Williams v. Cavazos, No. 07–56127.

CourtUnited States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (9th Circuit)
Writing for the CourtOPINION
Citation646 F.3d 626
PartiesTara Sheneva WILLIAMS, Petitioner–Appellant,v.Javier CAVAZOS, Acting Warden of the Central California Women's Facility in Chowchilla, California, Respondent–Appellee.
Docket NumberNo. 07–56127.
Decision Date23 May 2011

646 F.3d 626
11 Cal.
Daily Op. Serv. 6122

Tara Sheneva WILLIAMS, Petitioner–Appellant,
v.
Javier CAVAZOS, Acting Warden of the Central California Women's Facility in Chowchilla, California, Respondent–Appellee.

No. 07–56127.

United States Court of Appeals, Ninth Circuit.

Argued and Submitted Aug. 2, 2010.Filed May 23, 2011.


[646 F.3d 629]

Kurt David Hermansen, San Diego, CA, for the petitioner-appellant.

[646 F.3d 630]

Stephanie C. Brenan, Deputy Attorney General, Los Angeles, CA, for the respondent-appellee.Appeal from the United States District Court for the Central District of California, George H. Wu, District Judge, Presiding. D.C. No. CV–03–02691–GW.Before: ALEX KOZINSKI, Chief Judge, STEPHEN REINHARDT, Circuit Judge, and RONALD M. WHYTE, Senior District Judge.*

OPINION
REINHARDT, Circuit Judge:

Consider two scenes:

Scene One

Juror # 8: I just want to talk.

Juror # 7: Well, what's there to talk about? Eleven men in here think he's guilty. No one had to think twice about it except you.

Juror # 10: I want to ask you something: do you believe his story?

Juror # 8: I don't know whether I believe it or not—maybe I don't.

Juror # 7: So how come you vote not guilty?

Juror # 8: Well, there were eleven votes for guilty. It's not easy to raise my hand and send a boy off to die without talking about it first.... We're talking about somebody's life here. We can't decide in five minutes. Supposin' we're wrong.

Scene Two

Juror # 6: I said ... this is a very important case and we should be very convinced that if the defendant is found guilty that it is beyond a reasonable doubt....

Foreman: We have spent some time now trying to understand the reasonable basis for his doubt, and I personally did not yet understand it.... I would say that two-thirds of the jurors have tried to persuade—have actively tried to persuade ... him that his current view is incorrect.

...

Juror # 4: Well, I guess he believes from the evidence that he's seen that there hasn't been sufficient proof....

Juror # 5: I think the question may have been raised: “Do you have a political agenda?” I think [it] might have been in the heat of the argument, because it does get heated back and forth from a bunch of different people. It may have been said.

...

Juror # 9: Well, he said this is a serious thing, and I don't really feel that there is enough cause for—or something to that effect.... What he said was, “I wouldn't want to take anyone's freedom away, unless,” you know, “I was sure that certain things took place.”....

The first passage above is dialogue from the classic Academy Award-winning 1957 film, Twelve Angry Men, in which Henry Fonda plays a holdout juror who, over two tense hours, convinces his eleven peers that the defendant in a murder trial should be acquitted. The second excerpt comes from the transcript of proceedings during the petitioner's murder trial, in which each juror was examined and cross-examined, seriatim and mid-deliberation, after it was reported that one juror was taking a different

[646 F.3d 631]

view from the others. In the end, the trial court dismissed that juror on the ground that he was “biased” against the prosecution. With an alternate juror in place, the jury returned a guilty verdict.

Twelve Angry Men made for great drama because it violated the sanctity of the jury's secret deliberations by allowing the audience into the jury room. It was, of course, a work of fiction. We are presented here with a similar intrusion into heated deliberations involving a holdout juror, except that this one took place in open court, and it resulted in a woman being convicted and sentenced to life imprisonment after the holdout was dismissed. Under the precedent that existed when petitioner's conviction became final (and exists today as well), the trial court's actions violated the petitioner's Sixth Amendment rights, as incorporated with respect to the states under the Fourteenth Amendment. We therefore conclude that petitioner is in custody in violation of the Constitution, reverse the judgment of the district court, and remand with instructions to grant the writ.

I. Background
A. The Offense

One afternoon in October 1993, petitioner Tara Sheneva Williams agreed to drive around two friends, Carde Taylor and Schantel W., to case out stores for a potential robbery later that night. The third or fourth store they visited was a liquor store, which Taylor and Schantel entered while Williams waited in the car. The two emerged a few seconds later, but then Taylor went back in, pointed a gun at the proprietor and, in the course of emptying the cash register, shot and killed him. After being arrested in 1998 and initially denying knowledge of the crime, Taylor and Williams both admitted to being present and that Taylor had killed the owner. Williams told the police that, while she knew Taylor was armed, there had never been a plan to rob the store during daylight hours.

Taylor and Williams were each charged with special circumstances murder and a firearm enhancement, and they were tried separately. After a five-day jury trial, Williams was found guilty of murder with special circumstances as charged and the firearm enhancement. The jury found that a handgun was used in the commission of the crime. She was later sentenced to life imprisonment without the possibility of parole.1

B. The Jury Deliberations

Williams was convicted only after the trial court dismissed a known holdout juror and replaced him with an alternate. This dismissal, and the events leading up to it, form the basis of her claim for habeas relief.

Two days after the jurors began deliberations, the jury foreman delivered two notes to the trial court. The first read:

Relative to jury instruction 17.[41].1,2 I wish to inform you that we have one

[646 F.3d 632]

juror who: 1) has expressed an intention to disregard the law ... and 2) has expressed concern relative to the severity of the charge (1st degree murder).

The second asked:

Is it legally permissible for a juror to interpret page 32 of the jury instructions to mean that the conspiracy should involve a plan to commit a specific robbery, rather than a general plan to commit robberies in the future?

The trial court called the jury into the courtroom and informed its members that the answer to the second question was “no.” All the jurors except for the foreman were asked to leave, and the court proceeded to question him regarding the first note.

1. Jury Foreman (Juror No. 8)

The foreman first confirmed that no juror had “expressed any concern about punishment or the punishment that one might expect to flow from a certain conviction,” which the jury had been expressly instructed it could not do. When asked what was meant by the phrase “has expressed concern relative to the severity of the charge,” the foreman answered that the juror in question “has probably ten or fifteen times in our conversations so far expressed that ... he doesn't believe that there's sufficient evidence—.” At this point, the court interrupted the foreman and informed him that he could not speak to “how jurors view the evidence” but could only express concern with whether there was “misconduct.” As an example of misconduct, the court described a situation where a juror “says something like, I can't convict anybody of first degree murder because of the punishment or something like that, or I had a cousin in a similar situation, and I wouldn't want the person here to suffer what, you know, my cousin went through, something like that.” The foreman then responded: “I think it's halfway to that, and so I think that one's a little iffy, and I think your answer to the first part may be sufficient to resolve our concern at this time.”

Upon the People's motion, and over Williams's objection, the court halted jury deliberations and questioned the foreman again the next day. According to the foreman, on the first day of deliberations, Juror No. 6 had brought up historical instances “when juries have refused to follow the law,” such as in pre-Civil War prosecutions for harboring fugitive slaves and during the Vietnam War era for burning draft cards. The foreman expressed his opinion that Juror No. 6 had “a belief ... that [there] is a civic responsibility to—there's a name for this—civil disobedience. There's a responsibility to be disobedient in that case.” However, the foreman testified that when he had asked Juror No. 6 explicitly “if that's what was going on here,” the juror answered “no.”

The foreman testified that Juror No. 6 had expressed his view that first degree murder was a severe charge which affected the “way he interprets the evidence and the standard he uses for doubt.” Juror No. 6, according to the foreman, had made a “fairly clear statement ... that connects the severity of the charge with—explicitly of first degree murder with his need for a

[646 F.3d 633]

higher standard.” The foreman conceded that Juror No. 6 had not explicitly expressed an unwillingness to follow the law or the jury instructions on the standard of proof. He also agreed that the juror had attempted to explain “the basis for his reasonable doubt” to the other jurors many times and had actively engaged in “intellectual conversation with them, listening to their questions, trying to answer them.”

2. Juror No. 6

The court called in Juror No. 6 for questioning. Juror No. 6 testified that no juror had indicated being motivated by the issue of possible punishment in the case, and that no juror had even used the word “punishment.” He denied using a higher burden of proof based on the severity of the first degree murder charge, and stated, “I think that the same burden of proof should be used for any criminal offense, higher than a civil trial, but all criminal trials should have—whether it's first degree murder or not should have the same burden of proof.” He recalled the court's instruction regarding what constituted proof beyond a reasonable doubt, and testified that he agreed to follow...

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  • Cannedy v. Adams, No. 09–56902.
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (9th Circuit)
    • February 7, 2013
    ...the effect of the California Supreme Court's summary denial of an original petition for habeas corpus. [706 F.3d 1158]Williams v. Cavazos, 646 F.3d 626, 635 (9th Cir.2011), cert granted,––– U.S. ––––, 132 S.Ct. 1088, 181 L.Ed.2d 806 (2012). “The question in Richter arose because state habea......
  • Roberts v. Warden, San Quentin State Prison, No. CIV S-93-0254 GEB DAD
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 9th Circuit. United States District Courts. 9th Circuit. Eastern District of California
    • June 1, 2012
    ...additional support for petitioner's argument that he has presented a colorable claim for relief in this regard. In Williams v. Cavazos, 646 F.3d 626 (9th Cir. 2011), cert. granted, ___ U.S. ___, 132 S. Ct. 1088 (2012),56 the federal habeas court considered a state trial judge's dismissal of......
  • Jensen v. Hernandez, No. CIV S–09–0512 DAD P.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 9th Circuit. United States District Courts. 9th Circuit. Eastern District of California
    • March 30, 2012
    ...4. The United States Supreme Court has recently granted certiorari in a case apparently to consider this issue. See Williams v. Cavazos, 646 F.3d 626, 639–41 (9th Cir.2011), cert. granted in part,––– U.S. ––––, 132 S.Ct. 1088, 181 L.Ed.2d 806 (2012). 5.See Faretta v. California, 422 U.S. 80......
  • Carrillo v. Biter, 1:09-cv-01331-AWI-BAM-HC
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 9th Circuit. United States District Courts. 9th Circuit. Eastern District of California
    • February 3, 2012
    ...does not prohibit the mid-deliberation dismissal of jurors who are unable to serve or who engage in misconduct. Williams v. Cavazos, 646 F.3d 626, 642 (9th Cir. 2011), petition for cert. filed 80 BNA USLW 3282 (Oct. 10, 2011) (No. 11-465) (citing Miller v. Stagner, 757 F.2d 988 (9th Cir.), ......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
110 cases
  • Cannedy v. Adams, No. 09–56902.
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (9th Circuit)
    • February 7, 2013
    ...the effect of the California Supreme Court's summary denial of an original petition for habeas corpus. [706 F.3d 1158]Williams v. Cavazos, 646 F.3d 626, 635 (9th Cir.2011), cert granted,––– U.S. ––––, 132 S.Ct. 1088, 181 L.Ed.2d 806 (2012). “The question in Richter arose because state habea......
  • Roberts v. Warden, San Quentin State Prison, No. CIV S-93-0254 GEB DAD
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 9th Circuit. United States District Courts. 9th Circuit. Eastern District of California
    • June 1, 2012
    ...additional support for petitioner's argument that he has presented a colorable claim for relief in this regard. In Williams v. Cavazos, 646 F.3d 626 (9th Cir. 2011), cert. granted, ___ U.S. ___, 132 S. Ct. 1088 (2012),56 the federal habeas court considered a state trial judge's dismissal of......
  • Jensen v. Hernandez, No. CIV S–09–0512 DAD P.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 9th Circuit. United States District Courts. 9th Circuit. Eastern District of California
    • March 30, 2012
    ...4. The United States Supreme Court has recently granted certiorari in a case apparently to consider this issue. See Williams v. Cavazos, 646 F.3d 626, 639–41 (9th Cir.2011), cert. granted in part,––– U.S. ––––, 132 S.Ct. 1088, 181 L.Ed.2d 806 (2012). 5.See Faretta v. California, 422 U.S. 80......
  • Carrillo v. Biter, 1:09-cv-01331-AWI-BAM-HC
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 9th Circuit. United States District Courts. 9th Circuit. Eastern District of California
    • February 3, 2012
    ...does not prohibit the mid-deliberation dismissal of jurors who are unable to serve or who engage in misconduct. Williams v. Cavazos, 646 F.3d 626, 642 (9th Cir. 2011), petition for cert. filed 80 BNA USLW 3282 (Oct. 10, 2011) (No. 11-465) (citing Miller v. Stagner, 757 F.2d 988 (9th Cir.), ......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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