Gregory v. Chavez

Decision Date07 June 2011
Docket Number1:98-cv-06521 LJO MJS HC
PartiesEDWIN GREGORY, Petitioner, v. FRANK X. CHAVEZ, Warden, Respondent.
CourtU.S. District Court — Eastern District of California

FINDINGS AND RECOMMENDATION REGARDING PETITION FOR WRIT OF HABEAS CORPUS

I. FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND ..................................................-5-
A. Procedural Summary .............................................................................................-5-
B. Statement of Facts Regarding the Offense, Guilty Plea, and Insanity Trial ............-6-
C. Petitioner's Post-Conviction Filings ..........................................................................-19-
1. Direct Appeal ....................................................................................................-19-
2. First Round of State Habeas Review..................................................-19-
3. Federal Habeas Review Initiated ..................................................-20-
4. Further State Habeas Petitions ..................................................-21-
5. Second Round of State Habeas Review .................................................. -22-
6. Third Round of State Habeas Review .................................................. -24-
7. Fourth Round of State Habeas Review ..................................................-24-
8. Petitioner's Federal Habeas Petition Pursued ..................................................-25-
II. JURISDICTION ..................................................-26-
III. LEGAL STANDARD OF REVIEW..................................................-26-
A. Contrary to or an Unreasonable Application of Federal Law..............................-27-
B. Review of State Decisions.................................................. -28-
C. Prejudicial Impact of Constitutional Error ..................................................-29-
IV. REVIEW OF PETITION..................................................-29-
A. Ground One - Absence From Pretrial Conference .................................................. -29-
1. Factual Background .................................................. -30-
2. State Review of the Claim ..................................................-31-
3. Right To Be Present..................................................-31-
4. Analysis of Claim ..................................................-33-
B. Ground Two - Voluntariness of Petitioner's No Contest Plea ..................-35-
1. Asserted Invalidity of Petitioner's Plea Based on Petitioner's Lack of Understanding of the Terms and Consequences of the Plea due to the Combined Effects of his Medical Illness and Medications .....................-35-
a. Factual Background .................................................. -36-
(1) Summary of Events Leading to No Contest Plea . . .. -36-
(2) Petitioner and Petitioner's Family's Observations . . . -36-
(3) Defense Counsel's Observations ........................................ -38-
(4) Medical Expert's Observations .................................................. -38-
b. State Review .................................................. -40-
c. Voluntariness of Plea .................................................. -41-
d. Competence to Stand Trial, Plead Guilty, and Represent Oneself ...... -43-
e. Analysis of Claim .................................................. -44-
2. Asserted Invalidity of Petitioner's Plea Based on Trial Counsel's Failure to Advise Petitioner of the Lesser Included Offense of Involuntary Manslaughter ....... -53-
a. Factual Background .................................................. -53-
b. State Review .................................................. -55-
c. Lack of Advice During Plea Proceeding .................................................. -57-
d. Analysis of Claim .................................................. -60-
3. Asserted Invalidity of Petitioner's Plea Based on Trial Counsel's Failure to Advise Petitioner that an Insanity Defense was not Likely to Succeed .................................................. -63-
a. Factual Background .................................................. -63-
b. State Review .................................................. -64-
c. Right to Be Advised of the Consequences of a Plea ......................................-66-
d. Analysis of Claim .................................................. -66-
C. Ground Three - Ineffective Assistance of Counsel; Failure to ProvideExculpatory Evidence to Expert Witnesses and Jury ................. -68-
1. Factual Background ................. -69-
a. Statements of Delusions Made to Family Members ................. -69-
b. Petitioners Handwritten Notes ................. -70-
c. Evidence that the Business Meeting was Positive ................. -70-
d. Evidence from Law Enforcement Officers ................. -70-
e. Evidence that Jail Nurse Ybarra Overstated His Observations of Petitioner ................. -71-
f. Evidence Allegedly Not Provided to Professor Morse ................. -72-
2. State Review ................. -76-
3. Ineffective Assistance of Counsel ................. -78-
4. Analysis of Claim ................. -80-
a. Statements of Delusions Made to Family Members ................. -80-
b. Petitioners Handwritten Notes ................. -87-
c. Evidence that the Business Meeting was Positive ................. -88-
d. Evidence from Law Enforcement Officers ................. -89-
e. Evidence that Jail Nurse Ybarra Overstated His Observations of Petitioner ................. -89-
D. Ground Four - Ineffective Assistance of Counsel; Failure to Rebut Testimony of Professor Morse ................. -89-
1. Factual Background ................. -89-
2. State Review of the Claim ................. -90-
3. Ineffective Assistance of Counsel ................. -91-
4. Analysis of Claim ................. -92-
E. Ground Five - Ineffective Assistance of Counsel In Failing to Move for Change of Venue ................. -93-
1. Factual Background ................. -93-
2. State Review of the Claim ................. -93-
3. Change of Venue ................. -94-
4. Analysis of Claim ................. -95-
F. Ground Six - The Trial Court's Failure to Sua Sponte Order a Change of Venue Violates Due Process ................. -96-
1. Factual Background ................. -96-
2. State Review of the Claim ................. -97-
3. Petitioner's Claim is Barred Under Teague v. Lane ................. -97-
G. Ground Seven - Petitioner's Due Process Rights Were Violated By Taking Petitioner's Plea and Conducting Trial While Incompetent ................. -99-
1. Factual Background ................. -99-
2. State Review of the Claim ................. -100-
a. First Round of State Habeas Review ................. -100-
b. Second Round of State Habeas Review ................. -100-
c. Third Round of State Habeas Review ................. -103-
d. Fourth Round of State Habeas Review ................. -104-
3. Judicial Estoppel ................. -105-
a. Clear Inconsistences in Petitioner's Positions ................. -106-
b. Success in Persuading a Court to Accept the Earlier Position..... -106-
c. Unfair Advantage ................. -107-
4. State Review of Petitioner's Claim ................. -107-
5. Analysis of Petitioner's Competency Claim ................. -109-
6. Petitioner's Delay in Bringing Competency Claim ................. -110-
H. Ground Eight - Cumulative Prejudice of Multiple Errors ................. -112-
1. State Review of the Claim ................. -112-
2. Analysis of Claim ................. -112-
V. APPROPRIATE RELIEF .................................. -113-
VI. CONCLUSION .................................. -115-
VII. RECOMMENDATION ................. -115-

Petitioner is a state prisoner proceeding with a petition for writ of habeas corpus pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254. Petitioner is represented in this action by Eric S. Multhaup, Esq. Respondent, Frank X. Chavez, as warden of Sierra Conservation Center, is hereby substituted as the proper named respondent pursuant to Rule 25(d) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. Respondent is represented by Janis S. McLean, Esq. of the California State Attorney General's Office.

Based upon the findings and analysis below, THIS COURT RECOMMENDS THAT: Petitioner's writ of habeas corpus be GRANTED on the ground that the totality of circumstances show that his no contest plea was not knowingly and voluntarily entered and hence was invalid; that judgment be reserved on the issues of (1) whether defense counsel's failure to inform Petitioner of his chances of success in presenting an insanity defense constitutes a basis for relief and (2) whether Petitioner was competent at the time of trial; and, that relief be denied on all other grounds asserted in Petitioner's petition.

I. FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND1
A. Procedural Summary

Petitioner is currently in the custody of the California Department of Corrections pursuant to a judgment of the Superior Court of California, County of Tulare, entered on July 8, 1994. On May 16, 1994, Petitioner entered a plea of nolo contendre to second degree murder with a firearm enhancement. A jury trial was then commenced to determine if Petitioner was sane at the time of the crime. The jury found Petitioner sane, and he was sentenced to eighteen (18) years to life in state prison.

Petitioner filed a round of direct appeals and a first round of collateral appeals in the form of petitions for habeas corpus in the state courts during the period between 1995 through 1998. The appeals were all denied. On December 22, 1998, Petitioner filed the instant petition with the United States District Court; however, this matter was stayed on August 17, 2000,pending the outcome of Petitioner's subsequent rounds of petitions for writ of habeas corpus in the state courts. (Pet., Doc. No. 12 ; Order Staying Case, Doc. No. 41, ECF No. 42.)

Petitioner filed a second round of habeas corpus petitions and on December 4, 2000 the Tulare County Superior Court granted the writ and vacated Petitioner's guilty plea....

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