Searching over 5,500,000 cases.


searching
Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

Anderson v. McDowell

United States District Court, E.D. California

April 4, 2018

CHARLES THOMAS ANDERSON, Petitioner,
v.
NEIL MCDOWELL, Respondent.

          ORDER DENYING PETITION FOR WRIT OF HABEAS CORPUS, DIRECTING CLERK OF COURT TO CLOSE CASE, AND DECLINING TO ISSUE CERTIFICATE OF APPEALABILITY

         Petitioner is a state prisoner, represented by counsel, proceeding with a petition for writ of habeas corpus pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254. Petitioner and Respondent have consented to the jurisdiction of the United States Magistrate Judge pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(c). (ECF Nos. 7, 8).

         I.

         BACKGROUND

         On August 2, 2013, Petitioner was convicted after a jury trial in the Tuolumne County Superior Court of manufacturing a controlled substance and possession of methamphetamine for sale. (CT[1] 121-22). Petitioner admitted various prior conviction allegations and was sentenced to an imprisonment term of twenty-three years. (CT 59-60, 123). On February 29, 2016, the California Court of Appeal, Fifth Appellate District affirmed the judgment, but remanded the matter to permit the trial court to address a custody credits issue. People v. Anderson, No. F068293, 2016 WL 778168, at *1 (Cal.Ct.App. Feb. 29, 2016). The California Supreme Court denied Petitioner's petition for review on May 11, 2016. (LDs[2] 10, 11).

         Meanwhile, on August 21, 2015, Petitioner filed a state habeas petition in the California Court of Appeal, Fifth Appellate District, which denied the petition on April 21, 2016. (LDs 12, 15). The California Supreme Court denied Petitioner's petition for review on June 22, 2016. (LDs 16, 17).

         On June 21, 2017, Petitioner filed the instant federal petition for writ of habeas corpus. (ECF No. 1). In the petition, Petitioner raises the following claims for relief: (1) the prosecutor's improper comment on Petitioner's exercise of his right not to testify; (2) the trial court erroneously permitting the prosecutor to argue a lower burden of proof for a guilty verdict; (3) ineffective assistance of counsel; and (4) cumulative error. Respondent has filed an answer, and Petitioner has filed a traverse. (ECF Nos. 12, 21).

         II. STATEMENT OF FACTS[3]

Tuolumne County Sheriff's Detective Victor Serrano, Jr., testified that, during a search of a house owned by Anderson, he found 97 grams of methamphetamine, a digital scale, $60 in $1 bills, and two $20 bills, all of which he found indicative of sale of methamphetamine. Although Anderson was not home at the time of the search, the items were found in a bedroom apparently occupied by Anderson. Anderson's wallet containing his driver's license was found in the bedroom. It appeared someone had slept in the bed. In the kitchen of the residence Serrano found a glass jar with methamphetamine residue in it, as well as a can of denatured alcohol. These items were indicative of a chemical process used to either clean “dirty” methamphetamine or to recrystalize diluted or “cut” methamphetamine. In both situations, the process was used to increase the value of the methamphetamine.
Five individuals were inside the house when entry was made by police officers, although Anderson was not present. Serrano recognized three of the five individuals-Sarah Geisdorff, Eric Bailey, and Richard Garris. The record established that Glenna Hunter also was at the residence. At least three of the individuals had a significant drug history.
Serrano also noticed there were two video surveillance cameras on the property, both pointing toward the driveway and down to the road. A television monitor for the cameras was found inside the bedroom apparently occupied by Anderson. If someone had been in the bedroom, he or she would have seen the officers approach the house on the monitor.
Small bags of methamphetamine were found in a second bedroom that was occupied by Lotty Bailey.
Criminalist Berkley Akutagawa confirmed the weight of the substance found in Anderson's bedroom and that the substance confiscated contained methamphetamine. She also confirmed the jar contained 3.24 grams of methamphetamine.
Hunter testified she was at the house with her stepdaughter, Geisdorff (also referred to as Sarah Jo Foster), to do laundry. They had been there only a few minutes before the police arrived. No. one was home when Hunter and Geisdorff arrived at the house. Hunter did not enter Anderson's bedroom. Another man arrived at the house before the police arrived.
Garris confirmed he arrived at the house with an individual identified only as “Matt, ” shortly before the police arrived. Garris also admitted he used to be a heroin addict.
Defense counsel called Amber Turner who testified Anderson had been staying with her at her home for a few days before and after the police searched his home. Anderson was with Turner when he received a phone call informing him the police were searching his house.
The prosecutor argued that the only reasonable inference from the undisputed facts was that Anderson possessed the methamphetamine for sale, and he was manufacturing methamphetamine within the meaning of the statute. Defense counsel admitted the house belonged to Anderson and the methamphetamine was found in his bedroom. Defense counsel argued, however, that Anderson was not in possession of the methamphetamine, pointing out Anderson was not present at the house for several days, and five individuals, all known to be drug users, were present when the police arrived. The only reasonable inference from these facts, according to defense counsel, was that one of those individuals brought the methamphetamine to the house to sell to the other individuals, and when the police arrived they hid the methamphetamine in Anderson's bedroom.

Anderson, 2016 WL 778168, at *1-2.

         III.

         STANDARD OF REVIEW

         Relief by way of a petition for writ of habeas corpus extends to a person in custody pursuant to the judgment of a state court if the custody is in violation of the Constitution or laws or treaties of the United States. 28 U.S.C. § 2254(a); 28 U.S.C. § 2241(c)(3); Williams v. Taylor, 529 U.S. 362, 375 (2000). Petitioner asserts that he suffered violations of his rights as guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution. The challenged convictions arise out of the Tuolumne County Superior Court, which is located within the Eastern District of California. 28 U.S.C. § 2241(d).

         On April 24, 1996, Congress enacted the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996 (“AEDPA”), which applies to all petitions for writ of habeas corpus filed after its enactment. Lindh v. Murphy, 521 U.S. 320 (1997); Jeffries v. Wood, 114 F.3d 1484, 1499 (9th Cir. 1997) (en banc). The instant petition was filed after the enactment of the AEDPA and is therefore governed by its provisions.

         Under the AEDPA, relitigation of any claim adjudicated on the merits in state court is barred unless a petitioner can show that the state court's adjudication of his 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.

28 U.S.C. § 2254(d); Harrington v. Richter, 562 U.S. 86, 97-98 (2011); Lockyer v. Andrade, 538 U.S. 63, 70-71 (2003); Williams, 529 U.S. at 413.

         As a threshold matter, this Court must “first decide what constitutes ‘clearly established Federal law, as determined by the Supreme Court of the United States.'” Lockyer, 538 U.S. at 71 (quoting 28 U.S.C. § 2254(d)(1)). In ascertaining what is “clearly established Federal law, ” this Court must look to the “holdings, as opposed to the dicta, of [the Supreme Court's] decisions as of the time of the relevant state-court decision.” Williams, 529 U.S. at 412. “In other words, ‘clearly established Federal law' under § 2254(d)(1) is the governing legal principle or principles set forth by the Supreme Court at the time the state court renders its decision.” Id. In addition, the Supreme Court decision must “‘squarely address [] the issue in th[e] case' or establish a legal principle that ‘clearly extend[s]' to a new context to the extent required by the Supreme Court in . . . recent decisions”; otherwise, there is no clearly established Federal law for purposes of review under AEDPA. Moses v. Payne, 555 F.3d 742, 754 (9th Cir. 2009) (quoting Wright v. Van Patten, 552 U.S. 120, 125 (2008)); Panetti v. Quarterman, 551 U.S. 930 (2007); Carey v. Musladin, 549 U.S. 70 (2006). If no clearly established Federal law exists, the inquiry is at an end and the Court must defer to the state court's decision. Musladin, 549 U.S. 70; Wright, 552 U.S. at 126; Moses, 555 F.3d at 760.

         If the Court determines there is governing clearly established Federal law, the Court must then consider whether the state court's decision was “contrary to, or involved an unreasonable application of, [the] clearly established Federal law.” Lockyer, 538 U.S. at 72 (quoting 28 U.S.C. § 2254(d)(1)). “Under the ‘contrary to' clause, a federal habeas court may grant the writ if the state court arrives at a conclusion opposite to that reached by [the Supreme] Court on a question of law or if the state court decides a case differently than [the] Court has on a set of materially indistinguishable facts.” Williams, 529 U.S. at 412-13; see also Lockyer, 538 U.S. at 72. “The word ‘contrary' is commonly understood to mean ‘diametrically different, ' ‘opposite in character or nature, ' or ‘mutually opposed.'” Williams, 529 U.S. at 405 (quoting Webster's Third New International Dictionary 495 (1976)). “A state-court decision will certainly be contrary to [Supreme Court] clearly established precedent if the state court applies a rule that contradicts the governing law set forth in [Supreme Court] cases.” Id. If the state court decision is “contrary to” clearly established Supreme Court precedent, the state decision is reviewed under the pre-AEDPA de novo standard. Frantz v. Hazey, 533 F.3d 724, 735 (9th Cir. 2008) (en banc).

         “Under the ‘reasonable application clause, ' a federal habeas court may grant the writ if the state court identifies the correct governing legal principle from [the] Court's decisions but unreasonably applies that principle to the facts of the prisoner's case.” Williams, 529 U.S. at 413. “[A] federal court may not issue the writ simply because the 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.” Id. at 411; see also Lockyer, 538 U.S. at 75-76. The writ may issue only “where there is no possibility fair minded jurists could disagree that the state court's decision conflicts with [the Supreme Court's] precedents.” Richter, 562 U.S. at 102. In other words, so long as fair minded jurists could disagree on the correctness of the state court's decision, the decision cannot be considered unreasonable. Id. If the Court determines that the state court decision is objectively unreasonable, and the error is not structural, habeas relief is nonetheless unavailable unless the error had a substantial and injurious effect on the verdict. Brecht v. Abrahamson, 507 U.S. 619, 637 (1993).

         The court looks to the last reasoned state court decision as the basis for the state court judgment. Stanley v. Cullen, 633 F.3d 852, 859 (9th Cir. 2011); 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 99-100 (citing Ylst v. Nunnemaker, 501 U.S. 797, 803 (1991)).

         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. 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.

         IV.

         DISCUSSION

         A. Griffin Error

         In his first claim for relief, Petitioner asserts that the state court erred in concluding that the prosecutor did not commit a Griffin error by commenting on Petitioner's exercise of his right not to testify, in violation of Petitioner's Fifth and Fourteenth Amendment rights. (ECF No. 1 at 9, 13).[4] Respondent argues that Petitioner's Griffin error claim is procedurally barred and that the state court's alternate rejection of the claim on the merits was reasonable. (ECF No. 12 at 19).

         This claim was presented on direct appeal to the California Court of Appeal, Fifth Appellate District, which denied the claim in a reasoned decision. The California Supreme Court summarily denied Petitioner's petition for review. As federal courts review the last reasoned state court opinion, the Court will “look through” the California Supreme Court's summary denial and examine the decision of the California Court of Appeal. See Brumfield v. Cain, 135 S.Ct. 2269, 2276 (2015); Johnson v. Williams, 568 U.S. 289, 297 n.1 (2013); Ylst, 501 U.S. at 806.

         In denying the Griffin claim, the California Court ...


Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.