Fong v. Ryan

Summarized by:

  • Court: 9th Circuit Court of Appeals Archives
  • Area(s) of Law: Habeas Corpus
  • Date Filed: 07-25-2014
  • Case #: 11-17051
  • Judge(s)/Court Below: District Judge Timlin for the Court; Circuit Judge Bybee; Dissent by Circuit Judge Schroeder
  • Full Text Opinion

To determine whether a district court erred in denying a 28 U.S.C. § 2254 habeas corpus petition based on false statements by a State representative, the Napue v. Illinois standard will be applied, which holds that convictions based on false evidence by representatives of the State must show that a jury’s judgment could have been affected by the mistake; furthermore, in order to determine whether the district court erred in denying an ineffective counsel claim, Strickland v. Washington will be applied, requiring a showing of “both deficient performance and prejudice.”

In 1992, Martin Raul Fong Soto was convicted of robbery and attempt, aggravated robbery, and three homicides. In August 1999, Fong filed a post conviction relief petition in Arizona court, which was later denied. Fong subsequently filed a 28 U.S.C. § 2254 habeas corpus petition, claiming that: (1) prosecution used a detective’s false testimony to mislead the jury regarding when Fong became a suspect in order to procure Fong’s conviction; and, (2) his counsel erred in calling a state informant to testify. In October 2002, the district court denied Fong’s petition. On review, the Ninth Circuit Court held that the district court was not unreasonable in applying federal law under the Napue v. Illinois standard, which holds that a conviction based on false evidence by representatives of the State must show that in the absence of the mistake, a jury’s judgment could have been affected. The panel found that because the detective’s false statement regarding the source of the detective’s suspicion was only misleading, the jury could nonetheless suspect Fong’s involvement in the homicides based on other evidence. Secondly, the panel held that the district court did not unreasonably deny Fong’s petition when applying the presented facts and evidence under the Strickland v. Washington standard, which requires a showing of “both deficient performance and prejudice.” The panel determined that the decision by Fong’s counsel to call the state informant as a witness was precarious but a reasonable, strategic move to pursue a mistaken identity defense. AFFIRMED.

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