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Desmond v. Superior Court of Delaware

United States District Court, D. Delaware

September 21, 2018

CHRISTOPHER R. DESMOND, Petitioner,
v.
SUPERIOR COURT OF DELAWARE, and ATTORNEY GENERAL OF THE STATE OF DELAWARE, Respondents.

          MEMORANDUM

          HONORABLE LEONARD P. STARK UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         I. INTRODUCTION

         Pending before the Court are Petitioner Christopher R. Desmond's ("Petitioner") Motions For Reconsideration Pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 60(b)(6) ("Motions for Reconsideration) regarding the dismissal of his Petition for Writ of Mandamus.[1] (D.I. 24; D.I. 27; D.I. 28: D.I. 29) For the reasons discussed, the Court will deny the Motions for Reconsideration.

         II. BACKGROUND

         In 1992, a Delaware Superior Court jury convicted Petitioner 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. He was sentenced to more than 70 years at Level V incarceration. See State v. Desmond, 2014 WL 7009341, at *1 (Del. Super. Ct. Dec. 2, 2014). The Delaware Supreme Court affirmed his convictions and sentence on direct appeal. See Desmond v. State, 654 A.2d 821 (Del. 1994).

         In 1996, Petitioner filed a petition for a writ of habeas corpus, which the Honorable Gregory M. Sleet 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). Petitioner 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 Petitioner'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, Petitioner filed in his original 1996 habeas proceeding 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. The Honorable Gregory M. Sleet 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 Petitioner'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 2013, Petitioner filed a Rule 59(e) motion for reargument in the same 1996 case, which the Honorable Gregory M. Sleet 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, see Desmond v. Snyder, Civ. A. No. 14-1005, Order (3d Cir. May 29, 2014), and then denied his petition for rehearing, see Desmond v. Snyder, Civ. A. No. 14-1005, Order (3d Cir. June 24, 2014). In 2014, Petitioner filed a motion to reopen the case, which the Honorable Gregory M. Sleet denied. See Desmond p. Snyder, Civ. A. No. 96-327-GMS, Memorandum Order (D. Del. Aug. 24, 2015). On December 15, 2016, the Third Circuit denied Petitioner's motion for a certificate of appealability with respect to that decision. (D.I. 119)

         Meanwhile, in 2011, Desmond filed a Petition for Writ of Mandamus contending that two Delaware state court decisions (State v. Bridgers, 988 A.2d 939 (Del. Super. Ct. 2007), aff'd, State v. Bridgers, 970 A.2d 257 (Table), 2009 WL 824536 pel. Mar. 30, 2009), and State v. Owens, 2010 WL 2892701 (Del. Super. Ct. July 16, 2010)) demonstrated that the Delaware state courts and this Court misinterpreted the first degree robbery statute, Del. Code Ann. tit. 11, § 832, in refusing to vacate his convictions for eight counts of first degree robbery. See Desmond v. Phelps, 2012 WL 3518531 (D. Del. Aug. 15, 2012). A new case was opened, and this Court denied the Petition for lack of jurisdiction after determining that it constituted an unauthorized second or successive habeas petition. See Id. at *3. The Third Circuit summarily affirmed that decision. See Desmond v. Phelps, C.A. No. 12-3552, Order (3d Cir. Feb. 22, 2013).

         On November 3, 2014, Petitioner filed in this Court a Petition for Writ of Mandamus, asking the Court to compel the Respondents to enforce a plea offer from 1992 that had expired before it was communicated to him; the plea offer contained a sentencing recommendation of 20 years. (D.I. 2 at 2) Petitioner contended that his "sentence expired on October 9, 2011, [which was] the full-term of the twenty year plea, and [that] he is entitled to be released from all conditions imposed upon him outside the twenty year uncommunicated plea deal." (D.I. 2 at 2) He argued that mandamus relief is appropriate because he has no other remedies available to compel the Respondents to "uphold their constitutional duties and enforce their own rules of contract law and notice of pleas." (D.I. 2 at 8, 20) The instant case was opened and the Court dismissed the Petition for Writ of Mandamus for lack of jurisdiction after determining that it constituted an unauthorized second or successive habeas petition. (D.I. 14; D.I. 15) The Court also noted that, even were it to treat the filing as a request for mandamus relief, such relief was not available to him on the facts presented. (D.I. 14 at 4 n.2) Petitioner appealed, and the Third Circuit declined to issue a certificate of appealability with respect to that decision. (D.I. 23) Since 2017, Petitioner has filed four Motions for Reconsideration (D.I. 24; D.I. 27; D.I. 28; D.I. 29), two Motions to Expand the Record (D.I. 25; D.I. 30), and one Motion to Compel (D.I. 32), all in the instant proceeding.

         III. LEGAL STANDARDS

         A motion filed pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 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 Rule 60(b) motion 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. See Moolenaar v. Gov't of Virgin Islands, 822 F.2d 1342, 1346 (3d Cir. 1987). A motion for reconsideration is not an occasion to reargue issues that the Court has already considered and decided. See 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 underlying conviction, the motion should be treated as a successive habeas petition.

Pridgen v. Shannon, 380 F.3d 721, 727 (3d Cir. 2004). Under AEDPA, a prisoner cannot file a second or successive habeas application without first obtaining approval from the appropriate court of appeals and, absent such authorization, a district court cannot consider the merits of a subsequent application. See 28 U.S.C. ยง ...


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