Appeal from the United States District Court For the Eastern District of California. D.C. No. Civ. S-90-435-LKK/GGH. Lawrence K. Karlton, District Judge, Presiding
Before: Schroeder, Noonan, Circuit Judges, and Jones,*fn* District Judge
Respondent appeals the district court's decision to grant Daniel Contreras Jacquez' petition for writ of habeas corpus. The district court granted Jacquez' petition on the grounds that the state trial court violated Jacquez' due process rights when it erroneously instructed the jury on voluntary manslaughter and failed to sua sponte instruct the jury on involuntary manslaughter. We reverse.
On January 9, 1987, Daniel Contreras Jacquez was charged with murder and use of a deadly weapon in the course of that offense, in violation of California Penal Code sections 187 and 12022(b). At his jury trial, Jacquez introduced evidence that he was voluntarily intoxicated at the time the victim was killed. The trial testimony conflicted on the extent of his intoxication.
The trial court instructed the jury on voluntary manslaughter and the effect of voluntary intoxication on the mens rea element of the charged offenses, as follows:
Voluntary manslaughter is the intentional and unlawful killing of a human being without malice aforethought. There is no malice aforethought if the evidence shows that due to intoxication the Defendant did not have the capacity to form the mental state constituting malice aforethought, even though the killing was intentional, voluntary, deliberated, premeditated and unprovoked.
The distinction between murder and manslaughter is that murder requires malice while manslaughter does not.
When the act causing death, though unlawful, is done without the capacity to form the mental state constituting malice aforethought due to intoxication, the offense is manslaughter. In such a case, even if an intent to kill exists, the law is that malice, which is an essential element of murder, is absent.
Jacquez convinced the district court that this instruction is not only contrary to California law, but also that the trial court violated his due process rights by giving it.
In addition to the voluntary manslaughter instruction, the jury was instructed on first degree murder, second degree murder, and attempted rape. No instruction was requested or given on involuntary manslaughter. The district court agreed with Jacquez' contention that the trial court's failure to instruct sua sponte on involuntary manslaughter also violated Jacquez' due process rights.
On February 21, 1991, Jacquez filed an amended application for writ of habeas corpus pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254, alleging five grounds for relief: (1) that he received ineffective assistance of counsel at a suppression hearing; (2) that the trial court violated his due process rights by erroneously instructing the jury on voluntary manslaughter; (3) that he was denied due process of law by the trial court's failure to instruct on involuntary manslaughter; (4) that he was denied effective assistance of counsel by his attorney's submission of an erroneous voluntary manslaughter instruction; and (5) that he was denied due process of law and effective assistance of counsel by his attorney's failure to seek a jury instruction on involuntary manslaughter. Against the recommendation of the magistrate Judge, the district court granted the petition on the second and third grounds, without reaching the remaining three.*fn1
A district court's decision to grant or deny habeas corpus relief is reviewed de novo. Adams v. Peterson, 968 F.2d 835, 843 (9th Cir. 1992) (en banc). "To the extent it is necessary to review findings of fact, the clearly erroneous standard applies." Thomas v. Brewer, 923 F.2d 1361, 1364 (9th Cir. 1991).
We do not review for errors of state law, but only constitutional error. Estelle v. McGuire, U.S. , , 112 S. Ct. 475, 480 (1991). In McGuire, the Supreme Court made clear that an inquiry into state law ...