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Name: Godoy v. Spearman
Case #: 13-56024
Court: US Court of Appeals
District 9 Cir
Opinion Date: 08/25/2016

State court did not unreasonably apply clearly established U.S. Supreme Court precedent by rejecting defendant’s jury misconduct argument even though juror sent text messages to a judge friend throughout the trial regarding the case. During Godoy’s second degree murder trial, a juror texted a “judge friend” numerous times with various procedural questions. The juror shared the answers with the other jurors. The jury ultimately convicted Godoy, who filed a new trial motion based on juror misconduct. The trial court denied the motion and the Court of Appeal affirmed, reasoning that the government had rebutted any presumption of prejudice. After the California Supreme Court denied review, Godoy filed a federal habeas petition, which the district court denied. The Ninth Circuit granted a certificate of appealability. Held: Affirmed. Under AEDPA, federal habeas relief is available to a state prisoner if the state court’s decision was contrary to or involved an unreasonable application of clearly established U.S. Supreme Court precedent, or resulted in a decision that was based on an unreasonable determination of the facts. (28 U.S.C § 2254(d).) While clearly established U.S. Supreme Court precedent establishes that a juror’s external contact regarding the case triggers a presumption of prejudice (see Tarango v. McDaniel (9th Cir. 2016) 815 F.3d 1211), it also establishes that the government can rebut that presumption. Contrary to Godoy’s claims, the California Court of Appeal did not unreasonably apply U.S. Supreme Court precedent by concluding that the government had done so in this case. The juror’s communications with her judge friend “related to procedural matters, not Godoy’s guilt or innocence.” Nor did the Court of Appeal unreasonably apply U.S. Supreme Court precedent by concluding that the government satisfied its burden on the basis of the existing record and that an evidentiary hearing was not required.

The full opinion is available on the court’s website here: