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Vance v. Bishop

United States District Court, D. Maryland

June 8, 2018

BENJAMIN E. VANCE, #412-850 Petitioner
v.
WARDEN FRANK B. BISHOP and THE ATTORNEY GENERAL OF THE STATE OF MARYLAND Respondents

          MEMORANDUM

          ELLEN L. HOLLANDER UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         Petitioner Benjamin Vance filed a Petition for Writ of Habeas Corpus. ECF 1 (“Petition”). Respondents filed a “Limited Answer” (ECF 9), supported by exhibits, asserting that the Petition raises claims that have not been exhausted and that there remains an available state remedy for petitioner to litigate those claims. Id. Further, respondents argue that unless Vance waives review of the unexhausted claims, the Petition must be dismissed in its entirety, without consideration of the merits of any of the claims raised. Id.

         A. Procedural History

         In the Circuit Court for Prince George's, County, Maryland, a jury convicted Vance of felony murder, armed robbery, and unlawful use of a handgun. The circuit court sentenced him to life imprisonment for felony murder, with a concurrent term of twenty years of imprisonment for unlawful use of a handgun. The armed robbery conviction was merged for sentencing purposes. ECF 9-1 at 13-14.

         Vance noted a direct appeal to the Maryland Court of Special Appeals and raised the following claims:

1. Did the trial court err in denying defense counsel's Batson challenge where the State used all nine of its strikes against African American females?
2. Did the trial court err in preventing the admission of prior inconsistent statements made by David Hester?
3. Did the trial court err in admitting purported prior inconsistent statements made by Travis Bonner?
4. Was the evidence insufficient to sustain the conviction for use of a handgun in the commission of a felony?
5. Did the trial court err in permitting a firearms expert to use a handgun capable of firing 9-millimeter cartridges as a demonstrative [exhibit] during direct examination and [] did the trial court err in permitting the prosecutor to use a toy handgun as a demonstrative in closing argument?

ECF 9-2 at 2, 7; ECF 11 at 2-3.

         On April 4, 2014, the Maryland Court of Special Appeals affirmed Vance's convictions. Vance v. State, No. 448, Sept. Term 2013; ECF 9-1 at 16; ECF 11-1. On June 19, 2014, the Maryland Court of Appeals denied Vance's petition for a writ of certiorari. Vance v. State, 238 Md. 741 (2014); ECF 9-1 at 21-22; ECF 9-2 at 116; ECF 9-3 at 2.

         In a petition for writ of habeas corpus filed in the circuit court on October 20, 2014, Vance claimed that his custody was unlawful because of the manner in which the trial court disposed of his pretrial motion to suppress. ECF 9-1 at 17; ECF 9-3 at 4-6. The circuit court denied the habeas petition on November 13, 2014, without a hearing. In an unreported opinion filed on May 5, 2016, the Maryland Court of Special Appeals dismissed Vance's appeal from this ruling as barred by law. Vance v. State, No. 2225, Sept. Term 2014; ECF 9-3.[1]

         On July 12, 2016, Vance filed a Motion for a New Trial under Md. Rule 4-331(b), alleging that the judge who granted the critical postponement that scheduled his trial beyond the 180-day deadline, embodied in Maryland Rule 4-271, was not properly designated to do so by the administrative judge of the Circuit Court for Prince George's County. ECF 9-4; see Maryland Rule 6-103. The circuit court summarily denied the motion, without a hearing, on July 22, ...


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