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In Re Harjot Singh Takhar

August 28, 2012

IN RE HARJOT SINGH TAKHAR ON HABEAS CORPUS.


(Super. Ct. No. CR-HC-93-9600760)

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Nicholson , Acting P. J.

In re Takhar

CA3

NOT TO BE PUBLISHED

California Rules of Court, rule 8.1115(a), prohibits courts and parties from citing or relying on opinions not certified for publication or ordered published, except as specified by rule 8.1115(b). This opinion has not been certified for publication or ordered published for purposes of rule 8.1115.

Petitioner Harjot Singh Takhar has been incarcerated since 1993 for two second degree murders. In 2010, the Board of Parole Hearings (Board) denied parole, finding that Takhar is currently dangerous. Takhar filed a petition for writ of habeas corpus, and the trial court, after reweighing the evidence, granted the petition.

We reverse because the Board properly relied on evidence that Takhar is currently dangerous.

FACTUAL BACKGROUND AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY

Takhar met Manpareet Gill when Takhar was 14 years old, and within a year Takhar was relying on Gill as his "emotional crutch," to deal with the emotional fallout of Takhar's sister having been raped. They became close, did drugs together and committed crimes together. In 1992, when Takhar was 20 years old, they got together to celebrate Gill's birthday. They smoked marijuana and planned their evening.

Gill wanted to get revenge on James and Barbara Bono, because he thought they had stolen his dog. He suggested they go to the Bonos' home and scare them by "making noises, banging windows, and things to that effect." Takhar thought it was weird, but otherwise did not think too much about it. Gill and Takhar drove towards the home and parked in a nearby orchard, at which point Gill revealed he had a handgun. Gill told Takhar he was going to shoot the gun in the air to scare the Bonos. Takhar knew Gill's possession of the gun was illegal. Takhar also knew when he saw the gun, "that should have been the first light to go off in my head. I should have laid into him about it, but I didn't." Instead, Takhar "decided, ok, fine" just shoot the gun off in the air "and let's get to the party." They went to the Bonos' home, and began making noises to "spook" the Bonos. They found a key to the home and Gill said he was going to use it and rob the Bonos. Takhar knew "red flag number two should have gone off at that point, but it didn't." Takhar tried to talk Gill out of the plan, but Gill went inside and Takhar heard shots being fired. When he went inside, he saw Gill had killed the Bonos.

Takhar covered the bodies with a blanket, and at Gill's suggestion they staged the scene to make it appear to have been a burglary. They emptied a purse, took a wallet, burned something and, after leaving the scene, attempted to use one of the stolen credit cards to further the cover up. Takhar knew he "could have run and notified the authorities, but I allowed [Gill] to dictate to me." Takhar and Gill then went to their friend's house for a party. By that time, Takhar had "already started the process of blocking it out, legitimizing what [he] was doing, telling [him]self 'I didn't do this. . . . I lived my life for the next year like nothing had happened.'" The Bonos lived in a secluded part of the county and there were no leads in the murders for over a year. Ultimately, an anonymous tip led to Takhar's and Gill's arrests.

Takhar pleaded no contest to two counts of second degree murder. He was sentenced to two concurrent terms of 15 years to life with the possibility of parole. Gill proceeded to trial and was acquitted.

Takhar explained to the Board that his mental state at the time of the murders was that he was "[t]aking the easy way out" of things, avoiding responsibility and avoiding pain. The murders occurred because he had "failed as a moral being" and because of his bad choices, in both action and inaction.

Takhar's prior criminal record included a conviction for theft in 1990, when he and a friend ran into a store and stole beer. After serving some time in jail, he was released on probation. In 1991, Takhar pleaded guilty to trespassing and was placed on probation. Later in 1991, he was convicted of making a false report to the police regarding a hit-and-run accident which occurred when he had been drinking. He was again placed on probation. In 1991, he was also convicted of theft and malicious mischief. At the time the murders were committed, Takhar was on probation.

Takhar was denied parole in 2002 and in 2006. In 2006, the Board recommended he get "self-help, stay disciplinary-free, earn positive chronos."

While in prison, Takhar participated in numerous self-help programs including Alternatives to Violence, Principles of Affirmation and Cooperation and bereavement training. Through those courses, he was instructed on the importance of community-building, how to communicate based on needs without blame or judgment and empathy. Takhar also began participating in an interfaith 12-step program in January 2009. He volunteered in hospice care.

Vocationally, Takhar obtained a certificate in radiologic technology, as an x-ray technician, as well as clerical and administrative skills. He learned auto mechanic skills and conducted literacy tutor training. Upon his release, he intended to continue working in hospice care, and was already in contact with an organization. He also had a job offer to work with his cousin as an assistant project manager.

Takhar's file contained numerous laudatory chronological reports, in particular with respect to his participation in self-help programming and his numerous volunteer activities. Takhar claimed because of the self-help programming, he was better able to make good decisions, as he now paid ...


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