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Name: Maquiz MacDonald v. Hedgpeth
Case #: 16-55240
Court: US Court of Appeals
District 9 Cir
Opinion Date: 11/05/2018

Under AEDPA, there was no reasonable basis on which the California courts could have rejected petitioner’s argument that the gang enhancement was unsupported by sufficient evidence. Maquiz was convicted of multiple counts of robbery with gang and gun use enhancements. He challenged the gang enhancement tied to one of the robberies in which he acted alone. After exhausting state remedies, Maquiz filed a federal habeas petition, which the district court denied. He appealed. Held: Reversed and remanded. When a federal habeas petitioner challenges the sufficiency of the evidence used to obtain a state conviction on federal due process grounds, the federal court must determine whether the decision of the state court reflected an unreasonable application of Jackson v. Virginia (1979) 443 U.S. 307, 319 to the facts of the case. Under Jackson, after viewing the evidence in the light most favorable to the prosecution, the court must determine whether any rational trier of fact could have found the essential elements of the crime beyond a reasonable doubt. To sustain an enhancement under Penal Code section 186.22, subdivision (b)(1), the prosecution must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that (1) the defendant committed a felony for the benefit of a criminal street gang, and (2) the defendant did so with the specific intent to promote, further, or assist in any criminal conduct by gang members. Here, evidence at trial showed only that Maquiz committed the robbery alone, hiding his face, and without wearing or displaying gang symbols, signs, or colors. There was no evidence that the victims were aware of Maquiz’s gang association or that Maquiz discussed the robbery or shared the $70 proceeds of the crime. The only evidence relevant to the gang enhancement came from an officer, and the court determined the officer’s opinions and conclusions were purely conclusory and factually unsupported. Applying AEDPA’s deferential standard of review, the court concluded the evidence was insufficient to support the gang enhancement under Jackson.

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