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Morgan v. Pierce

United States District Court, D. Delaware

March 12, 2015

LAFONTE MORGAN, Petitioner,
v.
DAVID PIERCE, Warden, and ATTORNEY GENERAL OF THE STATE OF DELAWARE, Respondents.[1]

LaFonte Morgan, Petitioner, Pro se.

For Respondents: Maria T. Knoll, Deputy Attorney General, Delaware Department of Justice, Wilmington, Delaware.

MEMORANDUM OPINION

SUE L. ROBINSON, United States District Judge.

I. INTRODUCTION

Petitioner Lafonte Morgan (" petitioner" ) is a Delaware inmate in custody at the James T. Vaughn Correctional Center in Smyrna, Delaware. Presently before the court is petitioner's application for a writ of habeas corpus pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254. (D.I. 3) For the reasons that follow, the court will dismiss his application.

II. FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

As set forth by the Delaware Supreme Court in Morgan v. State, 962 A.2d 248, 250-52 (Del. 2008), the facts leading to petitioner's conviction are as follows:

The Dover Police Department began an investigation into possible drug dealing in the Dover East Mobile Home park (" Dover East" ) on July 11, 2007. Officer DiGirolomo (" DiGirolomo" ) of the Dover Police received a call from a confidential informant (" CI 365" ) stating that a black male nicknamed " VA" was selling drugs from his mobile home in Dover East, and that VA would soon be selling drugs near the mailboxes in Dover East. CI 365 stated that " VA" drove an older model maroon Toyota Camry with a Virginia registration. The Dover Police canvassed Dover East and located the vehicle in front of Morgan's residence, 252 Cameo Court in Dover East. However, the predicted drug sale near the mailboxes never occurred.
Later, CI 365 contacted DiGirolomo again and told him that " VA" would leave his home within a minute and head to the local Safeway to sell approximately 70 ecstasy pills. Approximately two minutes later, DiGirolomo observed an older maroon Camry with Virginia plates leave Dover East. As DiGirolomo attempted to signal the driver to pull the car over as it turned onto the access road to the Safeway. While doing so, DiGirolomo observed two people in the car moving around. The car did not pull over for several hundred yards, even though nothing prevented the driver from pulling over immediately. DiGirolomo testified that in his experience, this behavior was consistent with an attempt to hide contraband.
[Petitioner]'s girlfriend, Carissa Pharr (" Pharr" ), was driving the car and [petitioner] was in the passenger seat. After stopping the car, Pharr appeared nervous, and Pharr and [petitioner] gave inconsistent stories as to their destination. When Pharr opened the glove box of the car to produce the vehicle's registration, a digital scale-often used to weigh drugs for sale-fell out. DiGirolomo asked Pharr and [petitioner] to step out of the car and searched it, finding a small amount of crack cocaine on the front passenger seat. DiGirolomo did not locate any ecstasy pills. After the vehicle stop, Dover police detectives applied for a warrant to search Pharr's and [petitioner]'s home at 252 Cameo Court in Dover East. The affidavit narrated the above events at length, and described CI 365 as having in the past given information that had " proven to be accurate." A search warrant was issued and executed, and Dover police found, among other items, 7.6 grams of powder cocaine, 1.7 grams of crack cocaine, 8 ecstasy pills, a digital scale, and seven hundred dollars.
After the search of their home, Pharr and [petitioner] were taken to the hospital to determine whether they had ingested any ecstasy pills. An x-ray indicated Pharr had concealed the pills in her vagina. A nurse removed a bag from Pharr's vagina containing multiple ecstasy pills.
[Petitioner] filed a pre-trial motion to suppress the evidence obtained during the search of his home. [Petitioner] argued that based on the affidavit submitted in support of the search warrant, the police did not have probable cause to search [petitioner]'s home. The trial judge denied the motion, finding that there was probable cause for the warrant and a sufficient nexus between the police's information and [petitioner]'s home.
At trial, the State questioned Detective Pires (" Pires" ) about forfeiture forms signed by [petitioner]. Pires testified that forfeiture forms are presented to suspects in drug cases to give them the opportunity to claim any of the seized property, and that by signing the forms, [petitioner] had claimed ownership of the money seized from his person and his home. [Petitioner] signed the forms after he had invoked his right to remain silent. The prosecution attempted to introduce the forfeiture forms into evidence, but the trial judge sustained [petitioner]'s objection. [Petitioner] never requested, and the trial judge never gave, any curative instructions to the jury regarding Pires's testimony.

Pharr pled guilty to conspiracy to trafficking ecstasy and possession with intent to deliver ecstasy. (D.I. 19, Appendix to State's Ans. Br. in Morgan v. State, No.293, 2008, at B-70) During petitioner's trial, Pharr testified that the seized drugs were owned by her and petitioner jointly. (D.I. 3 at 33); see Morgan v. State, 35 A.3d 419 (Table), 2011 WL 6393531, at *2 (Del. 2011).

In April 2008, a Delaware Superior Court jury found petitioner guilty of the following offenses: trafficking in cocaine (50-100 grams); delivery of cocaine; maintaining a dwelling; two counts of second degree conspiracy; endangering the welfare of a child; two counts of possession of cocaine; trafficking in MDMA; possession of drug paraphernalia; possession with intent to deliver; and maintaining a vehicle. (D.I. 3 at 20) The jury found petitioner not guilty of possession with intent to deliver a nonnarcotic schedule I controlled substance (ecstasy) and possession of drug paraphernalia. One count of use of marijuana was nolle prossed prior to trial. Id. The Superior Court sentenced petitioner to a total of fifty-eight years of incarceration, suspended after serving thirteen and a ...


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