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Anderson v. Metzger

United States District Court, D. Delaware

December 14, 2018

HARRY W. ANDERSON, Petitioner,
v.
DANA METZGER, Warden, and ATTORNEY GENERAL OF THE STATE OF DELAWARE, Respondents.[1]

          Harry W. Anderson. Pro se Petitioner.

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

          MEMORANDUM OPINION [2]

          CONNOLLY, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         Pending before the Court is Petitioner Harry W. Anderson's Petition for a Writ of Habeas Corpus Pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254 and his Amended Petition (hereinafter referred to as "Petition"). (D.I. 3; D.I. 18) The State filed an Answer in opposition. (D.I. 23) For the reasons discussed, the Court will deny the Petition.

         I. FACTUAL BACKGROUND

         In September 2012, Petitioner was indicted on three counts of felony theft, three counts of third degree burglary, and three counts of criminal mischief. (D.I. 23 at 2) On January 24, 2013, Petitioner pled guilty to two counts of burglary, in exchange for which the State dismissed the balance of the indictment, agreed to move to sentence Petitioner as a habitual offender on only one count, and agreed to recommend no more than six years at Level V on that count. See Anderson v. State, 99 A.3d 226 (Table), 2014 WL 3511717, at *3 (Del. July 14, 2014). On September 20, 2013, the day of Petitioner's scheduled sentencing, Petitioner orally moved to withdraw his guilty plea. Id. at *1. The Superior Court denied the motion, and sentenced Petitioner as a habitual offender for the first count of burglary to 6 years at Level V incarceration. See Anderson v. State, 130 A.2d 340 (Table), 2015 WL 9283845, at *1 (Del. Dec. 18, 2015). On the second burglary count, the Superior Court sentenced Petitioner to three years at Level V incarceration, suspended for 18 months at Level III probation. Id. The Delaware Supreme Court affirmed Petitioner's convictions and sentences on July 14, 2014. See Anderson, 2014 WL 3511717, at *4.

         Thereafter, Petitioner filed a motion for sentence reduction in December 2013 and a motion to correct an illegal sentence in August 2014. (D.I. 23 at 2) The Superior Court denied both motions on September 8, 2014, and Petitioner did not appeal that decision. See Anderson v. State, 2015 WL 1396360, at *1 (Del. Mar. 24, 2015). Petitioner filed a second motion to correct an illegal sentence on August 19, 2014, which the Superior Court denied on September 8, 2014. (D.I. 23 at 2-3) On September 22, 2014, Petitioner filed a document titled "motion for extraordinary circumstances," seeking correction of his sentence under Rule 35. See Anderson, 2015 WL 1396360, at *1. The Superior Court denied the motion on December 23, 2014, and the Delaware Supreme Court affirmed that decision in March 2015. Id. at *2. Petitioner filed a motion for post-conviction relief pursuant to Delaware Superior Court Criminal Rule 61 ("Rule 61 motion") on October 10, 2014, which the Superior Court on January 6, 2015. See State v. Anderson, 2015 WL 121879, at *1, 4 (Del. Super. Ct. Jan. 6, 2015). Petitioner did not appeal that decision. Instead, on June 18, 2015, Petitioner filed in the Superior Court a "motion for relief from judgment," seeking relief from the Superior Court's January 6, 2015 denial of his Rule 61 motion, which the Superior Court denied on June 24, 2015. See State v. Anderson, 2015 WL 3882750, at *2 (Del. Super. Ct. June 24, 2015). Finally, on July 17, 2015, Petitioner filed a motion for correction of illegal sentence. (D.I. 23 at 3) The Superior Court denied the motion on August 4, 2015, and the Delaware Supreme Court affirmed that decision on December 18, 2015. See Anderson, 2015 WL 9283845, at *2.

         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 postconviction proceeding, in a procedural manner permitting the court to consider the claims on their merits. See Bell v. Cone, 543 U.S. 447, 451 n.3 (2005); 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. ...


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