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Thong Hach v. Mike Mcdonald

January 4, 2012



Petitioner is a state prisoner proceeding in propria persona with an application for a writ of habeas corpus pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254. Petitioner challenges a 2007 judgment of conviction entered against him in the San Joaquin County Superior Court on charges of second degree murder and shooting at an occupied vehicle. He claims that the trial court violated his federal constitutional rights when it gave a jury instruction that allowed a second degree felony-murder conviction to be predicated on the underlying felony of shooting at an occupied vehicle. Upon careful consideration of the record and the applicable law, the undersigned recommends that petitioner's application for habeas corpus relief be denied.

I. Factual Background*fn1

FACTS Defendant and Savy Yip lived together for over six years, since they were 17. They had two children, but never married. They lived with defendant's mother and brother. Yip's parents lived a house away.

Yip met Joshua Chace on a telephone chat line. After a few weeks, she started talking to him individually and considered him "somewhat" her boyfriend. Yip told Chace the father of her children was "not in the picture."

On August 19, 2005, Chace came to California from Massachusetts to see Yip. Yip told defendant she was going out with friends that night and picked Chace up at the airport. They spent the night together.

When Yip went home the next day, she and defendant got into an argument. She packed her things and went to her mother's. She spent the next four days with Chace.

The night before the incident, Yip returned home and fell asleep. While she was sleeping, Chace called. Defendant answered and Chace told him he was Yip's "man."

When Yip awoke the next afternoon, she and defendant argued. Yip told defendant she did not want to be with him. She left about 6:00 p.m. and went to Chace. They went to a park and talked. Defendant claimed he was heartbroken and hurt when he found out about Chace. When Yip told him it was over, they argued and defendant said he might do something stupid. After Yip left, defendant waited several hours for her to return. Later that night defendant waved down a friend and got in his 4Runner with a gun; he wanted to bring Yip home. They went to four or five parks before they found Yip.

Around midnight, Yip and Chace were at Laughlin Park in the car with the seats reclined. Yip was in the driver's seat and Chace in the passenger seat. Yip saw headlights coming from behind. A car stopped in the middle of the road, about 15 feet away.

Defendant got out of the passenger side of the car. He had a gun in his hand and went to the driver's side of Yip's car. He tapped the windshield with the gun and yelled, "'get out.'" Yip said "'no'" and "'don't shoot.'" Defendant started walking around the back of the car. Yip started the car. Chace told defendant he did not want any problems, and told Yip, "'just go, just go.'" Yip took off and made a u-turn. As she turned, she heard a shot.

Yip kept driving. She noticed Chace was quiet and then heard him gasping for air; he did not move. She drove to the hospital. Chace died from a gunshot wound to the head.

Defendant told the detective who interviewed him that he shot to scare Chace. At trial he testified he had the gun-an SKS rifle-below his waist. He ran after the car and shot in the air; he shot because he was angry and was not aiming. He was 10 feet from the car when he fired. On cross-examination, he testified "I shoot the gun in the air to lose my anger. I told the detective I tried to scare him. That is all."

People v. Hach, 176 Cal.App.4th 1450, 1452-1454 (2009).

II. Analysis

A. Standards for a Writ of Habeas Corpus

An application for a writ of habeas corpus by a person in custody under a judgment of a state court can be granted only for violations of the Constitution or laws of the United States. 28 U.S.C. § 2254(a). A federal writ is not available for alleged error in the interpretation or application of state law. See Wilson v. Corcoran, 562 U.S.___, ___, 131 S. Ct. 13, 16 (2010); Estelle v. McGuire, 502 U.S. 62, 67-68 (1991); Park v. California, 202 F.3d 1146, 1149 (9th Cir. 2000).

Title 28 U.S.C. § 2254(d) sets forth the following standards for granting federal habeas corpus relief:

An application for a writ of habeas corpus on behalf of a person in custody pursuant to the judgment of a State court shall not be granted with respect to any claim that was adjudicated on the merits in State court proceedings unless the adjudication of the claim -

(1) resulted in a decision that was contrary to, or involved an unreasonable application of, clearly established Federal law, as determined by the Supreme Court of the United States; or

(2) resulted in a decision that was based on an unreasonable determination of the facts in light of the evidence ...

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