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Arroyo v. NDOH

United States District Court, E.D. California

July 24, 2019

NDOH, Respondent.



         Petitioner is a California state prisoner proceeding pro se with an application for a writ of habeas corpus pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254. On September 23, 2014 and in the Sacramento County Superior Court, a jury found petitioner guilty of first degree residential burglary (Cal. Pen. Code § 459), rape (§ 261, subd. (a)(2)), and robbery (§ 211). The jury also found true an allegation that the rape was committed during the commission of a first-degree burglary with the intent to commit theft (§ 667.61, subd. (e)(2)). Finally, the jury found petitioner not guilty of assault with intent to commit oral copulation, but found him guilty of the lesser included offense of simple assault (§ 240).

         Now, petitioner raises three claims on federal habeas review. First, he argues that the trial court “coerced” and “caus[ed] un[n]ecessary pressure on a deadlock[ed] jury” by providing a deadlock-breaking instruction. Second, he argues that insufficient evidence supports his rape conviction. Third, he argues that his trial counsel was constitutionally ineffective for not adequately communicating with him during trial.

         For the reasons stated below, the court recommends that this petition be denied in its entirety.


         A. Prosecution Case

         In 2013, Mona Doe lived alone in an apartment on Power Inn Road in Sacramento. An injury to her spine, sustained when she was three years old, rendered her incapable of walking and necessitated use of a wheelchair. Nevertheless, Doe retained some feeling below her waist.

         Petitioner lived in the same apartment complex as Doe and she was familiar with him. In the fall of 2013, petitioner knocked on her door and asked if she was single. Doe explained that she was divorced, indicated that she had to go, and closed the door. She felt that petitioner was “hitting on her.” On a subsequent day, an object was thrown through Doe's apartment window. She reported the incident to police and went outside to examine the area. Doe saw petitioner there and he expressed concern about the window.

         At 1:00 a.m. on December 21, 2013, Doe heard a banging on her door. Without opening the door, Doe demanded to know who it was. A man responded that he was with “maintenance.” Doe told the man to go to the window and, when he did so, she recognized him as the petitioner. He told Doe that she needed to sign some papers. She told him to come back in the morning. Petitioner moved back to the door and started banging on it again. Doe took her phone and tried to call her brother for help.

         Petitioner crashed through her window. Doe began to cry and scream. Petitioner took her phone, put in his pocket, and told Doe to quiet herself. He told her that he just wanted to be with her. When Doe kept screaming and crying, he struck her in the face several times. She stopped crying because she believed that petitioner was going to kill her. Petitioner exposed his genitals roughly a foot from Doe's face. She told him “No, I can't do that.” Doe offered him all the money she had - ten dollars - and her laptop if he would agree to leave. Petitioner declined the offer and reiterated his desire to be with her.

         Petitioner began to move Doe, in her wheelchair, toward her bedroom with the intention of having sex with her. She told him not to move her there. He then asked her where would be preferable. Doe responded “I guess here, ” indicating the hallway. She had “no more fight in [her]” and feared that, if she continued to refuse petitioner's advances, “it would be worse.”

         Petitioner moved Doe from the wheelchair to the floor. He covered her mouth and nose with his hand. He climbed on top of her and vaginally penetrated her with his penis. Doe's feeling is diminished below the waist, but she testified that she felt pressure as a consequence of this penetration.

         At about this time, someone else started pounding on the apartment door. A security guard had been dispatched to perform a welfare check after someone else in the complex reported a possible disturbance or fight. Petitioner stood up and Doe told him to leave via the back door. He did so, and fled by climbing over the apartment's back fence. The security guard entered through the broken window and Doe told him that she had been raped. He called for backup and police arrived shortly thereafter.

         Doe was examined the morning after the attack. An examining physician observed bruises on Doe's face, forearm, and back. The physician examined Doe's genitalia and found no injuries. The physician would later explain that this was not necessarily inconsistent with Doe's claim that petitioner raped her, because approximately half of sexual assault patients displayed no medical findings on the genital exam.

         A crime scene investigation of the apartment revealed blood drops on the carpet. DNA from the blood samples were tested and matched to petitioner's profile. Petitioner was arrested two days after the assault. DNA samples from his genitalia were inconclusive as to whether Doe's DNA was contained therein.

         B. Defense Case

         At trial, petitioner testified in his own defense. He stated that, on the day of the assault, he was living with his girlfriend and four-year old son. He drank a substantial amount of alcohol that night - a twelve pack of beer and some hard lemonade. Petitioner claimed not to know why he went to Doe's apartment that night and stated he could not remember knocking on her door.

         He did claim to know that he had not gone there with the intention of having intercourse with Doe; he stated that he expected only to “conversate” with her. Petitioner also stated that he remembered breaking the apartment window and cutting his leg on the broken glass.

         Petitioner admitted striking Doe when she refused his advances. He testified, however, that “[he] felt like it [penetration] didn't happen.” During closing arguments, petitioner's trial counsel conceded that defendant was guilty of assault, attempted rape, and robbery. However, counsel urged the jury to acquit him of burglary and rape.


         I. Applicable Statutory Provisions

         28 U.S.C. § 2254, as amended by the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996 (“AEDPA”), provides in relevant part as follows:

(d) 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.

         Section 2254(d) constitutes a “constraint on the power of a federal habeas court to grant a state prisoner's application for a writ of habeas corpus.” (Terry) Williams v. Taylor, 529 U.S. 362, 412 (2000). It does not, however, “imply abandonment or abdication of judicial review, ” or “by definition preclude relief.” Miller El v. Cockrell, 537 U.S. 322, 340 (2003). If either prong (d)(1) or (d)(2) is satisfied, the federal court may grant relief based on a de novo finding of constitutional error. See Frantz v. Hazey, 533 F.3d 724, 736 (9th Cir. 2008) (en banc).

         The statute applies whenever the state court has denied a federal claim on its merits, whether or not the state court explained its reasons. Harrington v. Richter, 562 U.S. 86, 99-100 (2011). State court rejection of a federal claim will be presumed to have been on the merits absent any indication or state law procedural principles to the contrary. Id. at 784-785 (citing Harris v. Reed, 489 U.S. 255, 265 (1989) (presumption of a merits determination when it is unclear whether a decision appearing to rest on federal grounds was decided on another basis)). “The presumption may be overcome when there is reason to think some other explanation for the state court's decision is more likely.” Id. at 785.

         A. “Clearly Established Federal Law

         The phrase “clearly established Federal law” in § 2254(d)(1) refers to the “governing legal principle or principles” previously articulated by the Supreme Court. Lockyer v. Andrade, 538 U.S. 63, 7172 (2003). Only Supreme Court precedent may constitute “clearly established Federal law, ” but courts may look to circuit law “to ascertain whether…the particular point in issue is clearly established by Supreme Court precedent.” Marshall v. Rodgers, 133 S.Ct. 1446, 1450 (2013).

         B. “Contrary To” Or “Unreasonable Application Of” Clearly Established Federal Law

         Section 2254(d)(1) applies to state court adjudications based on purely legal rulings and mixed questions of law and fact. Davis v. Woodford, 384 F.3d 628, 637 (9th Cir. 2003). The two clauses of § 2254(d)(1) create two distinct exceptions to AEDPA's limitation on relief. Williams, 529 U.S. at 404-05 (the “contrary to” and “unreasonable application” clauses of (d)(1) must be given independent effect, and create two categories of cases in which habeas relief remains available).

         A state court decision is “contrary to” clearly established federal law if the decision “contradicts the governing law set forth in [the Supreme Court's] cases.” Id. at 405. This includes use of the wrong legal rule or analytical framework. “The addition, deletion, or alteration of a factor in a test established by the Supreme Court also constitutes a failure to apply controlling Supreme Court law under the ‘contrary to' clause of the AEDPA.” Benn v. Lambert, 283 F.3d 1040, 1051 n.5 (9th Cir. 2002). See, e.g., Williams, 529 U.S. at 391, 39395 (Virginia Supreme Court's ineffective assistance of counsel analysis “contrary to” Strickland[1] because it added a third prong unauthorized by Strickland); Crittenden v. Ayers, 624 F.3d 943, 954 (9th Cir. 2010) (California Supreme Court's Batson[2] analysis “contrary to” federal law because it set a higher bar for a prima facie case of discrimination than established in Batson itself); Frantz, 533 F.3d at 734 35 (Arizona court's application of harmless error rule to Faretta[3] violation was contrary to U.S. Supreme Court holding that ...

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