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Sullivan v. Muniz

United States District Court, N.D. California, San Jose Division

October 18, 2019




         Sullivan was convicted by a jury in the Superior Court of the State of California in and for the City and County of San Francisco of first-degree burglary. After waiving a jury for proof of prior convictions, the trial court found that a February 13, 1998 robbery conviction was a strike and a serious felony, but that the prosecution failed to prove the other special allegations. On March 14, 2014, Sullivan was sentenced to a state prison term of nine years.

         On February 11, 2016, the First District California Court of Appeal upheld the trial court's decision that the prosecutor's peremptory strike was not a racially discriminatory peremptory strike and confirmed that sufficient evidence supported the verdict. People v. Sullivan, 2016 WL 556133, at *1 (Cal.Ct.App. Feb. 11, 2016). The California Supreme Court denied review on June 8, 2016. Dkt. 13-5, Ex. 8.

         Sullivan then filed the instant federal petition for writ of habeas corpus under 28 U.S.C. § 2254. Petition for Writ of Habeas Corpus (“Mot.”), Dkt. 1. Pursuant to an order to show cause why the writ should not be granted, Defendant (“the Government”) filed an answer. Memorandum of Points and Authorities in Support of Answer to Order to Show Cause (“Opp.”), Dkt. 13-1. Sullivan filed a traverse. Traverse to Respondent's Answer (“Reply”), Dkt. 17.

         I. BACKGROUND

         The California Court of Appeal summarized the facts of the case as follows:

[April-Lynn] Bond testified that she lived in a one-bedroom apartment in a house on Buchanan Street. A flight of stairs from the sidewalk led to a walkway that in turn led to the front door of Bond's apartment on the side of the house. Her living room was just inside the building's front windows and was next to her bedroom.
At about 8:00 a.m. on October 10, 2012, Bond called in sick to work and planned to stay in bed. The window to Bond's bedroom was partially open and the blinds were down. The living room windows were closed and the blinds were down. Bond's purse, work bag, work computer, home computer, and wallet were on a table in the kitchen. While laying in bed, Bond heard voices and banging in an alleyway where the garbage and recycling are kept. It sounded like the speaker was engaging in a conversation. She then heard a very clear voice coming from inside her apartment saying something like, “Oh, dude, this is my worst fucking nightmare.” Peeking through a gap in the doors to her bedroom, Bond saw Sullivan, whom she did not know, inside her apartment coming from the direction of the living room windows. Bond grabbed her phone, climbed out a bedroom window, and called 911 as she made her way to the street.[1]
Officer Matthew Lobre, who was dispatched in response to Bond's 911 call, arrived in uniform driving a patrol car. He spotted Bond and asked for a description of the intruder. She indicated there were two people and started to describe one as a White male with long scraggly hair and jeans when she interjected, “There he is, that's him.” She pointed behind Lobre to Sullivan, who was walking down the front steps of her building. Lobre approached Sullivan and asked him to put his hands behind his back. Sullivan was calm and cooperative. As Lobre handcuffed him, Sullivan said, “This is my house. What did she say? She let me in.”
When Bond reentered her apartment, she noticed the front window was open, the floor Sullivan had walked on was dirty, a nearby space heater had been unplugged, and a jacket and glove that did not belong to her were in the living room. Her purse, work bag, work computer, home computer, and wallet and its contents were undisturbed. None of the drawers in a living room bookshelf had been opened, and no other property was missing from her apartment.
Inspector Paul Doherty interviewed Sullivan in a hospital while he was treated for an abscess on his left forearm. The interview was recorded and an edited version was played for the jury. Sullivan told Doherty that he was willing to talk because he had done nothing wrong. Doherty asked him, “So you've used-you said, uh, you've been up the last couple of days, but you're not under the influence right now. You're sober and you feel good enough to talk to me about this incident?” Sullivan responded, “Yeah, dude. I've tried to go to sleep 10 times but I can't seem to be left alone.” Later in the interview Sullivan said, “I've been up for four fuckin' days. No one wants to give me no food or water . . . .” Doherty testified that Sullivan did not appear to be in pain during the interview, and he appeared to understand the questions that were posed to him.
Sullivan said he inherited part ownership of the building where Bond lived from a man he met in the park. The man had left the property to Sullivan and a girl whose name was something like Emma or Maggie. An attorney told Sullivan about the inheritance and said he would deliver paperwork to Sullivan at the home. On October 10, 2012, the attorney, Sullivan and the girl met at the property. “I went over there to meet her and talk about how we were gonna figure out the rent. And she'd been living there for a while, too, since dude died.” When Sullivan arrived, the building was locked up and no one would answer the door. Sullivan told the girl, “Listen, you can't keep me out of my own fuckin' house, ” and the girl “opened the window [and] told me I could go in there.” Sullivan said, “They don't go through doors, bro. I'm telling you, man. They go through fuckin' windows, like a little leprechaun or something, dude.” The girl went through the window with Sullivan, but then left through the same window. Sullivan said, “I just waited [about 20 minutes] for her [to return]. . . . And then I heard something and I looked out the door and there's a police officer. . . . And I came right out [through the window] . . . [¶] . . . [¶] . . . [a]s soon as he said something.”
Sullivan told the officer that he had inherited the building, but he was still arrested for burglary. “I didn't burglarize shit, nothing's broken, nothing's missing. I didn't take nothing. That was not my intent. I was told that was my place and I was trying to hash out with this chick about how we're gonna handle the bills and-'cause I'm homeless. I'm moving in.” He added, “I had no intent-I don't need no dope. I didn't get high since yesterday.” Sullivan acknowledged that he left his coat, phone charger and glove in the apartment. Doherty asked Sullivan why Bond would say that he broke into her apartment, and Sullivan responded, “I don't think she wants me to live there to be honest with you. I think she wants the whole ball of wax for herself.” Doherty did not investigate Sullivan's story because “I can't investigate every crazy story that's told me.”
The prosecution rested following the testimony of Bond, Lobre, and Doherty. The trial court denied Sullivan's motion for a directed verdict pursuant to section 1118.1 on the charge of entry with the intent to commit theft.
Sullivan's only witness was Richard Osborn, [2] who testified that he was walking his child to school down Buchanan Street at about 8:00 a.m. on the day of the incident. He heard “some undecipherable noises coming from the bushes [in front of Bond's building], which was enough to startle us to kind of step away from the bushes, and keep going towards school.” The noise was “[s]ort of a garbled speech. I couldn't decipher any of the words, but it was someone's voice.” “[S]ort of grunting sounds, in a way, ” “maybe a little louder than a soft mumble.” When he walked by again on his way back home, he saw “a gentleman standing in front of the bushes on the sidewalk. [¶] . . . I made an assumption that's probably whose voice we had heard before.” The man was Caucasian with disheveled blonde shoulder-length hair and could have been Sullivan. “I noticed that he walked into the street, and I noticed a woman also crossing from the other side of the sidewalk. [¶] He seemed to walk towards her not aggressively, but it seemed . . . that maybe she was slightly avoiding him, walking away.” Neither person seemed aggressive and Osborn did not see a need to intervene. However, he reported the incident to 911. Osborn did not return a call from the district attorney's office shortly before trial.

Sullivan, 2016 WL 556133, at *1-3.


         This Court may entertain a petition for writ of habeas corpus on “behalf of a person in custody pursuant to the judgment of a State court only on the ground that he is in custody in violation of the Constitution or laws ...

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