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Phillips v. Herndon

United States Court of Appeals, Ninth Circuit

September 17, 2013

Steven Wayne Phillips, Petitioner-Appellant,
v.
Debra Herndon, Respondent-Appellee.

Argued January 9, 2013

Submitted September 17, 2013 Pasadena, California

Appeal from the United States District Court for the Central District of California Otis D. Wright, II, District Judge, Presiding D.C. No. 5:08-cv-107-ODW-FMO

COUNSEL

Tony Faryar Farmani, Farmani APLC, San Diego, California, for Petitioner-Appellant.

Kamala D. Harris, Attorney General, Julie L. Garland, Senior Assistant Attorney General, Kevin R. Vienna, and Kristine A. Gutierrez, Deputy Attorney General, San Diego, California, for Respondent-Appellee.

Before: Alfred T. Goodwin and William A. Fletcher, Circuit Judges, and Edward R. Korman, Senior District Judge.[*]

SUMMARY[**]

Habeas Corpus

The panel affirmed the district court's denial of a 28 U.S.C. § 2254 habeas corpus petition challenging the exclusion of a confession by one of petitioner's accomplices exculpating petitioner as the shooter.

The panel held that it was not unreasonable for the state court to conclude that other statements (including statements identifying petitioner as the shooter) that the accomplice had made rendered his own inculpatory statement unreliable. Consequently, the panel held that the determination by the California Court of Appeal that the admission was properly excluded did not constitute an unreasonable application of clearly established Supreme Court law, nor was the state court decision based on an unreasonable determination of the facts.

OPINION

KORMAN, District Judge:

Steven Wayne Phillips, along with one of his accomplices, Robert Cress, was found guilty of the murder of William Jacob. Phillips alone was found guilty of personally discharging a firearm in the course of the murder. He was sentenced to twenty-five years to life for murder and also subjected to a mandatory consecutive sentence of twenty-five years to life for the firearm enhancement under California Penal Code § 12022.53(d). The exclusion of Cress's third-party confession exculpating Phillips as the shooter, the sole issue raised on this appeal, affects only the latter conviction because Phillips's conviction for murder did not turn on his use of the firearm.

The evidence at trial established that, shortly after the crime, Phillips admitted shooting Jacob, and other evidence placed the gun in his hands. Cress also said twice that Phillips was the shooter. Nevertheless, the following morning Cress changed his story and said that he was the shooter. The trial judge excluded all of Cress's statements. Specifically, the trial judge found that while Cress's own admission of guilt was against his penal interest, it lacked sufficient indicia of trustworthiness to be admissible. ...


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