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Michael Rene Gonzales v. Matthew Cate

March 18, 2013

MICHAEL RENE GONZALES,
PETITIONER,
v.
MATTHEW CATE, SECRETARY, RESPONDENT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Marilyn L. Huff, District Judge United States District Court

ORDER DENYING PETITION FOR WRIT OF HABEAS CORPUS, AND DENYING CERTIFICATE OF APPEALABILITY

On May 2, 2012, Michael Rene Gonzales ("Petitioner"), a California state prisoner proceeding pro se, filed a petition for writ of habeas corpus pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254 challenging the constitutionality of his conviction. (Doc. No. 1.) On August 14, 2012, E. Valenzuela filed a response in opposition.*fn1 (Doc. No. 9.) On October 22, 2012, Petitioner filed a traverse. (Doc. No. 12.) On December 18, 2012 the magistrate judge issued a report and recommendation to deny the petition. (Doc. No. 13.) Petitioner filed an objection to the report and recommendation on January 17, 2013. (Doc. No. 15.) For the following reasons, the Court rejects Petitioner's objections and denies the petition for writ of habeas corpus.

BACKGROUND

Petitioner seeks relief from his May 2008 conviction of first-degree murder with the use of a knife. (Doc. No. 1.) The summary of facts are taken from the California Court of Appeal's January 6, 2011, decision affirming judgment. (Doc. No. 10 ("Lodgment") No. 5.) A presumption of correctness attaches to state court determinations of factual issues on federal habeas review. 28 U.S.C. § 2254(e)(1).

Between 9:00 a.m. and 10:00 a.m. on May 30, 2008, Kory Sparks and Raymundo Lopez brought a load of used carpet padding to the Pad Connection, which is located on Commercial Street in San Diego. The Pad Connection is in the business of recycling carpet padding. Sparks regularly sold padding to the Pad Connection.

Earlier that day, [Petitioner] had called the Pad Connection and told employee Quyen Nguyen that he would be bringing in a load of carpet padding later that morning. [Petitioner] had previously sold carpet padding to the Pad Connection on four to six occasions.

When [Petitioner] arrived at the Pad Connection with his load, Nguyen was working with Sparks and Lopez. Nguyen was operating a forklift. Because [Petitioner] parked his truck in a location that made it difficult for Nguyen to collect the padding that Sparks and Lopez had brought, Nguyen asked [Petitioner] to move his truck. [Petitioner] did not say anything, and did what Nguyen had requested. Nguyen resumed weighing the padding that Sparks had brought in.

As Nguyen was weighing Sparks's material, [Petitioner] walked up behind Sparks, lifted something in his right hand, and struck Sparks in the shoulder and neck area three or four times. Sparks fell to the ground, and [Petitioner] began walking toward the street. Nguyen initially thought that Sparks had been knocked unconscious, but then he saw blood and noticed that [Petitioner] was holding a knife.

Angel Rodriguez, who had seen [Petitioner] enter the warehouse and approach Sparks, went to check on Sparks, as did Lopez. Lopez saw blood coming from behind Sparks's head. Rodriguez and Lopez saw [Petitioner] standing near the door to the warehouse. Lopez spoke to [Petitioner] in Spanish, telling him to "calm down," but [Petitioner] told Lopez to move aside. Lopez could see that [Petitioner] had a knife, so Lopez backed away. [Petitioner] approached Sparks as he lay on the ground and began stabbing him in the chest and stomach. Rodriguez and Lopez both ran away.

Several people ran to a police station that was across the street from the Pad Connection and yelled out that someone had been stabbed. The witnesses pointed out [Petitioner] as the person who had done the stabbing. [Petitioner] was in his truck, which was stopped at a red light at a nearby intersection.

Officer Cesar Castro, who was on foot, walked into the street and made eye contact with [Petitioner]. Castro motioned for [Petitioner] to pull over to the side of the road, which [Petitioner] did. [Petitioner] was sweaty and excited, and appeared to be out of breath.

When Officer Castro approached [Petitioner], [Petitioner] began making unsolicited comments to Officer Castro, such as "[Y]ou know, I'm here on my own. How would you feel if you were the victim all the time[?]" [Petitioner] also said things like, "[E]verybody is against me, . . . [¶] . . . [¶] . . . "Nobody cares for me, and everyone takes advantage of me," and asked Castro, "What would you do?" [Petitioner] was eventually arrested.

A few days later, police crime scene specialists searched [Petitioner's] truck and trailer. They found a knife sheath with a "Jeep" logo on it in the center console of the truck, and found a knife with a "Jeep" logo in the trailer, on top of some carpet padding. The knife appeared to be a hunting or sporting knife, and had a four-and-three-quarters inch long blade. The knife had bloodstains on it. The blood was tested and was determined to match Sparks's DNA.

An autopsy was performed on Sparks's body. Sparks had suffered a wound to his neck, and several wounds on the left side of his chest. The neck wound, which was approximately five inches deep, went from the back right side of Sparks's neck to the left front of his body. Sparks's spinal cord had been transected between the fourth and fifth cervical vertebra, which would cause paralysis to all parts of his body below the fifth vertebra. There were 10 other stab wounds on Sparks's chest, all of which were life threatening wounds. The coroner concluded that Sparks died from multiple stab wounds to his neck and chest. Sparks did not die immediately from the wound to his neck; blood was discovered in his chest cavity, which indicated that Sparks's heart was beating at the time he received the additional wounds to his chest. (Id. at 2-4.)

The California Court of Appeal affirmed Petitioner's conviction on January 6, 2011. (Id. at 1.) Petitioner did not directly appeal the Court of Appeal's decision. (See Lodgment No. 6.) Instead, Petitioner sought habeas corpus relief from the California Supreme Court. (Id.) In his initial habeas petition to the California Supreme Court, Petitioner alleged that there was insufficient evidence to sustain his conviction for first-degree murder and that his conviction should be reduced to second-degree murder. (Id. at 3.) On December 15, 2011, Petitioner sought to amend his petition. (Lodgment No. 7.) The California Supreme Court "Received" his amended petition, but did not mark it "Filed." (Lodgment No. 8.) Petitioner raised three new claims in his amended petition: a violation of his due process rights based on insufficient evidence that Petitioner was not guilty by reason of insanity; a due process violation based on the trial court's refusal to give a lesser-included offense jury instruction; and a due process violation based on ineffective assistance of counsel. (Lodgment No. 7 at 6-10.) On March 14, 2012, the California Supreme Court summarily denied review without comment. (Lodgment No. 8.) On May 2, 2012, Petitioner filed his federal petition for writ of habeas corpus. (Doc. No. 1.)

In his federal petition, Petitioner alleges claims for a violation of his due process rights based on insufficient evidence to sustain his conviction for first-degree murder; a violation of his due process rights based on substantial evidence that Petitioner was not guilty by reason of insanity; and a violation of his due process rights stemming from the trial court's alleged refusal to give a lesser included offense jury instruction. (Id. at 12-21, 23.)

DISCUSSION

I. Standard of ...


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