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Chattin v. Pierce

United States District Court, D. Delaware

September 25, 2017

LAZAAR CHATTIN, Petitioner,
v.
DAVID PIERCE, Warden, and ATTORNEY GENERAL OF THE STATE OF DELAWARE, Respondents.

          Lazaar Chattin. Pro se Petitioner.

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

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          STARK, U.S. DISTRICT JUDGE.

         Pending before the Court is an Application For A Writ Of Habeas Corpus Pursuant To 28 U.S.C. § 2254 ('Tetition") filed by Petitioner Lazaar Chattin ("Petitioner"). (D.I. 3) For the reasons discussed, the Court will dismiss the Petition and deny the relief requested.

         I. BACKGROUND

         Petitioner was indicted on the following charges in December 2008: attempted first degree murder; three counts of possession of a firearm during the commission of a felony ("PFDCF"); reckless first degree endangering; two counts of possession of a firearm by a person prohibited ('TFBPP"); possession of ammunition by a person prohibited ("PABPP"); aggravated menacing; and theft of a firearm. (D.I. 18 at 3) The charges arose from two related incidents. (D.L 18 at 1)

         The first incident took place at Tyrell Wilson's home in Newark on October 24, 2008. Wilson and Shaun Holt, who were both acquaintances of Petitioner, were present in the house when Petitioner stopped by. After Petitioner left, Wilson noticed that his handgun, which he kept in his bedroom, was missing, and he suspected Petitioner of stealing it. Later that evening, Wilson confronted Petitioner about taking the gun. Petitioner denied it, but when Wilson threatened to pat him down, Petitioner drew the gun, pointed it at Wilson, and threatened to kill him if he did not leave. As he left, Wilson heard a single gunshot. (D.L 18 at 1-2)

         Wilson reported the gun as stolen to the police. (D.L 18 at 2) A few days later, Wilson identified Petitioner as the suspect from a six photograph photo lineup, and a warrant was issued for Petitioner's arrest. Id.

         The second incident occurred on November 8, 2008, while Wilson and Holt were in Holt's house. (D.L 18 at 2) Shortly before 2 a.m., they saw Petitioner and several other men hanging around Wilson's car, which was parked in front of the house. Holt went outside to smoke a cigarette. Petitioner asked Holt where Wilson was, and became irritated at Holt when he would not answer. As he turned to leave, Holt heard a gun firing, looked back, and saw Petitioner shooting at him. Holt was struck once in the leg as he fled up the steps and into the front door of his house. The police were called, and they found Holt in his bedroom with a gunshot wound to his right leg. Holt told the police that Petitioner had shot him. At the hospital, police showed Holt a single photograph of Petitioner, and Holt identified Petitioner as the shooter. Id.

         While investigating the shooting, the police found six bullet holes in the front door of Holt's house and a box of ammunition approximately 50 yards away. (D.I. 18 at 2) A latent fingerprint was recovered from the ammunition box, which was matched to Petitioner. Id. The handgun was never recovered. (D.I. 20, Affidavit of Dade Werb, Esq.)

         In July 2009, Petitioner's first jury trial ended in a mistrial during jury deliberations. (D.I. 18 at 3) His second jury trial occurred in April 2010, and Petitioner was convicted of attempted murder, reckless endangering, PEDCF, PABPP, theft of a firearm, and PFBPP, and acquitted of aggravated menacing and an associated PFDCF charge. Id. He was sentenced to a total of forty-four years of imprisonment, suspended after serving twenty-five years mandatory for eight years at Level IV, suspended after one year for probation. See Chattin v. State, 16 A.3d 937 (Table), 2011 WL 987752, at *1 (Del. Mar. 21, 2011). The Delaware Supreme Court affirmed Petitioner's convictions and sentence on direct appeal. Id. at *3.

         In June 2011, Petitioner filed his first motion for post-conviction relief pursuant to Delaware Superior Court Criminal Rule 61 ("Rule 61 motion). (D.I. 18 at 4) A Superior Court Commissioner issued a Report and Recommendation that the Rule 61 motion be denied. See State v. Chattin, 2012 WL 1413452, at *8 (Del. Super. Ct. Jan. 6, 2012). The Superior Court adopted the recommendation and issued an order denying the Rule 61 motion; the Delaware Supreme Court affirmed that decision. See Chattin v. State, 58 A.3d 982 (Table), 2012 WL 5844886 at *1 (Del. Nov. 16, 2012).

         Petitioner filed his second Rule 61 motion in October, 2013. (D.I. 20, Del. Super. Ct. Crim. Dkt. Entry No. 106) The Superior Court denied that motion, and Petitioner did not appeal that decision. (D.I. 20, Del. Super. Ct. Crim. Dkt. Entry No. 113).

         II. GOVERNING LEGAL PRINCIPLES

         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); see also Woodford, 538 U.S. at 206.

         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. See 28. U.S.C. § 2254(b); see also O'Sullivan v. Boerakel, 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 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 rights of the applicant.

28 U.S.C. § 2254(b)(1).

         The exhaustion requirement is based on principles of comity, requiring a petitioner to give "state courts one full opportunity to resolve any constitutional issues by invoking one complete round of the State's established appellate review process." O'Sullivan, 526 U.S. at 844-45; see also Werts v. Vaughn,228 F.3d 178, 192 (3d Cir. 2000). A petitioner satisfies the exhaustion requirement by demonstrating that the habeas claims were "fairly presented" to the state's highest court, either on direct appeal or in a post-conviction proceeding. See "Lambert v. Blackwell, 134 F.3d 506, 513 (3d Cir. 1997); see also Coverdale v. Snyder, 2000 WL 1897290, at *2 (D. Del. Dec. 22, 2000). "Fair presentation of a claim means that the petitioner must present a federal claim's ...


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