Another murder case resolved by the Ninth Circuit whose judges regularly reverse murder cases and death penalties although the jury in Godoy v. Spearman voted only second degree murder. The California Court of Appeal had affirmed the conviction, the California Supreme Court denied review, and the district court denied a habeas corpus petition filed by the defendant. The Ninth Circuit heard the appeal from the district court and in a split vote reheard the case again on federal habeas corpus and reversed.
The Ninth Circuit author of the Godoy decision wrote that the case was originally governed by AEDPA, but the California Court of Appeal refused to apply U.S. Supreme Court precedent. For that reason the court said, we can use the correct standard of de novo instead. This judicial invention, unsupported by precedent, allowed the Ninth Circuit to repeat its earlier discussion of AEDPA for some irrelevant reason and rewrote the decision in the “correct” version.
In the course of that alternative legal version of the law, the majority court panel repeatedly criticized the California Court of Appeal for all its errors, reverses a state supreme court case and a federal district court for the unknown future of a second trial. Or, if witnesses cannot be found, records lost, investigating officers retired, the defendant convicted of murder goes free.
The essence of this case is nothing more than a statement by a juror to the trial judge that she had heard another juror converse on the phone with a “judge friend” during the trial. No evidence was presented on the subjects discussed, but according to the Ninth Circuit the trial judge should have held a hearing. If the juror was unaware of the topics discussed what would the hearing have proved? The issues in the case are not so much what response the state court trial judge should have made or done, but the repeated criticism of the California Court of Appeal. Secondly, the Ninth Circuit rejection of AEDPA. Their decision also reversed the district court judge who affirmed the state court decision.
Godoy v. Spearman is another example of two court systems for the same case. A waste of time and money, endless appeals, and a refusal of Congress to eliminate federal habeas corpus. Whenever the state court concludes their case is ended, the only post trial issue is state habeas corpus-and possibly the U.S. Supreme Court. Who have said almost the same thing.