California Court of Appeals, First District, Second Division
As Modified 12/13/2019
Cal.Rptr.3d 253] Superior Court of San Mateo County, Hon.
Donald J. Ayoob (San Mateo County Super. Ct. No. SC015661A).
Corpus Resource Center, Susan Garvey, Ann L. Kim, Natalie
Link, for Petitioner.
Becerra, Attorney General, Lance E. Winters, Chief Assistant
Attorney General, Ronald S. Matthias, Assistant Attorney
General, Holly D. Wilkens, Sarah J. Farhat and Alice B.
Lustre, Deputy Attorneys General, for Real Party in Interest.
Cal.Rptr.3d 254] In 2016, California voters approved
Proposition 66, the Death Penalty Reform and Savings Act of
2016, an initiative measure that "extensively revamp[ed]
the procedures governing habeas corpus petitions in capital
cases." (Briggs v. Brown (2017) 3 Cal.5th 808,
822, 824, 221 Cal.Rptr.3d 465, 400 P.3d 29 (Briggs
).) Previously, habeas corpus proceedings in capital cases
were initiated in the California Supreme Court, but now such
proceedings are to be filed first in superior court.
(Id. at pp. 824-825, 221 Cal.Rptr.3d 465, 400 P.3d
29.) Under Penal Code  section 1509, added by Proposition 66,
"any petition for writ of habeas corpus filed by a
person in custody pursuant to a judgment of death"
should be transferred to "the court which imposed the
sentence ... unless good cause is shown for the petition to
be heard by another court." (� 1509, subd. (a).) For
petitions filed before Proposition 66 went into effect,
section 1509, subdivision (g) (� 1509(g)), provides, "If
a habeas corpus petition is pending on the effective date of
this section, the court may transfer the petition to the
court which imposed the sentence." This case calls us to
interpret the phrase "the court which imposed the
prisoner Troy Ashmus had a petition for writ of habeas corpus
pending in the California Supreme Court on section 1509’s
effective date, and the high court transferred Ashmus’s
petition to the court that imposed the death sentence, San
Mateo County Superior Court, pursuant to section 1509(g). The
Attorney General then moved to transfer the petition to the
court where Ashmus was originally charged with the capital
offense, Sacramento County Superior Court, and the trial
court granted the motion.
petition for writ of mandate, Ashmus challenges the trial
court’s order transferring his petition to Sacramento County.
He argues the San Mateo County trial court flouted the plain
language of section 1509 and appellate court intervention is
necessary to "avoid a potential ‘tennis match’ among
courts sending habeas cases bouncing from county to
county." The Attorney General responds that the trial
court correctly found good cause existed to
"return" the petition to the original transferring
conclude the trial court misapplied section 1509 and the
Attorney General’s arguments defending the transfer order to
Sacramento County lack merit. We order the issuance of a
peremptory writ of mandate.
FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND
1984, the District Attorney of Sacramento County filed an
information charging Ashmus with multiple offenses, including
first degree murder and rape. On Ashmus’s pretrial motion,
the trial court changed venue from Sacramento County to San
Mateo County. In 1986, a jury found Ashmus guilty of all
charges, and the San Mateo County Superior Court imposed a
death sentence. ( [256 Cal.Rptr.3d 255] People v.
Ashmus (1991) 54 Cal.3d 932, 951-952, 2 Cal.Rptr.2d 112,
820 P.2d 214.)
2014, Ashmus filed a second petition for writ of habeas
corpus in the California Supreme Court to exhaust certain
claims raised in his habeas petition in federal court.
22, 2019, the California Supreme Court transferred Ashmus’s
pending habeas petition to the sentencing court as called for
by Proposition 66. Our high court’s order provides,
"Pursuant to Penal Code section 1509, subdivision (g),
the petition is ...