Carlos A. ESPINOZA, Petitioner-Appellant, v. W. L. MONTGOMERY, Acting Warden, Respondent-Appellee.
Decided: August 13, 2020
Before: HAWKINS and CHRISTEN, Circuit Judges, and BATAILLON,** District Judge.
J. Bradley O'Connell, Assistant Director, First District Appellate Project, Oakland, CA, for Petitioner-Appellant Pamela Kay Critchfield, Deputy Attorney General, California Department of Justice,
Carlos Espinoza appeals the denial of his habeas corpus petition. A motions panel granted a certificate of appealability on the issue of “whether juror misconduct violated appellant's rights to due process and a fair and impartial jury.”1 We have jurisdiction under 28 U.S.C. § 2253, and, on de novo review, Parle v. Runnels, 505 F.3d 922, 926 (9th Cir. 2007), we affirm.
Espinoza's juror misconduct challenge centers on Juror No. 55's unauthorized visit to the scene, disclosed to other jurors during deliberations. When considering prejudice due to juror misconduct, we must determine “whether the ․ error had substantial and injurious effect or influence in determining the jury's verdict.” Brecht v. Abrahamson, 507 U.S. 619, 623, 113 S.Ct. 1710, 123 L.Ed.2d 353 (1993) (citation omitted).2 Based on the circumstances, we find no such prejudicial effect came from the offending juror's misconduct. The trial court held a hearing, found the statements to the other jurors did not impact their deliberations, dismissed the offending juror, admonished the remaining jurors, and called in an alternate.3 Beyond this, the extraneous information Juror No. 55 conveyed was not inconsistent with other evidence at trial. Therefore, we conclude that Juror No. 55's visit and comments did not substantially and injuriously affect or influence the jury's verdict. Furthermore, the state appellate court's prejudice analysis of Espinoza's juror misconduct claim was not unreasonable under 28 U.S.C. § 2254(d)(1).
1. Espinoza requests we expand the certificate of appealability to include his confrontation clause claim concerning the gang expert's testimony. See 28 U.S.C. § 2253(c)(1); 9th Cir. R. 22-1(e). We decline to do so because Espinoza has not made a “substantial showing of the denial of a constitutional right.” 28 U.S.C. § 2253(c)(2).
2. Espinoza urges us to apply the two-step Mattox/Remmer framework. Yet, as this Court stated in Godoy v. Spearman, 861 F.3d 956, 959 (9th Cir. 2017) (en banc), that inquiry applies “when faced with allegations of improper contact between a juror and an outside party.” Here, Juror No. 55's visit to the scene and disclosure to other jurors constitutes a “communication of extrinsic facts,” where this Court applies the Brecht harmlessness standard. See Sassounian v. Roe, 230 F.3d 1097, 1108–11 (9th Cir. 2000) (analyzing prejudicial effect of extrinsic information received by jury).
3. In employing this procedure rather than declaring a mistrial as Espinoza requested, the trial court stated, “[Juror No. 55] quickly was told by the rest of the jurors that [his visit to the scene] was not an okay thing to do․ It does not appear that there were any discussions other than that was not an okay thing to do were held between the other jurors regarding the comments that Juror [No.] 55 made.”
Was this helpful?
Response sent, thank you
Welcome to FindLaw's Cases & Codes
A free source of state and federal court opinions, state laws, and the United States Code. For more information about the legal concepts addressed by these cases and statutes visit FindLaw's Learn About the Law.