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Williams v. Dematteis

United States District Court, D. Delaware

September 23, 2019

OTIS WILLIAMS, 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.

          Kathryn J. Garrison, 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 Application For A Writ Of Habeas Corpus Pursuant To 28 U.S.C. § 2254 ("Petition") filed by Petitioner Otis Williams. (D.I. 2) The State filed an Answer in opposition. (D.I. 8) For the reasons discussed, the Court will dismiss Petitioner's § 2254 Petition for lack of jurisdiction.

         I. BACKGROUND

         On January 7, 2014, Petitioner pled guilty to drug dealing. (D.I. 8 at 1) On that same day, the Superior Court sentenced Petitioner as an habitual offender to one year of Level V incarceration. (D.I. 8 at 1-2) Petitioner did not file a direct appeal.

         On April 30, 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 dismissed on December 3, 2014. (D.I. 8 at 2) The Delaware Supreme Court affirmed the Superior Court's denial of Petitioner's Rule 61 motion on October 12, 2015. (D.I. 8 at 2)

         On September 19, 2016, the OPD filed a § 2254 Petition on Petitioner's behalf, asserting that Petitioner's lack of knowledge of an evidence scandal at the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner ("OCME") was material to his decision to plead guilty and, therefore, his guilty plea was involuntary pursuant to Brady v. United States, 397 U.S. 742, 748 (1970). (D.I. 2) Petitioner also argues that the Delaware Supreme Court made unreasonable findings of fact during his post-conviction appeal regarding OCME misconduct. The State filed an Answer asserting that the Petition should be dismissed for lack of jurisdiction because Petitioner is no longer in custody or, alternatively, because the Petition is time-barred and the claim is meritless. (D.I. 8)

         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).

         II. ...


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