United States District Court, C.D. California
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
L. STEVENSON, UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE
December 7, 2018, Petitioner, a California state prisoner
proceeding pro se, filed a Petition for Writ of
Habeas Corpus by a Person in State Custody pursuant to 28
U.S.C. § 2254. (Dkt. No. 1.) The operative pleading is
the Second Amended Petition (“SAP”), which
Petitioner filed on January 25, 2019. (Dkt. No. 8.) On June
12, 2019, Respondent filed an Answer to the SAP and lodged
with the Court the relevant state court records. (Dkt. Nos.
20, 21.) On July 19, 2019, Petitioner filed a Reply. (Dkt.
No. 28.) The parties have consented to the jurisdiction of
the undersigned Magistrate Judge pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §
636(c). (Dkt. No. 22.) Briefing in this action is now
complete, and the matter is ready for decision.
December 20, 2016, a Los Angeles County Superior Court jury
convicted Petitioner, as relevant here, of three counts of
first-degree residential robbery (Counts One to Three, Cal.
Penal Code (“Penal Code”) § 211), three
counts of false imprisonment (Counts Four to Six, Penal Code
§ 236), and one count of carjacking (Count Seven, Penal
Code § 215(a)). (Lodg. No. 2 at 783-85, 788, 791, 794-95.)
The jury found true various special allegations, including a
principal firearm-use allegation (Penal Code §
12022(a)(1)). (Id.) On February 16, 2017, the trial
court sentenced Petitioner to 15 years and 8 months in state
prison. (Id. at 1040-49.)
appealed her judgment of conviction. (Id. at 1050.)
On June 20, 2018, the California Court of Appeal affirmed the
judgment in a reasoned, unpublished opinion. (Lodg. No. 14.)
Petitioner then filed a Petition for Review in the California
Supreme Court (Lodg. No. 18), which summarily denied the
petition without comment or citation of authority on October
10, 2018 (Lodg. No. 19).
December 7, 2018, Petitioner filed a § 2254 Petition in
this Court. (Dkt. No. 1.) On December 26, 2018, she filed a
First Amended Petition. (Dkt. No. 4.) On January 4, 2019, the
Court issued an order ordering Petitioner to show cause why
this action should not be dismissed for failure to comply
with the applicable pleading standards. (Dkt. No. 5.) On
January 25, 2019, Petitioner filed a SAP, raising five
grounds for federal habeas relief. (Dkt. No. 8.) On February
5, 2019, the Court issued an order stating that
Petitioner’s claims in Grounds One and Two appeared to
be unexhausted. (Dkt. No. 11.) The Court gave Petitioner four
options and ordered her to state how she wished to proceed.
(Id.) On February 15, 2019, Petitioner filed a
notice stating that she wished to voluntarily dismiss her
claims in Grounds One and Two. (Dkt. No. 12.) On February 28,
2019, the Court ordered Respondent to file a response to the
SAP. (Dkt. No. 13.) On June 12, 2019, Respondent filed an
Answer. (Dkt. No. 20.) On July 19, 2018, Petitioner filed a
Reply. (Dkt. No. 28.)
OF THE EVIDENCE AT TRIAL
following factual summary from the California Court of
Appeal’s unpublished decision on direct review is
provided as background. See 28 U.S.C. §
2254(e)(1) (“[A] determination of a factual issue made
by a State court shall be presumed to be correct”
unless rebutted by the petitioner by clear and convincing
The Sandas and [Petitioner]
2015, Alvaro [Sanda], who was around seventy years old at the
time, lived in a small home in South El Monte with his adult
son Michael [Sanda]. Alvaro is an accountant who was being
paid approximately $2, 000 twice per month, on the fifteenth
and last day of the month. Michael did not have a fulltime
job, but he performed odd jobs to earn money. Alvaro provided
Michael free room and board, and also gave him around $40 to
$70 per week, in return for performing household chores.
previously was in a relationship with [Petitioner], whom he
had known for five or six years. Michael often gave
[Petitioner] some of the money he received from Alvaro
because he cared about her and liked her, and because he knew
she was using the money to help her daughter. [Petitioner]
visited Michael at Alvaro’s house and stayed in
Michael’s room. Michael regularly used methamphetamine
and [Petitioner] occasionally supplied Michael with drugs.
would sometimes discuss finances with Michael, including how
much money he (Alvaro) was making and how he could not always
afford to help Michael. Sometimes, [Petitioner] was in
Michael’s bedroom when Michael had discussions of this
nature with Alvaro in the living room. The living room was
close to Michael’s bedroom, and [Petitioner] would have
been able to hear their conversations.
eventually decided [Petitioner] was using him for his money
and, in August 2015, told her he did not want her to come to
his house anymore. [Petitioner] reacted poorly to
Michael’s decision and called him a “loser”
and other epithets during a subsequent phone call.
[Petitioner] left three shopping bags full of her possessions
in Michael’s room.
The Offense Conduct
communicated with [Petitioner] in early November 2015. On
November 15, 2015, [Petitioner] sent Michael a text message
stating[, ] “someone’s about to jack you
guys” and “I know the whole plan.” Michael
did not take her statements seriously.
same night, Michael’s friend Normandia drove to Alvaro
and Michael’s house and parked his truck in the
driveway. Normandia and Michael smoked methamphetamine, and
Normandia helped Michael set up a video game console Michael
had recently purchased. Alvaro was also home that night.
around 11:00 p.m., there was a knock on the door. Alvaro
opened the door to find a woman, later identified as
defendant Castanon, standing on his doorstop. Defendant
Castanon told Alvaro her car had broken down and her phone
did not work. She asked if she could have some double-A
batteries for her phone. Alvaro thought this was odd, but he
gave her batteries because she looked like she needed help.
Defendant Castanon thanked him and left.
and Normandia were in Michael’s room and did not see
the woman, but Michael asked his father what happened. Alvaro
recounted the woman’s story, waited by the door for a
few minutes to see if she would come back, and then went to
or two later, Normandia decided to go home. When Michael
opened the front door for him, he found defendant Castanon
and a man standing there. They appeared surprised when he
opened the door, and asked if they could borrow his phone.
Michael ultimately agreed.
then walked out of the house toward his truck and unlocked
the door with a remote key. As he moved to open the
driver’s side door, he felt a hard metal object pressed
into his back. Normandia turned around and saw two men, one
of whom (later identified as defendant Fernando) was pointing
a gun at him. Defendant Fernando, now pointing the gun at
Normandia’s head, ordered him to return to the house.
saw Normandia walking toward him looking scared. As Normandia
and the other men approached Michael, defendant Fernando
pointed the gun at Michael’s face and told him to go
into the house.
inside, Michael and Normandia were instructed to go to the
kitchen. Defendant Fernando pointed the gun at
Michael’s head three or four times and repeatedly
claimed Michael owed him money. Defendant Fernando asked
Michael where his father was, but Michael did not answer.
Defendants Fernando and Bojorquez then kicked in
Alvaro’s bedroom door and defendant Fernando pointed
the gun at Alvaro.
woke to find someone standing in front of him with a gun.
Defendant Fernando told Alvaro to get up and go to the
kitchen. Alvaro was scared and had no idea what was
back in the kitchen, defendant Fernando said Michael owed him
$4, 000 and told Alvaro to give him “the check”
for that amount. Michael denied owing him any money and
Alvaro did not know what he was talking about. Defendant
Fernando repeated that he needed $4, 000 and Alvaro replied
he did not have the money. Defendant Fernando waved his gun
around and said they were going to “resolve
this.” He said he needed the money now and Alvaro
better have the money or they would all be in deep trouble.
Defendant Castanon similarly asked Alvaro where the check was
and conveyed they were serious about needing the money.
defendants Fernando and Castanon were making these demands,
defendant Jorge alternated between standing nearby and
walking between the kitchen and Michael’s room.
Defendant Castanon took the wallet in Alvaro’s pocket
and instructed defendant Bojorquez to take phones and
wallets. Defendant Bojorquez took the keys to
Normandia’s truck, and Michael’s video game
console was also taken. Defendant Bojorquez also went through
the other rooms and ransacked them. At some point, defendant
Fernando asked for the “bags” inside
Michael’s room. (The evidence presented at trial
indicated these bags were the bags [Petitioner] had left in
Fernando returned to Alvaro, again asked for $4, 000, and
asked how long it would take Alvaro to get the money. When
Alvaro told him it would take time, defendant Fernando said
they would return in two weeks for $2, 000. Defendant
Fernando told the victims not to call the police and said
they (the robbers) had friends in the neighborhood. ...