Godoy v. Spearman, No. 13-56024 (9th Cir. 2016)Annotate this Case
Petitioner, convicted of second degree murder, appealed the denial of habeas relief. In Tarango v. McDaniel, the court stated that Mattox v. United States “compels a criminal trial court to consider the prejudicial effect of any external contact that has a ‘tendency’ to influence the verdict.” The court held further that a tendency to influence the verdict exists per se and triggers a presumption of prejudice whenever there is “unauthorized external contact between a juror and a government agent, whose official position ‘beyond question carries great weight with a jury.’” Because the court is bound by Tarango, the court assumed that petitioner was entitled to a presumption of prejudice under clearly established federal law by a juror's alleged misconduct. Even assuming a presumption of prejudice applies in petitioner's case, however, the court concluded that the California Court of Appeal’s analysis did not unreasonably apply clearly established federal law by concluding the government had rebutted the presumption. The court also concluded that, because the Court of Appeal did not act contrary to or unreasonably apply clearly established federal law when analyzing prejudice, petitioner is not entitled to relief on this ground; the court rejected petitioner's argument that the Court of Appeal unreasonably applied clearly established federal law when it concluded that the state trial court was within its discretion in refusing petitioner's request for an additional evidentiary hearing to investigate his juror misconduct claim; and petitioner is not entitled to relief where the trial court did not unreasonably deny his request for a third continuance where the trial judge had several reasons for denying the motion that were neither unreasonable or arbitrary. Accordingly, the court affirmed the judgment.