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Desmond v. Metzger

United States District Court, D. Delaware

January 23, 2018

CHRISTOPHER R. DESMOND, Petitioner,
v.
DANA METZGER, Warden, and ATTORNEY GENERAL OF THE STATE OF DELAWARE, Respondents.

          MEMORANDUM

         I. INTRODUCTION

         In 1992, a Delaware Superior Court jury convicted Desmond on multiple counts of first degree robbery, possession of a deadly weapon during the commission of a felony, second degree conspiracy, possession of a deadly weapon by a person prohibited, theft, and third degree escape. His convictions were affirmed on direct appeal. See Desmond v. State, 654 A.2d 821 (Del. 1994).

         In 1996, Desmond filed a petition for a writ of habeas corpus, which this court denied after finding four claims were procedurally barred and three claims were meritless. See Desmond v. Snyder, 1999 WL 33220036 (D. Del. Nov. 16, 1999). Desmond filed a second petition for habeas relief, which the Honorable Joseph J. Farnan, Jr. dismissed for lack of jurisdiction because it was second or successive. See Desmond v. Carroll, Civ. A. No. 02-1501-JJF, Order (D. Del. Oct. 2, 2002). On August 13, 2003, the Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit denied Desmond's application to file a second or successive habeas petition. See In Re Desmond, Civ. A. No. 03-2416, Order (3d Cir. Aug. 13, 2003).

         In 2005, Desmond filed a Rule 60(b) motion for reconsideration of the 1999 denial of his first habeas petition, arguing that claims one, five, six, and seven of his 1996 habeas petition should not have been dismissed for being procedurally barred. This court denied the Rule 60(b) motion. See Desmond v. Snyder, Civ. A. No. 96-327-GMS, Order (D. Del. Apr. 5, 2006). The Third Circuit Court of Appeals denied Desmond's motion for a certificate of appealability with respect to that decision. See Desmond v. Snyder, Civ. A. No. 06-2359, Order (3d Cir. Nov. 30, 2006).

         In November 2011, Desmond filed a petition for writ of mandamus, contending that his first degree robbery convictions should be vacated pursuant to State v. Bridgers, 988 A.2d 939 (Del. Supr. Ct. 2007) and State v. Owens, 2010 WL 2892701 (Del. Super. Ct. July 16, 2010). See Desmond v. Phelps, 2012 WL 3518531 at *1 (D. Del. Aug. 15, 2012). The Honorable Leonard P. Starks dismissed the petition after determining that it constituted an unauthorized second or successive habeas petition. Id. at *2.

         In 2013, Desmond filed a Rule 59(e)/Rule 60(b) motion for reargument, which this court denied. See Desmond v. Snyder, Civ. A. No. 96-327-GMS, Memorandum Order (D. Del. Dec. 19, 2013). The Third Circuit Court of Appeals denied Desmond's motion for a certificate of appealability with respect to that decision, [1] and then denied his petition for rehearing. See Desmondv. Snyder, Civ. A. No. 14-1005, Order (3d Cir. June 24, 2014).

         In September 2014, Desmond filed a Rule 59(e)/Rule 60(b) motion to reopen the court's 2013 decision denying his Rule 59(e)/Rule 60(b) motion. (D.I. 93) The court denied the 2014 Rule 59/Rule 60(b) motion (D.I. 96; D.I. 97), and the Third Circuit denied Desmond's request for a certificate of appealability. (D.I. 102)

         In 2016, Desmond filed several more Rule 60(b) motions to reconsider the court's denial of his habeas petition (D.I. 101; D.I. 104; D.I. 106; D.I. 107), which this court denied. (D.I. 110; D.I. Ill) The Third Circuit denied Desmond's request for a certificate of appealability. (D.I. 119)

         Presently pending before the court is Desmond's newest Rule 59(e)/Rule 60(b) motion to reopen ("motion to reopen") both his original petition and his 2016 Rule 60(b) motions. (D.I. 123 at 1; D.I. 124) Desmond argues that that the court should vacate its prior decisions in "D.I. 54, D.I. 110, [and] D.I. Ill. because those decisions conflict directly with the United States Supreme Court's decision in Buck [v. Davis, 137 S.Ct. 759 (2017)]." (D.I. 123 at 1) After filing the pending motion to reopen, Desmond filed two motions to amend his motion to reopen (D.I. 124; D.I. 129), and a motion for the appointment of counsel (D.I. 125).

II. STANDARD OF REVIEW

         A motion for reconsideration may be filed pursuant Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 59(e) or Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 60(b). Although motions for reconsideration under Rule 59(e) and Rule 60(b) serve similar functions, each has a particular purpose. United States v. Fiorelli, 337 F.3d 282, 288 (3d Cir. 2003). For instance, Rule 59(e) is "a device to relitigate the original issue decided by the district court, and [it is] used to allege legal error." Fiorelli, 337 F.3d at 288. The moving party must show one of the following in order to prevail on a Rule 59(e) motion: (1) an intervening change in the controlling law; (2) the availability of new evidence that was not available when the court issued its order; or (3) the need to correct a clear error of law or fact or to prevent a manifest injustice. Max's Seafood Cafe v. Quinteros, 176 F.3d 669, 677 (3d Cir. 1999). A motion filed pursuant to Rule 59(e) must be filed no later than twenty-eight days after the entry of the judgment. See Fed. R. Civ. P. 59(e).

         In contrast, "Rule 60(b) allows a party to seek relief from a final judgment, and request reopening of his case, under a limited set of circumstances including fraud, mistake, and newly discovered evidence." Gonzalez v. Crosby, 545 U.S. 524, 528 (2005). A motion filed pursuant to Rule 60(b) is addressed to the sound discretion of the trial court guided by accepted legal principles applied in light of all relevant circumstances, [2] but may be granted only in extraordinary circumstances. Moolenaar v. Gov't of Virgin Islands, 822 F.2d 1342, 1346 (3d Cir. 1987). Notably, a motion for reconsideration is not appropriate to reargue issues that the court has already considered and decided. Brambles USA Inc. v. Blocker, 735 F.Supp. 1239, 1240 (D.Del. 1990).

         Additionally, when, as here, a district court is presented with a motion for reconsideration after it has denied the petitioner's federal habeas petition, the court must first determine if the motion constitutes a second or successive application under the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act ("AEDPA"). As articulated by the Third Circuit,

in those instances in which the factual predicate of a petitioner's Rule 60(b) motion attacks the manner in which the earlier habeas judgment was procured and not the underlying conviction, the Rule 60(b) motion may be adjudicated on the merits. However, when the Rule 60(b) motion seeks to collaterally attack the petitioner's ...

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