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Carpenter v. Davis

United States District Court, N.D. California

September 13, 2019

RON DAVIS, Warden of California State Prison at San Quentin, Respondent.




         The instant case arises from Petitioner's conviction and death sentence on five counts of first-degree murder, two counts of rape, and one count of attempted rape. These crimes were committed in Marin County on three separate dates between October 11, 1980, and November 28, 1980. Due to pre-trial publicity, the case was tried in San Diego County. On November 29, 1999, the California Supreme Court affirmed Petitioner's conviction and death sentence. See People v. Carpenter, 21 Cal.4th 1016 (1999).[1] On October 2, 2000, the United States Supreme Court denied a petition for certiorari. See Carpenter v. California, 531 U.S. 838 (2000). Prior to affirmance of his conviction and sentence on direct review, Petitioner filed two separate state habeas petitions. The first was filed in the trial court on September 28, 1988, based on allegations of juror misconduct. The trial court granted the petition and ordered a new trial, but the California Supreme Court reversed the trial court's order and denied the petition. See In re Carpenter, 9 Cal.4th 634 (1995). The second was filed in the California Supreme Court on November 1, 1999, and was denied on January 13, 2000. See In re Carpenter, No. S083246.

         Petitioner filed a federal Petition for Writ of Habeas Corpus (Dkt. No. 36) in this district on November 4, 2002. On November 26, 2002, the Court granted Petitioner's motion to hold the proceedings in abeyance while he filed a third state habeas petition in the California Supreme Court. On December 18, 2002, the California Supreme Court denied the third state petition, see In re Carpenter, No. S110890, and on December 27, 2002, Petitioner filed the instant First Amended Petition for Writ of Habeas Corpus (“FAP”). (Dkt. No. 41.)

         Respondent subsequently filed a “Motion for Adjudication of Procedural Bars” (Dkt. No. 73) asserting various procedural grounds for dismissal of numerous claims presented in the FAP. The Court addressed the procedural issues in a series of orders. See Order Re Procedural Default (Dkt. No. 78);[2] Order Re Procedural Default (Dkt. No. 175); Order Granting Pet'r's Mot. For Reconsideration (Dkt. No. 184); and Amend. Order Granting Resp.'s Mot. For Reconsideration (Dkt. No. 200). In short, and as will be further discussed in relevant part in this Order, the Court has found numerous claims presented in the FAP are procedurally barred.

         In 2008, based on allegations in the FAP and the applicable law, the Court issued an order requiring Petitioner's competency be determined in a timely manner, pursuant to Rohan ex, rel. Gates v. Woodford, 334 F.3d 803 (9th Cir. 2003). See id. at 817 (holding petitioners have “statutory right to competence in [their] habeas proceedings”). Based on the case record and the examination report of stipulated expert Dr. Robert Roesch, the Court found Petitioner competent to pursue his habeas claims.[3]

         The parties subsequently met and conferred and agreed to a briefing schedule to address the remainder of Petitioner's claims, dividing the remaining claims into nine separate claim groups. This Order addresses Group 4, specifically, Claims 10.C.2, 10.C.4, 10.C.5, and 11.[4] For the following reasons, these claims will be DENIED.


         I. Guilt Phase

         On October 11, 1980, Cynthia Moreland (“Moreland”) and Richard Stowers (“Stowers”) were killed near a hiking trail in Point Reyes National Seashore. Hikers reported hearing gunshots in the area between 1:00 p.m. and 2:00 p.m. Moreland's and Stowers's bodies were discovered on November 29, 1980. They had been fatally shot in the head.

         On October 13, 1980, Anne Alderson (“Alderson”) was killed near a hiking trail on Mount Tamalpais. She was reportedly last seen at approximately 5:30 p.m. that evening and was found two days later, fatally shot in the head at close range. Alderson's vagina contained sperm, indicating penetration “around the time she died.” See Carpenter, 21 Cal.4th at 1029. The semen was of a type consistent with approximately fifteen to nineteen percent of the Caucasian population, including Petitioner.

         On November 28, 1980, Diane O'Connell (“O'Connell”) and Shauna May (“May”) were killed at Point Reyes National Seashore. Hikers heard shots in the area around 3:10 p.m., with more shots following approximately ten minutes later. O'Connell's and May's nude bodies were discovered the next day, each fatally shot in the head. O'Connell had a pair of panties in her “mouth and nose area” and, in addition to the gunshot wound, physical evidence indicated she had been strangled with a narrow piece of cord or wire. Id. at 1030 (internal quotation omitted). May's vagina and rectum contained sperm, indicating, as with Alderson, penetration around the time of death, and, in addition, a “vague ligature mark” was found on her left wrist. Id. The area where the bodies of O'Connell and May were discovered was approximately 200 yards from the area where the bodies of Moreland and Stowers were discovered.

         In addition to the murders of Moreland, Stowers, Alderson, O'Connell, and May, the prosecution presented evidence of Petitioner's March 29, 1981, murder of Ellen Hansen (“Hansen”) and attempted murder of Steven Haertle (“Haertle”) in the Santa Cruz Mountains.[6] Haertle survived the attack and was able to identify Petitioner as the shooter, while other eyewitnesses in the area identified Petitioner as being present at the time of the crimes. The prosecution linked the Marin County and Santa Cruz County murders by presenting, inter alia, ballistics evidence showing that a single firearm, a .38-caliber Rossi revolver, was used in each of the shootings. Mollie Purnell, who was a friend of Petitioner's, testified she purchased the gun at Petitioner's request and gave it to him. Shane and Karen Williams, who were married bank robbers, testified Petitioner gave them the gun on May 13, 1981. Shane Williams later hid the gun in a vacant lot in San Francisco and subsequently informed law enforcement of the gun's location, allowing it to be recovered by the task force investigating the rash of trailside killings in Marin and Santa Cruz Counties. The prosecution presented several other witnesses who described seeing Petitioner with a gun similar in appearance to the .38-caliber Rossi revolver, as well as evidence that a .38-caliber bullet was found in one of Petitioner's cars. In essence, the ballistics evidence linking all the Marin County and Santa Cruz murders to the same firearm, and the testimonial evidence linking Petitioner to that firearm, comprised the prosecution's evidence linking petitioner to the murders of Moreland, Stowers, Alderson, O'Connell, and May. Id. (“The prosecution linked defendant to the crimes of this case primarily by showing that defendant shot Hansen and Haertle, and that the same person committed both the Santa Cruz and Marin County crimes.”).[7]

         Although, during his trial for those crimes, Petitioner did not contest his identity as the gunman in the Santa Cruz killing, he did so in his trial on the Marin County charges. In particular, he challenged the State's shoeprint evidence from the Santa Cruz case and presented eyewitness testimony suggesting someone other than himself may have committed the Santa Cruz crimes. Id. at 1031. In addition, as to the Marin County crimes, Petitioner presented alibi testimony from his former employer concerning the day of the Alderson murder, and he testified on his own behalf in an effort to establish an alibi for the days of the Moreland/Stowers and O'Connell/May murders. Id. at 1031-32. Following the defense case and rebuttal by the prosecution, Petitioner was found guilty of the following: (1) first degree murder in the deaths of Moreland, Stowers, Alderson, O'Connell, and May; (2) rape as to Alderson and May; and (3) attempted rape as to O'Connell. Id. at 1029. In addition, the “jury found true special circumstance allegations of multiple murder and, as to Alderson, May, and O'Connell, rape-murder[;] it also found that [Petitioner] personally used a firearm as to each crime.” Id.

         II. Penalty Phase

         During the penalty phase, the prosecution presented evidence of Petitioner's numerous additional crimes over several years, including the following: a violent assault on one of his former coworkers, during which Petitioner drove his coworker to a wooded area, threatened her with a knife, hit her on the head with a hammer, and then attacked a law enforcement officer who came to her aid; the attempted rape and stabbing of a woman in another wooded area near Santa Cruz; the kidnapping, forcible rape, and robbery of another woman in the Santa Cruz Mountains; two separate robberies, in Daly City and Calaveras County, respectively, in which women were tied up with rope; the kidnapping and rape of another woman in Calaveras County; Petitioner's escape from custody after the Calaveras County rape; and an incident in which Petitioner brandished a firearm and threatened to kill another individual. See Carpenter, 21 Cal.4th at 1033 (citing Carpenter, 15 Cal.4th 349-50). The prosecution also presented evidence of the rape and murder of Heather Scaggs (“Scaggs”), another of the Santa Cruz murders that were the subject of Petitioner's 1984 Los Angeles trial. Scaggs was last seen alive on May 2, 1981, on the morning she was scheduled to meet Petitioner to drive to Santa Cruz. Hikers found Scaggs's body, with a fatal gunshot wound to the head, on May 24, 1981. “Physical evidence indicated Scaggs had sexual intercourse near the time of death.” Id. The .38-caliber Rossi revolver was used to kill Scaggs.

         The defense presented considerable mitigating evidence showing Petitioner's unhappy and abusive childhood, and that he had a stutter. Id. at 1033. A neuropsychologist testified Petitioner had a “mixed personality disorder” with narcissistic and antisocial features. Id. Another psychologist testified Petitioner's experiences in juvenile facilities exacerbated his preexisting psychological problems. Id. Petitioner also presented evidence that he was a good employee, well-behaved in prison, and that he was a loving father to his children. Id.

         In rebuttal, the prosecution presented testimony from Petitioner's first wife, as well as testimony from a parole officer, a state rehabilitation counselor, and two experts who disagreed with the defense experts' opinions. Id. at 1034.

         The jury returned a verdict of death and the Superior Court imposed judgment in accordance therewith.


         Under the Anti-terrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996 (“AEDPA”), a district court may not grant a petition challenging a state conviction or sentence on the basis of a claim that was reviewed on the merits in state court unless the state court's 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.” 28 U.S.C. § 2254(d)(1) & (2). The first prong applies both to questions of law and to mixed questions of law and fact, see Williams v. Taylor, 529 U.S. 362, 407-09 (2000), while the second prong applies to decisions based on factual determinations, see Miller-El v. Cockrell, 537 U.S. 322, 340 (2003). Review under § 2254 is limited to the record that was before the state court that adjudicated the claim on the merits. See Cullen v. Pinholster, 563 U.S. 170, 180-81 (2011); see also § 2254(d)(2).

         The “contrary to” and “unreasonable application” clauses of § 2254(d)(1) have separate and distinct meanings. See Williams, 529 U.S. at 404. A state court decision is “contrary to” Supreme Court authority and thus falls under the first clause of § 2254(d)(1), only 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 Supreme] Court has on a set of materially indistinguishable facts.” See Id. at 412-13. A state court decision is an “unreasonable application of” Supreme Court authority, falling under the second clause of § 2254(d)(1), if it correctly identifies the governing legal principle from the Supreme Court's decisions but “unreasonably applies that principle to the facts of the prisoner's case.” See Id. at 413. While circuit law may be “persuasive authority” for purposes of determining whether a state court decision is an unreasonable application of Supreme Court law, only the Supreme Court's holdings are binding on the state courts and only those holdings need be reasonably applied. See Clark v. Murphy, 331 F.3d 1062, 1070 (9th Cir. 2003), overruled on other grounds by Lockyer v. Andrade, 538 U.S. 63, 71 (2003).

         On habeas review, a district 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.” See Williams, 529 U.S. at 411. Rather, to support granting the writ, the application must be “objectively unreasonable.” See Id. at 409; see also Harrington v. Richter, 562 U.S. 86, 101 (2011) (“‘an unreasonable application of federal law is different from an incorrect application of federal law'”) (emphasis in original). Accordingly, “[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, 562 U.S. at 101 (quoting Yarborough v. Alvarado, 541 U.S. 653, 664 (2004)). “While the ‘objectively unreasonable' standard is not self-explanatory, at a minimum it denotes a great[] degree of deference to the state courts.” Clark, 331 F.3d at 1068.

         Similarly, a state court's factual determinations are, on habeas review, accorded deference. See Pinholster, 563 U.S. at 180-81. “Factual determinations by state courts are presumed correct absent clear and convincing evidence to the contrary, and a decision adjudicated on the merits in a state court and based on a factual determination will not be overturned on factual grounds unless objectively unreasonable in light of the evidence presented in the state-court proceeding.” Miller-El, 537 U.S. at 340 (citing § 2254(d)(2) & (e)(1)).

         Under AEDPA, a federal court applying § 2254(d) reviews the “‘last reasoned decision' from the state court, which means that when the final state court decision contains no reasoning, [the court] may look to the last decision from the state court that provides a reasoned explanation on the issue.” Murray v. Schriro, 882 F.3d 778, 801 (9th Cir. 2018) (citation omitted). Where there is no reasoned state court decision providing a rationale for the state court's conclusions, the “habeas petitioner's burden still must be met by showing there was no reasonable basis for the state court to deny relief[.]” Harrington, 562 U.S. at 98. The habeas petitioner meets this burden only by showing that fairminded jurists could not agree with any arguments or theories that may have supported the state court's decision. Murray, 882 F.3d at 801-802 (citing Harrington, 562 U.S. at 101-102). In conducting this review, the federal court independently reviews the state court record to determine whether the state court's decision is objectively unreasonable. Id. at 802 (citing Walker v. Martel, 709 F.3d 925, 939 (9th Cir. 2013)).

         Lastly, even if a petitioner meets the requirements of § 2254(d), habeas relief is warranted only if the constitutional error at issue had a “substantial and injurious effect or influence in determining the jury's verdict.” Brecht v. Abrahamson, 507 U.S. 619, 638 (1993) (internal quotation and citation omitted). Under this standard, petitioners “may obtain plenary review of their constitutional claims, but they are not entitled to habeas relief based on trial error unless they can establish that it resulted in ‘actual prejudice.'” Id. at 637 (citing United States v. Lane, 474 U.S. 438, 439 (1986)).


         I. Petitioner's Challenges to the Application of § 2254(d)

         In his brief in support of his Group Four claims, Petitioner incorporates by reference an argument made in Carpenter I, in which he contended California's habeas scheme has a deficient fact-finding process and incorporates unconstitutional pleading requirements for habeas petitioners, thus requiring the Court to forego application of § 2254(d). See Dkt. No. 191 at 7 (citing Carpenter I, 98-cv-2444-MMC, Dkt. No. 248 at 2-32). The Court rejected Petitioner's arguments in Carpenter I and does so again for the reasons set forth in its April 27, 2018, Order therein. See Carpenter I, No. 98-cv-2444-MMC, Dkt. No. 251 at 13-16. Any additional arguments raised by Petitioner regarding “conclusory” allegations and hearsay arguably not resolved by the Court's prior Order will be addressed in the context of Petitioner's specific claims. See Dkt. No. 191 at 3-4.

         II. Brady Claims (10.C.2; 10.C.4; & 10.C.5)

         In Claim 10 of the FAP, Petitioner argues he was prejudiced by the prosecution's multiple violations of its duty to disclose exculpatory evidence, i.e., that his due process rights, as explicated in Brady v. Maryland, 373 U.S. 83 (1963), and its progeny, were violated such that he is entitled to a grant of habeas relief. As discussed previously, some, but not all, of Petitioner's Brady claims have been found procedurally barred. Petitioner's Brady claims properly before the court include the following: (a) his claim that prosecutors withheld exculpatory surveillance photographs taken by law enforcement officers as Petitioner, Shane Williams, and Karen Williams entered and exited the warehouse in which, according to trial testimony, Petitioner retrieved the murder weapon (Claim 10.C.2); (b) his claim that prosecutors failed to disclose information that Karen Williams, while armed, had robbed or attempted to rob banks in San Francisco on March 31 and April 1, 1981 (Claim 10.C.4); and (c) his claim that prosecutors failed to disclose an inducement provided to Shane and Karen Williams in order to secure their testimony against Petitioner, namely, that the Williamses were afforded a “conjugal visit” while Shane Williams was detained at the Santa Cruz County Jail in September 1981 (Claim 10.C.5). Petitioner alleges that, in failing to provide him with the above items and information, prosecutors deprived him of essential evidence that would have been material in his effort to impeach or otherwise challenge the Williamses' testimony as well as that of certain law enforcement officers. Following a brief review of the relevant legal principles and a more detailed summary of the testimony given by Shane and Karen Williams, the Court will address each such claim in turn.

         A. Brady Principles

         In Brady, the Supreme Court held that “the suppression by the prosecution of evidence favorable to an accused upon request violates due process where the evidence is material either to guilt or to punishment, irrespective of the good faith or bad faith of the prosecution.” 373 U.S. at 87. This duty to disclose applies even in the absence of a request. United States v. Bagley, 473 U.S. 667, 683 (1985). Evidence is deemed favorable to the accused if it has either “exculpatory” or “impeachment” value. Id. at 676. For a Brady claim to succeed, a petitioner must show: (1) that the evidence at issue is favorable to the accused, either because it is exculpatory or impeaching; (2) that it was suppressed by the prosecution, either willfully or inadvertently; and (3) that it was material, i.e., that prejudice ensued. Banks v. Dretke, 540 U.S. 668, 691 (2004); see also Strickler v. Greene, 527 U.S. 263, 281-82 (1999).[8]

         Evidence is material if “there is a reasonable probability that, had the evidence been disclosed to the defense, the result of the proceeding would have been different.” Cone v. Bell, 556 U.S. 449, 469-70 (2009). “A reasonable probability does not mean that the defendant ‘would more likely than not have received a different verdict with the evidence,' only that the likelihood of a different result is great enough to ‘undermine confidence in the outcome of the trial.'” Smith v. Cain, 565 U.S. 73, 75 (2012) (quoting Kyles v. Whitley, 514 U.S. 419, 434 (1995)); see, e.g., Wearry v. Cain, 136 S.Ct. 1002, 1006-1007 (2016) (reversing death penalty conviction based on Brady violation where impeachment evidence as to key prosecution witnesses suppressed; holding “[e]ven if the jury-armed with all of this new evidence-could have voted to convict [defendant], we have no confidence that it would have done so”) (emphasis in original) (internal quotation and citation omitted). A reasonable probability of a total acquittal is not required to establish materiality; suppressed evidence is material if, had it been disclosed, there is a reasonable probability the defendant would have been convicted of a “different offense or a different degree of the crime.” Shelton v. Marshall, 796 F.3d 1075, 1085 (9th Cir. 2015), amended on reh'g, 806 F.3d 1011 (9th Cir. 2015). “[E]vidence impeaching an eyewitness may not be material if the State's other evidence is strong enough to sustain confidence in the verdict.” Smith, 565 U.S. at 75 (finding impeachment evidence of prosecution's sole witness material).

         Moreover, the “mere possibility” that undisclosed information “might have helped the defense or might have affected the outcome of the trial” does not establish materiality under Brady. See United States v. Olsen, 704 F.3d 1172, 1184 (9th Cir. 2013) (internal quotations and citations omitted).

         Importantly, “[m]ateriality is considered ‘collectively, not item by item.'” Reis-Campos v. Biter, 832 F.3d 968, 975 (9th Cir. 2016) (quoting Kyles, 514 U.S. at 436). Accordingly, “[w]hen there are multiple Brady claims, ” a reviewing court “must imagine that every piece of suppressed evidence had been disclosed, and then ask whether, assuming those disclosures, there is a reasonable probability that the jury would have reached a different result.” Browning v. Baker, 875 F.3d 444, 464 (9th Cir. 2017).

         B. Trial Testimony of Shane ...

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