Maquiz MacDonald v. Hedgpeth, No. 16-55240 (9th Cir. 2018)Annotate this Case
The Ninth Circuit reversed the district court's denial of habeas relief to petitioner, holding that the state trial court's admission of opinion testimony from a law enforcement expert on street gangs, who described for the jury the potential benefits that a street gang might receive when a member commits a robbery by himself, did not deny petitioner a fundamentally fair trial and due process. The panel held that the district court's judgment was not contrary to, or an unreasonable application of, Supreme Court precedent.
However, the panel explained that the expert testimony was insufficient to support a ten-year gang enhancement and that the state court's decision was an unreasonable application of Jackson v. Virginia, 443 U.S. 307 (1979). Furthermore, no rational trier of fact could have found this expert testimony by itself sufficient to prove the elements of the 2001 robbery gang enhancement beyond a reasonable doubt.