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Guy v. Phelps

United States District Court, D. Delaware

June 20, 2013

TYRONE GUY, Petitioner,
PERRY PHELPS, Warden, and JOSEPH R. BIDEN, III, Attorney General of the State of Delaware, Respondents

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Tyrone Guy. Pro se petitioner.

Elizabeth R. McFarlan. Deputy Attorney General, Delaware Department of Justice, Wilmington, Delaware. Counsel for respondents.

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Sue L. Robinson, District Judge.


Petitioner Tyrone Guy (" petitioner" ) is a Delaware inmate in custody at the James T. Vaughn Correctional Center in Wilmington, Delaware. Presently before the court is petitioner's application for a writ of habeas corpus pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254. (D.I. 1) For the reasons that follow, the court will dismiss his application.


At approximately 10:19 p.m. on July 18, 2001, Wilmington Police responded to a 911 call concerning a shooting at Tenth and Madison Streets. Guy v. State, 913 A.2d 558, 561 (Del. 2006). When the police

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arrived, they found a man who had sustained an apparent gunshot wound lying inside a Jack and Jill Ice Cream truck. The victim, Abdullah Alameri, was unresponsive and was pronounced dead a short time after being transported to Christiana Hospital. The medical examiner later determined by autopsy that Aameri had died as a result of a single gunshot wound to his chest. No projectile, however, was recovered from the body. Id.

Upon arrival at the crime scene, the police canvassed the area for witnesses and evidence. Id. Officer Ragonese interviewed petitioner and his father, Tyrone Guy, Sr. In his report, Ragonese indicated that " the witnesses stated they were in the apartment." The chief investigating officer, Detective Michael Lawson, testified that based on a conversation with Ragonese, he knew that " they" referred to Tyrone Guy, Sr. and petitioner. Id.

A thorough search of the truck led to the discovery of a 0.25 caliber casing under a floor mat, a 0.25 caliber projectile in the track of a sliding window, and a 9 mm casing in the foot well of the driver's side. The company that owned the truck later found a 9 mm projectile inside a folded t-shirt on top of a shelf in the back of the truck. They promptly turned it over to the police. No guns were found. Id.

During the course of the investigation, the police learned that Robert Zayas had purchased a soft drink from Alameri a few minutes before the shooting. Id. Zayas told the police that he saw petitioner and Akbar Hassan-El, petitioner's co-defendant, near the crime scene and they told him of their plans to rob Alameri's truck. Zayas told them that it was a bad idea, but complied with their request to waive down Alameri's ice cream truck. Even though Zayas saw petitioner with a gun, he said he did not believe that the two would see their plan through. He explained that he wanted to exchange his soda anyway, so he flagged down Alameri. As he spoke with Alameri, petitioner and Hassan-El approached the truck with their faces covered in t-shirts and pushed Zayas out of the way. Zayas said he heard two shots. Petitioner and Hassan-El then ran down an alleyway and scaled a fence leading to petitioner's house. Zayas initially did so as well, but returned to the truck to check on Alameri. He then saw a local resident, Marcus Archy, and told him that petitioner and Hassan-El shot Alameri. Another neighbor also reported hearing gunshots and seeing the three men run away from the truck. Id. at 561-62.

Petitioner and Hassan-El were indicted on charges of first degree intentional murder, first degree felony murder, possession of a firearm during the commission of a felony, attempted first degree robbery, and second degree conspiracy. Id. at 562. The State notified both defendants that it intended to seek the death penalty in the event they were convicted of first degree murder. Petitioner and Hassan-El were tried together before a jury in November 2003; that proceeding ended in a mistrial after the jury informed the court that it was unable to reach an unanimous verdict as to either defendant. Id.

After the mistrial, the State elected to try the defendants separately. Id. In July 2004, a Superior Court jury convicted petitioner of first degree intentional murder, first degree felony murder, possession of a firearm during the commission of a felony, attempted first degree robbery, and second degree robbery. Id. at 562. The jury recommended that petitioner be sentenced to life imprisonment rather than death, and the Superior Court sentenced petitioner to two life sentences plus a term of years. Id. The Delaware Supreme Court affirmed petitioner's convictions. Id. at 568.

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In March 2004, petitioner, acting pro se, filed his first motion for post-conviction relief pursuant to Delaware Superior Court Criminal Rule 61 (" Rule 61 motion" ). (D.I. 15 at 3) He then moved for the appointment of counsel, and the Superior Court granted that request. Petitioner's new counsel filed a successor Rule 61 motion in January 2008, which the Superior Court denied in August 2008. See State v. Guy, 2008 WL 4152735 (Del. Super. Aug. 29, 2008). Petitioner appealed. See Guy v. State, 979 A.2d 1110 (Table), 2009 WL 3087248 (Del. Sept. 28, 2009).

In July 2009, during the pendency of his post-conviction appeal, petitioner filed a pro se Rule 61 motion, contending that the Delaware Supreme Court's decision in Allen v. State, 970 A.2d 203 (Del. 2009), required that he be given a new trial. Id. Because the decision denying petitioner's first Rule 61 was still pending before the Delaware Supreme Court, the Superior Court denied petitioner's pro se Rule 61 motion. See Guy, 979 A.2d 1110, 2009 WL 3087248, at *1. Petitioner appealed this decision, and the Delaware Supreme Court remanded the case to the trial court for the purpose of enabling petitioner's appointed post-conviction counsel to file another Rule 61 motion incorporating petitioner's Allen claim. Id. Thereafter, the Superior Court denied petitioner's new Allen claims, and re-iterated its prior holding denying the claims in petitioner's original Rule 61 motion. State v. Guy, ID No. 0107017041, Mem. Op., Carpenter, J. (Del. Super. Dec. 1, 2009). The Delaware Supreme Court affirmed that judgment. See Guy v. State, 999 A.2d 863 (Del. 2010).

Petitioner timely filed a § 2254 application in this court. (D.I. 1) The State filed an answer (D.I. 15), arguing that the claims either fail to warrant relief under § 2254(d), that they are procedurally barred, or that they are not cognizable.


A. Exhaustion and Procedural Default

A federal court may consider a habeas petition filed by a state prisoner only " on the ground that he is in custody in violation of the Constitution or laws or treaties of the United States." 28 U.S.C. § 2254(a). One prerequisite to federal habeas review is that a petitioner must exhaust all remedies available in the state courts. See 28 U.S.C. § 2254(b)(1). The exhaustion requirement is grounded on principles of comity to ensure that state courts have the initial opportunity to review federal constitutional challenges to state convictions. Werts v. Vaughn, 228 F.3d 178, 192 (3d Cir. 2000). A petitioner satisfies the exhaustion requirement by " fairly presenting" the substance of the federal habeas claim to the state's highest court, either on direct appeal or in a post-conviction proceeding, and in a procedural manner permitting the state courts to consider it on the merits. See Duncan v. Henry, 513 U.S. 364, 365, 115 S.Ct. 887, 130 L.Ed.2d 865 (1995); Castille v. Peoples, 489 U.S. 346, 351, 109 S.Ct. 1056, 103 L.Ed.2d 380 (1989); Lambert v. Blackwell, 134 F.3d 506, 513 (3d Cir. 1997).

A petitioner's failure to exhaust state remedies will be excused if state procedural rules preclude him from seeking further relief in state courts. Lines v. Larkins, 208 F.3d 153, 160 (3d Cir. 2000); see Teague v. Lane, 489 U.S. 288, 297-98, 109 S.Ct. 1060, 103 L.Ed.2d 334 (1989). Although treated as technically exhausted, such claims are nonetheless procedurally defaulted. Lines, 208 F.3d at 160; Coleman v. Thompson, 501 U.S. 722, 750-51, 111 S.Ct. 2546, 115 L.Ed.2d 640 (1991). Similarly, if a petitioner presents a habeas claim to the state's highest court, but that court " clearly and expressly" refuses to

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review the merits of the claim due to an independent and adequate state procedural rule, the claim is exhausted but procedurally defaulted. See Coleman, 501 U.S. at 750; Harris v. Reed, 489 U.S. 255, 260-64, 109 S.Ct. 1038, 103 L.Ed.2d 308 (1989).

A federal court cannot review the merits of procedurally defaulted claims unless the petitioner demonstrates either cause for the procedural default and actual prejudice resulting therefrom, or that a fundamental miscarriage of justice will result if the court does not review the claims. McCandless v. Vaughn, 172 F.3d 255, 260 (3d Cir. 1999); Coleman, 501 U.S. at 750-51. To demonstrate cause for a procedural default, a petitioner must show that " some objective factor external to the defense impeded counsel's efforts to comply with the State's procedural rule." Murray v. Carrier, 477 U.S. 478, 488, 106 S.Ct. 2639, 91 L.Ed.2d 397 (1986). To demonstrate actual prejudice, a petitioner must show that the errors during his trial created more than a possibility of prejudice; he must show that the errors worked to his actual and substantial disadvantage, infecting his entire trial with error of constitutional dimensions." Id. at 494.

Alternatively, if a petitioner demonstrates that a " constitutional violation has probably resulted in the conviction of one who is actually innocent," Murray, 477 U.S. at 496, then a federal court can excuse the procedural default and review the claim in order to prevent a fundamental miscarriage of justice. Edwards v. Carpenter, 529 U.S. 446, 451, 120 S.Ct. 1587, 146 L.Ed.2d 518 (2000); Wenger v. Frank, 266 F.3d 218, 224 (3d Cir. 2001). The miscarriage of justice exception applies only in extraordinary cases, and actual innocence means factual innocence, not legal insufficiency. Bousley v. United States, 523 U.S. 614, 623, 118 S.Ct. 1604, 140 L.Ed.2d 828 (1998); Murray, 477 U.S. at 496. A petitioner establishes actual innocence by asserting " new reliable evidence - -whether it be exculpatory scientific evidence, trustworthy eyewitness accounts, or critical physical evidence - - that was not presented at trial," showing that no reasonable juror would have voted to find the petitioner guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. Hubbard v. Pinchak, 378 F.3d 333, 339-40 (3d Cir. 2004).

B. Standard of Review

If a state's highest court adjudicated a federal habeas claim on the merits, the federal court must review the claim under the deferential standard contained in 28 U.S.C. § 2254(d). Pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254(d), federal habeas relief may only be granted if the state court's decision was " contrary to, or involved an unreasonable application of, clearly established Federal law, as determined by the Supreme Court of the United States," or the state court's decision was an unreasonable determination of the facts based on the evidence adduced in the trial. 28 U.S.C. § 2254(d)(1) & (2); see also Williams v. Taylor, 529 U.S. 362, 412, 120 S.Ct. 1495, 146 L.Ed.2d 389 (2000); Appel v. Horn, 250 F.3d 203, 210 (3d Cir. 2001).

A claim has been " adjudicated on the merits" for the purposes of 28 U.S.C. § 2254(d) if the state court decision finally resolves the claim on the basis of its substance, rather than on a procedural or some other ground. Thomas v. Horn, 570 F.3d 105, 115 (3d Cir. 2009). The deferential standard of ยง 2254(d) applies even " when a state court's order is unaccompanied by an opinion explaining the reasons relief has been denied" ; as recently explained by the Supreme ...

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