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Manuel v. Dematteis

United States District Court, D. Delaware

September 18, 2019

ANDRA MANUEL, Petitioner,
v.
CLAIRE DEMATTEIS, Commissioner,[1] ALAN GRINSTEAD, Bureau Chief, and ATTORNEY GENERAL OF THE STATE OF DELAWARE, Respondents.

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

          Elizabeth R. McFarlan, Deputy Attorney General, Delaware Department of Justice, Wilmington, Delaware. Attorney for Respondents.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          ANDREWS, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         Pending before the Court is an authorized Second or Successive Application For A Writ Of Habeas Corpus Pursuant To 28 U.S.C. § 2254 ("Petition") filed by Petitioner Andra Manuel. (D.I. 2; D.I. 20) The State's original Motion to Dismiss the Petition for being second or successive also asserts that the Petition is time-barred. (D.I. 13) Petitioner filed a Reply. (D.I. 15) For the reasons discussed, the Court will dismiss Petitioner's § 2254 Petition as time-barred by the one-year period of limitations prescribed in 28 U.S.C. § 2244(d)(1).

         I. BACKGROUND

         On November 7, 2002, a Delaware Superior Court jury found Petitioner guilty of trafficking in cocaine, possession of firearm during the commission of a felony ("PFDCF"), carrying a concealed deadly weapon ("CCDW"), resisting arrest, the lesser-included offenses of possession of cocaine and possession of marijuana. (D.I. 13 at 3) On January 24, 2003, the Superior Court sentenced Petitioner as an habitual offender to a total of forty-four years at Level V incarceration, suspended after thirty-five years, for all but the PDWBPP which was severed. (D.I. 13 at 4)

         Petitioner filed his first § 2254 habeas petition in 2004, which the Honorable Sue L. Robinson denied on August 8, 2005. (D.I. 16 at 2)

         On April 11, 2007, Petitioner filed a motion for post-conviction relief pursuant to Delaware Superior Court Criminal Rule 61 (first "Rule 61 motion"), which the Superior Court denied on May29, 2009. (D.I. 13 at 4) The Delaware Supreme Court affirmed that decision on November 2, 2009. (D.I. 13 at 4)

         On June 4, 2015, Delaware's Office of Defense Services ("OPD") filed another Rule 61 motion ("second Rule 61 motion") on Petitioner's behalf, which the Superior Court denied on June 19, 2015. (D.I. 13 at 5) The Delaware Supreme Court affirmed that decision on January 28,2016. (D.I. 13 at 5)

         On September 26, 2016, the OPD filed a § 2254 Petition on Petitioner's behalf. (D.I. 2) The Petition challenges Petitioner's 2002 convictions and asserts "a Brady v. Maryland[, 373 U.S. 83 (1963)] claim based on evidence that was not disclosed by the State until June 19, 2014, just shy of 10 years after he filed his first petition." (D.I. 15 at 2) The State filed a Motion to Dismiss, asserting that the Petition should be dismissed as an unauthorized second or successive habeas petition or, alternatively, as time-barred. (D.I. 13) The Honorable Gregory M. Sleet dismissed the Petition for lack of jurisdiction after holding that it constituted an unauthorized second or successive habeas request, but transferred the case to the Third Circuit to be treated as an application for permission to file a second or successive habeas petition. (D.I. 16; D.I. 17) The Third Circuit issued an Order granting permission to file the second or successive Petition. (D.I. 20) The authorized second or successive Petition is ready for review.

         A. OCME CRIMINAL INVESTIGATION

         The relevant information regarding Petitioner's lack of knowledge of evidence mishandling at the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner ("OCME") 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).

         II. ...


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