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Ashley v. Pierce

United States District Court, D. Delaware

March 31, 2017

TIMOTHY J. ASHLEY, Petitioner,

          Timothy J. Ashley. Pro se Petitioner.

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


          STARK, U.S.D.J.

         Pending before the Court is an Application For A Writ Of Habeas Corpus Pursuant To 28 U.S.C. § 2254 ("Petition") filed by Petitioner Timothy J. Ashley ("Petitioner"). (D.I. 3) The State has filed an Answer in opposition. (D.L 12) For the reasons discussed, the Court will dismiss the Petition and deny the relief requested.

         I. BACKGROUND

         In June 2010, Petitioner was indicted on ten charges: trafficking in cocaine; possession of a firearm during the commission of a felony ("PFDCF"); possession with intent to deliver cocaine ("PWITD"); possession of a firearm by a person prohibited ("PFBPP"); possession of ammunition by a person prohibited; maintaining a dwelling for keeping controlled substances; possession of cocaine within 1, 000 feet of a school; second degree conspiracy; possession of cocaine; and possession of drug paraphernalia. (D.L 12 at 2) On September 15, 2010, Petitioner pled guilty to PFDCF and attempted PWITD cocaine, in exchange for which the State dismissed the balance of the indictment. The Superior Court sentenced Petitioner to a total of eighteen years at Level V incarceration, to be suspended after serving four years, at decreasing levels of supervision. See Ashley v. State, 77 A.3d 271 (Table), 2013 WL 5310615, at *1 (Del. Sept. 19, 2013). Petitioner did not appeal that decision.

         On October 13, 2010, Petitioner filed se motion to withdraw his guilty plea, which the Superior Court denied on April 21, 2011. (D.L 12 at 2) Petitioner did not appeal that decision.

         On June 6, 2011, Petitioner filed a motion for post-conviction relief pursuant to Delaware Superior Court Criminal Rule 61 ("Rule 61 motion). (D.L 12 at 2) The Superior Court denied the Rule 61 motion, and the Delaware Supreme Court affirmed that decision. See Ashley, 2013 WL 5310616, at *2.


         When a state's highest court has adjudicated a federal habeas claim on the merits, the federal court must review the claim under the deferential standard contained in 28 U.S.C. § 2254(d). 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. See Thomas v. Horn, 570 F.3d 105, 115 (3d Cir. 2009). Pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254(d), federal habeas relief may only be granted if the state court's decision was "contrary to, or involved an unreasonable application of, clearly established Federal law, as determined by the Supreme Court of the United States, " or the state court's decision was an unreasonable determination of the facts based on the evidence adduced in the trial. See 28 U.S.C. § 2254(d)(1) & (2); see also Williams v. Taylor, 529 U.S. 362, 412 (2000); Appe/v. Horn, 250 F.3d 203, 210 (3d Cir. 2001). This deferential standard of § 2254(d) applies even "when a state court's order is unaccompanied by an opinion explaining the reasons relief has been denied"; as explained by the Supreme Court, "it may be presumed that the state court adjudicated the claim on the merits in the absence of any indication or state-law procedural principles to the contrary." Harrington v. Richter, 562 U.S. 86, 98-100(2011).

         Finally, a federal court must presume that the state court's determinations of factual issues are correct. See 28 U.S.C. § 2254(e)(1); see also Appel, 250 F.3d at 210. This presumption of correctness applies to both explicit and implicit findings of fact, and is only rebutted by clear and convincing evidence to the contrary. See 28 U.S.C. § 2254(e)(1); see also Campbell v. Vaughn, 209 F.3d 280, 286 (3d Cir. 2000); Miller-El v. Cockrell, 537 U.S. 322, 341 (2003) (stating that clear and convincing standard in § 2254(e)(1) applies to factual issues, whereas unreasonable application standard of § 2254(d)(2) applies to factual decisions).


         Petitioner appears to assert two grounds for relief: (1) the Delaware state courts' failure to appoint counsel to represent Petitioner during his Rule 61 proceeding deprived him of his constitutional right to counsel under Martinez v. Ryan, 566 U.S. 1 (2012); and (2) defense counsel provided ineffective assistance during the plea process. The State contends that Claim One fails to present an issue cognizable on federal habeas review, and Claim Two fails to warrant relief under § 2254(d)(1).

         A. Claim One: Failure to Appoint Counsel in State ...

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