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Monroe v. Metzger

United States District Court, D. Delaware

May 10, 2018

JAMAIEN MONROE, aka Carl Dean, Petitioner,
v.
DANA METZGER, Warden, and ATTORNEY GENERAL OF THE STATE OF DELAWARE, Respondents.[1]

          Jamaien Monroe. Pro se petitioner.

          Sean P. Lugg, Deputy Attorney General, Delaware Department of Justice, Wilmington, Delaware. Counsel for respondents.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          SLEET, DISTRICT JUDGE

         Wilmington, Delaware Pending before the court is a petition for a writ of habeas corpus pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254 filed by petitioner Jamaien Monroe ("Monroe"). (D.I. 1) The State filed an answer in opposition. (D.I. 15) For the reasons discussed, the court will deny the petition.

         I. BACKGROUND

         This case arises from two separate incidents. The first set of charges against Monroe were attempted first degree murder and other charges resulting from an incident occurring on January 26, 2006. (D.I. 17 at 11) The second set of charges arose out of an incident which occurred on April 2, 2207, and included first degree murder and other related charges. In both cases, the shooting victim was Andre "Gus" Ferrell. The cases were later consolidated into one case, which is the case leading to this proceeding. As a result of the consolidation, counts 12-14 of the indictment related to the January 26, 2006 attempted murder of Ferrell and counts 1-11 related to the April 2, 2007 murder of Ferrell. See State v. Monroe, 2010 WL 1960123 (Del. Super. Ct. May 14, 2010). In March 2009, a Delaware Superior Court jury convicted Monroe of first degree murder and the related charges, but found him not guilty of the counts related to the attempted murder charges. (D.I. 15 at 1) Monroe was sentenced to life imprisonment plus twelve years. Id. The Delaware Supreme Court affirmed his convictions on September 14, 2011. See Monroe v. State, 28 A.3d 418 (Del. 2011) (en banc).

         In September 2012, Monroe filed in the Delaware Superior Court a motion for post-conviction relief pursuant to Delaware Superior Court Criminal Rule 61 ("Rule 61 motion"). (D.I. 17-1 at 160, Entry No. 212) The Superior Court denied the motion, and the Delaware Supreme Court affirmed that decision. See State v. Monroe, 2014 WL 2581971 (Del. Super. Ct. June 6, 2014); see Monroe v. State, 2015 WL 1407856 (Del. Mar. 25, 2015).

         II. GOVERNING LEGAL PRINCIPLES

         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. See 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 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; 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, in a procedural manner permitting the court to consider the claims on their merits. See Bell, 543 U.S. at 451 n.3; Castille v. Peoples, 489 U.S. 346, 351 (1989).

         A petitioner's failure to exhaust state remedies will be excused if state procedural rules preclude him from seeking further relief in state courts. See Lines v. Larkins, 208 F.3d 153, 160 (3d Cir. 2000); see Teague v. Lane, 489 U.S. 288, 297-98 (1989). Although treated as technically exhausted, such claims are nonetheless procedurally defaulted. See Lines, 208 F.3d at 160; Coleman v. Thompson, 501 U.S. 722, 750-51 (1991). Similarly, if a petitioner presents a habeas claim to the state's highest court, but that court "clearly and expressly" refuses to review the merits of the claim due to an independent and adequate state procedural rule, the claim is exhausted but procedurally defaulted. See Coleman, 501 U.S. at 750; Harris v. Reed, 489 U.S. 255, 260-64(1989).

         Federal courts may not consider the merits of procedurally defaulted claims unless the petitioner demonstrates either cause for the procedural default and actual prejudice resulting therefrom, or that a fundamental miscarriage of justice will result if the court does not review the claims. See McCandless v. Vaughn, 172 F.3d 255, 260 (3d Cir. 1999); Coleman, 501 U.S. at 750-51. To demonstrate cause for a procedural default, a petitioner must show that "some objective factor external to the defense impeded counsel's efforts to comply with the State's procedural rule." Murray v. Carrier, 477 U.S. 478, 488 (1986). To demonstrate actual prejudice, a petitioner must show "that [the errors at trial] worked to his actual and substantial disadvantage, infecting his entire trial with error of constitutional dimensions." Id. at 494.

         Alternatively, a federal court may excuse a procedural default if the petitioner demonstrates that failure to review the claim will result in a fundamental miscarriage of justice. See Edwards v. Carpenter, 529 U.S. 446, 451 (2000); Wenger v. Frank, 266 F.3d 218, 224 (3d Cir. 2001). A petitioner demonstrates a miscarriage of justice by showing a "constitutional violation has probably resulted in the conviction of one who is actually innocent." Murray, 477 U.S. at 496. Actual innocence means factual innocence, not legal insufficiency. See Bousley v. United States, 523 U.S. 614, 623 (1998). In order to establish actual innocence, the petitioner must present new reliable evidence - not presented at trial - that demonstrates "it is more likely than not that no reasonable juror would have found petitioner guilty beyond a reasonable doubt." House v. Bell, 547 U.S. 518, 537-38 (2005); see Sweger v. Chesney, 294 F.3d 506, 522-24 (3d Cir. 2002).

         C. Standard of Review

         When a state's highest court has adjudicated a federal habeas claim on the merits, [2] the federal court must review the claim under the deferential standard contained in 28 U.S.C. § 2254(d). 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. 28 U.S.C. § 2254(d)(1) & (2); see Williams v. Taylor, 529 U.S. 362, 412 (2000); Appel 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. See Harrington v. Richter, 562 U.S. 86, 98-101 (2011). 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." Id. at 99.

         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); 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); Campbell v. Vaughn, 209 F.3d 280, 286 (3d Cir. 2000); Miller-El v. Cockrell, 537 U.S. 322, 341 (2003)(stating that the clear and convincing standard in § 2254(e)(1) applies to factual issues, whereas the unreasonable application standard of § 2254(d)(2) applies to factual decisions).

         III. ...


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