Robert Ibarra v. W.L. Montgomery

Filing 47

ORDER ACCEPTING FINDINGS AND RECOMMENDATIONS OF U.S. MAGISTRATE JUDGE by Judge Dolly M. Gee. Having reviewed de novo those portions of the R&R to which objections were filed, the Court accepts the findings and recommendations of the Magistrate Judge. IT THEREFORE IS ORDERED that the Petition is denied, Petitioner's motion for a stay is denied, and Judgment be entered dismissing this action with prejudice. (See Order for details) 40 . (bem)

Download PDF
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT 8 CENTRAL DISTRICT OF CALIFORNIA 9 ROBERT IBARRA, 10 Petitioner, 11 v. 12 W.L. MONTGOMERY, Warden, 13 Respondent. 14 )Case No. CV 15-8772-DMG (JPR) ) ) )ORDER ACCEPTING FINDINGS AND )RECOMMENDATIONS OF U.S. )MAGISTRATE JUDGE ) ) ) ) ) 15 16 Pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636, the Court has reviewed de novo 17 the Petition, records on file, and Report and Recommendation of 18 U.S. Magistrate Judge. On April 27, 2017, Petitioner filed 19 Objections to the R. & R. He raises two objections, both based 20 on his argument that the Magistrate Judge erred in stating that 21 (1) the trial court found Miracle’s statements “untrustworthy” 22 and not “significantly” against his penal interest and (2) the 23 statements were made after Miracle was sentenced to death. 24 (Objs. at 3.) Petitioner attached portions of the Reporter’s 25 Transcript to support his claims. 26 Contrary to Petitioner’s assertion, the trial court clearly 27 found that Miracle’s statements — to the effect that he was the 28 only person responsible for the murder and that Petitioner was innocent — were untrustworthy and not significantly against his 1 penal interest. (See, e.g., Lodged Doc. 2, 6 Rep.’s Tr. at 1609- 2 10 (“It seems to me that they lack the required findings that has 3 to be made by a court that they’re trustworthy.”), 1610-11 (“Mr. 4 Miracle has a relationship with [Petitioner],” “none of the 5 statements that the defense is seeking to introduce that are 6 exculpatory of [Petitioner] are at the same time incriminating 7 against Mr. Miracle,” and “they’re not significantly against his 8 penal interest,” which “goes to the question of whether they 9 should be considered trustworthy”), 1612-13 (“So, it doesn’t seem 10 to me that the circumstances under which these statements are 11 made indicate trustworthiness, to the contrary . . . the 12 circumstances just don’t seem to qualify as trustworthy 13 declarations against penal interest.”), 1613 (“it seems to me 14 that they lack trustworthiness and I’m not going to admit them”), 15 1615 (“But the circumstances under which the hearsay version by 16 Mr. Miracle are given clearly suggest to the Court that they’re 17 not trustworthy.”), 1616 (“I don’t consider them trustworthy.”), 18 7 Rep.’s Tr. at 1748 (“It seems like the totality of the 19 circumstances suggests that the statements are untrustworthy, and 20 I’m going to exclude them.”).)1 21 The portion of the transcript cited by Petitioner to support 22 his claim that the trial court found certain of Miracle’s 23 statements trustworthy (see Objs. at 3-6) is in fact a discussion 24 25 26 27 28 1 Petitioner suggests that the trial court was referring to different statements, apparently made to “Miracle’s stepmother.” (See Objs. at 8.) But the portions of the trial transcript referred to at the cited pages of the R. & R. (see 6 Rep.’s Tr. at 1611, 1615) clearly refer to the statements made by Miracle to the court and in response to Petitioner’s trial counsel’s questions. 2 1 of whether to admit “the fact of [Miracle’s] conviction” and his 2 “admission of guilt.” 3 53.) (See Lodged Doc. 2, 7 Rep.’s Tr. at 1749- Indeed, the trial court begins that discussion by 4 reiterating that the statements made by Miracle in an “attempt to 5 exculpate” Petitioner “are untrustworthy” and would not be 6 admitted. (Id. at 1748.) The discussion then continues in 7 relation to the admissibility of the fact of Miracle’s 8 conviction. (Id. at 1749.) The trial court found that 9 “trustworthiness is not an issue” as to Miracle’s guilty plea, 10 not his statements exculpating Petitioner. (Id. at 1750.) The 11 trial court stressed that the issue under discussion in the pages 12 cited by Petitioner was “a narrow one . . . the fact of the 13 conviction, admission of guilt in the murder.” 14 (Id. at 1752.) Petitioner also suggests that the Magistrate Judge found 15 that “the statements were made after Miracle was sentenced to 16 death,” which was somehow in error. (Objs. at 3.) As the 17 Magistrate Judge correctly noted, however, some of Miracle’s 18 statements were made before he was sentenced and some were made 19 after. (See R. & R. at 27-28.) 20 were untrustworthy. 21 In both cases, the statements (Id.) Petitioner asserts that the Magistrate Judge erred in 22 relying “on the fact that Joshua Miracle was not facing criminal 23 liability” when he made his pre-penalty-phase statements. 24 at 6.) (Objs. Petitioner argues that a jury could consider “that the 25 defendant acted alone” as a “circumstance of the crime to 26 determin[e] the death penalty,” citing California Penal Code 27 section 190.3. (Id.) But it was not the trial court or the 28 Magistrate Judge who suggested that Miracle’s statements were 3 1 intended to “gain favor from the jury” in his sentencing; it was 2 Miracle himself. (See Lodged Doc. 1, 4 Clerk’s Tr. at 996-97 3 (“I’d like the Court [to] give thought to the possibility that 4 the jury could very well decide not to impose the death sentence 5 . . . in recognition of the fact that I chose not to make any 6 excuses for my action and was willing to accept the consequences 7 unconditionally.”).) Indeed, one of the trial court’s reasons 8 for finding Miracle’s pre-penalty-phase statements untrustworthy, 9 which the Magistrate Judge found not objectively unreasonable, 10 was that Miracle had the time and motivation to carefully prepare 11 them and that they were intended, at least in part, to assist 12 Petitioner, and possibly Miracle himself. (See R. & R. at 27- 13 28.) 14 Having reviewed de novo those portions of the R&R to which 15 objections were filed, the Court accepts the findings and 16 recommendations of the Magistrate Judge. IT THEREFORE IS ORDERED 17 that the Petition is denied, Petitioner’s motion for a stay is 18 denied, and Judgment be entered dismissing this action with 19 prejudice. 20 21 DATED: September 21, 2017 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 DOLLY M. GEE UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

Disclaimer: Justia Dockets & Filings provides public litigation records from the federal appellate and district courts. These filings and docket sheets should not be considered findings of fact or liability, nor do they necessarily reflect the view of Justia.

Why Is My Information Online?