and Submitted June 15, 2018 San Francisco, California
from the United States District Court for the Eastern
District of California Kimberly J. Mueller, District Judge,
Presiding D.C. No. 2:12-cv-02964-KJM-KJN
Catherine McClintock (argued), Assistant Federal Defender;
Heather E. Williams, Federal Defender; Office of the Federal
Defender, Sacramento, California; for Petitioner-Appellant.
Andrew Eldridge (argued) and Justain P. Riley, Deputy
Attorneys General; Michael P. Farrell, Senior Assistant
Attorney General; Xavier Becerra, Attorney General; Office of
the Attorney General, Sacramento, California; for
Before: Mary M. Schroeder, David M. Ebel, [*]and Ronald M.
Gould, Circuit Judges.
panel reversed the district court's denial of California
state prisoner Aaron Anderson's 28 U.S.C. § 2254
habeas corpus petition challenging his conviction for
domestic violence, assault, and vandalism.
panel held that the California Court of Appeal's decision
denying Anderson relief on his claim that the trial court
violated his due process rights by failing to order sua
sponte a competency hearing involved an unreasonable
application of clearly established federal law. The panel
explained that in the face of strong indicia of incompetence,
including a bona fide suicide attempt on the eve of trial,
Pate v. Robinson, 383 U.S. 375, 385 (1966), and its
progeny demand more than explanation; they demand a
panel remanded the case to the district court with
instructions to grant the writ unless, within a reasonable
time, the State grants a new trial; and dismissed as moot
Anderson's appeal as to claims of error involving his
Faretta waiver and shackling during trial.
2008, Petitioner Aaron Anderson was convicted of domestic
violence, assault, and vandalism stemming from a physical
quarrel with his on-again, off-again live-in girlfriend.
Pursuant to California's Three Strikes law, Anderson was
sentenced to fifty-four years to life. After exhausting his
state remedies, Anderson sought a writ of habeas corpus in
federal court, alleging constitutional violations involving
(1) the failure of his trial judge to call sua
sponte for a competency hearing, (2) the failure of the
trial judge to revoke sua sponte his
Faretta waiver, and (3) the trial court's
decision to keep him shackled during trial.
Anti-Terrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act
("AEDPA") sets a high bar for a state petitioner
seeking to establish a constitutional violation. Mindful of
that bar, we nonetheless conclude it was error for the state
trial judge not to sua sponte order a competency
hearing given the numerous signs of Anderson's mental
incompetency, including his suicide attempt on the eve of
trial. Accordingly, we REMAND the case to the district court
with instructions to grant the writ unless, within a
reasonable time, the state grants a new trial consistent with
this opinion. Because of our ruling on the competency issue,
we need not address Anderson's other issues, and we
therefore DISMISS as moot his appeals as to the
Faretta and shackling issues.
following facts are drawn primarily from the opinion of the
California Court of Appeal in Anderson's direct
Mr. Anderson and the victim, his on-again, off-again
girlfriend, attended a wake for Anderson's nephew. This
wake left Anderson "distraught," and he drove with
his brother and the victim to the grocery store. When the
victim refused to join the brother and Anderson for a drink,
Anderson "hit her behind her right ear and grabbed the
car keys, heading for the store. As she followed him toward
the store, he struck her again, knocking her down."
victim got up and continued into the store, where she asked
the manager if she could call 911. "After she made the
call, [Anderson] tried to grab the phone out of her hand. He
put his arm around her neck and dragged her backward about 15
feet before throwing her to the ground." The victim got
up and climbed back into the car, but Anderson climbed in
with her. The two drove off, but were intercepted by police
shortly afterwards. Officers took Anderson into custody, but
after he was placed into a police cruiser he kicked out the
cruiser's window. When police examined the victim, she
had "a two- by one-inch 'painful' contusion
behind [her] ear, bruises, and a lump on her head."
incident at the supermarket was caught on the store's
surveillance cameras. According to the California Court of
Appeal, the video "did not show the victim attacking
[Anderson] in the car," as Anderson claims, but instead
it showed him on top of her in the car drawing his hand back
several times; it showed him standing above her as she lay on
the ground outside the market, moving his arms and legs; and
it showed him swinging his arms as he stood over her in the
store after shoving her to the ground.
The Initial Proceedings ...