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Clayborne v. Warden

United States District Court, D. Maryland

March 22, 2017

WILLIAM CHARLES CLAYBORNE,[1] #368-289, Petitioner,
WARDEN, et al., Respondents.


          Paul W. Grimm United States District Judge

         Pending before the Court is Petitioner William Charles Clayborne's Petition for Writ of Habeaus Corpus arising out of his January 2011 conviction for the murder of Zachary Thompson. Among other things, Clayborne attacks the conviction because he claims that his waiver of a unanimous verdict was not knowing and voluntary. Respondents have filed a Limited Answer to the Petition, asserting that Clayborne raised unexhausted claims not subject to substantive federal habeas corpus review. Ltd. Answer, ECF No. 9. I granted Clayborne an opportunity to respond, ECF No. 10, which he has done, Pet'r's Reply, ECF No. 11; Pet'r's Supp. Reply, ECF No. 12. The Court has reviewed the filings, and no hearing is necessary. See Rule 8(a), Rules Governing Section 2254 Cases in the United States District Courts; 28 U.S.C. § 2254(e)(2). For the reasons set forth below, the Petition shall be denied as to all claims except for the claim related to the waiver of a unanimous verdict.


         In January 2011, a Circuit Court for Baltimore City jury convicted Clayborne of first-degree murder. Claybourne v. State, 61 A.3d 841, 844 (Md. Ct. Spec. App. 2013). The circumstances surrounding the verdict were unusual. During deliberations, the jury could not reach a unanimous decision. Id. at 848. Clayborne waived his right to a unanimous verdict, and he and the State agreed to accept a majority verdict. Id. at 849-51. The jury found Clayborne guilty of first-degree murder by an eleven-to-one vote and of unlawfully carrying a dangerous weapon by a unanimous vote. Id. at 851. Clayborne was sentenced to life imprisonment with all but 25 years suspended. Id.

         On direct appeal, Clayborne raised three claims:

1. Was his waiver of his right to a unanimous verdict knowing and voluntary?
2. Did the trial court abuse its discretion when it permitted testimony that one of the State's key witnesses had expressed concerns about her safety?
3. Under the “facts of the case” doctrine, was the evidence insufficient to sustain Clayborne's conviction for openly carrying a dangerous weapon?

Id. at 845. The Maryland Court of Special Appeals affirmed the conviction. Id. at 867. Clayborne filed a Petition for Writ of Certiorari raising the same questions, and the Maryland Court of Appeals denied further review. Claybourne v. State, 68 A.3d 286 (Md. 2013).

         While his certiorari request was pending, Clayborne filed a petition for post-conviction relief in the Circuit Court for Baltimore City. Cir. Ct. Balt. City Docket 12, ECF No. 9-1. He later withdrew that petition, id. at 14, but filed a second post-conviction petition on June 17, 2014, id. at 15, 18. The Petition for Post-Conviction Relief alleged ineffective assistance of trial counsel for: (1) objecting to a cautionary instruction; (2) failing to move for judgment of acquittal following the State's case; (3) failing to challenge inconsistent verdicts; (4) failing to interview alibi witnesses; (5) failing to seek suppression of State's witness Valerie Leak's testimony or demand that she undergo a psychiatric examination; (6) failing to move to suppress evidence; (7) failing to move for disclosure of criminal records of the State's witnesses; (8) failing to handle DNA evidence properly; (9) failing to request an instruction on involuntary manslaughter due to hot-blooded response; (10) failing to investigate impeachment evidence of Valerie Leak; (11) failing to consult with Clayborne about filing a motion for modification of his sentence; and (12) failing to address the rule which requires a court to read all contents of any jury communication to both parties. Cir. Ct. Balt. City Docs. 11-12, ECF No. 6-5.[2] The Petition also alleged ineffective assistance of appellate counsel for failing to allege that insufficient evidence was presented to support the convictions. Id. at 12. Finally, the Petition alleged prosecutorial misconduct for: (1) presenting noncredible witnesses; (2) making improper remarks; and (3) presenting false evidence. Id. at 11.

         The post-conviction court granted Clayborne's request to file a belated request for modification of his sentence but denied all other relief. Id. at 39.[3] Clayborne did not file a timely application for leave to appeal the denial of post-conviction relief.[4] Instead, he sought federal habeas corpus review within the one-year limitations period provided by 28 U.S.C. § 2244(d)(1). See Pet., ECF No. 1.

         Clayborne's Petition, as supplemented, sets forth a number of grounds for relief that: (A) the verdict was inconsistent; (B) his waiver of an unanimous verdict was not knowing and intelligent; (C) the trial court failed to give an instruction on voluntary manslaughter; (D) witness testimony amounted to hearsay; (E) the photographic identification array was suggestive; (F) the police and prosecutor falsified DNA evidence; (G) there was no evidence of premeditated murder; (H) prosecution witness Angela Gibbs's trial testimony was not credible; (I) the prosecutor committed misconduct by suggesting that Gibbs was afraid of Clayborne; (J) a murder weapon was never found; (K) prosecution witness Valerie Leak was incompetent; (L) newly discovered evidence not previously disclosed by the State and obtained under the Maryland Public Information Act (“MPIA”), Md. Code Ann., State Gov't § 10-611 to -628, shows all witnesses presented perjured and inconsistent testimony; (M) although he responded in the negative at trial, Clayborne was in fact on psychiatric medication at the time of trial; and (N) the trial court failed to properly instruct the jury as to reasonable doubt. Pet. 1-2; First Supp. Pet. 6, 22, ECF No. 3; Second Supp. Pet. 8-12, 14-15, ECF No. 5; Third Supp. Pet. 2-3, ECF No. 6; Pet'r's Reply 1; Pet'r's Supp. Reply 4.[5]



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