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Pettiford v. Johnson

United States District Court, D. Delaware

July 17, 2015


Deandre R. Pettiford. Pro se petitioner.

Karen V. Sullivan, 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 Deandre R. Pettiford ("Pettiford"). (D.I. 3; D.I. 7) For the reasons discussed, the court will deny the petition.


On April 1, 2008, an IRS refund tax check, made payable to William and Janeen Pollard in the amount of $13, 638, was forged and deposited through an ATM into a joint bank account owned by Michael Quailes and a woman named Juanita Sturgis. The next day, at approximately 9 a.m., Quailes withdrew $13, 000 from the joint account. He made a second withdrawal around noon in the amount of $635. Quailes was a friend of Pettiford's mother, Pam Luke. The check had been stolen from a home in Sussex County owned by the Pollards and rented by a woman named Seven Abdullah and her sister. Abdullah was dating Pettiford at the time the check was stolen and deposited. The State's indictment charged Abdullah, Quailes, and Pettiford with second degree forgery, misdemeanor theft, theft by false pretenses, and second degree conspiracy. Abdullah and Quailes resolved their charges by entering guilty pleas, and they agreed to testify against Pettiford at his trial.

Abdullah testified that she saw the Pollard's check arrive at the apartment and then later noticed it missing. Afterwards, she saw the check in Quailes' possession while Pettiford drove them around in Quailes' car looking for a place to cash it. Abdullah testified that Quailes endorsed the check, and Abdullah and Quailes were captured on a surveillance camera as they deposited the check into Quailes' account through an ATM. The next day, Quailes brought $13, 000 to Luke's house and gave it to Pettiford. Abdullah was present and, after the money was divided, she and Pettiford proceeded to spend it.

Quailes testified that Pettiford's mother, Pam Luke, was a friend of his and called him and asked him to give Pettiford a ride to the bank to cash a check. Pettiford agreed to pay Quailes for the ride. When Pettiford could not cash the check, Quailes offered to deposit it into his account. Later, Quailes withdrew $13, 000 and took it to Pettiford who was with Abdullah at Luke's house. Pettiford told him to keep the remaining $638, which he later withdrew and kept.

In May 2009, a Superior Court jury convicted Pettitford of second degree forgery, felony theft, second degree conspiracy, and misdemeanor theft. (D.I. 15 at 1); Pettiford, 2010 WL 891910, at *1. The Superior Court sentenced him as a habitual offender to eleven years at Level V incarceration, suspended after ten years for one year of Level IV work release. See State v. Pettiford, 2011 WL 531974, at *2 (Del. Super. Ct. Feb. 15, 2011). The Delaware Supreme Court affirmed Pettiford's convictions and sentence on direct appeal. See Pettifbrd, 2010 WL 891910 at *4.

Thereafter, Pettiford filed a motion for post-conviction review pursuant to Delaware Superior Court Criminal Rule 61 ("Rule 61 motion"), asserting three claims: (1) defense counsel provided ineffective assistance because he represented Pettiford by operating under a conflict of interest and also because his performance was deficient; (2) the State engaged in prosecutorial misconduct by conspiring to hide defense counsel's conflict of interest; and (3) the trial court violated Pettiford's due process rights by failing to hold a hearing inquiring into counsel's conflict of interest. (DJ. 17, State's Motion to Affirm in Pettiford v. State, No. 290, 2010, at B15-B49) The Superior Court summarily denied all three grounds. (D.I. 17, State's Motion to Affirm in Pettiford v. State, No. 290, 2010, at B50-B51) Pettiford appealed that decision, and the Delaware Supreme Court remanded the case back to the Superior Court to expand the record and consider the merits of Pettiford's ineffective assistance of counsel claims. After considering additional claims added by Pettiford and additional briefing from defense counsel and the State, the Superior Court denied Pettiford's Rule 61 motion. See generally Pettiford, 2011 WL 531974, at *2. The Delaware Supreme Court affirmed that decision on return from remand. See Pettiford v. State, 21 A.3d 597 (Table), 2011 WL 2361383, at *3 (Del. June 13, 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 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). 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 ...

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