Taylor v. Davis, No. C-92-1627 EMC

CourtUnited States District Courts. 9th Circuit. United States District Courts. 9th Circuit. Northern District of California
Writing for the CourtEDWARD M. CHEN, United States District Judge
Citation164 F.Supp.3d 1147
Parties Freddie Lee Taylor, Petitioner, v. Ron Davis, Acting Warden of the California State Prison at San Quentin, Respondent.
Decision Date26 February 2016
Docket NumberNo. C-92-1627 EMC

164 F.Supp.3d 1147

Freddie Lee Taylor, Petitioner,
v.
Ron Davis, Acting Warden of the California State Prison at San Quentin, Respondent.

No. C-92-1627 EMC

United States District Court, N.D. California.

Signed February 26, 2016


164 F.Supp.3d 1150

Freddie Taylor, Tamal, CA, pro se.

Douglas R. Young, Farella Braun & Martel LLP, Nanci L. Clarence, Clarence & Snell LLP, Stuart Buckley, Steel Clarence & Buckley, San Francisco, CA, for Petitioner.

Sharon Wooden, CA State Attorney General's Office, San Francisco, CA, for Respondent.

DEATH PENALTY CASE

ORDER RE GUILT PHASE CLAIMS

EDWARD M. CHEN, United States District Judge

I. INTRODUCTION

Petitioner was convicted and sentenced to death for the robbery, attempted rape, and murder of an 84-year-old woman in January 1985. The California Supreme Court affirmed Petitioner's conviction and death sentence in 1990. People v. Taylor , 52 Cal.3d 719, 276 Cal.Rptr. 391, 801 P.2d 1142 (1990). Petitioner's state petition for writ of habeas corpus was denied in September 1990; his petition for a writ of certiorari was denied by the United States Supreme Court in October 1991.

Petitioner filed his first federal Petition for Writ of Habeas Corpus on July 10, 1995. His First Amended Petition was filed on April 30, 1997, and his second state petition was filed on June 27, 1997 with the California Supreme Court. The second state petition was denied on July 16, 2003. All of the claims were denied on the merits, and certain claims were also denied on state procedural grounds. Petitioner's Second Amended Petition was filed in federal court on March 12, 2004; a portion of that petition was found to be unexhausted. Petitioner's third state habeas, filed on September 12, 2005, was denied on September 11, 2013.

Having exhausted all of his claims in state court, Petitioner returned to this Court. Now before the Court are Petitioner's record-based guilt phase claims, specifically Claims 3(A), 12(C), 12(D) and 15(B). For the following reasons, Claims 12(C), 12(D) and 15(B) are DENIED . Claim 3(A) is GRANTED .

II. FACTUAL BACKGROUND1

Carmen Carlos Vasquez, an 84-year-old

164 F.Supp.3d 1151

widow, was found dead by her son on the afternoon of January 22, 1985. She was severely beaten, and the cause of death was determined to be traumatic head and neck injuries. Vasquez also had injuries consistent with rape, including a swollen and bruised genital area, and areas of hemorrhage in her vaginal wall. Additionally, her underpants were torn. The rape kit did not reveal semen, sperm or foreign pubic hairs.

The prosecution's evidence showed that the intruder had entered via a rear door at Vasquez's home, breaking the glass in the door. Petitioner's palm print was found on a piece of broken glass; his fingerprints were found on the inside latch of the screen door and on the doorjamb between the kitchen and the living room. The parties stipulated that Petitioner owned a pair of shoes within the class of shoes that could have left a shoe print in the house. Petitioner's grandmother lived across the street from Vasquez, and Petitioner visited his grandmother the evening before Vasquez's body was found.

The defense chose not to present evidence, instead arguing that the prosecution had not met its burden of proving guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. Defense counsel pointed to unidentified fingerprints and a footprint that had been found in the house, and argued that someone else could have been the killer.

Petitioner was convicted of first degree murder, robbery, attempted rape, and three counts of burglary. The jury also found true three prior conviction enhancements, and two special circumstances (murder while the defendant was engaged in the commission or attempted commission of a robbery, and murder while the defendant was engaged in the commission or attempted commission of a burglary). A third special circumstances allegation—that the murder was committed while defendant was engaged in the commission or attempted commission of attempted rape—was found not true. The same jury sentenced Petitioner to death.

III. STANDARD OF REVIEW

The habeas statute authorizes this Court to review a state court criminal conviction “on the ground that [the petitioner] is in custody in violation of the Constitution or laws or treaties of the United States.” 28 U.S.C. § 2254(a).2 The purpose of the writ of habeas corpus is to “protect[ ] individuals from unconstitutional convictions and...to guarantee the integrity of the criminal process by assuring that trials are fundamentally fair.” O'Neal v. McAninch , 513 U.S. 432, 442, 115 S.Ct. 992, 130 L.Ed.2d 947 (1995) ; see also Brecht v. Abrah a mson , 507 U.S. 619, 632–33, 113 S.Ct. 1710, 123 L.Ed.2d 353 (1993). Because federal habeas review delays finality and burdens state-federal relations, habeas doctrines must balance the protection from unlawful custody the writ offers against the “presumption of finality and legality” that attaches to a state-court conviction after direct review. See Brecht , 507 U.S. at 635–38, 113 S.Ct. 1710 ; McCleskey v. Zant , 499 U.S. 467, 490–91, 111 S.Ct. 1454, 113 L.Ed.2d 517 (1991). Accordingly, a federal habeas court must in most cases presume that state court findings of fact are correct. 28 U.S.C. § 2254(d). In contrast, purely legal questions and mixed questions of law and fact are reviewed de novo . See Swan v. Peterson , 6 F.3d 1373, 1379 (9th Cir.1993), cert. denied ,

164 F.Supp.3d 1152

513 U.S. 985, 115 S.Ct. 479, 130 L.Ed.2d 393 (1994). In such circumstances, and when the state court has made no factual findings regarding the claim at issue, petitioner bears the burden of proving, by a preponderance of the evidence, the facts necessary to support his claims. See, e.g. , Garlotte v. Fordice , 515 U.S. 39, 46–47, 115 S.Ct. 1948, 132 L.Ed.2d 36 (1995).

Even if a petitioner meets the requirements of Section 2254(d), habeas relief is warranted only if the constitutional error at issue had a substantial and injurious effect or influence in determining the jury's verdict. Brecht , 507 U.S. at 638, 113 S.Ct. 1710. Under this standard, petitioners “may obtain plenary review of their constitutional claims, but they are not entitled to habeas relief based on trial error unless they can establish that it resulted in ‘actual prejudice.’ ” Id. at 637, 113 S.Ct. 1710 (citing United States v. Lane , 474 U.S. 438, 439, 106 S.Ct. 725, 88 L.Ed.2d 814 (1986) ).

IV. DISCUSSION

A. Claim 3(A)

In Claim 3(A), Petitioner asserts that his right to due process was violated by the trial court's failure to sua sponte conduct a hearing on Petitioner's competence to stand trial. According to Petitioner, evidence available prior to and during trial raised doubts as to his competence, and should have triggered the trial judge to order a competency hearing.

A criminal defendant has a constitutional due process right not to be tried or convicted while incompetent to stand trial. This right assures that a defendant has: (1) a rational, as well as factual, understanding of the nature and object of the proceedings against him; (2) the present ability to consult with counsel with a reasonable degree of rational understanding; and (3) the present ability to aid in the preparation of his defense. Drope v. Missouri , 420 U.S. 162, 171–72, 95 S.Ct. 896, 43 L.Ed.2d 103 (1975). Protecting this right is “fundamental to an adversary system of justice.” Id. at 172, 95 S.Ct. 896. Due process requires a trial court to conduct a competency hearing if it has a “bona fide doubt” concerning the defendant's competence. Pate v. Robinson , 383 U.S. 375, 385, 86 S.Ct. 836, 15 L.Ed.2d 815 (1966) ; accord Maxwell v. Roe , 606 F.3d 561, 568 (9th Cir.2010).

Only the evidence that was actually before the state court may be considered by a federal habeas court considering a claim that the state court should have held a competency hearing. Maxwell , 606 F.3d at 566–68. A good faith doubt about a defendant's competence arises “if there is substantial evidence of incompetence.” Cacoperdo v. Demosthenes , 37 F.3d 504, 510 (9th Cir.1994), citing United States v. Lewis , 991 F.2d 524, 527 (9th Cir.1993). “ ‘[E]vidence of a defendant's irrational behavior, his demeanor at trial, and any prior medical opinion on competence to stand trial are all relevant in determining whether further inquiry is required’ and ‘one of these factors standing alone may, in some circumstances, be sufficient.’ ” Maxwell , 606 F.3d at 568 (quoting Drope , 420 U.S. at 180, 95 S.Ct. 896 ).

Petitioner contends that the following should have raised a “bona fide doubt” as to his competence and triggered a hearing: (1) his behavior pre-trial; (2) his behavior during trial; (3) his decisions prior to the penalty phase and; (4) his history of mental illness, including his stays in a mental health hospital, and his diagnoses of brain damage, paranoid schizophrenia, and borderline personality disorder.

1. Pre-Trial Behavior

To begin with, Petitioner argues that his pre-trial behavior should have created a

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2 practice notes
  • Weaver v. Chappell, 1:02-cv-05583-AWI-SAB
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 9th Circuit. United States District Courts. 9th Circuit. Eastern District of California
    • September 19, 2021
    ...Petitioner to be incompetent at the time of trial. (See 1SHCP Ex. 37 at ¶¶ 7, 38; see also ECF No. 215 at 27, citing Taylor v. Davis, 164 F.Supp.3d 1147, 1155 (N.D. Cal. 2016) (a diagnosis of paranoid schizophrenia coupled with suicide attempt and institutionalization clearly raises a bona ......
  • Robinson v. Hill, Case No. 2:13-cv-01311-TJH (KES)
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 9th Circuit. United States District Courts. 9th Circuit. Central District of California
    • April 30, 2019
    ...or hospitalizations, which is evidence that courts often find persuasive on federal habeas review. See, e.g., Taylor v. Davis, 164 F. Supp. 3d 1147, 1155 (N.D. Cal. 2016) ("[T]here was ample evidence that should have raised a bona fide doubt as to Petitioner's competence. Perhaps the most c......
2 cases
  • Weaver v. Chappell, 1:02-cv-05583-AWI-SAB
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 9th Circuit. United States District Courts. 9th Circuit. Eastern District of California
    • September 19, 2021
    ...Petitioner to be incompetent at the time of trial. (See 1SHCP Ex. 37 at ¶¶ 7, 38; see also ECF No. 215 at 27, citing Taylor v. Davis, 164 F.Supp.3d 1147, 1155 (N.D. Cal. 2016) (a diagnosis of paranoid schizophrenia coupled with suicide attempt and institutionalization clearly raises a bona ......
  • Robinson v. Hill, Case No. 2:13-cv-01311-TJH (KES)
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 9th Circuit. United States District Courts. 9th Circuit. Central District of California
    • April 30, 2019
    ...or hospitalizations, which is evidence that courts often find persuasive on federal habeas review. See, e.g., Taylor v. Davis, 164 F. Supp. 3d 1147, 1155 (N.D. Cal. 2016) ("[T]here was ample evidence that should have raised a bona fide doubt as to Petitioner's competence. Perhaps the most c......

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