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Boyer v. Akinbayo

United States District Court, D. Delaware

November 7, 2018

HASAAN BOYER, Petitioner,
v.
KOLAWOLE AKINBAYO, Warden, and ATTORNEY GENERAL OF THE STATE OF DELAWARE, Respondents.

          Hasaan Boyer. Pro se Petitioner.

          Maria T. Knoll, Deputy Attorney General of the Delaware Department of Justice, Wilmington, Delaware. Attorney for Respondents.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          STARK, TJ.S. District Judge.

         I. INTRODUCTION

         Presently pending before the Court is Petitioner Hasaan Boyer's ("Petitioner") Application for a Writ of Habeas Corpus Pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254 ("Petition"). (D.I. 2) The State filed an Answer in opposition (D.I. 12), to which Petitioner filed a Reply (D.I. 17). For the reasons discussed, the Court will dismiss the Petition.

         II. BACKGROUND

         Petitioner was arrested on January 28, 2014 and subsequently charged by information with a single count of dealing heroin. (D.I. 12 at 1) On February 11, 2014, Petitioner pled guilty to the charge, and the Superior Court immediately sentenced him to three years at Level V incarceration, suspended for 18 months of Level II probation. Petitioner did not appeal his sentence or conviction. (Id.).

         In April 2014, Petitioner violated the terms of his probation by being arrested on new charges. (D.I. 12 at 1) On June 4, 2014, the Superior Court sentenced Petitioner on his violation to three years at Level V, suspended for three years at Level IV supervision, suspended in turn after six months, for two years of Level III probation. (D.I. 12 at 1-2)

         On April 30, 2014, Petitioner, through the Office of the Public Defender for the State of Delaware ("OPD"), filed a timely motion for postconviction relief pursuant to Delaware Superior Court Criminal Rule 61 ("Rule 61 motion"). (D.I. 12 at 2) Petitioner's Rule 61 motion sought to vacate his conviction based on an allegation of misconduct at the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner ("OCME"). Petitioner's Rule 61 motion was one of 112 Rule 61 motions seeking relief on the basis of the same OCME misconduct. By May 2014, the OPD had filed more than 560 Rule 61 motions essentially asserting the same argument on behalf of different defendants. More than 100 additional Rule 61 motions were filed in June 2014. According to Delaware Department of Justice ("DOJ") records, the OPD filed a total of 586 OCME Rule 61 motions in New Castle County between 2014 and 2017. The vast majority of the cases involved convictions by guilty plea. (Id.).

         DOJ staff began cataloging the filings and researching specific case information. (D.I. 12 at 2) Court personnel were also faced with the task of entering the motions into the appropriate case dockets and filing the papers in the correct files. In order to try and streamline the process, the state courts developed a plan of action whereby the identical motions (e.g., motions to dismiss, to compel, or for a new trial) were assigned to one Superior Court judge in each County. Id. In addition, the New Castle County Superior Court Judge assigned to handle the OCME postconviction cases was also assigned to conduct pre-trial evidentiary hearings in three active criminal cases. (D.I. 12 at 2-3) Those hearings took place in August 2014 and culminated in a written Opinion dated November 17, 2014. See State v. Irwin, 2014 WL 6734821 (Del. Super. Ct. Nov. 17, 2014). (D.I. 12 at 3)

         After the Superior Court issued its November 2014 decision, the OPD began filing supplements to its original Rule 61 motions. (D.I. 12 at 3) In Sussex County, the assigned Superior Court Judge issued an order to show cause to the OPD in more than 70 guilty plea cases in which die OPD had filed postconviction motions based on OCME issues. That court conducted a hearing on December 2, 2014. At the hearing, the OPD did not object to the dismissal of 21 of the 74 cases because "either there was no actual drug offense that involved the medical examiner's office needing to be involved, or they were misdemeanors and there was a discharge, or they are felonies with a discharge where they have quite a criminal history." (D.I. 12-1 at 12) The Superior Court had previously dismissed approximately 60 OCME postconviction motions that had been inappropriately filed. The Superior Court specifically noted that in Sussex County, more than 80 cases had been eliminated. In fact, the Superior Court Judge expressed frustration that "the first 60-some included cases that were nol-prossed, included cases that weren't even drug cases." (D.I. 12 at 3) Thereafter, the Superior Court proceeded to address each remaining case separately, ultimately denying relief in a written order dated December 3, 2014. (D.I. 12 at 3) The Delaware Supreme Court affirmed the Superior Court's judgment in a reported opinion dated October 12, 2015. See Aricidiacono v. State, 125 A.3d 677 pel. 2015).

         Petitioner supplemented his Rule 61 motion more than a dozen times between November 18, 2014 and April 26, 2017. (D.I. 12 at 3-4) During that time, he sought to estop the State from arguing that he could not withdraw his guilty plea because he had admitted cornmitting a drug offense, and asked for alternative forms of relief and discovery in view of the Delaware Supreme Court's decision in Aricidiacono. (Id. at 4)

         Due to the higher volume of cases in New Castle County, the assigned OCME Judge asked the parties for a roadmap to help move through the cases. (D.I. 12 at 4) The OPD, in January 2016, proffered 14 categories of cases to be decided. (D.I. 11-1 at 26-27) Because the DOJ believed that the cases could all be resolved in light of the Delaware Supreme Court's decision in Arddiacono and its progeny, or based on the procedural bars of Superior Court Criminal Rule 61, the DOJ conveyed that the OPD was in the best position to select the specific cases that could act as vehicles for the OPD claims. (D.I. 11-1 at 31-32) In October 2016, the OPD sent a list of nine cases selected to be the basis of the litigation. (D.I. 11-1 at 72-73) The Superior Court conducted an office conference on January 12, 2017, at which time that Court directed the DOJ to respond to the claims in eight specific cases selected by the OPD. (D.I. 11-1 at 34-63) The Superior Court gave the DOJ a due date of February 28, 2017. (Id. at 56) The DOJ met the deadline and, on March 17, 2017, the Superior Court noted that the cases were ripe for decision without an evidentiary hearing. (D.I. 12-2 at 1-2) The OPD filed a reply that same day, adding additional argument. (D.I. 12-3 at 1-22) On May 11, 2017, the Superior Court issued a Memorandum Opinion addressing the eight cases selected by the OPD, denying relief. See State v. Miller, 2017 WL 1969780 (Del. Super. Ct. May 11, 2017).

         On May 25, 2017, the Superior Court denied as meritiess Petitioner's Rule 61 motion, based on his guilty plea and "the reasons set forth in the decisions issued by this Court in State v. Irwin, 2014 WL 6734821 (Del. Super. Ct. Nov. 17, 2014) and State v. Miller, 2017 WL 1969780 (Del. Super. Ct. May 11, 2017) and the Delaware Supreme Court in Brown v. State,108 A.3d 1201 (Del. 2015) and Aricidiacono v. State,125 A.3d 677 (Del. 2015)." (D.I. 15-17 at 2) Petitioner did ...


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