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Guilfoil v. May

United States District Court, D. Delaware

March 1, 2019

DALE E. GUILFOIL, Petitioner,
v.
ROBERT MAY, Warden, and ATTORNEY GENERAL OF THE STATE OF DELAWARE, Respondents.[1]

          Dale E. Guilfoil. Pro se Petitioner.

          Brian L. Arban, 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 Dale E. Guilfoil's Petition for a Writ of Habeas Corpus Pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254 ("Petition"), which he filed while incarcerated at the Sussex Correctional Institution.[3] (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

         As set forth by the Delaware Supreme Court in Petitioner's direct appeal, the facts leading to his arrest and conviction are as follows:

On July 6, 2014, Maria Egger ("Egger") hosted a yard sale at her home in Hartly, Delaware. At the conclusion of the sale, Egger observed a white truck in her driveway. [Petitioner] was in the driver's seat "pressing on the gas" and revving the engine while a female companion of his was "in front of the truck trying to push it." After unsuccessfully attempting to persuade [Petitioner] to stop pressing on the gas and his female companion to step away from the vehicle, Egger backed her car into another part of the driveway and called the police.
Detective Michael Weinstein ("Detective Weinstein"), then a member of the Delaware State Police Patrol Division at Troop 3 ("Troop 3"), responded to the call. When Detective Weinstein approached the truck, he observed "several open beer cans inside the vehicle." Detective Weinstein stated to [Petitioner]: "You've been drinking today." [Petitioner], who had "bloodshot, glassy eyes," admitted that he had been. [Petitioner] also admitted that he had been driving. Further, Detective Weinstein testified that, when [Petitioner] exited the truck, he had difficulty maintaining his balance, slurred speech, a strong odor of alcohol emanating from his person, and had urinated in his pants.
Detective Weinstein performed an HGN[4] field sobriety test on [Petitioner], who was unable to maintain his balance during the administration of the test and had to lean on his vehicle. Detective Weinstein testified that he "observed six clues" of impairment when performing the test, and stated that "[a]nything more than four clues indicates that there is a 77 percent likelihood that the defendant's blood alcohol content is greater than .10." On July 6, 2014, after performing the HGN field sobriety test, Detective Weinstein transported [Petitioner] to Troop 3 to obtain a blood sample. Detective Weinstein observed Hal Blades ("Blades"), a phlebotomist, obtain the sample. On July 16, 2014, the sample was transferred from Troop 3 to the Delaware State Police Crime Laboratory by James Daneshgar ("Daneshgar"). The analysis performed on the blood sample revealed that [Petitioner] had a BAC of 0.19.
Shortly before trial, the State informed defense counsel that Daneshgar was subject to discipline by his employer, the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner ("OCME"), for recreational drug use. Defense counsel requested that the prosecution produce Daneshgar to testify regarding his handling of [Petitioner's] blood sample. Before trial, [Petitioner] made an oral motion in limine to exclude the analysis of his blood sample, arguing that the State made untimely and incomplete disclosures with respect to Daneshgar in violation of Brady. Further, [Petitioner] argued that evidence relating to his blood sample was inadmissible because the State failed to produce a necessary witness under 21 Del. C. § 4177. The Superior Court denied [Petitioner's] motion in limine with respect to the alleged Brady violation, reasoning that the State disclosed the OCME's discipline of Daneshgar in writing before trial, that the jury would be able to consider the information, that any delay by the State in providing the information was inadvertent, and that the defense had "adequate time to use such information at trial...." Nonetheless, the court ordered the State to provide defense counsel with Daneshgar's address, enabling the defense to subpoena Daneshgar.

Guilfoil v. State, 135 A.3d 78 (Table), 2016 WL 943760, at *1-2 (Del. Mar. 11, 2016).

         In June 2015, a Delaware Superior Court jury convicted Petitioner of a seventh offense of driving while under the influence. See Guilfoil, 2016 WL 943760, at *1. The Superior Court sentenced him to fifteen years at Level V incarceration, suspended after six years, followed by one year at Level III. Id. at Petitioner appealed, and the Delaware Supreme Court affirmed his conviction and sentence on March 11, 2016. (D.I. 23 at 2); see also Guilfoil, 2016 WL 943760, at *7.

         On April 20, 2016, Petitioner filed a federal habeas Petition containing six Claims for relief. (D.I. 3) Claim Six asserted three instances of alleged official misconduct, one of which constituted an ineffective assistance of counsel argument that defense counsel failed to have a mechanic inspect the truck transmission. (D.I. 3 at 16) In response, the State filed a Motion to Dismiss the Petition without prejudice, because Petitioner still had the ability to exhaust his unexhausted ineffective assistance of counsel claim in state court. (D.I. 10) The Court provided Petitioner with an opportunity to delete his unexhausted claim in order to continue with the proceeding, which Petitioner chose to do. (D.I. 18) Therefore, the Petition presently before the Court asserts six Claims for relief, absent the ineffective assistance allegation in Claim Six concerning defense counsel's failure to have a mechanic inspect the truck's transmission.

         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). Claims based on errors of state law are not cognizable on federal habeas review, and federal courts cannot re-examine state court determinations of state law issues. See Mullaney v. Wilbur, 421 U.S. 684, 691 (1975) ("[s]tate courts are the ultimate expositors of state law"); Estelle v. McGuire, 502 U.S. 62, 67-68 (1991) (holding that claims based on errors of state law are not cognizable on habeas review). Additionally, 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 ...

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