Williams v. Vasquez, CV-F-89-160-REC-P.

CourtUnited States District Courts. 9th Circuit. United States District Courts. 9th Circuit. Eastern District of California
Citation817 F. Supp. 1443
Decision Date01 April 1993
Docket NumberNo. CV-F-89-160-REC-P.,CV-F-89-160-REC-P.
PartiesKeith Daniel WILLIAMS, Petitioner, v. Daniel VASQUEZ, Warden; and the Attorney General for the State of California, Respondents.

817 F. Supp. 1443

Keith Daniel WILLIAMS, Petitioner,
Daniel VASQUEZ, Warden; and the Attorney General for the State of California, Respondents.

No. CV-F-89-160-REC-P.

United States District Court, E.D. California.

February 9, 1993.

As Amended April 1, 1993.

817 F. Supp. 1444
817 F. Supp. 1445
817 F. Supp. 1446
817 F. Supp. 1447
817 F. Supp. 1448
817 F. Supp. 1449
817 F. Supp. 1450
817 F. Supp. 1451
817 F. Supp. 1452
J. Robert Jibson, California State Atty. Gen., Asst. Deputy Atty. Gen., Sacramento, CA, for respondents

David A. Nickerson, Mazer and Nickerson, San Francisco, CA, for petitioner.



COYLE, Chief Judge.

I. Introduction

Petitioner, Keith Daniel Williams, filed an amended petition for a writ of habeas corpus pursuant to 28 U.S.C. ? 2254. Petitioner challenges his state court conviction on three counts of first degree murder with special circumstances, and his death sentence.1 Petitioner sets forth nineteen claims of alleged federal constitutional error which he contends require a reversal of his guilt, sanity, and/or penalty phase verdicts.

Petitioner requested an evidentiary hearing on Claims A, B, C, E, F, G, H, and I. The court granted and conducted an evidentiary hearing on Claim A.2

After careful review of each claim presented in the amended petition and all supporting documentation, including the entire state court record, all papers filed by the parties, and the evidence presented at the evidentiary hearing, the court finds that no claim submitted by Petitioner warrants federal habeas relief. Accordingly, the amended petition for a writ of habeas corpus is denied as set forth herein.

II. Facts3

This case involves the shooting deaths of Lourdes Meza (Meza), Miguel Vargas (M. Vargas), and Salvador Vargas (S. Vargas) by Petitioner. The events leading up to the killings began on Friday, October 6, 1978, when Petitioner met Meza and M. Vargas at a yard sale at the Galt home of Robert Tyson (Tyson) and Karen Tyson (K. Tyson).

At the yard sale, Petitioner, having noticed and admired M. Vargas' car, expressed a desire to purchase it. Petitioner subsequently obtained M. Vargas' permission to test drive the car. After the test drive, Petitioner reiterated his interest in buying the car.

817 F. Supp. 1453
The sale, however, was not consummated that day

While subsequently informing the Tysons of his intent to purchase the vehicle, Petitioner commented that he had discovered the automobile registration in the glove box during his test drive. He surmised that it would be easy to obtain possession of the car and registration by loading Meza and M. Vargas in the trunk and dumping them in a field.

On Saturday, October 7, 1978, M. Vargas returned to the Tysons' home to consummate the sale of the car. Petitioner passed a stolen check in the amount of $1,500 to M. Vargas and took possession of the car. The parties agreed that M. Vargas would retain the registration until Petitioner's check cleared the following Monday.

Later on October 7th, M. Vargas returned to the Tysons' home displaying a "wad" of bills and offering to purchase a gun from Petitioner. Petitioner declined to sell the gun at that time. However, the parties discussed the possibility of a subsequent meeting at M. Vargas' home regarding the sale of the gun.

The next day, Sunday, October 8, 1978, Petitioner and Tyson, armed with handguns, drove from Galt to the Merced farmhouse in which M. Vargas lived with Meza and his cousin S. Vargas. Petitioner's intent in travelling to Merced was to commit robbery; he had also discussed killing M. Vargas and Meza.

Upon arriving at the farmhouse, Petitioner and Tyson discovered that guests were visiting their intended victims. Consequently, Petitioner and Tyson temporarily postponed their felonious plans, left their guns in the car, and joined the others in the house. They found M. Vargas and Meza downstairs entertaining three visitors. S. Vargas had already retired upstairs to rest.

After the guests departed, M. Vargas reexpressed his interest in buying Petitioner's gun. Petitioner and Tyson then exited the house and retrieved their guns from the car. Upon re-entering the house Petitioner held his gun on M. Vargas. M. Vargas thought Petitioner was joking, and Tyson reinforced this misperception by pulling away Petitioner's arm. Tyson later justified this interruption of Petitioner's actions, informing Petitioner that his own gun was not loaded and reminding him that S. Vargas was sleeping upstairs.

Shortly after this incident, Petitioner invited M. Vargas to join Tyson and him for a drink. When M. Vargas declined, Tyson suggested that Petitioner and he buy some beer and bring it back to the farmhouse. Petitioner and Tyson then left the farmhouse on the pretext of buying beer; they used this time to discuss strategy.

When Petitioner and Tyson subsequently re-entered the farmhouse they found M. Vargas downstairs and S. Vargas and Meza upstairs. Petitioner put the plan in action, running to the second floor and ordering Tyson to bring M. Vargas upstairs and take Meza downstairs and shoot her.

After Tyson and Meza went downstairs, Petitioner shot both men in the back of the head, killing them. Tyson, however, did not shoot Meza. Instead, he and Petitioner took her from the farmhouse and drove toward Sonora. En route, Petitioner had intercourse with Meza.

Upon reaching an unpopulated area, Petitioner and Meza exited the car. They walked to a field a short distance away where Petitioner shot Meza four times and left. Petitioner and Tyson then returned to Galt; Tyson remained in Galt, while Petitioner headed for Southern California.

The next day, Monday, October 9, 1978, a relative of the slain men discovered their bodies lying in a pool of blood. Authorities did not locate Petitioner's third victim until Friday, October 13, 1978, when Tyson surrendered and led them to Meza's naked body in a secluded area near Sonora.

The state charged Petitioner with three counts of first degree murder4 with firearm enhancements and ten special circumstances,

817 F. Supp. 1454
including multiple murder, robbery, kidnapping, and rape

After a three and one-half week trial, the jury found Petitioner guilty of murdering M. Vargas, S. Vargas, and Meza in the first degree.5 The jury also determined that Petitioner was sane during the commission of the offenses, and recommended the death sentence.

The California Supreme Court affirmed Petitioner's conviction and sentence and denied his first habeas corpus petition on March 24, 1988. Williams, 44 Cal.3d 883, 245 Cal.Rptr. 336, 751 P.2d 395. The court summarily denied his second habeas petition on February 17, 1989. Petitioner's conviction became final on October 11, 1988, upon the Supreme Court's denial of his petition for a writ of certiorari.

III. Discussion

A. Claim A

Petitioner alleges that prosecutorial misconduct during the guilt phase of his trial resulted in the violation of his Fifth, Sixth, Eighth, and Fourteenth Amendment rights.6 Specifically, Petitioner claims that the prosecutor, Larry Howard (L. Howard),7 violated his right to due process by failing to correct Tyson's testimony, which he knew to be perjurious, and that the guilt and penalty phase verdicts must, therefore, be reversed.

At Petitioner's trial, Tyson testified as follows:

Q L. Howard: Did I or anyone from the district attorney's office make any promises with respect to any charges that would be filed against you?
A: No. I was told that whatever was filed against me would be up to the grand jury.
Q: Have any promises been made to you as far as you're concerned for your testimony here today?
A: None.

RT Vol. V 1004:18-25 (emphasis added). Tyson further testified on cross-examination:

Q Roland Howard: At the time you appeared in Superior Court to be sentenced for the three murders that you were convicted of, didn't you have discussions with the district attorney's office regarding what disposition of your case in terms of sentence would be made in terms of their recommendation of sentence at the time?
A: No.
Q: In exchange for your cooperation.
A: No.

RT Vol. V 1009:16-24.

The court conducted an evidentiary hearing on Claim A, limited to the issue of Tyson's alleged perjury at Petitioner's trial and the prosecutor's knowing use thereof.8

817 F. Supp. 1455

A claim of prosecutorial misconduct must be demonstrated by a preponderance of the evidence. United States v. Lord, 711 F.2d 887, 891 & n. 3 (9th Cir.1983). Petitioner has not satisfied this standard.

1. The Asserted Parole Deal

Petitioner contends that the first alleged deal consisted of the prosecution's promise that it would not oppose Tyson's parole if he testified at Petitioner's trial. This deal was allegedly consummated at the Merced County Court Building on March 22, 1979, just prior to Tyson's testimony in Petitioner's case. Although Tyson apparently first alleged the existence of this deal at his October 2, 1986, parole consideration hearing, Petitioner learned of this deal on October 28, 1988, when his present counsel, David Nickerson, and his investigator, Russell Stetler, interviewed Tyson in prison. During that interview, Tyson "was asked if he had made any deals or agreements with the prosecution in exchange for his testimony at WILLIAMS' trial. Tyson said he had." 2PHC Exh. D Stetler Decl. ? 5. The investigator relayed Tyson's account of that deal as follows:9

after his own conviction of an indeterminate sentence, Tyson was contacted by Merced detectives, including Ron Hauser, and the prosecuting attorney, Larry Howard. Mr. Howard told Tyson, "We can make sure you rot in prison." District Attorney Howard then explained

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