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Fountain v. Metzger

United States District Court, D. Delaware

September 30, 2019

MARTIN E. FOUNTAIN, Petitioner,
v.
DANA METZGER, Warden, and ATTORNEY GENERAL OF THE STATE OF DELAWARE, Respondents.[1]

          Martin E. Fountain. Pro se Petitioner.

          Maria T. Knoll, Deputy Attorney General, Delaware Department of Justice, Wilmington, Delaware. Attorney for Respondents.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          STARK, U.S. District Judge

         Pending before the Court is an Application for a Writ of Habeas Corpus Pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254 and an Amended Application (hereinafter together referred to as "Petition") filed by Petitioner Martin E. Fountain ("Petitioner"). (D.I. 1; D.I. 5) The State filed an Answer in opposition. (D.I. 10) For the reasons discussed, the Court will deny the Petition.

         I. BACKGROUND

         In March 2003, a Delaware Superior Court jury found Petitioner guilty of two counts of possession with intent to deliver cocaine, two counts of possession with intent to deliver cocaine within 1, 000 feet of a school, two counts of delivery of cocaine within 300 feet of a park, two counts of possession of drug paraphernalia, and one count of unauthorized use of food stamps. See Fountain v. State, 139 A.3d 837, 839 (Del. 2016). The Superior Court sentenced Petitioner to 103 years at Level V incarceration, suspended after thirty years and eight months for decreasing levels of supervision. On August 18, 2004, the Delaware Supreme Court affirmed Petitioner's convictions and sentences on direct appeal. See id.; see also D.I. 10 at 1.

         On February 2, 2007, Petitioner filed 2. pro se motion for post-conviction relief under Delaware Superior Court Criminal Rule 61 ("Rule 61 motion"). (D.I. 10 at 1) The Superior Court denied the Rule 61 motion, and the Delaware Supreme Court affirmed that decision on January 12, 2009. (D.I. 10 at 1-2)

         On September 17, 2013, Petitioner filed pro se motion for correction of illegal sentence, which the Superior Court denied. (D.I. 10 at 2) Petitioner filed a motion for reconsideration, which the Superior Court denied as untimely. Petitioner appealed the Superior Court's denial of his motion for correction of sentence, and the Delaware Supreme Court affirmed the Superior Court's decision on August 19, 2014. (D.I. 10 at 2)

         On March 17, 2015, Petitioner tiled a pro se motion for review of sentence and judgment of relief, seeking to modify his sentence of consecutive terms under Delaware's Amended Sentencing Act, 11 Del. C. § 3901(d). See Fountain, 139 A.3d at 839. The Superior Court denied that motion on April 30, 2015. (D.I. 10 at 2)

         On May 12, 2015, Petitioner filed a motion to arrest judgment, asking to have his two cocaine sentences run concurrently, not consecutively, pursuant to the Amended Sentencing Act, 11 Del. C. § 3901(d). The Superior Court denied the motion on May 22, 2015, explaining that it would not consider Petitioner's repetitive requests for reduction of sentence and declining to apply the Amended Sentencing Act retroactively. See Fountain, 139 A.3d at 839. Petitioner appealed. On June 3, 2016, the Delaware Supreme Court affirmed the Superior Court's decision that the Amended Sentencing Act applies only prospectively and, therefore, could not apply retroactively to Petitioner's sentences that were imposed before the Act's effective date. Id. at 843.

         II. DISCUSSION

         A federal court may consider a habeas petition filed by a state prisoner only "on the ground that he is in custody 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) ("State courts are the ultimate expositors of state law."); Estelle v. McGuire, 502 U.S. 62, 67-68 (1991) ("[It] is not the province of a federal habeas court to reexamine state-court determinations on state-law questions.").

         In his sole ground for relief, Petitioner asserts that the Delaware Supreme Court violated the Ex Post Facto clause when, in 2016, it affirmed the Superior Court's denial of his motion to have his cocaine sentences run concurrently and held that Delaware's Amended Sentencing Act, 11 Del. C. § 3901(d), does not apply retroactively. (D.I. 1; D.I. 5) A brief historical summary is helpful in understanding Petitioner's argument.

         When Petitioner was sentenced in 2003, he was subject the 1977 version of 11 Del. C. § 3901(d), which provided that "[n]o sentence of confinement of any criminal defendant by any court of this State shall be made to run concurrently with any other sentence of confinement imposed on such criminal defendant." Fountain, 139 A.3d at 840. On July 9, 2014, "§ 3901(d) was amended to give courts the discretion, with certain exceptions, to impose concurrent or consecutive sentences of confinement." Henry v. State, 2019 WL 3211455, at *1 n.4 (Del. July 16, 2019). In May 2015, Petitioner filed a motion to arrest judgment, in which he asked to have the 2014 version of ยง 3901(d) ("Amended Sentencing Act") applied to his case so that his two Level V fifteen year sentences for his cocaine convictions, imposed in 2003, would run concurrently rather than consecutively. The Superior Court refused to apply the Amended Sentencing Act retroactively and denied ...


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