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Church v. Metzger

United States District Court, D. Delaware

August 10, 2017

MICHAEL L. CHURCH, Petitioner,
v.
DANA METZGER, Warden, and ATTORNEY GENERAL OF THE STATE OF DELAWARE, Respondents.[1]

          MICHAEL L. CHURCH. PRO SE PETITIONER.

          ELIZABETH R. MCFARLAN, DEPUTY ATTORNEY GENERAL OF THE DELAWARE DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE, WILMINGTON, DELAWARE. ATTORNEY FOR RESPONDENTS.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          ANDREWS, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         Petitioner Michael L. Church is an inmate in custody at the James T. Vaughn Correctional Center in Smyrna, Delaware. Petitioner filed an 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. (D.I. 8) For the reasons discussed, the Court will deny the Petition as barred by the limitations period prescribed in 28 U.S.C. § 2244.

         I. BACKGROUND

         As set forth by the Delaware Supreme Court in Petitioner's second post-conviction appeal:

[Petitioner] was charged in a thirteen-count indictment with having committed multiple sex offenses between August and December 2010. On September 20, 2011, [Petitioner] pled guilty to one count of Continuous Sexual Abuse of a Child and one count of Sexual Abuse of a Child in the First Degree. In exchange for the guilty plea, the State agreed to dismiss eight counts of Sexual Abuse of a Child in the First Degree and three counts of Sexual Abuse of a Child in the Second Degree.
Prior to sentencing, [Petitioner] filed a motion to withdraw the guilty plea. [Petitioner] claimed that his defense counsel was ineffective and that he felt "threaten[ed] and forced" into taking the plea. The Superior Court denied the motion and later denied [Petitioner's] motion for reconsideration. The Superior Court found that the guilty plea "was not the product of threat or misconduct by defense counsel, " and that the plea was "knowing, voluntary and intelligent." The Superior Court determined that [Petitioner] pled guilty "because he is guilty and he did not want to risk the consequences of the jury trial that would have begun immediately, had he not pleaded guilty." On March 9, 2012, the Superior Court sentenced [Petitioner] to a total of thirty-five years at Level V, suspended after twenty-two years (seventeen years minimum mandatory), for Level IV work release and probation. [Petitioner] did not file a direct appeal.

Church v. State, 131 A.3d 806 (Table), 2016 WL 47436, at *1 (Del. Jan. 4, 2016).

         On May 22, 2012, while represented by counsel, Petitioner moved for a reduction of sentence. (D.I. 11-14 at 5, Entry No. 29) The Superior Court denied the motion on June 28, 2012, and Petitioner did not appeal that decision. (D.I. 11-14 at 5, Entry No. 32)

         On March 6, 2013, Petitioner filed a. pro se motion for postconviction relief pursuant to Delaware Superior Court Criminal Rule 61 ("Rule 61 motion"). (D.I. 11-14 at 5, Entry No. 35) The Superior Court denied the Rule 61 motion on June 25, 2013. See State v. Church, 2013 WL 3422490 (Del. Super. Ct. June 25, 2013). Petitioner did not appeal that decision.

         On September 9, 2013, Petitioner filed a motion for appointment of counsel in the Delaware Superior Court, (D.I. 11-14 at 6), which the Superior Court denied on September 23, 2013 (D.I. 1-6 at 3). Petitioner filed a motion for reconsideration of that decision on August 13, 2014, which the Superior Court denied on October 6, 2014. (D.I. 12-4 at 6, Entry No. 43) Petitioner appealed, and the Delaware Supreme Court dismissed the appeal as interlocutory. See Church v. State, 2015 WL 1243731 (Del. Mar. 17, 2015).

         On June 4, 2015, Petitioner filed a second Rule 61 motion. (D.I. 12-4 at 8, Entry No. 51) The Superior Court denied that motion as procedurally barred on August 18, 2015. (D.I. 12-4 at 8, Entry No. 54) The Delaware Supreme Court affirmed that judgment on January 4, 2016, and denied Petitioner's motion for rehearing en banc. See Church, 2016 WL 47436.

         Petitioner filed the instant Petition in April, 2016, asserting the following grounds for relief: (1) the sentencing court violated Petitioner's due process rights by relying on allegations which lacked a minimum indicia of reliability and by providing Petitioner an insufficient opportunity to rebut the allegations; (2) defense counsel provide ineffective assistance during the plea process and sentencing; and (3) defense counsel's ineffectiveness rendered Petitioner's guilty plea ...


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