AVILA v. GALAZA 0155149
|Party Name:||AVILA v. GALAZA|
|Case Date:||March 05, 2002|
|Court:||United States Courts of Appeals, Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit|
AVILA v. GALAZA 0155149
UNITED STATES COURT OF APPEALS
FOR THE NINTH CIRCUIT
JESUS AVILA, Petitioner-Appellant, v. GEORGE M. GALAZA, Warden; ATTORNEY GENERAL of the State of California, Respondents-Appellees.
No. 01-55149; D.C. No. CV 98-00336 AHS
Appeal from the United States District Court for the Central District of California
Alicemarie H. Stotler, District Judge, Presiding
Argued and Submitted March 5, 2002Pasadena, California
Filed July 22, 2002
Before: Harry Pregerson, Raymond C. Fisher, and Richard C. Tallman, Circuit Judges.
Opinion by Judge Pregerson
Nancy S. Coan, Kaufman & Logan, San Francisco, Califor-nia, for the appellant.
Juliet H. Swoboda, Deputy Attorney General, Los Angeles, California, for the appellees.
PREGERSON, Circuit Judge:
Jesus Avila ("Jesus") appeals the district courts denial of his federal habeas corpus petition. Jesus was convicted in the Superior Court of Los Angeles County, California, of attempted murder with the use of a firearm and sentenced to life plus eight years. Jesus asserts, among other claims in his state and federal habeas petitions, that he received ineffective assistance of trial counsel because his attorney failed to investigate or introduce at trial any evidence that Jesuss brother, Ernesto Avila ("Ernesto"), was the shooter. Following an evidentiary hearing in state court ("state habeas hearing"), Jesuss state habeas petition was denied. The district court adopted a magistrate judges recommendation to deny Jesuss federal habeas petition. We hold that Jesuss trial counsel provided ineffective assistance of counsel because he failed to investigate and introduce evidence that would have raised a reasonable doubt about Jesuss guilt, and therefore reverse and remand this case to the district court with directions to issue the writ of habeas corpus unless California retries the defendant within 90 days.1
On August 19, 1990, Jesus, Ernesto, and thirty or forty other men and women attended a baby shower at Ham Park, which covers two square blocks in Lynwood, California. The partygoers congregated around a barbecue area and picnic tables in the northwest section of the park. Jesus and Ernesto, and several of the male attendees at the baby shower, were associated with the Young Crowd gang.
That afternoon, a group of black men, including Demetrius Kidd ("Kidd") and Romel Johnson ("Johnson"), entered the park and walked past the baby shower. Jesus and a male companion2 approached the black men and had a friendly conversation. The black men admired the tattoos on Jesus and his companion, and both Jesus and his companion lifted their tank tops to display large tattoos on their backs. Jesus then offered to go get the person who did the tattoos. What happened next was disputed at trial.
Kidd and Johnson testified for the prosecution that Jesus returned five or ten minutes later with a large group of men and women. The men told Kidd and his friends to leave the
1We review a district courts decision to deny a petition for writ of habeas corpus de novo. See Miles v. Prunty, 187 F.3d 1104, 1105 (9th Cir. 1999). 2Ernesto testified at the state habeas hearing that he was the person who accompanied Jesus.
park, and then started kicking and punching them. Kidd and Johnson both testified that they saw Jesus move away from the crowd as the fighting began and stand near a group of women. Johnson testified that, as he was fighting with members of the Young Crowd gang, he observed Jesus get what looked like a gun from a crack in the wall running along the western edge of the park, near where the women were standing. Kidd and Johnson and one or two of their friends then began running away from the fight, toward center field of a baseball field in the southern half of the park. Kidd and John-son testified that they looked back to see Jesus running toward them. Kidd then saw Jesus shoot a gun at them. The men continued running through the baseball field and toward Wright Road, which borders the eastern edge of the park. Kidd was shot behind his left ear when he was running across the street.
Jesus testified, in his own defense, that he was near the barbecue area of the park with his girlfriend, Joanna Espinoza ("Joanna"), when the shooting occurred. Jesus testified consistent with Kidds and Johnsons testimony that he had a friendly conversation with a group of black men about his tattoos, and offered to get the person who did his tattoos. Jesus testified that the men declined Jesuss offer and Jesus returned to the baby shower to get some food. Soon thereafter, Jesus saw the black men spray painting gang signs on the wall at the western edge of the park and then saw a fight break out between a group of Young Crowd gang members and the black men. Jesus testified that he attempted, unsuccessfully, to break up the fight, and then walked toward Joanna, who was near the barbecue area. When Jesus heard shots, he dove to the ground with Joanna and Elizabeth Luis ("Elizabeth"), for whom the baby shower was held.
Three witnesses corroborated Jesuss testimony at trial. Elizabeth testified that she was with Jesus and Joanna when the shooting started and that the three of them dove to the ground. Blanca Montoya ("Blanca") Ernestos girlfriend and another attendee of the baby shower testified that she saw Jesus, Joanna, and Elizabeth getting up from the ground immediately after the shooting occurred. Alfredo Sanchez ("Alfredo") who did not know Jesus and was not at the baby shower but recognized Jesus from the neighborhood testified that he was in a house near the park when he heard shooting. When Alfredo looked outside the house, he saw Jesus covering two women on the ground.
B. Jesuss Representation
Jesus was initially represented by George Denny ("Denny"), who was representing Jesuss brother, Ernesto, in another matter at the time. Shortly after Jesus was arrested, at least three people told Dennys investigator, David Lynn ("Lynn"), that it was Ernesto, not Jesus, who shot Kidd.3 Shortly after the shooting, Ernesto met with Denny and Lynn and confessed that he, not Jesus, was the shooter. Attorney Denny withdrew from Jesuss case because he believed that Ernestos confession created a conflict of interest.
Attorney Ted Yamamoto ("Yamamoto") was in the courtroom when Denny recused himself and was appointed by the court to represent Jesus. Denny "indicated" to Yamamoto that he recused himself from Jesuss case because he was "representing someone that . . . might have been the shooter." At the state habeas hearing, Yamamoto explained that, based on this conversation, he thought that Denny "knew or had some idea who the real shooter was," and "thought possibly the investigation might start with discovering that persons identity." Denny did not provide Yamamoto with information about the witnesses who had spoken to Dennys investigator, Lynn, and Yamamoto did not seek any information from Denny about the identity of the shooter.
3Two of these witnesses, Angela Espinoza and Marcella Riboni, testified at the state habeas hearing that they told Lynn that they saw Ernesto shoot Kidd. A third witness, Joanna Espinoza, testified at the state habeas hearing that she told Lynn that Ernesto had admitted to her that he was the shooter.
Before trial, Yamamoto became convinced that Ernesto was the shooter. Although Yamamoto testified at the state habeas hearing that "a series of events" before trial caused him to conclude that Ernesto was the shooter, one conversation in particular solidified this conclusion. After a pretrial conference, Yamamoto told Ernestos and Jesuss mother, Christina Avila ("Christina"), that he believed Jesus was innocent and asked Christina to "ask around the neighborhood or find out who is the shooter [because] . . . it would give us somewhere to go." Yamamoto testified that Christina "looked somewhat dejected and looked back up at [Yamamoto] very distraught, and she said, I think I know, but it would be trading one for the other. " (Emphasis added). Yamamoto was so confident that Ernesto was the shooter that he told the prosecution that Ernesto was probably the shooter during plea negotiations.
Despite Yamamotos belief that Ernesto was the shooter, he conducted no investigation to substantiate this belief and never instructed his investigator, Kazuo Sakamoto ("Sakamoto"), to seek out evidence implicating Ernesto. During the state habeas hearing, Yamamoto explained that he did not investigate Ernestos involvement in the shooting because he assumed that Jesus and Christina, Jesuss mother, did not want him to implicate Ernesto at trial. As Yamamoto testified:
I was pretty sure at some point during that trial or prior to the trial that Ernesto was the real shooter. In my omission to act, that is to do something about it, I think I was can be categorized as being incompetent . . . . [Jesus] never actually expressed to me a desire for me to restrain myself from going after Ernesto, but at the same time I assumed that thats what he wanted. I also assumed that his mother didnt want me to, because I can still see her face when she told me that Id be trading one for the other, and because of that fact alone, I think again in retrospect, maybe I should have asked to be relieved.
(Emphasis added). Yamamoto also explained that he did not "aggressively" investigate whether Ernesto was the shooter because he "entertained a strong belief" that Ernesto was going to admit that he was the shooter before or during trial. Yamamoto testified:
As the trial went on, I would always turn around when someone came in the courtroom thinking that Ernesto was going to say stop this whole, you know, thing, and/or I was going to get a phone call during the course of the trial one evening . . . . That was in the back of my mind. Not that I planned for something like that to happen . . . . [But] I believed it...
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