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Mathews v. Green

United States District Court, D. Maryland

October 30, 2018



          Catherine C. Blake, United States District Judge

         Petitioner Dominic Zatraum Mathews, an inmate confined at Eastern Correctional Institution in Westover, Maryland, seeks federal habeas corpus relief from a sentence imposed' as a result of his May 1, 2013 guilty plea in the Circuit Court for Baltimore City. ECF No. 1. Respondents' directed response asserts that the claims are procedurally defaulted and there has been no establishment of cause and prejudice permitting this court to reach the merits of the claims asserted. ECF No. 5. Mathews' court-directed reply addresses and disputes respondents' assertion. ECF No. 8 and 9. The issues pending before the court have been adequately briefed; no hearing is necessary for disposition of those issues. See Rule 8(a), Rules Governing Section 2254 Cases in the United Slates District Courts and Local Rule 105.6 (D. Md. 2016); see also Fisher v. Lee, 215 F.3d 438, 454-55 (4th Cir. 2000) (petitioner not entitled to a hearing under 28 U.S.C. §2254(e)(2)). For the reasons that follow, the court denies the petition and declines to issue a certificate of appealability.


         The facts the State was prepared and able to establish at trial, as agreed by the defense, were described by the State's Attorney at the guilty plea proceeding. ECF No. 5-2. On January 17, 2012, Mathews broke into Avery Whitmeyer's apartment in Baltimore City and bound her with neckties. Mathews and Whitmeyer had been in a relationship, but Whitmeyer had ended the relationship after refusing to marry Mathews. After breaking into her apartment, Mathews produced a handgun and threatened to kill Whitmeyer if she did not marry him. Whitmeyer pleaded for her life. Id. at pp. 37-39.

         During the encounter with Mathews, Whitmeyer was able to convince him to take her to get something to eat. Mathews carried the gun with him at all times during the trip. Upon returning to Whitmeyer's apartment, Mathews restrained her again and the two began to argue about the future of their relationship. Mathews then shot Whitmeyer in her abdomen. Id. at p. 38.

         Whitmeyer lost consciousness after being shot and when she awoke, Mathews was standing over her making statements about finishing the job and that he was not going to jail for shooting her. Id. Whitmeyer managed to convince Mathews that if he took her to the hospital she would not only marry him, but would not report that he was the person who shot her. Id. Mathews instructed Whitmeyer to tell the hospital personnel that she had been robbed and shot during the course of the robbery. Id. She agreed to the story and Mathews drove Whitmeyer to the hospital, discarding the gun and the neckties en route. Id. Mathews was arrested at the hospital and charged with attempted murder and use of a handgun in the commission of a violent crime.

         Mathews' attorney, Rodney Gray, approached the bench before the jury trial resumed on May 1, 2013, - indicated that Mathews was willing to plead guilty, and began a discussion regarding the sentencing parameters of the last plea offer from the court. ECF No. 5-2 at pp. 5-6. Defense counsel's recollection was that the offer was for life, all suspended but 20 years but the judge indicated "I was at life, suspend all but 23, wasn't I?" Id. at p. 7. The State's Attorney agreed to that recollection, but objected to the sentence because he believed it to be too far below the guidelines. Id. at pp. 6, 9. Ultimately the dispute was settled when the court indicated it would set the range for Mathews' sentence at a floor of life, suspend all but 20 and a ceiling of life, suspend all but 23. Id. at pp. 9, 16-17. There was no dispute concerning a five year concurrent sentence without parole to be imposed for the handgun offense.

         During the guilty plea colloquy Mathews was advised by his attorney that any appeal taken would be by application for leave to appeal and the permissible grounds for such an appeal would be severely limited. ECF No. 5-2 at pp. 27-32. One ground Mr. Gray advised Mathews he could raise in an application for leave to appeal the guilty plea was ineffective assistance of counsel. Id. at pp. 28-29. Specifically, he advised Mathews:

MR. GRAY: The other thing you could argue is that you've had ineffective assistance of counsel. I had a bad lawyer and the only reason I'm doing this, or one of the reasons why I'm doing this is because I had a bad lawyer and I had no other choice but to enter this guilty plea.
That I had a bad lawyer and my lawyer had me - caused me to enter this guilty plea. So have I done everything you've asked me to do on your behalf?
MR. GRAY: Did I do anything you told me not do? Like, you said, Mr. Gray, don't do certain things and I did them anyway?
MR. GRAY: Okay. So based on - are you generally satisfied with the services that have been offered to you from myself and my ...

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