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Alfaro v. Ramirez

United States District Court, D. Idaho

December 10, 2018

MICHAEL ALFARO, Petitioner,
v.
AL RAMIREZ, Respondent.

          MEMORANDUM DECISION AND ORDER

          David C. Nye, U.S. District Court Judge.

         Michael Alfaro's Amended Petition for Writ of Habeas Corpus is fully briefed and ripe for adjudication. Dkts. 6, 24, 25. The Court takes judicial notice of the records from Petitioner's state court proceedings, which have been lodged by the parties. See Fed. R. Evid. 201(b); Dawson v. Mahoney, 451 F.3d 550, 551 (9th Cir. 2006). Having carefully reviewed the record, including the state court record, the Court finds that the parties have adequately presented the facts and legal arguments in the briefs and record and that oral argument is unnecessary. See D. Idaho L. Civ. R. 7.1(d). Accordingly, the Court enters the following Order.

         REVIEW OF PRELIMINARY MOTIONS

         Pending before the Court are Respondent Al Ramirez's requests for extensions of time regarding briefing of the remaining issues. Dkts. 22, 23. Good cause appearing, both motions will be granted. Respondent's Response to the Amended Petition is considered timely.

         BACKGROUND

         The Idaho Court of Appeals provided the following background to this case:

In the summer of 2004, [the town of] Caldwell[, Idaho] experienced a spate of drive-by shootings between rival gangs. One shooting occurred at approximately 3:30 a.m. on August 14, 2004, while Javier “Harvey” Rodriguez, Sael Castillo, Jason Alverado and Carlos Chavez, all associated with the “Westside Lomas” (Westside) gang, were at Rodriguez's house. A vehicle drove by, and two of its passengers began shooting at the house, resulting in Chavez being killed. It was the third shooting investigated by Caldwell police that night alone.
When police arrived on the scene they found various bullet casings in the area, but the bullet that killed Chavez could not be tied to a particular weapon. One neighbor reported seeing a blue car speed away after the shooting, while another described a light tan car with three occupants. Rodriguez told the police he arrived at the house mere moments before the shooting and that Castillo and Alverado were outside in front of the house and Chavez was inside at the time. He could not describe the vehicle from which the shots had been fired and was generally uncooperative in aiding the investigation. After interviewing over 100 people in relation to Chavez's death, the police never recovered a weapon, never identified the vehicle, and had no suspects.
In June 2005, Evan Musquiz, a teenager associated with the “Eastside Locos” (Eastside) gang, who was thirteen years old at the time of Chavez's shooting, told police he had been in a light blue four-door car with other Eastsiders, Arandu Maceda, Richard Alaniz, and a person he only knew as “Mike” who was driving. Musquiz stated the four had driven around for a while and then drove by a residence where Maceda and Alaniz opened fire, shooting at the house and the men in front of the house. Musquiz was shown a six person photo lineup, in which Alfaro was number three, and indicated “Mike” was either two or three. Musquiz could not identify the time of year or the time of day the shooting had taken place, other than to say it was dark. When police provided Musquiz with the location of Rodriguez's house and asked whether it was the location of the shooting, Musquiz said yes. Following Musquiz's interview, Alaniz denied any involvement in the shooting.
In June 2009, another Eastside gang member, Mario Flores, was charged with multiple felonies, including recruiting gang members, supplying firearms, and witness intimidation. Police questioned him as to whether he had any knowledge pertaining to Chavez's death, which he had denied possessing when interviewed shortly after the shooting. This time, Flores told police he had observed Maceda and Musquiz getting into a black Cadillac with Alfaro and Alaniz on the night of August 14, 2004. In exchange for his cooperation, all charges against Flores were dismissed.

State's Lodging B-4, pp. 1-2.

         The plea-bargaining codefendants who participants in the drive-by shooting that resulted in Chavez's death ended up testifying against Petitioner Alfaro in a state criminal action in the Third Judicial District Court in Canyon County, Idaho. Petitioner was charged with and convicted by jury of aiding and abetting first degree murder, aiding and abetting aggravated assault, aiding and abetting unlawful use of a firearm, and infliction of great bodily harm, for being the driver of the car from which the shooter shot and killed Chavez.

         Petitioner received a prison sentence of 20 fixed years, with life indeterminate. Judgment was entered on January 3, 2011. Petitioner filed a direct appeal and a post-conviction action in state court. This federal habeas corpus case was stayed for several months to permit Petitioner to exhaust his state court remedies. Dkt. 4. Petitioner obtained no relief from his state court actions, and this case was re-opened on May 22, 2017. Dkt. 7.

         Respondent filed a Motion for Partial Summary Dismissal, which the Court granted. Dkts. 13, 21. Claims One and Four were deemed procedurally defaulted, and the Court determined that no exception applied to excuse their default. Petitioner was permitted to proceed to the merits of Claims Two and Three.

         STANDARD OF LAW

         When a petitioner files a federal habeas corpus action to challenge a state court judgment, Title 28 U.S.C. § 2254(d), as amended by the Anti-terrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996 (“AEDPA”), applies. Title 28 U.S.C.§ 2254(d) limits relief to instances where the state court's adjudication of the petitioner's claim:

1. resulted in a decision that was contrary to, or involved an unreasonable application of, clearly established Federal law, as determined by the Supreme Court of the United States; or
2. resulted in a decision that was based on an unreasonable determination of the facts in light of the evidence presented in the state court proceeding.

28 U.S.C. § 2254(d).

         Though the source of clearly established federal law must come only from the holdings of the United States Supreme Court, lower federal court decisions addressing similar fact patterns may be used as comparisons for determining whether a state court decision is an unreasonable application of Supreme Court precedent. Duhaime v. Ducharme, 200 F.3d 597, 600-01 (9th Cir. 1999). However, circuit law may not be used “to refine or sharpen a general principle of Supreme Court jurisprudence into a specific legal rule that th[e] [Supreme] Court has not announced.” Marshall v. Rodgers, 569 U.S. 58, 64 (2013).

         To assess whether habeas corpus relief is warranted, the federal district court reviews “the last state-court adjudication on the merits.” Greene v. Fisher, 565 U.S. 34, 40 (2011). The deferential standard of section 2254(d) applies regardless of whether the state court decision “is unaccompanied by an opinion explaining the reasons relief has been denied.” Harrington v. Richter, 562 U.S. 86, 98 (2011). “When a federal claim has been presented to a state court and the state court has denied relief, it may be presumed that the state court adjudicated the claim on the merits in the absence of any indication or state-law procedural principles to the ...


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