On the evening of March 10, 1977,
Mata and his brother, Alonzo, were at their Phoenix apartment with
Debra Lopez. When Ms. Lopez got up to leave, Luis Mata stopped her
and told her they were going to rape her. The brothers began beating
her with a rifle and their fists, and each raped her.
They then drove the unconscious victim away from
the apartment and Luis killed her by cutting her throat with a knife,
nearly decapitating her in the process.
Alonzo Mata was also convicted for the murder of
Lopez and sentenced to death. He was later resentenced to life in
prison. Alonzo Mata later claimed that he, not Luis, had killed
Lopez. Courts did not believe the confession.
Defense lawyers also argued that Judge Stanley
Goodfarb uttered racial slurs, specifically the term "wetback," in
reference Mata during the trial. A judge later ruled that Goodfarb
was simply repeating terminology used by the defense.
Luis Mata's defense argued years after his
sentencing that he was born with water on the brain and that he
suffered brain damage as an abused child.
Luis Mata lived on death row more than 19 years
before his execution.
Presiding Judge: Stanley Z. Goodfarb
Prosecutor: Michael Donovan
Start of Trial: October 4, 1977
Verdict: October 17, 1977
Sentencing: December 9, 1977
Resentencing: December 8, 1978
State v. Mata (Luis), 125 Ariz. 233, 609 P.2d 48
Mata v. Ricketts, 937 F.2d 467 (9th Cir. 1991).
Mata v. Ricketts, 981 F.2d 397 (9th Cir. 1992).
Two Beef burritos, two pork chops, French fries (big
order), jalapenos (a few).
937 F.2d 467
James G. RICKETTS, Attorney General of the State of Arizona;
Samuel Lewis, Director ADOC; Lloyd Bramlett,
Warden, ASPC-F; John Avenenti, Deputy
Warden, ASU, Respondents-Appellees.
United States Court of Appeals,
Argued and Submission Deferred
June 16, 1988.
Resubmitted Without Further Argument Feb. 1, 1991.
Decided July 1, 1991.
Appeal from the United States
District Court for the District of Arizona.
Before CHOY, GOODWIN and NORRIS,
Luis Morine Mata appeals the
denial of his petition for a writ of habeas corpus following his
conviction and exhaustion of state remedies in this capital
murder case from Arizona. See State v. Mata, 125 Ariz. 233, 609
P.2d 48, cert. denied, 449 U.S. 938, 101 S.Ct. 338, 66 L.Ed.2d
The principal question before
us is whether a new Supreme Court decision announced after the
exhaustion of state remedies and after the conclusion of
proceedings before the district court creates a right to federal
During the trial, Mata's
brother, Alonzo, was Luis' codefendant. Both exercised their
constitutional right not to testify. Alonzo and Luis had both
confessed to raping and murdering the decedent and dumping her
body in the desert outside Tucson.
Alonzo's version of the
confession placed the fatal knife in the hands of Luis, who then
admitted in his confession that he had indeed cut the throat of
the victim. Because Alonzo did not choose to testify, the state
offered both Luis' and Alonzo's confessions into evidence
against both defendants. Luis likewise declined to testify and
both were convicted and sentenced to death.
Following a remand for
resentencing under State v. Walton, 120 Ariz. 441, 586 P.2d 1253
(1978), Alonzo received a life sentence and Luis was again
sentenced to death. Alonzo is not before us in this appeal.
While Luis apparently never raised in earlier proceedings the
question of the admissibility against him of his brother's
confession, Luis now contends that under the rule of Cruz v. New
York, 481 U.S. 186, 193-94, 107 S.Ct. 1714, 1719-20, 95 L.Ed.2d
162 (1987), he is entitled to a new trial.
The state, conceding that Cruz
now bars the use of a nontestifying codefendant's confession
incriminating the defendant in future trials, argues that good
reasons counsel against employing Cruz to reopen old cases,
particularly those in which the codefendant's incriminating
confession added little or nothing to the state's overwhelming
evidence of the guilt of the defendant.
The state argues that Alonzo's
confession told the jury nothing it did not already know; that
the evidence was harmless beyond a reasonable doubt; that the
evidence was lawfully received when the case was tried (citing
Parker v. Randolph, 442 U.S. 62, 99 S.Ct. 2132, 60 L.Ed.2d 713
(1979); and that new constitutional rules of criminal procedure
generally should not be applied retroactively to cases on
collateral review. Teague v. Lane, 489 U.S. 288, 109 S.Ct. 1060,
103 L.Ed.2d 334 (1989).
In this case we need not
discuss the application of Teague because any error in using the
codefendant's confession was harmless beyond a reasonable doubt.
Harrington v. California, 395 U.S. 250, 89 S.Ct. 1726, 23 L.Ed.2d
284 (1969) (holding that the admission of statements of two
nontestifying codefendants against Harrington was harmless
error). In United States v. Hasting, 461 U.S. 499, 103 S.Ct.
1974, 76 L.Ed.2d 96 (1983), the Supreme Court described the
harmless error test in the following fashion:
Since Chapman, [386 U.S. 18,
87 S.Ct. 824, 17 L.Ed.2d 705 (1967) ] the Court has consistently
made clear that it is the duty of a reviewing court to consider
the trial record as a whole and to ignore errors that are
harmless, including most constitutional violations.
The question a reviewing court must ask is
this: absent [the allegedly improper evidence] is it clear
beyond a reasonable doubt that the jury would have returned a
verdict of guilty?
Id. 461 U.S. at 509-11, 103
S.Ct. at 1980-82. There is no doubt that petitioner would have
been convicted by his own confession plus the abundant
corroboration of George Castro, Antonio Sanez, and Arnold
The confession of Alonzo
merely seconded the confession of Luis and was cumulative
evidence with reference to the material facts of the murder. The
use of Alonzo's confession in the joint trial did not then
offend the Sixth Amendment and did not infect the fact finding
At most, a speculative
argument might be advanced to the effect that the trial judge at
the time of the resentencing of Luis could have been slightly
less inclined to sentence him to death if the only evidence
placing the knife in Luis' hand had been his own confession.
However, his confession was clear and unequivocal.
Luis' challenge to the
voluntariness of his confession presents no grounds to overturn
the district court's careful review of the state court record
and the findings at every level that his confession was
Luis has presented a number of
other constitutional arguments, but none warrants reversal of
the judgment of the district court. His argument that the
Arizona death penalty law is unconstitutional has been
definitively answered adversely by the Supreme Court in Walton
v. Arizona, --- U.S. ----, 110 S.Ct. 3047, 111 L.Ed.2d 511
Likewise, Luis' complaints
that his defense counsel did not adequately defend him presents
no factual basis for overturning the decision of the district
court. His complaints about various evidentiary rulings do not
raise federal constitutional questions.