Searching over 5,500,000 cases.


searching
Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

Harden v. Bishop

United States District Court, D. Maryland

September 18, 2019

RUSSELL KELSCOE HARDEN, Prisoner identification No. 360746, Petitioner,
v.
FRANK B. BISHOP, JR., Warden, and ATTORNEY GENERAL OF MARYLAND, Respondents.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          THEODORED. CHUANG UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         Russell Kelscoe Harden, a prisoner confined at North Branch Correctional Institution in Cumberland, Maryland, has filed a Petition for a Writ of Habeas Corpus pursuant to 28 U.S.C. S 2254. By his Petition, Harden challenges his 2009 conviction in the Circuit Court for Anne Arundel County, Maryland on two counts of first degree murder and related offenses. The Petition is fully briefed, and the Court finds that no hearing is necessary. See Rule 8(a), Rules Governing Section 2254 Cases in the United States District Courts; D. Md. Local R. 105.6; Fisher v. Lee, 215 F.3d 438, 455 (4th Cir. 2000). For the reasons set forth below, the Court will dismiss the Petition as procedurally defaulted.

         BACKGROUND

         On November 4, 2009, following a five-day jury trial in the Circuit Court for Anne Arundel County, Harden was convicted of two counts of first degree murder, two counts of attempted first degree murder, conspiracy to commit first degree murder, and related handgun offenses. On December 23, 2009, Harden was sentenced to five consecutive life. sentences without the possibility of parole on the murder counts, plus 20 years of imprisonment on the handgun offenses.

         On May 11, 201, , the Maryland Court of Special Appeals affirmed Hardenss conviction. On October 25, 2011, the Maryland Court of Appeals denied Hardenss petition for a writ of certiorari. See Harden v. State, 422 Md. 354 (2011). On October 1, 2012, the United States Supreme Court denied Hardenss petition for a writ of certiorari to that Court. See Harden v. Maryland, 133 S.Ct. 116 (2012).

         On January 23, 203,, Harden filed a state petition for post-conviction relief in the Circuit Court for Anne Arundel County ("the Circuit Court") in which he asserted 23 claims for relief based on ineffective assistance of counsel, prosecutorial misconduct,, and judicial misconduct.. Following a three-day hearing, the Circuit Court issued a 41-page opinion on November 5, 2015, addressing each of the claims raised and denying the state petition. Harden filed an application for leave to appeal the denial ofthe state petition for post-conviction relief, which was received by the Court of Special Appeals on December 11, 2015, after the 30-day deadline for filing the application. Md. Rule 8-204(b)(2). The Court of Special Appeals dismissed the appeal on March 14, 2016 on the grounds that Hardenss application was untimely filed.

         In his Petition to this Court, which was timely filed, Harden claims that he was denied a public trial; he was denied the effective assistance of trial and appellate counsel; the prosecutor engaged in misconduct;; and the trial court erred when it did not excuse a prospective juror for cause. As to his ineffective assistance of counsel claims, Harden argues that trial counsel was ineffective by failing to object to the denial of a public trial; failing to offer an exculpatory letter as evidence; failing to assert Hardenss right to a speedy trial under state law; failing to investigate certain evidence; and failing to object to improper closing argument. Harden claims appellate counsel was ineffective for failing to raise claims that Harden was denied a public trial and that he was denied peremptory challenges based on the failure to excuse certain jurors for cause. As for prosecutorial misconduct,, Harden asserts that the prosecutor deceived the court regarding a postponement,, failed to disclose exculpatory evidence, engaged in improper closing argument, and used the rule on sequestration of witnesses to deny Harden a public trial.

         DISCUSSION

         Respondents claim that Hardenss Petition should be dismissed because his claims have been procedurally defaulted. Specifically, Respondents argue that all of the claims raised in the Petition are procedurally defaulted because none were raised on direct appeal, and the claims that were raised in the state post-conviction petition were not reviewed at the state appellate court level.

         I. Procedural Default

         A claim is procedurally defaulted if a "state court clearly and expressly bases its dismissal of a habeas petitioners claim on a state procedural rule, and that procedural rule provides an independent and adequate ground for dismissal." Breard v. Pruett, 134 F.3d 615, 619 (4th Cir. 1998). A claim has also been procedurally defaulted where a petitioner has failed to present it to the highest state court with jurisdiction to hear it, whether by failing to raise the claim on direct appeal or in post-conviction proceeding,, or by failing to timely note an appeal. See Coleman v. Thompson, 501 U.S. 722, 749-50 (1991) (failure to timely note an appeal); Murray v. Carrier, 477 U.S. 478, 490-91 (1986) (failure to raise a claim on direct appeal); Murch v. Mottram, 409 U.S. 41, 46-47 (1972) (failure to raise a claim in a state petition for post-conviction relief); Bradley v. Davis, 551 F.Supp. 479, 482 (D. Md. 1982) (failure to seek leave to appeal the denial of postconviction relief). In addition, a procedural default has occurred when a habeas petitioner did not present the claim to a state court, and the state court "to which the petitioner would be required to present his claims . . . would now find the claims procedurally barred." Breard, 134 F.3d at 619 (quoting Coleman, 501 U.S. at 735 n.l).

         Here, none of the claims in Hardenss Petition were presented on direct appeal. The claim of ineffective assistance of counsel for failing to invoke Hardenss right to a speedy trial was also not raised in the state petition for post-conviction relief and can no longer be asserted in such a proceeding, such that it is procedurally defaulted. See Breard, 134 F.3d at 619. Although the remaining claims in the Petition appear to have been asserted in Hardenss state petition for postconviction relief, Harden did not properly appeal the denial of these claims to the Maryland Court of Special Appeals in that his application for leave to appeal was dismissed as untimely. In Coleman, the Supreme Court held that where a petitioners appeal of the denial of a state habeas petition was inadvertenlly filed too late, the claims raised in that state petition were procedurally defaulted, because the state court's dismissal of the appeal was based on an independent and adequate state procedural rule. See Coleman, 501 U.S. at 749-50. Where this case presents the precise scenario at issue in Coleman, the Court finds that Hardenss claims are procedurally defaulted.

         Hardenss claim that the Maryland Court of Special Appeals improperly dismissed his appeal does not alter this conclusion. Harden asserts that his application for leave to appeal the denial of his state petition was actually timely because although it was not received by the court until December 11, 2015, he delivered it to prison authorities for mailing on December 1, 2015, before the December 7, 2015 filing deadline. Harden argues that the court unreasonably failed to apply the "prison mailbox rule, " the federal rule that prisoner filings are deemed to have been filed on the date they are deposited for mailing within the prison. See Houston v. Lack, 487 U.S. 266, 275 (1988); United States v. Dorsey, 988 F.Supp. 917, 919-20 (D. Md. 1998) (holding that a petition shall be deemed to have been filed on the date it was deposited with prison authorities for mailing under the prison mailbox rule). In support of his argument, Hardin submits exhibits documenting his efforts to mail the application for leave to appeal to the state court prior to the deadline.

         However, at the time that Harden was seeking to file his application for leave to appeal in December 2015, Maryland did not follow the prison mailbox rule. At that time, Maryland generally deemed the date of filing to be the date the clerk received the filing, not the date when it was mailed. Hackney v. State,184 A.3d 414, 426 (Md. 2018). In May 2018, the Maryland Court of Appeals adopted the prison mailbox rule as "the law in Maryland for post-conviction petitions filed by unrepresented prisoners, " and held that it was applicable to "the case before us and all other pending cases where the relevant question has been preserved for appellate review." Hackney v. State, 184 A.3d 414, 421 (Md. 2018). As of the date of that decision, Hardenss state petition and application for leave to appeal were no longer pending in the Maryland courts. Thus, ...


Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.