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Blue v. Warden

United States District Court, Fourth Circuit

August 28, 2013

RASHEEN BLUE # 285-114, Petitioner,
v.
WARDEN, et al., Respondent.

MEMORANDUM OPINION

ROGER W. TITUS, District Judge.

Rasheen Blue ("Blue") filed a petition for writ of habeas corpus pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254 on February 28, 2013, challenging his 1999 convictions in the Circuit Court of Prince George's County, Maryland. ECF No. 1. Having determined that the petition is not timebarred, [1] Respondents have provided a response to the merits of the petition (ECF No. 10)[2] and Blue has replied. ECF No. 12. After reviewing these papers, the Court finds no need for an evidentiary hearing. See Rule 8(a), Rules Governing Section 2254 Cases in the United States District Courts; see also 28 U.S.C. § 2254(e)(2). For the reasons set forth below, the petition will be denied and dismissed and a certificate of appealability shall not issue.

Procedural History and Background

On April 19, 1999, Blue pleaded guilty in the Circuit Court for Prince George's County to one count of felony murder in the first degree and one count of use of a handgun in the commission of a felony or crime of violence. ECF No. 7, Ex. 1, p. 6. On June 4, 1999, the court sentenced Blue to life in prison for felony murder, and a consecutive twenty-year term of incarceration for the handgun conviction, with 252 days credit. Id., Ex. 1, p. 7. The remaining counts of attempted robbery with a dangerous weapon and attempted robbery were entered as a nolle prosequi. Id. Blue did not file an application for leave to appeal his conviction by way of guilty plea, and the judgment of conviction became final on July 4, 1999. See Md. Rule 8-204 (application for leave to appeal to be filed within 30 days of the date of judgment from which appeal sought). On June 15, 1999, Blue filed a motion for reconsideration of sentence. Id. On July 14, 1999, the court issued a memorandum declining to take any action with respect to the motion for reconsideration of sentence.[3] Id., Ex. 1, p. 8.

On May 27, 2009, Blue filed a petition for post-conviction relief. ECF No. 7., Ex. 1, p. 8. Four amended petitions were subsequently filed. Id. at 8-10. On September 6, 2011, a postconviction hearing was convened. Blue elected to proceed solely on the amended petition that was filed on August 29, 2011. ECF No. 10, Ex. 7 and Ex. 8, p. 3. Blue pursued eight claims of error, including a claim that his plea was not knowing, voluntary, or intelligent because the trial court accepted the guilty plea without first satisfying the requirement of Md. Rule 4-242(c) that it inform Blue that his appellate rights would be limited if he pleaded guilty. Id., Ex. 7 at 4-24.

On May 10, 2012, the post-conviction court found that the trial court satisfied the requirement of Maryland 4-242(c) to find that Blue's guilty plea was knowingly, intelligently, and voluntarily made, but granted Blue the right to file a belated application for leave to appeal his conviction by guilty plea in connection with his claim that trial counsel was ineffective in not filing an application for leave to appeal Blue's guilty plea. ECF No. 7, Ex. 2, pp.1, 19. The post-conviction court otherwise denied Blue's petition for post-conviction relief.

On June 1, 2012, Blue filed an application for leave to appeal, raising two grounds: (1) that his guilty plea should be vacated because the trial court did not timely and properly inform him of all the consequences of pleading guilty, in particular, waiving his right to automatic appeal, in accordance with Md. Rule 4-242(c); and (2) that his guilty plea should be vacated because he was not advised of the elements of the charges against him. Id., Ex. 3, pp. 2, 6. The Court of Special Appeals treated Blue's application as an application for leave to appeal denial of his post-conviction petition and, in an unpublished opinion entered on January 25, 2013, summarily denied Blue's application for leave to appeal. ECF No. 7., Ex. 4. Blue filed a motion for reconsideration of dismissal which was denied on March 28, 2013.[4] Id., Ex. 4 at 9.

Blue now contends that he is being held in custody illegally because he "was deprived of his right to due process and equal protection of the laws of the state, U.S.C.A. Const. Amend. 14." He claims that his plea was not voluntarily and intelligently made because "he was not informed of the waiver of his appellate rights." ECF No. 3, pp. 6 and 8 and Ex. 1, p. 5. In particular, Blue claims that his guilty plea was not voluntarily and intelligently made because the lower court failed to advise him that he was waiving his appellate rights, prior to accepting his plea, as required by Rule 11 of the Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure and Maryland Rule 4-242. Id.

Standard of Review

The federal habeas statute, 28 U.S.C. § 2254, as amended, provides a "highly deferential standard for evaluating state-court rulings." Lindh v. Murphy, 521 U.S. 320, 333 n.7 (1997); see also Bell v. Cone, 543 U.S. 447 (2005). This "highly deferential" standard is "difficult to meet" and "demands that state-court decisions be given the benefit of the doubt." Cullen v. Pinholster, 563 U.S. ___, ___, 131 S.Ct. 1388, 1398 (2011); see also Harrington v. Richter, 562 U.S. ___, ___, 131 S.Ct. 770, 786 (2011) ("If this standard is difficult to meet, that is because it was meant to be."). Petitioner carries the burden of proof to meet this standard. See Pinholster, 131 S.Ct. at 1398.

A federal court may not grant a writ of habeas corpus unless the state's adjudication on the merits: (1) "resulted in a decision that was contrary to, or involved an unreasonable application of, clearly established federal law, as determined by the Supreme Court of the United States"; or (2) "resulted in a decision that was based on an unreasonable determination of the facts in light of the evidence presented in the State court proceeding." 28 U.S.C. § 2254(d). "Under the contrary to' clause, a federal habeas court may grant the writ if the state court arrives at a conclusion opposite to that reached by this Court on a question of law or if the state court decides a case differently than this Court has on a set of materially indistinguishable facts." Williams v. Taylor, 529 U.S. 362, 412-13 (2000) (O'Connor, J., concurring). "Under the (unreasonable application') clause, a federal habeas court may grant the writ if the state court identifies the correct governing legal principle from this Court's decisions but unreasonably applies that principle to the facts of the prisoner's case." Id.

The amendments to 28 U.S.C. § 2254, enacted as part of the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996 (AEDPA), require this Court to limit its analysis to the law as it was "clearly established" by precedent at the time of the state court's decision. Section 2254 provides:

(d) An application for a writ of habeas corpus on behalf of a person in custody pursuant to the judgment of a State court shall not be granted with respect to any claim that was adjudicated on the merits in State court proceedings unless the adjudication of the claim-
(1) resulted in a decision that was contrary to, or involved an unreasonable application of, clearly established Federal law, as determined by the ...

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