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Prescott v. Santoro
United States District Court, N.D. California, San Jose Division
December 12, 2019
EARNEST L. PRESCOTT, Petitioner,
KELLY SANTORO, Respondent.
ORDER DENYING PETITION FOR WRIT OF HABEAS CORPUS RE:
DKT. NOS. 1, 25
J. DAVILA UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
California jury convicted Earnest L. Prescott of first-degree
murder. The sentencing court applied an enhancement for the
discharge of a firearm. He is currently incarcerated. He has
petitioned this court for the writ of habeas corpus. For the
reasons discussed below, the court denies the petition.
Prescott was jointly tried with Jason Jones for the June 6,
2010 murder of James Johnson. The Alameda County jury
convicted Mr. Prescott and acquitted Mr. Jones on June 8,
2012. The California Court of Appeal, in considering his
direct appeal, described the facts of the case as follows:
On June 6, 2010, James Johnson was shot and killed as he
walked from his home to the store. He lived in the Acorn
housing complex in west Oakland, an area which was the
territory of the “Acorn” gang.
On the day of the shooting, defendant, then 16 years old, was
in a car heading over to Sycamore Street in west Oakland,
part of the turf of the “Ghost Town” gang. Armond
Turner was driving, and defendant was in the front seat with
Laquisha Williams. Williams was a crack dealer who at one
time headed the “Q Team, ” which was allied with
the “P Team.” Both “teams” were
subsets of the Ghost Town gang. Jason Jones, known as
“2-9” and an individual called “Duder,
” both of whom were affiliated with P Team, as well as
“three or four girls” were also in the car, which
belonged to Williams's sister. Defendant was also
affiliated with P Team.
Williams wanted to buy some marijuana, so the group headed
toward an Oakland neighborhood known as “Lower Bottoms,
” driving though the territory of the rival Acorn gang.
Williams testified that while they were in Acorn territory,
Jones said he saw a man he thought was “Birdman,
” who had knocked out his tooth while they were in
jail. Both Officer Valle and Williams testified they knew
Dionte Houff went by the name “Birdman, ” and
that he was associated with Acorn. Jones and defendant
convinced Turner, the driver, to turn the car around anyway.
Turner made a U-turn, drove back and parked in a lot by a
housing unit known as “Mohr 1.” Defendant and
Jones got out of the car and entered the housing complex.
They did not see Houff, but saw Johnson, who was walking from
his home at the Acorn housing unit toward Green Valley Foods.
Defendant fired multiple shots at Johnson, who fell to the
ground. Johnson died from massive hemorrhaging due to
multiple gunshot wounds.
After defendant and Jones left the car but before the
shooting, Williams sent Duder to find out why the two were
taking so much time in rival gang territory. She testified if
an individual is from Ghost Town, it would be dangerous to be
in Acorn. Williams then heard seven or eight shots fired, and
defendant, Duder and Jones came running back to the car.
Williams told police that when defendant got in the car, he
had a silver and black gun, but at trial she testified she
did not remember seeing a gun. Williams told police defendant
told her Jones “wanted to shoot” but defendant
“ran up on the dude.” At trial, Williams
testified what she told police was “[n]ot really”
At the time of the shooting, Mignon Perry was at her
mother's home in the Mohr 1 unit, directly across from
Johnson's home. Perry supported “Gas Team, ”
a subset of the Acorn gang. She knew Johnson well, and
thought of him as a relative. From her kitchen window, she
saw Johnson headed toward the Green Valley store, which she
knew was his “everyday routine.” She had just
opened the front door to ask him to pick something up for her
when she heard multiple gunshots and Johnson shouting he had
Perry's mother slammed the front door shut, and through
the window, Perry saw the shooter with a semiautomatic gun in
his hand. The shooter pointed his gun at Johnson, moved
closer, and aimed. After the shooting stopped, she opened the
door and stepped outside, where she saw Johnson on the ground
and the shooter running away. The shooter turned around when
Perry swore at him, giving her the opportunity to see
“the front of him, ” and make eye contact with
him. Perry saw no one else around. Perry stayed with Johnson,
who was still alive but could not speak, until police
Perry described the shooter to police as an African-American
male between the ages of 16 and 18 years old, 6 feet and 1
inch tall, wearing a white T-shirt and blue jeans and
carrying a silver handgun. She would not provide a written
statement at the time because the crowd that had gathered
told her not to say anything to police. She later learned
from “[p]eople from the neighborhood” that
Williams, Turner and defendant may have been involved in the
shooting. Perry was acquainted with Williams and Turner. She
logged on to Williams's MySpace page, where she saw a
photograph of Williams with Turner and defendant, and
recognized defendant as the shooter.
In an interview with police, Perry identified defendant in
the MySpace photo as the shooter. Police also showed her
still photos from surveillance videos taken at Mohr 1, in
which she was able to identify defendant, Williams, and
Williams's car. The surveillance videos show a man
identified as defendant leaving Williams's car first and
heading into the housing complex, followed by a second man.
About two minutes later, a youth got out of Williams's
car and ran in the direction defendant and Jones had gone.
Within 30 seconds, all three of them returned to the car, got
in, and drove away.
The day before the shooting, Williams hosted a memorial
barbecue for Anthony Dailey, known as “Active, ”
a Ghost Town gang member killed in 2007. She had T-shirts
made with Dailey's picture on them for the event.
Defendant, Jones and Dailey were close, and defendant was
wearing one of the memorial T-shirts on the day of the
Two days after the shooting, police arrested defendant and
Williams for the murder. Ultimately, defendant and Jones were
charged with murder. (Pen.Code, § 187, subd. (a).) The
amended information further alleged defendant personally and
intentionally discharged a firearm causing great bodily
injury and death. (Pen.Code, §§ 12022.5, subd. (a),
12022.53, subds. (b) & (d), 12022.7, subd. (a).)
Police found the gun used to kill Johnson a few weeks later,
in the course of investigating another shooting. Police
discovered defendant was a contact in the cell phone of the
individual from whom the gun was recovered.
A few months after his arrest, defendant escaped from the
juvenile facility where he was being held for trial. In his
cell, law enforcement found two handwritten letters addressed
to “Dear Lord” in which he admitted “taking
a human being ...
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