, the California Supreme Court denied review. Exs. 8,
January 28, 2015, petitioner filed a habeas petition
containing one exhausted claim in this Court. ECF No. 1. The
Court granted petitioner's request to stay this action so
that petitioner could return to state court to exhaust his
remedies as to additional unexhausted claims. ECF No. 8. On
December 16, 2016, this Court denied petitioner's request
for leave to amend his petition to include the additional
claims, finding them barred by the statute of limitations.
ECF No. 25. The Court directed respondent to answer the one
exhausted and timely claim in the petition. Id.
STATEMENT OF FACTS
following background facts describing the crime and evidence
presented at trial are from the opinion of the California
Court of Appeal:
During the weekend after Thanksgiving of 2009, defendant
noticed a Craigslist ad he found insulting and relating to
him personally. Defendant also concluded the listing was
posted by his former lover, John Frum. Defendant believed the
listing was a dangerous “omen” and he became very
concerned about it. A few days later, on December 1, 2009,
defendant went to Frum's apartment with a rubber mallet.
At the apartment, defendant went to the parking area and
vandalized the car of Frum. He used the mallet to smash the
car's windows and body. Defendant then climbed to the
second floor of Frum's apartment. He used the mallet to
break the windows along the deck and entered the unit. Once
inside the apartment, defendant attacked Frum. Frum was
forced to flee the unit screaming for his neighbors to help
him. Defendant pursued Frum with a knife. Eventually,
defendant caught up with Frum in front of the apartment. He
proceeded to stab Frum 14 times, eventually, leaving the
blade of the weapon in the sternum of the deceased. The blood
loss triggered the death by exsanguination.
One of the witnesses to this offense was Desmond Morris. He
lived on the second floor of 3149 Brookdale Avenue, apartment
5, in Oakland. The Brookdale address had eight stories, a
gate that blocked the front of the property from the street,
and a first-floor laundry room near the carport. Morris was
the next-door neighbor of the victim, John Frum.
On December 1, at approximately 9:00 a.m., Morris was in the
laundry room of the building. He noticed Frum's car in
the slot assigned to the victim and it was in normal
condition. Morris left the building at 10:00 a.m. for a job
interview. He returned to his home at 10:30 a.m. and called
his girlfriend. While talking, he heard a considerable amount
of banging noise. He looked out his kitchen window, but saw
nothing. More banging noise was heard coming from the parking
area of the building. It was the sound of glass breaking and
force hitting metal.
Morris looked out his window and saw Frum walking quickly on
the walkway toward his apartment. Frum then entered his unit
and closed the door. Within seconds, Morris heard the sound
of broken glass. Shortly after the noise subsided, the
neighbor heard Frum yell, “[P]lease help, call the
Looking through the front door peephole, Morris saw Frum
running toward the front stairs. Frum was yelling in a loud
voice for someone to “call the police. Help, I need
help.” Frum then declared, “Please call the
police, he is trying to kill me.” Morris continued
speaking with his girlfriend and indicated he was reluctant
to get involved. He did not call the police, but speculated
his girlfriend may have based on what he stated.
Within a few minutes, Morris heard someone outside the
building yell to put the weapon down and
“freeze.” From his balcony vantage point, Morris
saw about five police officers, Frum and defendant. Morris
then exited his apartment heading towards the back stairs. As
he passed Frum's unit, he noticed broken glass all over
the place. He also saw drops of blood alongside Frum's
As Morris neared the front of the building, he saw Frum
sitting on the stairs. Frum tried to stand up, but police
advised him to remain seated. He was clearly bleeding from
the neck and underarm. The defendant was also with the
police. Morris had known defendant because the suspect had
lived with Frum in the building. Morris believed defendant
had moved out of the property approximately eight months
before this date. On this date, defendant was quite
aggressive and hostile, calling Frum a “bitch”
and yelling “fuck you.” Defendant also told Frum,
“I told you I was going to get you.”
Morris walked across the street to join other spectators. He
saw the ambulance come for Frum and the police forcibly
restrain defendant. Defendant was tased two times before
taken away in an ambulance himself.
Another witness, Yvette Horn, lived at 3208 Brookdale Avenue,
across the street from the victim's home. On December 1,
at 11:30 a.m., she heard window glass breaking. She saw a
familiar person on the balcony of the second floor. She knew
the person from the area and had last seen him about a year
ago. He had been in the company of a neighbor walking the
dog. The two men had lived together. When she saw the man on
the balcony that day, he had a mallet or hammer in his hand.
Horn saw the man with the mallet break the window glass
several times and look inside the apartment. She then saw the
man enter. Then she heard someone scream and call for help.
Horn called 911 for help. While she was speaking with the
dispatcher, Horn saw a police car travel down the street and
called out, pointing at the apartment across the street.
As the police pulled up, Horn saw the victim exit the
apartment calling for help. There was blood on his upper
shirt. She also saw the suspect following Frum telling him,
“you better run.” Eventually, the pursued victim
stopped in front of the mailboxes of the building. When
defendant reached the street, he ran up to Frum and stabbed
him 10-20 times.
Horn also observed the police admonish defendant to stop what
he was doing, but he did not. An officer eventually grabbed
defendant and made him drop the weapon. The company of
officers had to pin defendant down on the ground. He
continued to struggle with the police, appearing to try to
get away. The police eventually strapped defendant onto a
gurney. Horn heard defendant yell, “[W]as it worth
it?” Before strapping the suspect, the police tased
Officer Thomas Lopez was a responder to the incident. He
observed Frum running from the second floor of the building
towards the front entrance. He was calling for
“help.” Lopez also saw defendant approximately
five feet behind Frum. When Lopez saw defendant he was
holding a 10-inch knife. Pursuing the bleeding Frum,
defendant caught up with the victim at the front gate area.
In front of Officer Lopez, defendant stabbed the victim
“two to four” times in the upper torso, shoulders
and chest area. Frum tried to cover his head. Lopez did not
see Frum fight back in any way. Even as Lopez drew his weapon
and ordered defendant to stop his conduct, the suspect would
not cease. Lopez said to defendant, “Stop or I will
shoot you.” Defendant stabbed Frum two more times and
then dropped the knife.
While defendant was being subdued by Lopez and other police
officers, he remained agitated and challenging. He kept
saying, “That's what you get, John. You're the
biggest meth dealer. You deserved it. You deserve to die. I
hope you die.” In fact, defendant continued his
aggressive posture even when he was warned he would be tased.
He eventually had to be tased. Lopez found no evidence
defendant manifested symptoms of alcohol intoxication. Lopez
did indicate, based on the aggressiveness of defendant, that
he could have been under the influence of a stimulant.
Sergeant Wing Wong also arrived at the Brookdale address.
Wong saw a knife blade protruding from the chest and throat
area of Frum, and blood covered his shirt. Defendant kept
saying the victim was “the biggest ...