Williams v. Woodford

CourtUnited States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (9th Circuit)
Citation384 F.3d 567
Docket NumberNo. 99-99018.,No. 00-99001.,99-99018.,00-99001.
PartiesStanley WILLIAMS, Petitioner-Appellant, v. Jeanne S. WOODFORD, Warden, California State Prison, San Quentin, Respondent-Appellee.
Decision Date10 September 2002

C. Renée Manes, Deputy Federal Public Defender, Los Angeles, CA, and Gail R. Weinheimer, San Anselmo, CA, for the petitioner-appellant.

Lisa J. Brault and Emilio E. Varanini IV, Deputy Attorneys General, Los Angeles, CA, for the respondent-appellee.

Appeal from the United States District Court for the Central District of California; Stephen V. Wilson, District Judge, Presiding. D.C. No. CV-89-00327-SVW.

Before: HUG, T.G. NELSON and GOULD, Circuit Judges.

HUG, Circuit Judge:

Stanley Williams, a prisoner on California's death row, appeals the district court's denial of his 28 U.S.C. § 2254 habeas corpus petition challenging his 1981 conviction of multiple counts of first-degree murder and armed robbery and his sentence of death. Williams also appeals the district court's denial of his motion, made under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 60(b), for relief from the court's judgment denying his habeas corpus petition. For the reasons set forth below, we affirm the district court's denial of Williams's habeas corpus petition, and we vacate the district court's order denying Williams's Rule 60(b) motion because the district court lacked jurisdiction to consider the motion.

I. The Trial.

On May 3, 1979, the state of California charged Williams with four counts of first-degree murder, three counts of robbery with the use of a firearm, one count of kidnapping, and eight special circumstances of robbery-murder and multiple murder. Williams's trial commenced on February 10, 1981. We respectfully take the following account of the trial, in large part, from the California Supreme Court decision in People v. Williams, 44 Cal.3d 1127, 245 Cal.Rptr. 635, 751 P.2d 901, 905-08 (1988) (en banc) ("Williams I"). We provide additional facts in the discussion, below, as necessary for consideration of Williams's claims for relief.

A. The Prosecution's Case.

The state presented evidence linking Williams to two separate incidents of murder and robbery. See Williams I, 245 Cal.Rptr. 635, 751 P.2d at 905-07.

1. The 7-Eleven Murder and Robbery.

Alfred Coward, an immunized government witness, testified to the events leading to the murder of Albert Lewis Owens,1 an employee of a 7-Eleven store in Whittier, California. See id. at 905. Coward stated that at approximately 10:30 p.m. on February 27, 1979, Williams dropped by Coward's house. The two men then went to James Garrett's house, where Williams was staying. Only Williams went inside, returning with a sawed-off shotgun and accompanied by a man named Darryl. The three men made several stops, including one to obtain "Sherms," cigarettes containing phencyclidene ("PCP"). After sharing a Sherm, the three picked up Tony Simms. Williams then had a second Sherm with Coward and Simms, and asked Simms if he knew where they could "make money." See id.

Coward testified that, taking two cars, the four men made two unsuccessful restaurant and liquor-store robbery attempts. Subsequently, they went to a 7-Eleven where Owens was sweeping the parking lot. Simms and Darryl went into the store, followed by Owens, Williams, and Coward. Williams, the only one with a weapon, approached Owens and ordered him to keep walking. Owens walked toward the back rooms of the store with Williams and Coward following him. Williams instructed Owens to lie down, which he did. Williams shot out the store's television monitor and then shot and killed Owens. See id.

According to Coward, the four men returned to Simms's house where they divided among them the $120 that they had taken from the 7-Eleven cash register. When Simms asked Williams why he had shot Owens, Williams responded that he did not want to leave any witnesses. He also said that the shotgun shells could not be traced, and that he had retrieved a few of them. See id.

Coward saw Williams later that morning at Williams's brother's home. Williams told his brother about Owens, saying: "You should have heard the way he sounded when I shot him." Williams then made a growling noise and laughed hysterically for a number of minutes. See id.

2. The Brookhaven Motel Murders and Robbery.

Robert Yang and his family lived in and owned the Brookhaven Motel on South Vermont Street in Los Angeles, California. At about 5 a.m. on March 11, 1979, Yang heard a woman's screams and three or four shots. A few minutes later, he left his bedroom and saw that the door separating the motel office from the family's living quarters was ajar. The door seemed to have been forced open from the outside. Yang discovered his father, mother, and sister, all fatally wounded from shotgun fire. The cash drawer was open and empty. See id. at 906.

The police found two shotgun shell casings at the scene. A firearms expert testified that one of the shells could only have been fired from a weapon that Williams had purchased in 1974. See id.

Four witnesses provided testimony identifying Williams as a perpetrator of the Brookhaven Motel murders and robbery. Samuel Coleman, testifying as an immunized government witness, stated that on March 10, 1979 he and Williams went to the Showcase Bar, where Coleman remained until it closed around 6 a.m. Coleman last remembered seeing Williams at about 2:30 a.m. The next day, Williams told Coleman that he had robbed and killed some people on Vermont Street. Williams said that he had obtained approximately $50 from the robbery-murder and was going to use it to buy PCP. See id.

James Garrett testified that Williams kept some of his possessions at the Garrett house and stayed there approximately five days a week. Early on the morning of March 13, 1979, Williams told James Garrett and his wife that he had heard of the killing of some "Chinese people" on Vermont Street. Williams said that he did not know how the murders had occurred, but thought that the murderers were professionals because they had left no shells or witnesses at the scene. Williams also stated that he had heard that the killings had taken place at 5 a.m., and that two men had knocked down the door and taken $600. See id.

Williams later spoke to James Garrett a second time about the Brookhaven Motel murders and robbery. Williams described the incident, saying: "[A]fter the big guy knocked the door down, he went in the motel, and there was a guy laying on the couch, and he blew him away." Williams said that the man on the couch and a woman at the cash register were shot twice, and that another woman was also shot. James Garrett testified that Williams then indicated that he was the "big guy." See id.2

Esther Garrett confirmed the statements made by her husband. She testified that Williams informed them that the Brookhaven Motel murderers were using the money taken from the cash register to buy "juice," or PCP, and that they had picked up the shotgun shells so that there would be no evidence for the police. Williams also told Esther Garrett, outside the presence of her husband, that he, Williams, had committed the murders with his brother-in-law. See id.

George Oglesby, an inmate housed in the same cell block as Williams, testified that Williams admitted to shooting a man, a woman, and a child in the course of robbing a motel. See id. at 906-07. Oglesby also testified in detail to Williams's plan to escape from jail. Williams had invited Oglesby to participate in the plan, which was complete with drawings and involved an escape during a bus transfer from jail to court. See id. at 907. Two persons outside of jail were to disarm the officer driving the bus, and then Williams was to kill the person on the bus who planned to testify against Williams, as well as the two officers accompanying the bus. Williams later modified the plan to include blowing up the bus in order to prevent the authorities from quickly determining who had escaped. See id.

After receiving two notes from Williams relating information about outside participants in the escape plan, Oglesby informed Lieutenant Fitzgerald of the planned escape. Williams subsequently sent Oglesby more notes discussing the escape. See id.

The initial target date for the escape was June 12, 1979. However, Williams aborted the escape attempt planned for this day because he could not ensure that he and Oglesby would be transferred to court at the same time. In addition, after one of his court appearances, Williams informed Oglesby that the escape attempt had to be cancelled because Williams believed that two police vehicles had followed the bus transporting Williams between jail and court. Williams then altered the escape plan so that the escape attempt would occur after they left court. See id.

B. The Defense.

Williams presented an alibi defense. Beverly McGowan testified that she and Williams had dined and spent the night together on February 27, 1979, the night of Owens's murder. See id.

Fred Holiwell, Williams's stepfather, testified that he arrived at the Showcase Bar at around 3:30 a.m. on March 11, 1979, the morning of the Brookhaven Motel murders and robbery. He stated that he thought he saw Williams in the Showcase Bar parking lot area at about 5 a.m. Holiwell remembered seeing Williams at the Showcase Bar on this particular night because Williams had been involved in an altercation that resulted in a cut across Williams's chest. See id.

Eugene Riley, an inmate in the same cell block as Williams, testified that he saw Williams in the parking lot of the...

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