Rainwater Law Group

Effective Criminal Defense

Rademaker v. Paramo, No. 14-56946 [August 30, 2016]

Rademaker v. Paramo

The California Court of Appeal found that an erroneous jury instruction regarding the element of the asportation in special circumstances of committing a murder during the commission of kidnapping did not require reversal as it was “harmless beyond a reasonable doubt” under state law. The Court held that the harmless-error determination was not objectively unreasonable. The State Court’s decision that the evidence show the victim was moved one to one and one-half miles was not an unreasonable one and, therefore, the instruction was harmless was a reasonable one.


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Alvarez v Lopez, No. 12-15788 [August 30, 2016]

Alvarez v. Lopez

The Court stated the issue as “whether an Indian tribe violated a criminal defendant’s rights by failing to inform him that he could receive a jury trial only by requesting one.” Alvarez failed to pursue an appeal after his conviction, thereby raising an exhaustion issue. Because of the response to Alvarez’s habeas petition didn’t argue that this failure presented an exhaustion problem the court concluded that there is evidence of deliberate waiver by the Community and, therefore, the Court was precluded from raising non-exhaustion sua sponte. Reaching the merits the Court address his claim that he should have been informed of his right to request a jury trial. The Court concluded that “Alvarez’s interest in understanding the full contours of his rights outweigh any interests the Community might have.” Alvarez’s right to “fair treatment” includes the right to know that he would forfeit his right to a jury unless he affirmatively requested one. The Court held “that the Community denied Alvarez his right under the ICRA to be tried by a jury. Because denial of the right to a jury trial is a structural error, it requires automatic reversal.” In a separate concurrence Judge Kozinski suggest that “[p]erhaps the Community and other like it will take this opportunity to reconsider the dubious procedures they empoly in their criminal courts.”

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Godoy v. Spearman, No. 13-56024 [August 25, 2016]

Godoy v. Spearman

The Court stated the issue as “whether a state appellate court’s affirmance of a conviction for second-degree murder, along with its denial of a request for an evidentiary hearing and for a continuance, were contrary to, or involved an unreasonable application of, clearly established federal constitutional law.” Godoy sought a new trial based on juror misconduct in that one of the jurors texted for advice during the deliberations with a “judge up North.” Based on the Ninth’s decision in Tarango v. McDaniel, 815 F.3d 1211, even though Judge O’Scannlain questions the validity of that decision, the Court found that Godoy was entitled to a presumption of prejudice, based on the communication, under clearly established federal law. The Court found that California Court of Appeal’s analysis did not unreasonably apply clearly established federal law by concluding the government had rebutted the presumption. Godoy and the dissent argued that because the court did not “take testimony” or introduce additional contrary evidence that they had not met their burden. The majority held that there is no requirement that the government present affirmative evidence to rebut the presumption. The Court further analyzed the facts and determined the Court of Appeal’s decision did not constitute an unreasonable determination of the facts. Finally, the court rejected Godoy’s claim that the trial court’s failure to grant him an additional evidentiary hearing or a continuance unreasonably applied clearly established federal law. The Court held that federal law does not require a hearing in every case of potential juror bias and deferred to the trial court’s broad discretion in determining whether to grant a continuance.

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Washington v. Ryan, No. 05-99009 [August 15, 2016]

Washington v. Ryan

The en banc court considered Washington notice of appeal that was filed one day beyond the 30-day limit and his request pursuant to F.R.C.P 60(b) asking the district court to vacate and reenter its judgment so that his appeal could be deemed timely. The State argued the Court was without jurisdiction to consider Washington’s appeal and the Court disagreed. Finding that district courts have the authority to grant relief from judgment, in this case, both of Washington’s co-defendant’s received relief from their death sentences. The Court held that “having considered the interest of finality, the danger of prejudice to the State, that Washington missed the filing deadline by just one day, and the absence of any indication of bad faith by his lawyers” it should grant relief under either Rule 60(b)(1) or, alternatively, 60(b)(6). Thereby, allowing Washington to file his appeal and have his petition decided on the merits.

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Demirdjian v. Gipson, No. 09-56453 [August 10, 2016]

Demirdjian v. Gipson

Mr. Demirdjian alleged ineffective assistance of counsel, when during closing arguments the prosecution repeatedly commented on the defense’s failure to explain key incriminating evidence or use competent evidence to support its exculpatory theories, on the grounds that his attorney should have challenged the prosecution’s statements as either improper comments on his decision not to testify, in violation of Griffin v. California, 380 U.S. 609, 615 (1965), or improper shifting of the burden of proof to the defense. He also alleged that his sentence, two consecutive 25 years to life terms, was a violation of the Eight Amendment as it was a function equivalent of a mandatory life-without-parole sentence on a Juvenile offender, he was 15 at the time of the murder. The Court affirmed as to the ineffective assistance claim as there is a reasonable argument that, because there was no actual prosecutorial error, defense counsel’s decision to rebut the prosecution’s comments directly rather than object at trial or on appeal was adequate, and this strategy did not undermine the reliability of Demirdjian’s conviction. As to his Eight Amendment argument the Court rejected it as his sentence actually allowed for the possibility of parole.

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Reis-Campos v. Biter, No. 15-15683 [August 8, 2016]

Reis-Campos v. Biter

Reis-Campos argued that his 2007 second-degree murder conviction should be set aside as the prosecution concealed evidence that could have bolstered his self-defense claim. Based on the deferential standard of review the Court affirms as, while they agree there was a Brady violation they decided that it did not sufficiently prejudice Reis-Campos’ defense. Further, the undisclosed evidence would not have impeached the state’s officer sufficiently to undermine his testimony or credibility. His Napue claim was also denied as because Reis-Campos failed to allege the prosecutor had knowledge that the officer’s testimony was false, and it is not clearly established Supreme Court law that a police officer’s knowledge of false testimony may be attributed to the prosecutor, it further falls on materiality for the same reasons as the Brady claim.

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Fox v. Johnson, No. 13-56704 [August 8, 2016]

Fox v. Johnson

Fox initially entered a plea to second-degree murder and was sentenced to 15 years to life. After withdrawing her plea and proceeding to trial, she was convicted of first-degree murder and sentencing to life without the possibility of parole. On habeas, she sought specific performance of an alleged plea agreement in which the state promised her a term of imprisonment no greater than seven and one-half years in exchange for her plea. The Court held that because she chose in the state habeas proceeding to seek vacation of her conviction, rather than specific performance of the purported plea agreement, she had no due process right to specific performance in the rescinded agreement.

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