United States District Court, D. Maryland
DeBORAH K. CHASANOW, District Judge.
On October 17, 2012,  Petitioner Broderick Patterson filed the instant 28 U.S.C. § 2254 habeas corpus application attacking his 2008 conviction for identity fraud, theft, and conspiracy to commit theft. ECF No. 1. Respondent filed a limited answer with exhibits, addressing only the issue of exhaustion. ECF No. 5. Petitioner filed a reply to Respondent's limited answer. ECF No. 6. At the court's direction, Respondent thereafter filed a supplemental answer, ECF No. 13, to which Petitioner filed a supplemental reply, ECF No. 16, followed by an additional supplemental reply, ECF No. 21. After reviewing the filings, the court finds no need for an evidentiary hearing. See Rule 8(a), Rules Governing Section 2254 Cases in the United States District Courts and Local Rule 105.6 (D. Md. 2014); see also Fisher v. Lee, 215 F.3d 438, 455 (4th Cir. 2000) (petitioner not entitled to a hearing under 28 U.S.C. §2254(e)(2)). For the reasons set forth herein, the court shall dismiss the Petition.
Factual and Procedural History
On June 26, 2008, after a jury trial, Petitioner was convicted in the Circuit Court for Baltimore County of identity fraud, theft, and conspiracy to commit theft. ECF No. 5-1, p. 7. Through counsel, he filed a notice of appeal on July 1, 2008. Id. Petitioner raised the following issues: "Was there sufficient evidence to sustain appellant's conviction;" and "Did the circuit court err in making statements regarding the anticipated brevity of appellant's trial." ECF No. 5-2, p. 2. On April 19, 2010, the Maryland Court of Special Appeals affirmed the Circuit Court's judgment. Id., p. 17. The court's mandate issued on May 19, 2010. Id. Petitioner, through counsel, filed a petition for writ of certiorari to the Court of Appeals of Maryland, raising a single issue: "Is a defendant's mere presence at the scene of the crime - without any facts demonstrating the defendant's knowledge of, or involvement in, the crime - sufficient to satisfy the accomplice corroboration rule?" ECF No. 5-3, p. 4. The Court of Appeals denied Petitioner's request for review on August 23, 2010. ECF No. 5-4.
In the meantime, Petitioner filed a number of motions in the circuit court: a motion for modification of sentence (July 2, 2008); an application for review by a three-judge panel (July 14, 2008); and a motion for a new trial (May 13, 2009). ECF No. 5-1, p. 7. All of these motions were denied. Id.
On November 17, 2010, Petitioner, proceeding pro se, filed for post-conviction relief in the Circuit Court for Baltimore County. ECF No. 5-5; ECF No. 5-6, p. 2. Through counsel, he filed a supplemental petition on August 3, 2011. ECF No. 6-1; ECF No. 5-6, p. 2. As construed by the circuit court, Petitioner claimed that: (1) he was improperly denied a preliminary hearing; and (2) his trial counsel was ineffective in failing to object to the introduction of certain photographs. ECF No. 5-6, p. 2. A hearing was held on September 21, 2011. Id., p. 1. On September 22, 2011, Petitioner's state post-conviction petition was denied. Id., p. 7. Petitioner thereafter filed an application for leave to appeal the denial of post-conviction relief. ECF No. 5-7. He argued that his trial counsel failed to file any pre-trial motions and performed ineffectively when he failed properly to preserve the record for appeal, specifically by failing to object to the admission of photographic evidence. Id., pp. 4-5. The application was denied by the Maryland Court of Special Appeals on April 8, 2013. ECF No. 12, p. 1. The court's mandate issued on May 9, 2013. Id.
As noted above, Petitioner's Application for Issuance of a Writ of Habeas Corpus was received by this court on October 19, 2012. In it, Petitioner presented two claims of error for the court's review: that he was not assigned counsel until the time for filing pre-trial motions had passed, and that belatedly-appointed counsel was ineffective. ECF No. 1, p. 2-3. On January 17, 2013, Respondent filed a Limited Answer to the Petition, in which he argued that the Petition should be dismissed as unexhausted because Petitioner still had matters pending in state court relating to the judgment being challenged in this court. ECF No. 5, p. 1. Petitioner, in his Reply to Respondent's Limited Answer, claimed that he had no pending matters in state court related to the constitutional issues raised here and that all adversarial proceedings in the higher state courts had been exhausted. ECF No. 6, p. 4. Accordingly, the court issued an Order, directing Respondent to file a supplemental response addressing the merits of Petitioner's claims, as it appeared from the exhibits to Petitioner's Reply that he had exhausted his state court remedies. ECF No. 12, p. 2. On September 2, 2014, Respondent filed his Supplemental Answer to the Petition. Petitioner filed a Reply to Respondent's Supplemental Answer and an Additional Reply to Respondent's Supplemental Response to Habeas Petition on December 5, 2014, and December 30, 2014, respectively.
Before a petitioner may seek habeas relief in federal court, he must exhaust each claim presented to the federal court by pursuing remedies available in state court. See Rose v. Lundy, 455 U.S. 509, 521 (1982). This exhaustion requirement is satisfied by seeking review of the claim in the highest state court with jurisdiction to consider the claim. See O'Sullivan v. Boerckel, 526 U.S. 838 (1999); 28 U.S.C. § 2254(b) and (c). In Maryland, this may be accomplished by raising certain claims on direct appeal and other claims by way of postconviction proceedings. Exhaustion is not required if at the time a federal habeas corpus petition is filed petitioner has no available state remedy. See Teague v. Lane, 489 U.S. 288, 297-98 (1989).
Where a petitioner has failed to present a claim to the highest state court with jurisdiction to hear it, whether it be by failing to raise the claim in post-conviction proceedings or on direct appeal, or by failing timely to note an appeal, the procedural default doctrine applies. See Coleman v. Thompson, 501 U.S. 722, 749-50 (1991)(failure to note timely appeal); Murray v. Carrier, 477 U.S. 478, 489-91 (1986)(failure to raise claim on direct appeal); Murch v. Mottram, 409 U.S. 41, 46 (1972)(failure to raise claim during post-conviction); Bradley v. Davis, 551 F.Supp. 479, 481 (D. Md. 1982) (failure to seek leave to appeal denial of post-conviction relief). A procedural default also may occur where a state court declines "to consider the merits [of a claim] on the basis of an adequate and independent state procedural rule." Yeatts v. Angelone, 166 F.3d 255, 260 (4th Cir. 1999).
As the Fourth Circuit has explained:
If a state court clearly and expressly bases its dismissal of a habeas petitioner's claim on a state procedural rule, and that procedural rule provides an independent and adequate ground for the dismissal, the habeas petitioner has procedurally defaulted his federal habeas claim. See Coleman v. Thompson, 501 U.S. 722, 731-32 (1991). A procedural default also occurs when a habeas petitioner fails to exhaust available state remedies and "the court to which the petitioner would be required to present his claims in order to meet the exhaustion requirement would now find the claims procedurally barred." Id. at 735 n. 1.
Breard v. Pruett, 134 F.3d 615, 619 (4th Cir. 1998).
If a procedural default has occurred, a federal court may not address the merits of a state prisoner's habeas claim unless the petitioner can show (1) both cause for the default and prejudice that would result from failing to consider the claim on the merits, or (2) that failure to consider the claim on the merits would result in a miscarriage of justice, i.e. the conviction of one who is actually innocent. See Murray v. Carrier, 477 U.S. 478, 495-96 (1986); Breard, 134 F.3d at 620. "Cause" consists of "some objective factor external to the defense [that] impeded counsel's efforts to raise the claim in state court at the appropriate time." Breard, 134 F.3d at 620 (quoting Murray, 477 U.S. at 488). Even where a petitioner fails to show cause and prejudice for a procedural default, a court must still consider whether it should reach the merits of a petitioner's claims in order to prevent a fundamental miscarriage of justice. See Schlup v. Delo, 513 U.S. 298, 314 (1995).
Framework for Analysis
Section 2254 states that a district court "shall entertain an application for a writ of habeas corpus on behalf of a person in custody pursuant to the judgment of a State court only on the ground that he is in custody in violation of the Constitution or laws or treaties of the United States." 28 U.S.C. § 2254(a).
The statutory framework of the federal habeas statute sets forth 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, 455 (2005). The standard is "difficult to meet, " and requires courts to give state-court decisions the benefit of the doubt. Cullen v. Pinholster, ___ U.S. ___, 131 S.Ct. 1388, 1398 (2011)(internal quotation marks and citations omitted); see also Harrington v. Richter, 562 U.S. 86, 102 (2011)("If this standard is difficult to meet, that is because it was meant to be.").
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 ...