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Scarborough v. Metzger

United States District Court, D. Delaware

September 10, 2018


          Edwin W. Scarborough. Pro se Petitioner.

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



         Pending before the Court is an Application For A Writ Of Habeas Corpus Pursuant To 28 U.S.C. § 2254 ("Petition") filed by Petitioner Edwin W. Scarborough ("Petitioner"). (D.I. 3) The State has filed an Answer in opposition. (D.I. 20) For the reasons discussed, the Court will dismiss the Petition and deny the relief requested.

         I. BACKGROUND

         On July 2, 2012, Petitioner was indicted on charges of drag dealing (cocaine), endangering the welfare of a child, and possession of drug paraphernalia. (D.I. 20 at 1) Petitioner filed a motion to suppress the drug evidence found in his motel room, which the Superior Court denied after a hearing. Id. at 1-2, 6. On January 6, 2014, the first day of the scheduled trial, Petitioner pled guilty to drug dealing in violation of 16 Del. Code § 4753(1), in exchange for which the State dismissed the other two charges. Id. at 2. The Superior Court sentenced Petitioner to 15 years at Level V incarceration, to be suspended after serving three years for decreasing levels of supervision. See Scarborough v. State, 119 A.3d 43 (Table), 2015 WL 4606519 (Del. Jul. 30, 2015). The Delaware Supreme Court affirmed Petitioner's convictions. Id. Petitioner did not pursue post-conviction relief in the Delaware state courts.

         Thereafter, Petitioner filed in this Court a habeas Petition, asserting four grounds for relief. (D.I. 3) The State filed a Motion to Dismiss because the Petition contained three exhausted claims and one unexhausted claim of ineffective assistance of counsel and, therefore, constituted a mixed habeas petition. (D.I. 12) The Court gave Petitioner the opportunity to choose between having the Petition dismissed without prejudice or deleting the unexhausted claim in order to proceed with the three exhausted claims. (D.I. 17) Petitioner elected to delete the unexhausted claim and proceed with the exhausted claims. (D.I. 18) Consequently, the Petition presently pending before the Court asserts the following three grounds for relief: (1) Petitioner's guilty plea was rendered involuntary because the trial court failed to advise Petitioner about any of the constitutional rights he was waiving by pleading guilty; (2) the police violated the plain view doctrine and illegally entered his motel room without a warrant in violation of his Fourth Amendment rights; and (3) the State's failure to inform him about the evidence mishandling scandal at the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner ("OCME") before he decided to plead guilty violated Brady v. Maryland, 373 U.S. 83 (1963), and rendered his guilty plea involuntary under Brady v. United State, 397 U.S. 742 (1970). (D.I. 3; D.I. 8 at 10; D.I. 18) The State filed an Answer asserting that the Petition should be denied because Claims One and Three do warrant relief under § 2254(d) and Claim Two is not cognizable on federal habeas review. (D.I. 20)


         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); O'Sullivan v. Boerckel, 526 U.S. 838, 842-44 (1999); Picard v. Connor, 404 U.S. 270, 275 (1971). The 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, in a procedural manner permitting the court to consider the claims on their merits. Bell v. Cone, 543 U.S. 447, 451 n.3 (2005); see also 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); league 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, Ml 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 Or. 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 (2006); see Sweger v. Chesney, 294 F.3d 506, 522-24 (3d Cir. 2002).

         B. Standard of Review

         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); 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;" as explained by the Supreme Court, "it may be presumed that the state court adjudicated the claim on the merits in die 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).


         A. Claim One: Involuntary Guilty Plea

         In Claim One, Petitioner contends that his guilty plea was involuntary because he did not understand the constitutional rights he was waiving. (D.I. 8 at 2-5) He appears to premise this argument on the following two "facts": (1) the trial judge did not explicitly inform him of the specific constitutional rights he was waiving as a result of pleading guilty; and (2) he did not check the "yes" box on the Truth-In-Sentencing (TIS) Guilty Form indicating that he understood the constitutional rights he was waiving by pleading guilty. Petitioner did not present the instant argument asserted in Claim One to the Delaware Supreme Court on direct appeal.[2] Rather, on direct appeal, he argued that he did not knowingly waive his rights to appeal the denial of his suppression motion, and he presented the aforementioned two "facts" as support for his argument. See Scarborough, 2015 WL 4606519, at *3. The Delaware Supreme Court opined that the disposition of Petitioner's appellate claims "hinge[d] on the Court's determination of whether [Petitioner] entered his guilty plea knowingly, intelligently, and voluntarily," and proceeded to analyze whether the two "facts" presented by Petitioner rendered his guilty plea involuntary. Since the Delaware Supreme Court ...

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