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Ruiz v. Hatton

United States District Court, N.D. California

September 11, 2019

MATTHEW RUIZ, Plaintiff,
SHAWN HATTON, Defendant.




         Matthew Ruiz (“Mr. Ruiz”) is currently serving an 80-years-to-life sentence in Correctional Training Facility in Soledad, California. He filed this action for a writ of habeas corpus pursuant to 28 U.S.C. section 2254. Mr. Ruiz's petition is now before the Court for review on the merits. For the reasons discussed below, the Court DENIES the petition.


         A jury found Mr. Ruiz guilty of two counts of first-degree murder with special circumstances of lying in wait while committing the murders for the benefit of a criminal street gang, two counts of premeditated attempted first-degree murder, and found several associated firearm and gang enhancement allegations true. The California Court of Appeal heard his appeal twice (2015 and 2016)-the second time after remand from the California Supreme Court in light of People v. Franklin, 63 Cal.4th 261 (2016). Mr. Ruiz argues he is entitled to habeas corpus relief.

         A. Factual Background

         The California Court of Appeal described the evidence presented at trial:

On October 14, 2009, at approximately 4:30 p.m., 16-year-old Edgar and his cousin Alejandro, who at the time was 23 years old, walked to the “One-Two-Seven Market” to buy groceries for their grandmother. At trial, Edgar denied being a Sureño, but he did admit that he associated with them. Alejandro admitted associating with Sureños and said that he had been shot at three different times. Just after Edgar and Alejandro entered the market, two people they did not know came into the market. One of the people wore a hat. After Alejandro bought the groceries, he and Edgar left the store and began to walk home. The two people from the store followed them and asked if they “banged.” Edgar said he was a Sureño and Alejandro said he was a “South Sider.” The two people claimed that they were “Southerners.”
At some point as they were walking on Elkington Street, a grey Honda sedan pulled up next to Edgar, Alejandro, and the two people from the store. Edgar knew the driver, Juan, and his two backseat passengers, Ociel and Rodolfo. Alejandro knew one of the backseat passengers as “Moskua” and knew Ociel as “Tweak.” The occupants of the Honda said they had just been in a fight with some Norteños; and they had found some Northerners at La Paz Park. They invited Edgar and Alejandro to join them to get revenge. Edgar said he could not go because he had to take the groceries back to his grandmother. The two people from the store volunteered to go with the occupants of the Honda. They got into the car.
Juan testified that on October 14, 2009, he was approximately 16 years old. Juan did not have a driver's license, but around 2:00 or 3:00 p.m. on October 14, he took his father's Honda to pick up three friends-Christian, Ociel, and Rodolfo. Christian, who was 15 years old in October 2009, testified that he had been associating with Sureños for approximately two years. On October 14, he sat in the front seat of the Honda and Ociel and Rodolfo sat in the back.
Juan said that he drove to Elkington Street to pick up a friend, but his friend was not at home. While he was driving on Elkington, Juan saw his friend Alejandro with Edgar[1] and two other people. Juan stopped the car and someone mentioned to Alejandro and the others that they were going to fight Norteños. Christian invited Edgar and Alejandro to join them but they said no. Instead, the two other people said they were Vagos members, a Sureño gang; they got into the car. One of the people was wearing a black hat with a yellow colored letter “P” and black and white baseball gloves. According to Christian, many Sureños wear Pittsburgh Pirates hats.
Juan drove the group back to the park to confront the Norteños they had seen earlier. They saw a group of approximately eight people at the park; Juan and his friends thought they were Norteños. Everyone got out of the Honda. The two strangers walked ahead and approached the group. They pushed the suspected Norteños, who left immediately. Everyone returned to the Honda. The two strangers sat in the back behind the driver's seat. The one with the hat sat by the door and the one without the hat sat to his right next to Ociel. Juan drove and Christian sat in the front passenger seat. Rodolfo sat on the floor behind Christian.
Eventually, after driving around looking for Norteños unsuccessfully, one of the strangers directed Christian to go to Archer Street because that was where he lived. Christian told Juan to drive to Archer Street, which he did; he parked near some apartments. After parking the car, Juan looked in his rearview mirror and saw a gun pointed at his head. Juan testified that he could not see who was holding the gun, but he conceded that after the incident he had told an officer that the person with the hat shot him and that this person was wearing gloves. Juan explained that he said it was the person with the hat because the person with the hat was seated closest to him. Juan heard one gunshot and lost consciousness; he had been shot in the head. Juan was in the hospital for five to seven days. As a result of the gunshot wound he lost some hearing in his right ear. The parties stipulated that Juan suffered a gunshot wound to the head with a hemorrhagic contusion of the right temporal lobe.
Christian testified that as Juan stopped the car on Archer Street, one of the guys said, “Do you want to see my gun?” Then he heard gunshots and “the one without the hat” shot him in the neck. Christian said that he did not hear any gunshots after he was shot. As a result of the gunshot wound Christian is paralyzed from the neck down. Both Ociel and Rodolfo were shot multiple times; both died.
On October 29, the police showed Edgar and Alejandro photographic lineups. Edgar identified Hernandez's photograph as depicting one of the two people from the market. Alejandro identified Ruiz's photograph as depicting the person wearing the hat. Alejandro described Hernandez as the one who “hit him up.” At trial, Alejandro identified Ruiz as the person with the hat and Hernandez as the other person. The person with the hat said his name was “Slow Poke” and that he was from the Vagos gang.
At trial, Edgar and Alejandro identified Ruiz as the person who had been wearing the hat and Hernandez as the other person. Similarly, in court Juan identified Ruiz and Hernandez as the two people who got into the Honda; he identified Ruiz as the one who was wearing the hat.[2] Alejandro testified that one of the people from the market was wearing a glove on his left hand.
Robert, who worked as a communications training officer for the Presidio of Monterey Police was driving on Archer Street when he noticed a grey Honda sedan driving slowly and abruptly stopping and moving again. Robert saw two or three bright flashes of light and heard muffled gunshots. The Honda lurched forward. Robert saw two people get out of the Honda. Both appeared to be 20 to 25 years old. The first person wore a dark baseball cap that was turned backward, and he held his hands inside the pocket of a dark “hoodie” he was wearing. The second person was not wearing anything on his head. This person ran into the first person and pushed him; they both stumbled, but caught their balance. They ran into a nearby alley. Robert telephoned 911.[3]
Various witnesses testified that they saw two people running through backyards and going over fences. According to one witness, both people wore black hooded sweatshirts and one wore a black baseball hat with a gold emblem. One of the people stopped momentarily as if he had dropped something or was looking for something before he jumped over a fence. Another witness discovered a black baseball cap and gloves in his yard after the men ran through. Two of the witnesses thought that the people were in their 20's.[4]
Salinas Police Officer Richard Diaz[5] arrived on Archer Street to see a Honda sedan parked by a fallen tree branch. All four doors to the Honda were open. Officer Diaz asked the driver (Juan) who had shot him, but Juan responded that he did not know and that he did not speak English. Officer Diaz found Rodolfo in the back of the Honda lying across the floor with a gunshot wound to his head; part of Rodolfo's brain was exposed. Ociel was in the back on the seat; he had suffered a gunshot wound to his head; he was unconscious and barely breathing. Christian was in the front seat and had suffered a wound to the left side of his neck-he too was unconscious and barely breathing.
From the backyard of 791 Archer Street, officers recovered a black baseball cap with the letter “P” on it along with a pair of black and white gloves.
On October 16, 2009, forensic pathologist Dr. John Hain performed the autopsy of 14-year-old Rodolfo. Rodolfo was five feet tall and weighed 93 pounds. Dr. Hain opined that the cause of Rodolfo's death was two gunshot wounds to the head. Based on the gunshot residue on Rodolfo's hood, Dr. Hain concluded that Rodolfo had been shot twice in the head from less than one foot away, once from above and once to the left of his head. Two bullets had entered his upper left forehead just inside the hairline. One bullet passed through his skull and his brain. It was recovered from his pharynx area. The second bullet was recovered from Rodolfo's stomach, which meant that he had swallowed it. The bullets that were recovered were partially fragmented. Rodolfo had gun powder burns on the back of his hand. He had a tattoo of three dots on his elbow.
Dr. Hain's autopsy of 14-year-old Ociel revealed that he was five feet three and a half inches tall and weighed 156 pounds. The cause of his death was multiple gunshot wounds. Ociel had been seated on the right side of the back seat when he was shot three or four times. One bullet entered the scalp area of the top of his head; one entered the center of his head; one bullet entered his left earlobe and passed through his ear, leaving shrapnel wounds on his left cheek; and one bullet entered and exited his left shoulder. Based on the gunpowder stippling and burns to Ociel's left shoulder, Dr. Hain concluded that Ociel had been shot in the shoulder from inches away. There were plastic and copper jackets in the wound tracks. Dr. Hain recovered bullet fragments from Ociel's body. Dr. Hain located plastic material in a track wound, which he said “most likely” came from a hollow-point bullet. Ociel had gunpowder stippling along his wrist and gunpowder burns on his right thumb. Dr. Hain recovered a .38-caliber bullet slug from the right thumb. The bullet fragments removed from Rodolfo and Ociel were jacketed.
Five .380-caliber shell casings were located at the scene.[6]Criminalist Sara Yoshida examined the shell casings and determined that they were .380-caliber and that they had all been fired from the same semi-automatic firearm. However, she testified that it was not possible to reach a conclusion about some bullet fragments that she had received. She was able to determine that all the bullets and fragments she was able to examine were called “Pow'rBall, ” which meant that there was a small plastic ball inside. Yoshida explained that no manufacturer made copper-jacketed bullets or Pow'rBall bullets capable of being fired from a .38-caliber Smith and Wesson revolver. Yoshida did not examine the bullet from Juan's wound and she did not examine the bullet from Christian.
In 2009, Officer Brian Canaday[7] reviewed surveillance video from the market and saw one of the two suspects holding a bag of chips. Officer Ruben Sanchez, a school resource officer, recognized Hernandez from the video, as did Monterey County Probation Officer (P.O.) Derek Rager, who had supervised Hernandez. Initially, officers recovered clothing from the Honda and two cellular telephones, both of which had blue wallpaper associated with Sureños. A second search of the Honda revealed a chip bag on the floorboard. Officer Canaday asked then Officer Brian Johnson to process the bag for fingerprints.[8] Using the fuming process, Officer Johnson was able to lift a latent fingerprint from the bag. The hat with the letter “P” was processed; it had a low-quality fingerprint.
Latent fingerprint examiner Gayle Graves examined the print from the chip bag. She compared the print to a print from Hernandez's right thumb. Using eight points of comparison, she concluded that the print on the chip bag came from Hernandez.
Senior criminalist Christopher Tanforan examined the baseball cap and gloves recovered from behind the Archer Street apartment complex. The DNA from three to five people was present on the gloves' interior, but Ruiz was the major contributor.
When Ruiz and Hernandez were arrested, officers seized their cellular telephones. Wireless expert Jim Cook evaluated the cellular telephone records for the two phones and determined that Ruiz's telephone and Hernandez's telephone[9] had exchanged calls and texts on October 14. Cook concluded that the cellular telephone activity showed that Ruiz's telephone went from 225 Maryal in Salinas to the market, then to 777 Archer Street at 5:37 p.m. on October 14.
On the day of their arrest, Ruiz and Hernandez were placed in the same patrol car for transportation to the jail. Their conversation was recorded. Officer Josh Lynd explained that at times they whispered to each other. A recording of the conversation was played for the jury. Officer Lynd testified that after being put into the car, someone said, “I didn't say shit.”[10] Then one of them commented, “Don't tell anybody. Don't tell your attorney. Don't tell anybody.” One of them said, “Hopefully, they don't have enough evidence” and that “Hopefully we'll be out in a month or two.”
[Section describing evidence of Hernandez's gang affiliation removed.]
Evidence of Ruiz's Gang Affiliation
On April 28, 2006, Officer Adolfo Lopez was investigating a battery report at a community school when he was given a piece of paper by a probation officer. He testified that the paper had been confiscated from Ruiz by one of the teachers. The paper contained gang writing, which Ruiz admitted he and his friends had written. The symbols were associated with Norteños. Among the writings was the number “3”; it had been crossed out and the numbers “10” and “4” were below it. Officer Lopez asked Ruiz if he was associated with a gang. Initially, Ruiz said no, but when Officer Lopez asked Ruiz if it would be okay for him to be lodged with Southerners at juvenile hall, Ruiz said no. Ruiz explained that Southerners disrespect Northerners.
On September 30, 2008, Officer Jeff Alford stopped a car being driven by Ruiz's mother. Ruiz was sitting in the front passenger seat. Officer Alford asked Ruiz to get out of the car. Officer Alford testified that he recognized other people in the car as Norteño gang members. One of them, Lachuga, tried to run when Officer Alford asked him to get out of the car; he was found to have a handgun in his pocket. When the officer searched the car, he found a .22-caliber handgun under the front passenger seat where Ruiz had been sitting. Officer Danny Warner placed Ruiz in the back seat of a patrol car. The officer remained with Ruiz while Ruiz was in the car. At one point another officer came over to tell Officer Warner that two guns had been located and that one had been found underneath the front passenger seat. Ruiz said, “That's mine.”
A photograph taken of Ruiz on September 30, 2008, showed that Ruiz had a tattoo of the name “Valerie” on his arm. Valerie is his mother's name. Ruiz had a tattoo of “Ruiz” on the back of his neck. Officer Alford could not recall Ruiz's having any other tattoos at that time.
On October 29, 2009, Officer Arlene Currier searched Ruiz's residence. A search of a bedroom that had letters addressed to Ruiz in a dresser yielded a banner with San Francisco 49ers on it, a wood block with “500 block” engraved on it, Reebok shoes and baseball hats, a black T-shirt and black hoodies, a black T-shirt with a gang slogan, and photographs of Ruiz with known gang members and people flashing gang signs. A loaded revolver was found in his dresser drawer.
During his jail intake interview, Ruiz told Monterey County Sheriff's Deputy Reed Fisher that he was affiliated with the Norteños. According to Deputy Fisher, Ruiz indicated that his opposition gang was the Sureño gang.
Gang Expert Testimony
Officer Masahiro Yoneda, a Violence Suppression Unit Gang Intelligence Officer, testified as an expert on gang activity in the City of Salinas. Officer Yoneda explained that the Norteños and the Sureños are rivals that commit violent acts against each other. Each gang has between 1, 500 and 2, 000 members in the Salinas area. The Norteños identify with the number 14, the North Star, San Francisco Giants clothing, San Francisco 49ers clothing, and the color red. The Salinas East Market gang uses the letters SEM and the number 500, which represents the 500 block of East Market Street-viewed by members as the birthplace of the gang. Sureños identify with the number 13, the Los Angeles Dodgers, “Southpole gear” and the color blue. Officer Yoneda explained that a gang member receives greater respect from within the gang the longer he is a member and the more serious and numerous the crimes he commits. Perceived disrespect by a rival gang member often ends up setting off a chain of events starting with either a violent assault or a shooting or homicide; the gang that receives that violent act then has to retaliate.
[Section describing evidence of Hernandez's gang affiliation removed.]
Officer Yoneda opined that Ruiz was an active Norteño gang member at the time of the shooting. Again, he based his opinion on numerous factors, including Ruiz's contacts with the Salinas police for gang-related criminal activity; the jail intake screening questionnaire; Ruiz's association with known gang members; Ruiz's tattoo of “500” acquired after the shooting, which indicated to Officer Yoneda that Ruiz was advertising the fact that he committed a crime; other tattoos he acquired of the number 4 and XIV; the gang indicia found in Ruiz's residence including a red T-shirt with the words “Cali” and a black Huelga bird; photographs of Ruiz in which he appeared to be “throwing an M” with his left hand; and photographs of other people in which they were throwing gang signs.
Officer Yoneda opined that if two Norteños posed as Sureños and got into a car occupied by four Sureños and they killed two of the Sureños and tried to kill the other two, the crime would have been committed for the benefit of the Norteño street gang. He explained that “it enhances the reputation of the gang when members of that gang commit violent crimes against the other gang.” Officer Yoneda had not previously heard of a Norteño posing as a Sureño to obtain a gang advantage.[11]
The parties stipulated that the Norteños are a criminal street gang within the meaning of section 186.22, subdivision (f) in that it is an ongoing organization of three or more people; that it is both formal and informal; that one of its primary activities is the commission of criminal acts including homicides, assault with a deadly weapon, and possession of concealed firearms; that the Norteños have a common name and symbol; and that the members engage in a pattern of criminal activity. The parties further stipulated that photographs of Ruiz and Hernandez taken of them in jail three years after the shooting showed new gang-related tattoos.

People v. Ruiz, 2016 WL 6996269, at *2-9 (2016) (footnotes in original).

         B. Procedu ...

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