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Johnson v. Pierce

United States District Court, D. Delaware

March 19, 2015

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

Nathaniel L. Johnson. Pro se Petitioner.

Gregory E. Smith, Deputy Attorney General of the Delaware Department of Justice, Wilmington, Delaware. Attorney for Respondents.

MEMORANDUM OPINION

RICHARD G. ANDREWS, District Judge.

Presently pending before the Court is Petitioner Nathaniel L. Johnson's ("Petitioner") Application for a Writ of Habeas Corpus Pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254 ("Petition"). (D.I. 1) The State filed an Answer in opposition, contending that the Petition should be dismissed in its entirety. (D.I. 22) For the reasons discussed, the Court will dismiss the Petition.

I. BACKGROUND

Linda Hodge was Petitioner's ex-girlfriend. See State v. Johnson, 2013 WL 5883211, at *2 (Del. Super. Ct. June 14, 2014). On August 28, 2010, around 5:00 pm., Hodge was washing dishes in the kitchen of her Dover home when Petitioner came up behind her, placed his hands around her neck, and choked her. (D.I. 22 at 1) Hodge was unable to breath. She grabbed a hammer and swung it at Petitioner. Petitioner then fled the residence, but announced that he would be back to get her. Hodge's two children witnessed the attack. Hodge called the police and reported the crime. Id.

Approximately four and a half hours later that evening, Petitioner returned to Hodge's home. (D.I. 22 at 1) Hodge and her two children were watching television in the living room when Petitioner threw a rock through a window, shattering a pane of glass as well as a lamp inside. Petitioner attempted to climb in through the window, telling Hodge that: "When I get in there, I am going to kill you." Hodge called 911, and Petitioner fled. Id.

The Delaware State Police arrested Petitioner on August 29, 2010. (D.I. 22 at 2) In October 2010, he was indicted on the following thirteen charges: second degree burglary; strangulation; two counts of terroristic threatening; four counts of endangering the welfare of a child; attempted second degree burglary; three counts of second degree reckless endangering; and criminal mischief. Id. On March 23, 2011, the first day of his scheduled trial, Petitioner pled guilty to second degree burglary and strangulation, in exchange for which the State dismissed the remaining eleven charges and agreed to refrain from seeking a habitual offender sentence. See State v. Johnson, 2013 WL 5883211, at *1 (Del. Super. Ct. Aug. 13, 2011). That same day, the Superior Court sentenced Petitioner to a total of thirteen years at Level V incarceration, suspended after ten years for one year of Level III probation. See Johnson v. State, 83 A.3d 737 (Table), 2013 WL 6858400, at *1 (Del. Dec. 24, 2013). Petitioner did not appeal his convictions or sentence. Id.

In April 2011, Petitioner filed a motion for sentence reduction, which the Superior Court denied. Id. Petitioner filed a second motion for sentence reduction in May 2011, which was also denied. Id.

In March 2012, Petitioner filed a pro se motion for post-conviction relief pursuant to Delaware Superior Court Criminal Rule 61 ("Rule 61 motion"). The Superior Court denied the Rule 61 motion on August 16, 2013. See Johnson, 2013 WL 5883211, at *1. The Delaware Supreme Court affirmed that decision. See Johnson, 2013 WL 6858400, at *2.

II. GOVERNING LEGAL PRINCIPLES

A. Exhaustion and Procedural Default

Absent exceptional circumstances, a federal court cannot grant habeas relief unless the petitioner has exhausted all means of available relief under 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). The 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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