Coddington v. Martel

Decision Date03 May 2023
Docket Number2:01-cv-01290 KJM CKD
CourtU.S. District Court — Eastern District of California



Petitioner is a state prisoner under sentence of death. Pending before the Court are the parties' briefs on the application of 28 U.S.C. § 2254(d) to each claim in the operative amended petition (ECF Nos. 189, 209, 211)[1] and the parties' briefs on the application of procedural bars to several of Petitioner's claims. (ECF Nos. 99, 101, 102 131, 148.) After careful consideration of the parties' briefs and of the state court record, the undersigned concludes that Petitioner has satisfied the requirements of section 2254(d) for claims 47, 54, 82, 157, and 160(A); has shown that claim 7 is not procedurally barred; and has failed to satisfy the requirements of section 2254(d) for the remaining claims in the amended petition that were decided on the merits in state court. Respondent has shown that claim 58 is procedurally barred. Accordingly, the undersigned recommends that these federal proceedings continue on claims 47, 54, 82, 157, and 160(A), and the remaining claims of the Amended Petition be dismissed.


The following facts are derived from the California Supreme Court's July 3, 2000, opinion affirming the judgment. See People v. Coddington, 23 Cal.4th 529, 553-566 (2000). The state court's factual recitation is entitled to deference absent clear and convincing evidence to the contrary. Mejia v. Garcia, 534 F.3d 1036, 1039 n.1 (9th Cir. 2008). Here, neither party disputes the factual accuracy of the evidentiary record, as described in the California Supreme Court's direct appeal opinion. (See ECF No. 59 at 13-43; ECF No. 189 at 3 n.2; ECF No. 209 at 1-2.)

A. Prosecution Guilt Phase Evidence.

[Maybelle (Mabs)] Martin and [Dorothy] Walsh were murdered on May 16 1987, when they accompanied [minors] Alecia and Monica, as chaperones, to what all four believed was the filming of an antidrug video in which the girls were to appear.

The evidence established that Alecia and Monica were lured to a South Lake Tahoe mobile home appellant occupied on May 16 1987, for the ostensible purpose of acting in the antidrug video. Prior to May 16, 1987, appellant had contacted several modeling agencies in Reno in person and by telephone, sometimes using the name Mark Bloomfield, and stated that he was interested in finding teenage models for the video. The caller, in a May 14, 1987 call to the Barbizon Modeling School and Agency in Reno, used that name and said he was from Barrett or Parrot Communications in Georgia. The person who appeared at the Barbizon agency on May 15, identifying himself as Mark Bloomfield, had a business card bearing the word Parrot. He appeared nervous and in disguise. His hair was very black and was slicked back with a hair preparation, he wore a mustache, and had horn-rimmed glasses. The owner of the agency decided that she would not supply any models for him. The person who contacted Aviance Modeling Agency on May 13, 1987, had dark brown hair, a mustache, and wore glasses. He asked if the agent there knew where Avalon Modeling Agency was located. A man who identified himself as Mark Bloomfield had called the Avalon Agency on May 13, 1987, inquiring about teenage models for an antidrug campaign he was filming at Lake Tahoe.

In May 1987 appellant had also contacted Candice Smith, a woman employed as a blackjack dealer in Stateline, Nevada, who knew him as Gary Sarno, a daily player at the blackjack table. Evidence was presented that before he called Smith, appellant told another blackjack dealer that he understood that Smith had a “pretty cute little daughter.” Appellant telephoned Smith at 3:00 a.m. using the name John Parrot. He affected a Southern accent and said he was calling from Atlanta, Georgia. The caller said he had obtained her name from Avalon Modeling Agency and wanted to use her in a beer commercial. During the call he mentioned Smith's daughter. Smith said she was not interested and questioned the hour of the call. He said he had played at her table quite a bit. He knew quite a bit about her. She hung up. He called back at 9:00 a.m., again identifying himself as John Parrot, and explained that he just wanted her to know the call was legitimate. He offered to let her speak to his partner. A voice which she thought was the same person then said “hello.” Using the prior voice, he said he wanted to meet her for lunch. She hung up.

On Thursday evening, May 14, 1987, Mabs Martin, the owner of Showcase Models, set up an audition for appellant at her agency in Reno. Appellant, using the name Mark Bloomfield, conducted the audition. Witnesses described him as having really dark black hair that appeared to be dyed. He wore glasses and a dark pinstripe suit. Alecia, Monica, and eight to 10 other girls auditioned. They read from cue cards about drug abuse and walked around the studio. Ostensibly this audition was for a commercial to be shot at Lake Tahoe the following Saturday.

On Friday afternoon appellant auditioned girls at the Barbizon Modeling School. That evening appellant auditioned Jennifer K., another student at Showcase Models. When Jennifer parked she noticed a large, expensive car with a license that she believed read “TVTEEN.” After discussing the drug problem and looking at Jennifer's portfolio, appellant said they would be going to Regan Beach. He talked about the commercial and said he wanted her to bring very short shorts and a bathing suit. Jennifer knew that Martin planned to drive other girls to the site, but wanted to drive separately as she had to go to Sacramento on Saturday with her family. Martin and appellant opposed this. He wanted everyone to drive to Tahoe together and to meet at the Nugget casino. Martin arranged for Jennifer to meet Martin on Saturday morning and drive with Martin to the meeting. Martin called Jennifer later that evening and told Jennifer that appellant did not need Jennifer. His photographer said she was too old. Martin called Alecia and Monica, and told them that they had won the parts and would be paid $50 per hour.

Other circumstantial evidence that appellant planned both the murders of the chaperones and sexual molestation of the girls was offered. David Hacker testified that, in 1983, appellant had read aloud to David and his brother Allen from a booklet about assassinations which described various methods of killing people. One of the methods was using a clear nylon baggage tie, pulling it tight and walking off. Appellant said at the time, [O]nce you have it on, you can't get it off.” Evidence was presented that in February 1987, at the time appellant became the sublessee of the trailer, a person using the name Gary Sarno advertised in a local newspaper for used carpeting or mattress material needed for soundproofing. The telephone number of one person who had responded to the ad was found among appellant's possessions. Also, early in 1987 a South Lake Tahoe lumber company delivered plywood and studs to the trailer. In May 1987 a repairman entered the trailer and saw plywood, drywall, and insulation laid flat in the living room. A neighbor and the manager of the trailer park observed old and end pieces of carpet outside the trailer. An invoice revealed that the FLEX-CUF[2] ligatures that could not be released once cinched up, which appellant knew could be used to strangle Martin and Walsh, had been ordered on March 13, 1987. The People also offered exhibits consisting of various scraps of writing by appellant found in his trailer. Exhibit No. 186 included writings taken from other exhibits which asked how to call “them,” “how will they come,” “where will they meet,” how to get “them” to the trailer, and how to get “them” inside. To the last two, the response was “force.”

FN 2. FLEX-CUF is a proprietary name for a self-locking plastic restraint to be used on human subjects. It must be cut to be removed.

Although most of the evidence of preplanning related to luring and confining teenage girls, these documents also bore words that could reflect appellant's concern that the chaperones would have to be killed. On one response appellant had added “tarp,” which the prosecution argued was something in which a body could be wrapped. The prosecutor also argued to the jury that various disjointed words found on those papers reflected planning the murders and how to dispose of the bodies. Those words included “bag,” “sacks,” “case,” “burn,” “Rot,” “shallow”, “deep,” “won't eat through,” “chop,” and “where store” followed by “trunk,” “van,” “M.D,” “trailer,” and “motel.” Another series of words, which the prosecutor argued reflected preplanning of the murders, asked “what to do once inside” and responded “throat,” “zap,” “stomach,” “straps,” “cuffs,” and “backup 45.” Other notations suggested that appellant had also planned to leave distracting clues when he left and had planned what he would say if apprehended.

On Saturday, May 16, 1987, Martin told her son that she was going to drive to South Lake Tahoe with two girls to shoot an antidrug commercial and that her friend “Dottie” Walsh would accompany them. Martin owned a 1984 Chrysler Fifth Avenue automobile. Martin met Alecia and Monica and then picked up Dottie Walsh. They drove to the Nugget where Martin parked and the group waited in the restaurant. When appellant arrived, all five drove to appellant's trailer in Martin's car. The girls were told to go inside so they could change into shorts and freshen their makeup.

The two girls went in with Martin and Walsh. Appellant directed them to a room with wood walls on which were pictures of models. There was a bed in the room, but...

To continue reading

Request your trial

VLEX uses login cookies to provide you with a better browsing experience. If you click on 'Accept' or continue browsing this site we consider that you accept our cookie policy. ACCEPT