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Walker v. Metzger

United States District Court, D. Delaware

August 26, 2019

ANDRE WALKER, Petitioner,
v.
DANA METZGER, Warden, and ATTORNEY GENERAL OF THE STATE OF DELAWARE, Respondents.[1]

          Andre Walker. Pro se Petitioner.

          Maria T. Knoll, 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 Andre Walker'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) The State filed an Answer in opposition. (D.I. 12) For the reasons discussed, the Court will deny the Petition.

         I. FACTUAL BACKGROUND

         In November 2010, a Delaware Superior Court jury found Petitioner guilty of first degree robbery, possession of a deadly weapon during the commission of a felony ("PDWDCF"), two counts of aggravated menacing, and resisting arrest. See State v. Walker, 2013 WL 285737, at *1 (Del. Super. Ct. Jan. 24, 2013). The Superior Court sentenced Petitioner as a habitual offender on January 21, 2011 to a total non-suspended period of life imprisonment, plus five years. (D.I. 12 at 1) Petitioner filed a motion for reduction of sentence on January 28, 2011, which the Superior Court denied on February 17, 2011. (D.I. 12 at 1-2) The Delaware Supreme Court affirmed Petitioner's convictions and sentences on September 6, 2011. See Walker v. State, 27 A.3d 552 (Table), 2011 WL 3904991, at *3 (Del. Sept. 6, 2011).

         In January 2012, Petitioner filed a motion for post-conviction relief pursuant to Delaware Superior Court Criminal Rule 61 ("Rule 61 motion"), which the Superior Court denied on April 8, 2013. (D.I. 12 at 2) On post-conviction appeal, the Delaware Supreme Court reversed the Superior Court's decision and remanded Petitioner's case to the Superior Court with instructions to appoint counsel for Petitioner. See Walker v. State, 69 A.3d 372 (Table) 2013 WL 3355899, at *1 (Del. June 28, 2103).

         On November 17 2014, with the assistance of counsel, Petitioner filed an amended Rule 61 motion. (D.I. 12 at 2) The Superior Court denied the amended Rule 61 motion June 8, 2015, and the Delaware Supreme Court affirmed that decision on May 2, 2016. See State v. Walker, 2015 WL 3654806, at M-5 (Del. Super. Ct. June 8, 2015); Walker v. State, 138 A.3d 476 (Table), 2016 WL 2654347 (Del. May 2, 2016).

         Thereafter, Petitioner filed a motion for sentence modification on July 5, 2016. (D.I. 12 at 3) The Superior Court denied that motion on July 14, 2016. Id.

         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. Standard of Review

         If a state's highest court 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). 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. 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). 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). The 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." Harrington v. Richter, 562 U.S. 86, 98 (2011). As explained by the Supreme Court, "it may be presumed that the state court adjudicated the claim on the merits in the absence of any indication or state-law procedural principles to the contrary." Id. at 99.

         Finally, when reviewing a habeas claim, a federal court must presume that the state court's determinations of factual issues are correct. See 28 U.S.C. § 2254(e)(1). 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); Campbell v. Vaughn, 209 F.3d 280, 286 (3d Cir. 2000); Miller-El v. Cockrell, 537 U.S. 322, 341 (2003) (stating that the clear and convincing standard in § 2254(e)(1) applies to factual issues, whereas the unreasonable application standard of § 2254(d)(2) applies to factual decisions).

         III. DISCUSSION

         Petitioner's timely-filed Petition asserts the following three ineffective assistance of counsel claims: (1) defense counsel improperly permitted Petitioner to appear before the jury in prison clothing during the trial; (2) defense counsel failed to request a proper first degree robbery jury instruction that conformed with Delaware law; and (3) defense counsel failed to appeal the denial of Petitioner's motion for judgment of acquittal. (D.I. 3) Petitioner presented these claims in his Rule 61 motion filed with the Superior Court, which denied the arguments as meritless. Petitioner presented the same three claims to the Delaware Supreme Court on post-conviction appeal, and the Delaware Supreme Court affirmed the Superior Court's denial of the arguments "on the basis of and for the reasons assigned by the Superior Court." Walker, 2016 WL 2654347 ...


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