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Perez v. Madden

United States District Court, E.D. California

September 25, 2019

ANTONIO TREJO PEREZ, Petitioner,
v.
RAYMOND MADDEN, Respondent.

          FINDINGS AND RECOMMENDATIONS TO DENY PETITION FOR WRIT OF HABEAS CORPUS ECF No. 1

         Petitioner Antonio Trejo Perez, a state prisoner without counsel, seeks a writ of habeas corpus under 28 U.S.C. § 2254. According to petitioner, the state trial court erroneously excluded a witness’s prior statements in violation of petitioner’s constitutional right to present a complete defense. Because the prior statements had limited probative value-and any value they had was potentially outweighed by the risk of jury confusion-a reasonable jurist could find that the exclusion of the witness’s prior statement was appropriate. I recommend that the court deny the petition and decline to issue a certificate of appealability.

         I. Background

         While on parole, petitioner allegedly attacked his landlord with a pitchfork after learning that the landlord had a sexual relationship with petitioner’s wife. He then fled to the Texas-Mexico border, where he was apprehended. A jury found petitioner guilty of assault with a deadly weapon, in violation of the conditions of his parole. The Superior Court of Merced County sentenced petitioner to 10 years in prison and ordered that petitioner pay $2, 700 in restitution for the assault and another $2, 700 in restitution for violating parole.

         We set forth below the facts of the underlying offenses, as stated by the Court of Appeal. A presumption of correctness applies to these facts. See 28 U.S.C. § 2254(e)(1); Crittenden v. Chappell, 804 F.3d 998, 1010-11 (9th Cir. 2015).

Seventy-two-year-old Cesar Alcordo was the co-owner of a 10-acre parcel in Delhi, in rural Merced County, since 1962. Perez and his wife, Olga Zarate, had rented a house on Alcordo’s property for 19 years, but moved out after Perez was incarcerated for an unrelated incident and Zarate was unable to continue the rental payments. Zarate moved to Washington state. Later, while Perez was in custody, Zarate moved in with Alcordo in Modesto for several months and they began a sexual relationship.
When Perez was released, Alcordo urged Zarate to go back with Perez, which she did and they lived together in Modesto. Alcordo moved a trailer onto his property and lived there while the house, which had been trashed, was repaired. Sometime later, Zarate telephoned Alcordo and said she wanted to get away from Perez. Alcordo allowed Zarate to move back into the bedroom in the house on the property, and they resumed their relationship. About a week before the assault, Perez came to the house and demanded to speak with Zarate. An argument ensued between Perez and Zarate. Alcordo, holding a shotgun, told Perez to leave, which Perez did.
Perez returned on June 5, 2012. Alcordo was in his trailer when the door was forced open by Perez, who entered and pointed a pitchfork at Alcordo. A struggle ensued in which Perez jabbed Alcordo several times with the pitchfork and punched him multiple times in the face.
During the fight, Alcordo called to Zarate, who was inside the house, and told her to get the shotgun and to call 911. Zarate ran outside to the trailer and informed the 911 operator that Perez was attacking Alcordo with a pitchfork and that she was bleeding, after also being stabbed with the pitchfork. During the call, Perez drove off in his van and headed for Mexico. When Deputy Sheriff Lane Clark arrived on scene, he found Alcordo naked, covered in blood with a head wound, cuts to his torso, and a swollen eye. He was taken to the hospital where he received 12 staples.
Perez escaped to Mexico and was a fugitive there for over a year before being detained and arrested at the Texas-Mexico border. Perez initially told detectives he did not hit Alcordo, but later retracted that statement and admitted to punching [Alcordo] “a couple of times” and stabbing him only once with the pitchfork. Perez denied jabbing Alcordo in the head with the pitchfork, and suggested that Alcordo received his head wounds by either falling or by “[doing] it to himself.”

People v. Perez, No. F070382, 2016 WL 5118297, at *1-2 (Cal.Ct.App. Sept. 21, 2016).

         II. Discussion

         A federal court may grant habeas relief when a petitioner shows that his custody violates federal law. See 28 U.S.C. §§ 2241(a), (c)(3), 2254(a); Williams v. Taylor, 529 U.S. 362, 374-75 (2000). Section 2254 of Title 28, as amended by the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996 (“AEDPA”), governs a state prisoner’s habeas petition. See § 2254; Harrington v. Richter, 562 U.S. 86, 97 (2011); Woodford v. Garceau, 538 U.S. 202, 206-08 (2003). To decide a Section 2254 petition, a federal court examines the decision of the last state court that issued a reasoned opinion on petitioner’s habeas claims. See Wilson v. Sellers, 138 S.Ct. 1188, 1192 (2018).

         When a state court has adjudicated a petitioner’s claims on the merits, a federal court reviews the state court’s decision under the deferential standard of Section 2254(d). Section 2254(d) precludes a federal court from granting habeas relief unless a state court’s decision is (1) contrary to clearly established federal law, (2) a result of an unreasonable application of such law, or (3) based on an unreasonable determination of facts. See § 2254(d); Murray v. Schriro, 882 F.3d 778, 801 (9th Cir. 2018). A state court’s decision is contrary to clearly established federal law if it reaches a conclusion “opposite to” a holding of the United States Supreme Court or a conclusion that differs from the Supreme Court’s precedent on “materially indistinguishable facts.” Soto v. Ryan, 760 F.3d 947, 957 (9th Cir. 2014) (citation omitted). The state court’s decision unreasonably applies clearly established federal law when the decision has “no reasonable basis.” Cullen v. Pinholster, 563 U.S. 170, 188 (2011). An unreasonable determination of facts occurs when a federal court is “convinced that an appellate panel, applying the normal standards of appellate review, could not reasonably conclude that the finding is supported by the record.” Loher v. Thomas, 825 F.3d 1103, 1112 (9th Cir. 2016). A federal habeas court has an obligation to consider arguments or theories that “could have supported a state court’s decision.” See Sexton v. Beaudreaux, 138 S.Ct. 2555, 2557 (2018) (quoting Richter, 562 U.S. at 102). On all issues decided on the merits, the petitioner must show that the state court’s decision is “so lacking in justification that there was an error well understood and comprehended in existing law beyond any possibility for fairminded disagreement.” Richter, 562 U.S. at 103.

         Even when a state court does not explicitly address a petitioner’s claims on the merits, a Section 2254 petitioner must satisfy a demanding standard to obtain habeas relief. When a state court gives no reason for denying a petitioner’s habeas claim, a rebuttable presumption arises that the state court adjudicated the claim on the merits under Section 2254(d). See Richter, 562 U.S. at 99. And a federal habeas court’s obligation to consider arguments or theories that could ...


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