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Boyce v. Dematteis

United States District Court, D. Delaware

September 9, 2019

GERALD BOYCE, Petitioner,
CLAIRE DEMATTEIS, Commissioner, Delaware Department of Corrections, ROBERT MAY, Warden, and ATTORNEY GENERAL OF THE STATE OF DELAWARE, Respondents.[1]

          J. Brendan O'Neill, Office of Defense Services for the State of Delaware, Wilmington, Delaware. Attorney for Petitioner.

          Kathryn Joy Garrison, Deputy Attorney General, Delaware Department of Justice, Wilmington, Delaware. Counsel for respondents.



         Pending before the Court is a Petition for a Writ of Habeas Corpus Pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254 ("Petition") filed by petitioner Gerald Boyce ("Petitioner"). (D.I. 3) The State filed an Answer in opposition, (D.I. 11), and Petitioner filed a Reply (D.I. 16). For the following reasons, the Court will deny the petition as barred by the one-year limitations period prescribed in 28 U.S.C. § 2244.

         I. BACKGROUND

         On May 1, 2013, pursuant to a consolidated plea agreement, Petitioner pled guilty to aggravated possession of a controlled substance (as a lesser-included offense of drug dealing heroin) and possession of a firearm during the commission of a felony ("PFDCF").[3] (D.I. 11 at 2) On that same day, the Superior Court sentenced Petitioner to a total of twenty years at Level V imprisonment, suspended completion of drug treatment for decreasing levels of supervision. (D.I. 11 at 2) Petitioner did not file a direct appeal.

         On May 16, 2014, Delaware's Office of Defense Services ("OPD") filed a motion for post-conviction relief pursuant to Delaware Superior Court Criminal Rule 61 ("Rule 61 motion) on Petitioner's behalf, which the Superior Court denied on December 3, 2014. (D.I. 11 at 2) The Delaware Supreme Court affirmed that decision on October 12, 2015. See Aricidiacono v. State, 125 A.3d 677 (Del. 2015).

         On September 19, 2016, the OPD filed a federal habeas Petition on Petitioner's behalf, asserting the following two grounds for relief: (1) the Delaware Supreme Court unreasonably applied Brady v. United States, 397 U.S. 742, 748 (1970) when denying Petitioner's due process argument that his guilty plea was involuntary; and (2) the Delaware Supreme Court made unreasonable findings of fact regarding the misconduct at the Delaware Office of the Medical Examiner ("OCME"). (D.I. 8) The State filed an Answer asserting that the Petition should be denied as time-barred or, alternatively, because the claims are meritless. (D.I. 11) Petitioner filed a Reply arguing that (1) the Petition is actually timely filed after applying § 2244(d)(1)(D) and equitable tolling; and (2) the claims warrant relief under § 2254(d)(1) and (2). (D.I. 16)

         A. OCME Criminal Investigation

         The relevant information regarding the OCME evidence mishandling is set forth below:

In February 2014, the Delaware State Police ("DSP") and the Department of Justice ("DOJ") began an investigation into criminal misconduct occurring in the Controlled Substances Unit of the OCME.
The investigation revealed that some drug evidence sent to the OCME for testing had been stolen by OCME employees in some cases and was unaccounted for in other cases. Oversight of the lab had been lacking, and security procedures had not been followed. One employee was accused of "dry labbing" (or declaring a test result without actually conducting a test of the evidence) in several cases. Although the investigation remains ongoing, to date, three OCME employees have been suspended (two of those employees have been criminally indicted), and the Chief Medical Examiner has been fired.
There is no evidence to suggest that OCME employees tampered with drug evidence by adding known controlled substances to the evidence they received for testing in order to achieve positive results and secure convictions. That is, there is no evidence that the OCME staff "planted" evidence to wrongly obtain convictions. Rather, the employees who stole the evidence did so because it in fact consisted of illegal narcotics that they could resell or take for personal use.

Brown v. State, 108 A.3d 1201, 1204-05 (Del. 2015).


         The Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996 ("AEDPA") was signed into law by the President on April 23, 1996, and habeas petitions filed in federal courts after this date must comply with the AEDPA's requirements. See generally Lindh v. Murphy, 521 U.S. 320, 336 (1997). AEDPA prescribes a one-year period of limitations for ...

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