United States District Court, E.D. California
FINDINGS AND RECOMMENDATIONS
DEBORAH BARNES UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.
is a state prisoner proceeding pro se and in forma pauperis
with a petition for a writ of habeas corpus under 28 U.S.C.
§ 2254. Petitioner challenges his conviction imposed by
the Sacramento County Superior Court in 2013 for second
degree murder, for which he received a sentence of 35 years
to life in prison. Petitioner alleges here that the trial
court committed prejudicial error by incorrectly instructing
the jury. For the reasons set forth below, this Court will
recommend that the petition be denied.
Factual and Procedural Background
California Court of Appeal for the Third Appellate District
provided the following factual and procedural summary:
A. Evidence at Trial
On the weekend of August 30 and 31, 2008, a festival was held
at the Bradshaw Sikh Temple in Sacramento, which was attended
by several hundred people. The festival provided for games of
field hockey, basketball, track and field, and cricket in
Defendant testified that in 2004 he lived in Elk Grove, which
is where he became friends with Amandeep Dhami (Dhami). In
2006 defendant moved to Indiana. While in Indiana, defendant
received threatening telephone calls from one Lahdi in
California because defendant had refused to help Lahdi's
friends in a criminal matter. Defendant stayed in touch with
Dhami and was aware that Dhami was having problems with Poma,
who knew Lahdi. Defendant learned that there was to be a
meeting between Dhami and Poma on Saturday, August 30.
Thinking this would be a good opportunity talk things over,
defendant flew to Sacramento on that Saturday with a
scheduled return flight for the following day around noon.
Dhami and his friend Navi picked up defendant at the airport
Saturday evening and, after making a few short stops, they
drove to the Gun Room, where Navi was to buy ammunition.
However, because Navi did not have identification defendant
bought the ammunition, which consisted of a large quantity of
bullets of various calibers. The meeting with Poma did not
take place so defendant went to a motel room with Dhami and
others where they hung out.
The next day, defendant's ride to the airport failed to
show and he missed his scheduled flight. Dhami eventually
picked defendant up and the two decided to go to the
festival. Defendant put his duffle bag in the passenger seat
of Dhami's sport utility vehicle (SUV) and saw a black
backpack behind the seat. The two drove to the festival,
parked, and walked to a drink stand. Defendant denied that
either he or Dhami took anything out of the SUV and he denied
having a gun or seeing Dhami with one. About 20 or 30 minutes
later, while Dhami and defendant were walking to talk to some
men, someone yelled Dhami's nickname and 15 to 20 men,
among whom was Alvinder Khangura (Alvinder), were looking at
them. Defendant recognized some of the men as the ones giving
As the men walked toward Dhami and defendant, Dhami said to
Alvinder, “[W]hat's up bro?” Alvinder
replied, “[N]o, bro, ” and punched Dhami in the
face, and the men continued to advance toward defendant and
Dhami. Dhami pulled a gun and the men with Alvinder backed up
a few steps. A man in a white shirt pulled a gun, Alvinder
hit Dhami again, the men started toward Dhami. Defendant
heard three or four shots and the men started hitting Dhami
and defendant. Someone struck defendant on the back of his
head, causing him to stumble into Dhami who then handed
defendant a second gun. Defendant tried to persuade the men
not to fight, but they continued to beat him. Defendant
backed up, fired about three shots into the ground, and then
ran for the parking lot. As he ran, he threw away the gun and
the keys to the SUV. Defendant was caught and beaten some
more after which he was taken back to the festival area where
he was held and later arrested.
The prosecution's evidence regarding the shooting was
considerably different than defendant's version. Tajinder
Uppal testified that he was at the festival on Sunday, about
1:00 p.m., and was returning to his truck to stow his gear
after having played field hockey when he saw defendant drive
into the parking lot in Dhami's SUV. Defendant and Dhami
got out of the SUV, opened both rear passenger doors, and
appeared to get something from the vehicle. As defendant and
Dhami walked toward the fields, Uppal did not see anything in
their hands. Uppal started walking toward the temple when he
heard gunshots and saw people chasing defendant.
Manwinder Singh Mavi (Mavi) testified that he was at the
festival with his friends Sahibjeet Singh, Alvinder, and Poma
watching a cricket match when he saw defendant and Dhami come
through the main entrance and walk toward them. When
defendant and Dhami were about 10 feet from Mavi's group,
Dhami angrily and loudly cursed Poma and Poma's sister.
Neither Poma nor anyone else argued back. Mavi saw Dhami and
defendant each pull out a gun and start shooting in the
direction of Mavi's group. Dhami fired several shots, ran
out of ammunition, and tried to pull out another gun. After
Dhami and defendant ran out of ammunition they ran but were
caught by some of the men. Dhami was able to get into a car
and escape. Defendant was caught, beaten, and then held for
the arrival of law enforcement. Poma was fatally shot and
died at the scene, and Sahibjeet Singh was seriously wounded.
Law enforcement agents searched the festival area. Beneath a
Camry in the parking lot they found a .44-caliber revolver
and a black backpack. The backpack contained five boxes of
various calibers of ammunition, each of which bore a price
sticker indicating it was purchased from the Gun Room. The
revolver was loaded with .41-caliber bullets whose head
stamps matched the head stamps of a box of .41-caliber head
stamps found in the backpack.
People v. Gosal, No. CO74473, 2015 WL 3563543, at
*1-2 (Cal.Ct.App. June 9, 2015).
sought review in the California Court of Appeal Third
Appellate District, which affirmed the conviction and
sentence on June 9, 2015, through a reasoned decision. Lodged
Docs. (“LD”) 13, 17. He then sought review in the
California Supreme Court, which summarily denied review on
August 12, 2015. LD 18-19.
filed this petition for writ of habeas corpus pursuant to 42
U.S.C. § 2254 on October 7, 2015, and Respondent filed
an Answer on August 31, 2016. (ECF Nos. 1, 14.) Petitioner
filed a traverse on November 10, 2016. (ECF No. 19.)
OF REVIEW APPLICABLE TO HABEAS CORPUS CLAIMS
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. 1, 5 (2010); Estelle v. McGuire, 502 U.S.
62, 67-68 (1991); Park v. California, 202 F.3d 1146,
1149 (9th Cir. 2000).
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 ...