United States District Court, N.D. California
ORDER DENYING PETITION FOR WRIT OF HABEAS CORPUS;
DENYING CERTIFICATE OF APPEALABILITY
TIGAR UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
the Court is the above-titled petition for a writ of habeas
corpus, filed pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254 by Petitioner
Sheyna Douprea, challenging the validity of her state court
conviction. ECF No. 12. Respondent has filed an answer to the
petition, ECF No. 20, and Petitioner has filed a traverse,
ECF No. 31. For the reasons set forth below, the petition is
August 16, 2010, a Sonoma County jury found Petitioner guilty
of first-degree murder, enhanced for use of a knife.
Clerk's Transcript (“CT”) 312-13; Reporter's
Transcript (“RT”) 2681-83. On January 4,
2011, the trial court sentenced Petitioner to twenty-six
years to life in prison. CT 2586; RT 2924-28.
November 30, 2012, the California Court of Appeal affirmed
the judgment in an unpublished decision. People v.
Douprea, No. A131031, 2012 WL 5987896, at *1
(Cal.Ct.App. Nov. 30, 2012). On March 13, 2013, the
California Supreme Court denied review. ECF No. 24-4 at 2.
15, 2014, Petitioner filed a petition for a writ of habeas
corpus in the California Supreme Court. ECF Nos. 24-5-24-18.
After soliciting an informal opposition from respondent, the
California Supreme Court denied the petition on December 16,
December 28, 2015, Petitioner filed a federal habeas petition
that commenced this action. See ECF No. 1. On
January 10, 2017, Petitioner filed an amended habeas petition
that omitted her unexhausted claims. See ECF No. 12
following factual and procedural background is taken from the
California Court of Appeal's opinion:
Sheyna Douprea, then 23 years old, stabbed her intoxicated
46-year-old boyfriend to death after he refused to go with
her to a Christmas party in December 2008. The essential
question at trial was Douprea's state of mind at the time
of the killing.
A. Pretrial and Evidentiary Rulings
An information charged Douprea with the murder of her
boyfriend, Daniel Mooney, and alleged that she perpetrated
the murder willfully, deliberately, and with premeditation.
(Pen. Code, § 187.) The information further alleged that
Douprea personally used a deadly and dangerous weapon (a
knife), such that the offense was a serious felony. (Pen.
Code, §§ 12022, subd. (b)(1); 1192.7, subd.
(c)(23).) In addition, it was alleged that Douprea personally
and intentionally inflicted great bodily injury. (Pen. Code,
§§ 1203.075, 12022.7, subd. (a)).
In July 2010, the prosecution filed motions in limine seeking
admission of numerous prior acts of violence by Douprea.
(Evid. Code, §§ 1101, subd. (b); 1109.) Defense
counsel opposed the motions in part. The trial court admitted
all but two of the prior incidents, a ruling that Douprea
challenges in this appeal, as discussed post.
Also in July 2010, defense counsel agreed with the
prosecutor's motion to preclude a defense expert witness
from opining that Douprea suffers from Battered Women's
Syndrome (or, as it is also known, “Intimate Partner
Violence”). (See Evid. Code., § 1107.) The court
later precluded the expert's opinion that Douprea entered
into a dissociative state on the date of the crime. As
addressed post, Douprea challenges these matters as
B. Prosecution Case
1. Relationship Between Douprea and Mooney
Douprea and Mooney started dating in late 2007 or early 2008.
At that time, Mooney lived in an apartment in Healdsburg with
Matthew Schamens, whom he had met at an alcohol
rehabilitation center. Douprea lived with her two-year-old
daughter in Windsor, in a mobile home purchased by her
mother, Gena. [FN 1]
FN 1: Because Gena Douprea has the same last name as
appellant, we refer to Gena by her first name for clarity,
In August 2008, about four months before the killing, Douprea
and Mooney had a physical altercation witnessed by
Douprea's neighbor, Jennifer Cardona. Cardona testified
that she saw a female quickly leaving Douprea's home
around midnight, trying to get away from a male and yelling
at him to “leave us alone.” The man pulled the
woman by the hair toward the house and then toward a car; she
pushed him to get away; and then he hit her and she fell to
the ground. Cordona called 911, and the police soon arrived.
Questioned by the police, Mooney denied hitting Douprea or
any physical violence, while Douprea claimed they had a fight
because she wanted him to spend the night. Photographs
admitted at trial showed an injury to Douprea's hip and a
small scratch on her face. After Mooney was taken away,
however, Douprea asked the police how she could bail him out.
She did not want him arrested and did not want a restraining
At some point, Mooney obtained a restraining order against
Douprea. Sometime thereafter, Schamens observed an argument
between them at Mooney's apartment: Douprea struck at
Mooney's face, removed Mooney's glasses and threw
them on the floor, and hit Mooney with a towel rack; Mooney
had scratches down his neck and “claw” marks on
In November 2008, Mooney started drinking again. Schamens saw
Mooney intoxicated twice, but on neither occasion was he
aggressive or violent. Schamens vacated the apartment in late
November, and Douprea accepted Mooney's invitation to
Around 11:00 p.m. on the night before the December 14
killing, Victoria Steel, who lived in the apartment below
Mooney's, heard noises upstairs for 15-20 minutes. The
noises sounded like something heavy dropping on the floor.
FN 2: As described post, Douprea told the police
that she had an argument with Mooney the night before he
died; initially, she claimed there was no violence; later she
asserted that he had swung at her, choked her, threatened to
kill her, and twisted her arm behind her back.
2. The Hours Before the Killing
On the morning of December 14, 2008, Douprea attended church
and dropped off her daughter at daycare. At 11:00 a.m., she
picked up her daughter and said she was going to a Christmas
party. She did not appear distraught.
Around 11:15 or 11:30 a.m., Douprea was observed driving in
the direction of Gena's home in Windsor. Gena confirmed
that Douprea dropped off her daughter at her house around
11:30 a.m. and was in a pleasant mood.
According to Douprea's cell phone records, Douprea called
Nicole Rowan, her sponsor at Alcoholics Anonymous, at 11:31
a.m. and spoke for nine minutes. Rowan testified that Douprea
sounded irritated; she had planned to go to a Christmas party
with Mooney and he was already drinking at 11:00. The last
thing Douprea said was, “I'm going to go and get
him cleaned up, see if I can get him cleaned up.” At
11:54 a.m., Douprea called Gena and spoke with her for eight
minutes. According to Gena, Douprea said she was locked in
the bathroom and Mooney had beaten her, threatened to kill
her, and tried to strangle her. Gena heard screaming and
pounding on the door, and Douprea sounded terrified and
frantic and was “sort of” crying. Douprea said
she did not know what to do; she could not leave the
apartment, and she did not want to call 911 because she was
afraid Mooney would go to jail. After about six minutes, the
pounding and screaming subsided, Douprea seemed calmer, and
she said she thought everything was going to be alright.
Douprea convinced Gena not to call 911.
According to Douprea's cell phone records, Douprea spoke
next to her friend Fulton, from 12:04 to 12:09 p.m. Fulton
testified that he had invited Douprea and Mooney to dinner
and called Douprea to let her know she did not have to pick
up one of the other guests. Although she seemed calm, Douprea
told him that Mooney had been drinking and they got into an
altercation. At Fulton's request, Douprea put Mooney on
the phone; obviously intoxicated, Mooney's speech was so
slurred that Fulton could hardly understand him. After Mooney
got off the phone, Fulton spoke to Douprea while Mooney was
“laughing maniacally” in the background. Douprea
said, “Get off of me, Daniel” at least once, but
still seemed calm. According to Fulton, Mooney's laugh
sounded evil and out of control; he testified that he had
never heard Mooney laugh that way before. Douprea said she
was scared (or sounded scared) when she talked about Mooney
being physical with her, and she asked Fulton if she should
call the police. Fulton suggested that Douprea leave the
apartment and talk to Mooney when he was sober.
Janet Lopez and Tamara Nolan, who lived in the apartment next
to Mooney's, testified that they were returning to their
apartment around 12:15 or 12:30 p.m. on December 14th when
they met Douprea going up the stairs. [FN 3] Douprea was
talking on her cell phone, saying “I will get him up or
get him out.” She did not appear angry.
FN 3: Their time estimate may not be correct, since
Douprea's cell phone records indicate that Douprea was on
the phone with Fulton from 12:04 to 12:09 p.m. and made calls
to Gena at 12:09 p.m., to 911 (apparently without a
connection) at 12:29 p.m., and to Gena at 12:33 p.m.
At some point between 12:09 and 12:32, Douprea killed Mooney.
3. Douprea's Post-Killing Call to Gena; Gena's
Call to 911
At 12:33 p.m., Gena received a call from Douprea. Crying and
very upset, Douprea said Mooney had been strangling her and
tried to kill her, and she stabbed him. Douprea claimed she
had tried to call 911 but could not get through. Gena said
she would call 911 and hung up.
Gena testified that she called 911 when she got off the phone
with Douprea and gave the dispatcher Douprea's contact
information. She also told the 911 operator that there was
probably a knife in the house and that Douprea “[said]
he's dead.” Police dispatcher Linda Haviland
testified that Gena called 911 at 12:32 p.m. [FN 4]
FN 4: It is unclear why records indicate that Douprea's
call to Gena was at 12:33 p.m., while Gena's call to 911,
supposedly following Douprea's call to Gena, was at 12:32
4. Police Dispatch and Douprea's False Statement to
The Healdsburg Police were dispatched to Mooney's
apartment at 12:33 p.m., and officers arrived at 12:34.
Before they entered, Haviland telephoned Douprea inside the
apartment. In a tape of the conversation played for the jury,
Douprea told Haviland, “I came in from church and my
boyfriend's covered in blood.” (At trial, defense
counsel conceded that Douprea's statement to the
dispatcher was untrue.)
5. The Crime Scene
At 12:39 p.m., the police entered Mooney's apartment.
Mooney was on his back on the floor of his bedroom,
unresponsive, attempting to breathe, and bleeding heavily. A
towel saturated with blood was against the left side of his
neck. A lot of blood was on the floor around him,
particularly close to his head. Emergency medical technicians
were unable to revive him; he was transported to the hospital
and pronounced dead on arrival.
Douprea was handcuffed and remained with police inside the
apartment for 15 to 20 minutes. She had blood on her lip and
in her left nostril. She was concerned about Mooney, seemed
to be crying, and was breathing heavily or rapidly, but she
had no difficulty speaking and did not indicate she was in
A police officer drove Douprea from Mooney's apartment to
the Healdsburg police station. Douprea had no difficulty
breathing or speaking, she did not cough or gasp, and nothing
about her appearance suggested she needed medical attention.
6. Mooney's Condition
Mooney had a .35 percent blood alcohol level and a
therapeutic level of Benadryl in his blood, which in
combination would intoxicate a person much more than either
substance would separately. He was 70 inches tall and
“relatively slight” and “slighter framed,
” weighing 150 pounds.
An autopsy determined that Mooney died from four stab wounds
on the left side of his neck. Three of the wounds had the
same angle, suggesting they occurred in the same session,
while Douprea and Mooney were in the same relative positions.
The pathologist could not determine, however, the position of
Mooney or Douprea at the time of the injuries. Two of the
wounds were about one and a half inches deep, reflected
similar paths through the neck and external jugular vein,
damaged the internal jugular vein and carotid artery, and
would have been fatal individually. A third wound was about
one and a quarter inches deep, just below the left jaw bone.
The fourth wound was toward the back of the left side of
Mooney's neck and about a half inch deep. Mooney had
superficial wounds around his left nostril, on his left
forearm, and on his right palm, which could have been caused
by a fingernail or a knife. He had abrasions on the left side
of his face and the right side of his neck, along with
apparent scrapes from fingernails on his arm and bruises on
his nose and above his right eyebrow.
7. Physical Evidence
The knife that Douprea used to kill Mooney was a folding
pocketknife with a two-inch blade. Police found it in a
diaper pail on the patio, under soiled diapers.
The room with the most blood was a bedroom in which
Mooney's wallet was found. Blood was on the bed and
saturated the carpet. There was also blood leading to the
bathroom and inside the bathroom. Blood in the shower
suggested that someone had taken a shower (and Douprea's
hair was wet when the police arrived).
In the kitchen, blood was on the counter, in the sink, on the
refrigerator, and next to the sliding glass door. In the
trash can was broken glass wrapped in a wet tissue, a shoe
with apparent blood stains, and paper towels soaked in blood.
8. Douprea's Statement to Police
Douprea was interviewed at the police station by Healdsburg
Police Detective Shooter for about three hours, starting
around 3:00 p.m. The interview was recorded. Other than a
headache, Douprea made no complaints of pain. She had a
one-inch red mark above her brow and said she had suffered a
Douprea offered police several inconsistent explanations for
Mooney's death. She began by saying that she just found
Mooney on his bed, bleeding, when she came home. She tried to
help him to the bathroom so she could put a towel on his
neck, but he slumped to the floor. She tried to call 911 but
could not get through, so she called Gena and said Mooney
might be dying. Douprea next told police that Mooney had been
getting drunk lately and was prone to fighting when drunk.
Douprea described previous altercations between them,
including one the night before.
[FN 5] This time, Douprea claimed, Mooney attacked her by
pulling her into the closet, beating her, twisting her arm,
and asking her if she wanted to die. She fought back, and he
“started bleeding more” from what “might
have been some kind of a cut.” FN 5: Douprea told the
police that Mooney had assaulted her physically two or three
times before the day she killed him. The first time was the
August 2008 incident at her home; she claimed that Mooney
choked her and said, “I'm gonna kill you.”
Douprea also stated that she would bite Mooney to get him off
of her, and she had a recorded voice message from Mooney
saying he would rearrange her face if she ever bit him again.
As to the night before the killing, Douprea first told the
police they had a non-violent argument in which he did not
understand why she wanted to be with him since he was a
worthless drunk. Later she claimed that he became angry when
she asked him how much he had to drink, and he swung at her
and choked her. Holding her throat, he pressed her up against
the refrigerator, told her not to get into his business, and
said he was going to kill her. Later that night, he twisted
her arm behind her back and said she was worthless and drove
him to drink.
Detective Shooter told Douprea that her story was not
“lining up.” Douprea then claimed that Mooney was
choking her, so she used a pocket knife to try to get him off
of her and accidentally cut his neck. Eventually, Douprea
provided additional details, which we piece together as
On the morning of the killing, Douprea went to church with
her daughter, dropped her off afterward at Gena's home in
Windsor, and returned to Mooney's apartment so she and
Mooney could attend a Christmas party. But when she went into
Mooney's bedroom, he rolled away from her and said they
were not going. She replied that the party was very important
to her, but Mooney repeated they were not going.
“[V]ery hurt, ” Douprea pulled back Mooney's
blanket and said, “Come on, you gotta get ready,
Mooney became very angry and followed her into the kitchen.
They punched each other in the nose, and they each had bloody
noses. They gave each other a black eye. He banged her head
on the floor, twisted her arms, and threatened to break them.
Douprea ran into the bathroom and called Fulton and Gena,
telling them she was scared. She did not call the police or
ask anyone to do so because Mooney was on parole and would
get into trouble. She loved him and knew that
“that's not the sober him.” Douprea next went
into her bedroom. After about a minute and a half, Mooney
opened the door, yelled at her, and insulted her. When he
left, she thought about what to do. She felt unsafe because
the door to her room did not lock, but she felt unable to
leave the apartment because her experience was that he would
become more angry and something worse would happen. [FN 6]
FN 6: When Detective Shooter asked Douprea why she stayed in
the apartment to confront a belligerent and violent man, she
said she could usually calm Mooney down, she loved him, and
she did not want to get him in trouble.
So Douprea got her knife and put it in her pocket. After
about 10 minutes in her bedroom, she went to the bathroom for
a few minutes until she said to herself, “Okay, I'm
calmed down, I'm gonna go talk to him.”
Douprea went to Mooney's bedroom to calm him down, as she
was usually able to do. She brought her knife along to
protect herself and to scare him, because she thought there
could be a fight.
Entering Mooney's room, Douprea tried to reassure Mooney,
saying she did not want to fight, she loved him, and
everything would be okay. She went to hug him, but Mooney
told Douprea she was a worthless whore, pushed her to the
floor, and tackled her. On top of her, he twisted her arms
and banged her head in the closet; she punched him in the
nose again; and he moved his hands to her throat and said he
was going to kill her.
Although the knife “was a threat” and she had not
originally intended to stab Mooney, that changed when Mooney
choked her. Frightened, she pulled out her knife to scare
him. But Mooney just laughed and said she could not do
Douprea stabbed Mooney lightly in the side of the neck with a
puncturing motion, thinking that “a little poke”
would scare him and get him to understand this was serious,
without severely hurting him. The knife went into the side of
Mooney's neck and she saw a little blood, but it did not
Mooney taunted Douprea for another 30 seconds and said he was
going to kill her. Believing him, and feeling dizzy and
unable to breathe, Douprea stabbed Mooney again. She thought
that stabbing him the second time would make him get off her,
without seriously hurting him. But “there might have
been some aspect of it where I was like I don't ever want
this to happen again”; she did not want Mooney to
assault her anymore.
Mooney got up and fell backwards onto his bed. She tried to
pull him to the bathroom to get a towel, but he fell down.
She retrieved a towel, hoping to stop the bleeding with
pressure, and held him for a few minutes. She called 911 but
no one answered, so she called her mother, who called the
police. She told her mother she did not intend for this to
happen and was scared Mooney was going to die.
Douprea put the knife in the diaper pail because she was
scared. Then she showered for about two minutes because she
was covered in Mooney's blood; she often took a shower to
comfort herself when scared, hurt, or depressed. When she got
out of the shower, she put on different jeans (but the same
shirt), held Mooney again, and called the police about three
After asking what the process would be if she were charged
with murder, Douprea told police, “I think [a jury]
would probably be more understanding due to the fact that I
was protecting myself.”
9. Douprea's Condition at the Hospital
Douprea was brought to the hospital at 7:59 p.m. Dr. Richard
Reisman, an emergency room physician, examined Douprea for
perhaps 10 minutes to see if she was able to go to jail.
According to Dr. Reisman, Douprea was alert, her blood
pressure was normal, and her pulse and breathing were a
little fast. She complained of a headache and soreness in the
back of her head and neck, explaining that she had been
choked and thrown to the ground, hitting the back of her head
several times. She also stated that she had been hit in the
face with a fist and suffered a nose bleed.
Dr. Reisman found the back of Douprea's head tender but
not swollen. A small reddened area next to the left nostril
did not have much swelling; there was a little blood at the
left nostril but no active bleeding. There was dried blood on
both sides of the upper and lower lips. A little reddened
area on the right side of the forehead had some swelling, but
there was no tenderness or deformation in the face.
10. Douprea's Prior Violence Against Other Men
Douprea's former husband, Robert Melia, testified that
his relationship with Douprea began in 2005. During the two
or three months they initially lived together, Douprea had
angry outbursts. In the first incident, Douprea threw a box
at him, shoved him, and scratched him when he accused her of
lying and cheating. The police were called, but Melia
declined to have her arrested. Later in Calistoga, Douprea
attacked him again, grabbing him and throwing things.
The couple moved to Las Vegas, where Douprea threatened
suicide. She was hospitalized twice in a psychiatric ward,
the second time voluntarily after she threatened to jump off
a hotel parking garage. They also continued to have violent
arguments. In September 2005, she ripped Melia's shirt,
scratched his face, and punched him because he smoked a
cigarette. When she returned from jail on October 2, 2005,
Douprea threw a glass at Melia because he was drinking and
smoking. Trying to intervene, Schneider pinned Douprea down
while Gena called the police; Douprea bit Gena and bit and
scratched Schneider. (Schneider and Gena described the
altercation similarly at trial.)
At Gena's suggestion, Melia nonetheless married Douprea
two or three days later. Subsequently, Douprea attacked Melia
for not showing sexual interest in her; she punched,
scratched, and kicked him, nearly ripping off his shirt and
leaving fingernail scrape marks on his face. She threatened
him by brandishing a three-inch knife, from her collection of
20 to 25 knives. Melia walked out and never returned.
Adam Patterson testified that he met Douprea at an Alcoholics
Anonymous meeting in 2005, and they had an off-and-on
intimate relationship for about five or six months.
Douprea's temper was unpredictable and severe, and they
broke up about a month before she went to Las Vegas. When she
returned, they lived together for perhaps a few months. On
one occasion, he awoke to find her hitting him and trying to
force him to have sex. In February 2006, after their
relationship ended, Douprea dropped off some of
Patterson's belongings at his residence; Patterson asked
her to leave, and Douprea started yelling and threw a boot
through his window. When Patterson opened the door, she
punched and bit both Patterson and his roommate, Lawrence
Mahoney. At some point, she was holding a small knife.
Mahoney called the police, who took photographs of the damage
Douprea caused to the apartment and the injuries she
inflicted. Douprea later entered a plea to throwing the boot
through the window.
Michael Schneider testified that he lived with Gena from 2003
to 2010 and experienced Douprea's violent temper as well.
On one occasion, Schneider put Douprea's cat out of
Gena's house, and Douprea grabbed a big knife from the
kitchen and said she would kill him if he
“messed” with her cat. On another occasion on
April 11, 2006, Gena asked Schneider to get her a cup of
coffee, and when Schneider made a rude comment, Douprea
grabbed a knife from the kitchen and rushed at him. Raising
his arm to block her, Schneider suffered a cut that required
C. Defense Case
1. Mooney's prior ...