281 F.3d 851 (9th Cir. 2001), 99-99019, Turner v. Calderon

Docket Nº:99-99019
Citation:281 F.3d 851
Case Date:June 14, 2001
Court:United States Courts of Appeals, Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit

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281 F.3d 851 (9th Cir. 2001)




No. 99-99019

United States Court of Appeals, Ninth Circuit

June 14, 2001

Argued and Submitted June 14, 2001--Pasadena, California

--Pasadena, California

February 12, 2002

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Appeal from the United States District Court for the Eastern District of California Robert E. Coyle, District Judge, Presiding D.C. No. San CV-F-91-00153-REC-P

Counsel: Katherine L. Hart, Law Offices of Katherine Hart, Fresno, California, for the petitioner-appellant. Charles Trudrung Taylor, Lang, Richert & Patch, Fresno, California, for the petitioner-appellant. Jeffrey D. Firestone, Deputy Attorney General, Office of the Attorney General, Sacramento, California, for the respondents-appellees.

Before: Kim McLane Wardlaw, Richard A. Paez, and Richard C. Tallman, Circuit Judges.

Wardlaw, Circuit Judge


In this capital case, Thaddaeus Louis Turner appeals the district court's denial of his petition for a Writ of Habeas Corpus. Seventeen years ago, Turner was convicted by a jury of first degree murder and robbery, and the special circumstance of robbery-murder was found to be true. He was sentenced to death on December 21, 1984. The California Supreme Court affirmed his conviction and sentence on April 26, 1990. Turner raises 21 claims in this habeas appeal, challenging both the guilt and penalty phases of his Merced County Superior Court trial. There is no question that Turner killed his victim -he admitted as much -or that the circumstances reveal the seamy underside of life and death in a central California farming community. Nevertheless, there is a serious question as to whether Page 862

Turner would be on death row today had his counsel, who told the court he was unprepared to proceed with the penalty phase, adequately investigated and presented the available mitigating evidence. This is a question we cannot answer on this undeveloped record, however, because the district court erroneously denied Turner an evidentiary hearing on this point.

I. Factual and Procedural History

We set out the facts as needed for our analysis. The California Supreme Court sets forth the facts in greater detail in its decision in People v. Turner. 50 Cal. 3d 668, 680-87 (1990). Thaddaeus Turner was imprisoned from June 1982 to September 1983 after pleading guilty to possession of stolen property. Upon his release from prison, he lived with his mother and younger sister and worked as a carpenter helper and laborer for Cross Construction earning eight to nine dollars per hour. Because he did not have a car, Turner usually rode the bus to work. While waiting at a bus stop one day, Turner met Roy Savage, who offered him a ride. During their twomile ride together, Turner described his carpentry work, and Savage offered Turner a job doing yard work. Savage called Turner the next week and the men agreed that Savage would pick up Turner at his home, fifty miles away, at 6:30 a.m. on Saturday, April 14, 1982.

When Savage arrived that morning, Turner was already "pretty gone," having smoked half a "sherm, " a marijuana cigarette laced with phencyclidine ("P.C.P."). Though ostensibly brought to Savage's home to work, Turner spent much of the day doing other things with Savage -touring the house and accompanying Savage to a store, as well as talking, lunching, drinking, listening to music, and buying clothes with Savage. In addition, at some point, Turner smoked the second half of his "sherm."

Turner subsequently attacked and killed Savage, stabbing him forty-four to forty-six times. The jury heard Turner's version of the events -that Savage sexually propositioned Turner prior to the attack and that Turner acted in response to the unwanted homosexual advances -and rejected it.

On Monday, April 16, 1984, Savage's second cousin Gregory Mayo, who often performed maintenance on Savage's rental houses and helped him with yard work, arrived at Savage's home to finish the yard work he had begun on April 13. He discovered Savage's body. He also noticed that Savage's Cadillac was missing. Mayo searched the house and observed that other items were missing, including two stereo sets, a tape cassette player, miniature speakers, wall statues, and clothing. He called the police.

Upon arriving at the scene, the police discovered that the telephone cords in the family room and upstairs bedroom were cut, but that there was no blood on them. The partially hidden telephone in the kitchen had not been disabled. The officers found Savage's body on the patio, lying face down, covered neatly by two towels and perhaps a sheet. Savage's head was resting on a pillow. Savage was fully clothed -his clothing had not been disturbed -and he had suffered multiple stab wounds. The rings he customarily wore were missing, but were later discovered under a rug near Savage's body. The thumb and finger were nearly severed off the hand where Savage normally wore his rings.

Pathologist Malcolm Murdoch was called to the scene to examine Savage's body and to determine the time and cause of death. Dr. Murdoch determined that Savage had multiple stab and "defense wounds." Dr. Page 863

Murdoch defined"defense wounds" as "wounds on [the victims'] hands from trying to protect themselves from being struck" by "a knife, a sharp edged weapon or blunt weapon, for that matter." The defense wounds were particularly evident on his right hand, where there was "a characteristic cut, a deep cut here between the thumb and the other forefingers, where you would cut yourself, you try to grab a knife or a knife hand." At the crime scene, Murdoch informed the investigating officer that he believed Savage had been stabbed with a buck knife because of the width and the depth of the stab wounds. Murdoch estimated at that time that Savage had been dead between twentyfour and forty-eight hours.

Later on Monday, April 16, two California Highway Patrol officers investigated a Cadillac that was creating a traffic hazard on Ventura Boulevard in Fresno. Turner, who had been outside the car when officers first approached, got into the Cadillac and drove off. After learning that the Cadillac had been reported stolen, the officers gave chase and followed Turner through a red light. Turner pulled over after the officers activated their siren. While handcuffing Turner, Officer Spence found a buck knife in a scabbard on the right side of Turner's belt. By this time, the radio dispatcher had informed the officers that the vehicle was possibly involved in a Merced murder.

The Cadillac was towed and searched pursuant to a warrant. A television from Savage's bedroom was found in the trunk, and the victim's wallet was found in the glove compartment. Blood was also found in the Cadillac's trunk, on the front seat, on the stolen television, on a piece of paper found in the car, on Turner's buck knife, and on the athletic shoes Turner was wearing at the time of his arrest. The blood samples taken from the television and knife were consistent with Savage's blood and inconsistent with Turner's. Upon arrest, Turner had only small scratches on his arms. He did not have any self-defense wounds or injuries.

Turner was charged with murder and with the special circumstance of killing in the commission or attempted commission of robbery. The information also alleged that Turner had been convicted of receiving stolen property on October 6, 1982, and had served a prison term. An amended information added the charge of robbery. After an eleven-day trial, on November 21, 1984, Turner was found guilty of first degree murder and the special circumstance of robbery-murder. On November 27, 1984, Turner was found guilty of robbery, the delay resulting from a miscommunication between the judge and jury over the completion of the verdict forms.

The California Supreme Court affirmed the judgment in its entirety on April 26, 1990. People v. Turner, 50 Cal. 3d 668 (1990). The petition for rehearing was denied on June 21, 1990. People v. Turner, No. S004658, 1990 Cal. LEXIS 2616 (Jun. 21, 1990). The United States Supreme Court denied certiorari on January 14, 1991. Turner v. California, 498 U.S. 1053 (1991).

II. Jurisdiction and Standard of Review

As a preliminary matter, because the Anti-Terrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act ("AEDPA") governs Turner's right to appeal, we grant a certificate of appealability, pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § § 2253, with respect to eight of Turner's claims and deny issuance as to the remainder. We affirm the district court's denial of the writ as to seven claims, and reverse and remand for an evidentiary hearing on Turner's claim of ineffective assistance of counsel at the penalty phase of his trial.

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The district court had jurisdiction to entertain Turner's Petition for a Writ of Habeas Corpus pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § § 2254. We have jurisdiction to hear Turner's appeal from the district court's denial of his petition pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § § 2253. We review the denial de novo. Bonin v. Calderon, 59 F.3d 815, 823 (9th Cir. 1995). The district court's findings of fact, however, are reviewed for clear error. Id. "Because of the limited scope of habeas corpus review, trial errors do not warrant relief...

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