United States District Court, D. Delaware
Brendan O'Neill, Office of Defense Services for the State
of Delaware, Wilmington, Delaware. Attorney for Petitioner.
Arban, Deputy Attorney General, Delaware Department of
Justice, Wilmington, Delaware. Attorney for Respondents.
U.S. DISTRICT JUDGE
before the Court is an Application For A Writ Of Habeas
Corpus Pursuant To 28 U.S.C. § 2254
("Petition") filed by Petitioner Carolyn Darden
("Petitioner"). (D.I. 2) The State filed an Answer
in opposition, to which Petitioner filed a Reply. (D.I. 9;
D.I. 16) 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. §
February 20, 2012, Petitioner pled guilty to one count of
drug dealing. (D.I. 9 at 1) On that same day, the Superior
Court sentenced Petitioner to ten years of Level V
incarceration, suspended after time served for eighteen
months at Level III supervision. (D.I. 9 at 2) Petitioner did
not file a direct appeal.
January 16, 2015, 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 behalf of Petitioner, which
the Superior Court summarily dismissed on February 12, 2015.
(D.I. 9 at 2) The Delaware Supreme Court affirmed that
decision on December 2, 2015. See Williams v. State,
129 A.2d 231 Table), 2015 WL 7776322 Del. Dec. 2, 2015).
September 23, 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 her
decision to plead guilty and, therefore, her 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 her postconviction appeal regarding OCME misconduct.
The State filed an Answer asserting that the Petition should
be dismissed as time-barred or, alternatively, because the
Claim is meritless. (D.I. 9) Petitioner filed a Reply arguing
that the Court should equitably toll the limitations period
and deem the Petition timely filed. (D.I. 16 at 7)
OCME CRIMINAL INVESTIGATION
summarized by the Delaware Supreme Court, the relevant
information regarding the OCME evidence mishandling is set
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 die Chief Medical Examiner has
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).
Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996
("AEDPA") prescribes a one-year period of
limitations for the filing of habeas petitions by state