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Boyce v. Dematteis

United States District Court, D. Delaware

September 30, 2019

GERALD BOYCE, Petitioner,
v.
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 J. Harrison, 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 ("Petition") filed by Petitioner Gerald Boyce ("Petitioner"). (D.I. 3) The State tiled an Answer in opposition, to which Petitioner filed a Reply. (D.I. 9; D.I. 13) 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 May 1, 2013, pursuant to a consolidated plea agreement, Petitioner pled guilty to drug dealing.[2] (D.I. 9 at 1) On that same day, the Superior Court sentenced Petitioner to one year of Level V incarceration with no probation to follow. (D.I. 9 at 1) Petitioner did not file a direct appeal.

         On April 30, 2014, Delaware's Office of Defense Services ("OPD") filed a motion for postconviction 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. 9 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 § 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. 3) Petitioner also argues that the Delaware Supreme Court made unreasonable findings of fact during his postconviction appeal regarding OCME misconduct. The State filed an Answer asserting that the Petition should be dismissed as time-barred or, alternatively, because the claims are meritless. (D.L 13) Petitioner filed a Reply arguing that: (1) the Petition is timely filed pursuant to § 2244(d)(1)(D); or (2) the Petition should be deemed timely filed through the application of equitable tolling. (D.L 13 at 5-8)

         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. TIMELINESS

         The Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996 ("AEDPA") prescribes a one-year period of limitations for the filing of habeas petitions by state ...


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