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Williams v. Pierce

United States District Court, D. Delaware,

March 13, 2014

DAVID L. WILLIAMS, Petitioner,
v.
DAVID PIERCE, Warden, and ATTORNEY GENERAL OF THE STATE OF DELAWARE, Respondents.

David L. Williams. Pro se petitioner.

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

MEMORANDUM OPINION

GREGORY M. SLEET, Chief District Judge.

Pending before the court is a petition for a writ of habeas corpus pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254 filed by petitioner David L. Williams ("Williams"). (D.I. 3) For the reasons discussed, the court will deny the petition.

I. FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

In June 2008, Williams was indicted on the following charges: (1) possession with intent to deliver a narcotic schedule I controlled substance (heroin); (2) distribution of a controlled substance (heroin) within 300 feet of a park, recreation area or place of worship; (3) possession of a controlled substance (heroin) within 1000 feet of a school; and (4) loitering. See State v. Williams, 2010 WL 2396973, at *1 (Del. Super. Ct. May 28, 2010). On August 27, 2008, petitioner filed a motion to suppress heroin that had been found on or near him during a police search of his person, contending that police officers had no reasonable suspicion to stop him and that the officers' patdown search was unjustified. (D.I. 18, State's Resp. to Rule 26(c) Brief, in Williams v. State, No. 147, 2009) The Superior Court denied the motion on October 10, 2008, and a stipulated bench trial was held on October 23, 2008. In exchange for agreeing to a stipulated bench trial, the State nolle prossed the charges of possession with intent to distribute heroin and possession of heroin within 1000 feet of a school. After hearing the evidence, the Superior Court found Williams guilty of distribution of heroin within 300 feet of a park, but acquitted him of loitering. Id. On March 6, 2009, the Superior Court sentenced Williams as an habitual offender to ten years at Level V incarceration. Id. The Delaware Supreme Court affirmed Williams' conviction and sentence on direct appeal. See Williams v. State, 981 A.2d 1174 (Table), 2009 WL 2959644 (Del. Sept. 16, 2009).

In December 2009, Williams filed a pro se motion for post-conviction relief pursuant to Delaware Superior Court Criminal Rule 61 ("Rule 61 motion"), alleging two grounds for relief: (1) illegal search and seizure; and (2) defense counsel provided ineffective assistance. See Williams v. State, 2010 WL 2396973 (Del. Super. Ct. May 28, 2010). After briefing, the Superior Court denied ground one as procedurally barred by Rule 61(i)(4) and ground two as meritless. Id. The Delaware Supreme Court affirmed that decision on post-conviction appeal. See Williams v. State, 12 A.3d 1155 (Table), 2011 WL 252948 (Del. Jan. 26, 2011).

Williams timely filed a petition for federal habeas relief. (D.I. 3) The State filed an answer in opposition. (D.I. 16)

II. GOVERNING LEGAL PRINCIPLES

A. The Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996

Congress enacted the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996 ("AEDPA") "to reduce delays in the execution of state and federal criminal sentences... and to further the principles of comity, finality, and federalism." Woodford v. Garceau, 538 U.S. 202, 206 (2003)(internal citations and quotation marks omitted). Pursuant to AEDPA, 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). AEDPA imposes procedural requirements and standards for analyzing the merits of a habeas petition in order to "prevent federal habeas retrials' and to ensure that state-court convictions are given effect to the extent possible under law." Bell v. Cone, 535 U.S. 685, 693 (2002); see Woodford, 538 U.S. at 206.

B. Standard of Review Under AEDPA

If a federal court determines that a claim is not procedurally defaulted and the state court adjudicated the federal claim on the merits, the court can only grant habeas relief if the state court's 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 Supreme Court of the United States; or
(2) resulted in a decision that was based on an unreasonable determination of the facts in light of the evidence presented in the State court proceeding.

28 U.S.C. § 2254(d)(1), (2); Williams v. Taylor, 529 U.S. 362, 412 (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). When determining whether the Federal law is "clearly established, " the focus is on Supreme Court holdings, rather than dicta, ...


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