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Hawthorne v. Phelps

United States District Court, D. Delaware

September 23, 2014


Tyreese Hawthorne. Pro se petitioner.

James T. Wakley, Delaware Department of Justice, Wilmington, Delaware. Counsel for Respondents.


GREGORY M. SLEET, 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 Tyreese Hawthorne ("Hawthorne"). (D.I. 3; D.I. 7) For the reasons discussed, the court will deny the petition.


During the afternoon of April 3, 2006, co-defendants Lawrence Michaels and Andre Wright were riding their motorcycles around Philadelphia and stopped to play a game of dice with Tyreese Hawthorne. Hawthorne then asked petitioner and Wright to go for a ride with him, because he (Hawthorne) needed to "pick up his money." Hawthorne also asked Saladine Pitts, an acquaintance, to drive them in his car. The four drove to Houlihans, a restaurant in Philadelphia, and upon arriving there, Hawthorne exited Pitts' car and got into a car driven by Rasheem Sims. About four minutes later, Hawthorne returned to Pitts' car, which then followed Sims down I-95 to Bear, Delaware. Sims parked his car, and Pitts parked his car a distance away.

While Sims was walking back to his apartment, he heard people running behind him. The running individuals turned out to be the defendants and Pitts (collectively the "robbers"), who attacked Sims from behind, struck him several times with a metal object, went through Sims' pockets and then led him, at gunpoint, to his apartment. When the group reached the door of the apartment, Sims rang the doorbell. Crystal Donald, Sims' girlfriend, answered the door. When she saw that Sims was bleeding from a head wound, she began screaming. The robbers pushed their way into the apartment, forced Sims into his bedroom, and began searching for money.

Donald was led into the kitchen at gunpoint and robbed of her jewelry. Tashika Townsend, Donald's sister, was forced into her bedroom and then into the kitchen. Donald's daughter was also brought into the kitchen. Shortly thereafter, one of the robbers opened the door and yelled "the law is here!" The robbers then forced Donald to take them to the balcony. From there, the robbers forced their way into the adjoining apartment, threatened its resident, Daniel Moran, and demanded that he let them out. While the robbers were threatening Moran, a laser light shined into the apartment, causing the robbers to panic. Three of the robbers fled deeper into Moran's apartment.

At that point, New Castle County Police Department ("NCCPD") officers burst into Moran's apartment and apprehended Pitts in the living room. They found the other robbers hiding in various places in that apartment - Wright under a mattress in a bedroom, Hawthorne in a bathtub, and Michaels under a pile of clothing in a closet. The police took all four robbers into custody, searched them, and recovered property belonging to Sims, Donald, and Townsend. The police also found, on Hawthorne's person, a "RAZR" cell phone that belonged to Townsend. Later that night the officers recovered two guns - one on the deck behind Moran's apartment and another on the ground behind the building. A third gun was found in Moran's apartment several days later.

Hawthorne, Michaels, and Wright were arrested for the above crime, and Hawthorne was subsequently indicted with, inter alia, three counts of first degree robbery, two counts of second degree burglary, and first degree kidnapping. The three men were tried together in March 2008, after which a Superior Court jury convicted Hawthorne oftwo counts of first degree robbery, one count of second degree burglary (as a lesser included offense of first degree burglary), two counts of second degree burglary, and first degree kidnapping. The Superior Court sentenced him to an aggregate ofthirty-five years of incarceration, suspended after twenty-eight years for a period of probation. The Delaware Supreme Court affirmed Hawthorne's convictions and sentence on direct appeal.

In February 2010, Hawthorne filed a prose motion for post-conviction review pursuant to Delaware Superior Court Criminal Rule 61 ("Rule 61 motion"), and then subsequently filed a counseled amended Rule 61 motion in January 2011. See State v. Hawthorne, ID No. 0704004328, Cooch J. (Del. Super. Ct. Feb. 25, 2011). The Superior Court considered the allegations in both motions and denied relief. Id. The Delaware Supreme Court affirmed that decision. See Hawthorne v. State, 26 A.3d 214 (Table), 2011 WL 2905579 (Del. Jul. 20, 2011).


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). 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).

B. Exhaustion and Procedural Default

Absent exceptional circumstances, a federal court cannot grant habeas relief unless the petitioner has exhausted all means of available reliefunder state law. 28 U.S.C. § 2254(b); O'Sullivan v. Boerckel, 526 U.S. 838, 842-44 (1999); Picard v. Connor, 404 U.S. 270, 275 (1971). AEDPA states, in pertinent part:

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 unless it appears that -
(A) the applicant has exhausted the remedies available in the courts of the State; or
(B)(i) there is an absence of available State corrective process; or
(ii) circumstances exist that render such process ineffective to protect the ...

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