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Seidel v. Merkle

July 20, 1998

CLYDE EDWIN SEIDEL, PETITIONER-APPELLEE,
v.
W. A. MERKLE, WARDEN, RESPONDENT-APPELLANT.



Before: Dorothy W. Nelson, Stephen Reinhardt, and Charles Wiggins, Circuit Judges.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Opinion by Judge D.w. Nelson

FOR PUBLICATION

Appeal from the United States District Court for the Northern District of California Susan Illston, District Judge, Presiding

Argued and Submitted February 9, 1998 San Francisco, California

D.C. No. CV-94-01621-SI-FSL

SUMMARY

D.W. NELSON, Circuit Judge:

Clyde Edwin Seidel, a California state prisoner, is serving a sentence of sixteen years to life for his second-degree murder conviction. Seidel petitioned the District Court for the Northern District of California for a writ of habeas corpus pursuant to 28 U.S.C. S 2254. On reviewing the record from the state court proceedings in connection with the petition, the district court found that Seidel had stated a cognizable claim of ineffective assistance of counsel and issued an Order to Show Cause why a writ should not issue. The district court then sua sponte ordered an evidentiary hearing on Seidel's allegations of ineffective assistance of counsel, referring the matter to a federal magistrate Judge. The district court later adopted the magistrate Judge's finding of constitutionally deficient representation and granted Seidel's federal habeas petition.

The State of California now appeals, arguing (1) that the district court erred in holding an evidentiary hearing without first requiring Seidel to demonstrate cause and prejudice; and (2) that even if the evidentiary hearing was properly held, the district court erred in concluding that Seidel received ineffective assistance of counsel at trial.

We have jurisdiction over this timely appeal under 28 U.S.C. SS 1291 and 2253, and we affirm the district court's order granting Seidel's petition for a writ of habeas corpus.

FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

The facts surrounding the underlying second-degree murder conviction are not in dispute. On June 1, 1990, early in the evening, Seidel went to visit his girlfriend, Angela Davis, at the trailer park where she lived. Approximately thirty minutes after Seidel arrived, Davis's neighbor, Dorina Canfield, appeared at Davis's trailer and explained that she and her husband, Jade Bucholz, had just had an argument. Canfield believed that she was in danger of harm from Bucholz, so Davis and Seidel encouraged her to stay with them in Davis's trailer for the evening.

Later that evening, Seidel decided to drive to the grocery store in his pick-up truck, accompanied by Canfield and by Davis's two daughters. As Seidel started his truck, Bucholz approached the truck's window on the passenger side, where Canfield was sitting, and husband and wife began screaming and fighting.

Seeing that Bucholz was "jerking" at the passenger door, Seidel got out of his truck and approached Bucholz. Bucholz kicked Seidel, who was holding a knife in his hand, and took a few swings in his direction. Seidel then attacked Bucholz, and the two fell to the ground in a struggle. During the fight, Bucholz received a mortal wound in the chest. Seidel fled the scene in his truck, and was apprehended by local law enforcement later that night. He was arrested and eventually charged with one count of murder in violation of California Penal Code S 187.

The day after the murder, Seidel gave a statement to the police explaining that he had removed his knife from its sheath only after Bucholz punched him in the head. Seidel reported that he was "scared for his life," and "never meant to hurt him . . . never meant to cut him at all. " In Seidel's words, Bucholz "fell on the knife" during their struggle.

At trial in Humboldt County Superior Court, Seidel did not take the stand. His counsel relied solely on a theory of self-defense. On November 22, 1991, a jury convicted Seidel of second-degree murder, and the trial court sentenced him to a term of sixteen years to life in prison.

Seidel's trial counsel petitioned the court for a new trial or, in the alternative, a modification of his conviction to a lesser crime. The trial court denied both motions. Seidel then requested and was assigned new counsel based on his claim of ineffective representation at trial. On the advice of new counsel, Seidel filed a writ of habeas corpus in state court, alleging that he had been deprived of a meritorious defense due to trial counsel's ineffectiveness. The state habeas ...


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