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Dicks v. Bishop

United States District Court, D. Maryland

December 17, 2019

WARDEN[1] FRANK BISHOP, et al., Respondents.


          George L. Russell, III, United States District Judge

         THIS MATTER is before the Court on Petitioner Andrew Joseph Dicks' Petition for Writ of Habeas Corpus pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254 (2018). (ECF No. 1). After previously dismissing the Petition as time-barred, the Court re-opened the case for the limited purpose of considering Dicks' Brady[2] claim. (ECF Nos. 21, 22). Having reviewed the Petition and supplemental briefings, the Court finds no need for an evidentiary hearing. See R. Govern. § 2254 Cases U.S. Dist. Cts. 8(a) (2010); 28 U.S.C. § 2254(e)(2). For the reasons set forth below, the Court will dismiss Dicks' Brady claim and decline to issue a Certificate of Appealability.

         I. BACKGROUND

         In his Petition, Dicks raised several grounds for habeas relief, including a claim that he recently discovered evidence that the State should have disclosed under Brady v. Maryland.[3] (Pet. Writ Habeas Corpus [“Pet.”] at 4, ECF No. 1). Dicks' Brady claim arises from events that took place subsequent to his arrest on June 10, 2005, when police officers from multiple jurisdictions interrogated Dicks. Anne Arundel County officers initially arrested Dicks for attempted robbery of a McDonald's in Anne Arundel County. (Pet. Ex. J [“Balt. Cty. Police Rep.”] at 1, ECF No. 1-12). According to the police report, the Anne Arundel County officers then informed Baltimore County detectives that Dicks was in custody, as he was a suspect in several Baltimore County robberies. (Id.). Two Baltimore County detectives went to the Anne Arundel station to interview Dicks. (Id.). When they arrived, Baltimore City detectives were already questioning Dicks. (Id.). Detective Tribull, an Anne Arundel County officer, informed the Baltimore County detectives that he had read Dicks his rights and obtained Dicks' initials on a Miranda[4] waiver form. (Id.). Before questioning Dicks, the Baltimore County detectives showed Dicks the signed waiver form and “asked him if he still understood his rights.” (Id.). The police report states that Dicks affirmed his understanding. (Id.). Dicks contests this version of events, maintaining that neither the Anne Arundel officers nor the Baltimore County officers read him his Miranda rights. (Pet. at 8).

         Dicks ultimately pleaded guilty to five counts of armed robbery and one count of robbery in the Circuit Court for Baltimore County on May 1, 2006. (Pet. Ex. G [“Plea & Sentencing Tr.”] at 2, ECF No. 1-9). Several years after entering his plea, Dicks received discovery files from Anne Arundel County, Baltimore City, and Baltimore County, including copies of Dicks' Miranda waiver form. (See Pet. at 7). In his Petition, Dicks notes several “inconsistencies” between the Baltimore City and Baltimore County copies of the Miranda waiver, which are photocopies of the original Anne Arundel County form. (Id. at 7-9; see also Pet. Ex. H [“Balt. City Miranda Form”], ECF No. 1-10; Pet. Ex. I [“Balt. County Miranda Form”], ECF No. 1-11). Dicks asserts that, based on the discrepancies between the two forms, he can prove the police “illegally forged and altered the form.” (Pet. at 9). Dicks contends he would have used the forms to challenge the validity of his Miranda waiver, the voluntariness of his confession, and “to attack the credibility of the investigating officers, ” instead of pleading guilty. (Id. at 9-10). Accordingly, Dicks asserts that the State's failure to provide him copies of the forms prior to his guilty plea amounts to an unlawful suppression of evidence in violation of Brady. (Id. at 9).

         Dicks raised this Brady argument in his state petition for post-conviction relief in the Circuit Court for Baltimore County. (Pet. Ex. A [“State Post-Convict. Pet.”] at 2-5, ECF No. 1-3). On February 16, 2017, after a hearing on the matter, the Circuit Court denied Dicks' petition. (Pet. Ex. B [“State Cir. Ct. Decision”], ECF No. 1-4). With respect to the alleged Brady violation, the Circuit Court rejected the claim on the merits, finding Dicks had not established a violation under the three-prong test dictated in Brady. (Id. at 3-6). On March 12, 2017, Dicks filed for leave to appeal the Circuit Court's denial of post-conviction relief. (Pet. Ex. C [“State Pet. Leave to Appeal”], ECF No. 1-5). On July 12, 2017, the Maryland Court of Special Appeals summarily denied Dicks' application for leave to appeal the denial of post-conviction relief. (Pet. Ex. F [“Md.Ct.Spec.App. Op. Den. Appeal Pet.”], ECF No. 1-8).

         Dicks filed his federal habeas Petition on December 11, 2017. (ECF No. 1). On February 27, 2019, this Court issued a Memorandum Opinion and Order dismissing Dicks' entire federal habeas Petition as time-barred. (ECF Nos. 13, 14). In its analysis, the Court reasoned that Dicks failed to bring his Brady claim within the applicable statute of limitations, relying on the 2013 date Dicks received the Miranda form in his Anne Arundel County case. (Feb. 27, 2019 Mem. Op. at 7, ECF No. 13). On March 19, 2019, Dicks moved for reconsideration of that ruling. (ECF No. 15). Dicks argued that the statute of limitations did not begin to run until January 28, 2015, the date on which he received the Baltimore County discovery file and had the opportunity to compare the Miranda forms. (Pet'r's Mot. Alter or Amend J. [“Mot. Reconsider.”] at 5, ECF No. 15). The Court agreed and found that Dicks' Brady claim was not time-barred. (June 26, 2019 Mem. Op. at 6, ECF No. 21). Accordingly, the Court re-opened the case to allow briefing on the merits of the Brady claim. (Id.). On August 26, 2019, Respondents filed a Supplemental Answer to Dicks' Petition. (ECF No. 26). On September 16, 2019, Dicks filed a Reply. (ECF No. 27).


         In their Supplemental Answer, Respondents raise both procedural and substantive challenges to Dicks' Brady claim. As a preliminary matter, Respondents contend that Dicks' guilty plea bars his challenge to an alleged pre-plea Brady violation and, in any event, Brady does not apply to pre-plea disclosure of impeachment evidence. Alternatively, Respondents argue that Dicks' Brady claim fails on the merits under the deferential standard of federal habeas review because the state court's denial of Dicks' post-conviction Brady claim was factually and legally reasonable. The Court addresses these arguments in turn.

         A. Procedural Challenges

         Respondents assert that, by entering a guilty plea, Dicks “waive[d] all non[-] jurisdictional defects in the proceedings conducted prior to entry of the plea.” United States v. Moussaoui, 591 F.3d 263, 279 (4th Cir. 2010), as amended (Feb. 9, 2010) (citation omitted). As such, Respondents argue Dicks is precluded from raising a Brady claim related to the withholding of evidence prior to his guilty plea.

         The Supreme Court has held that “a guilty plea represents a break in the chain of events which has preceded it in the criminal process.” Tollett v. Henderson, 411 U.S. 258, 267 (1973). Generally, a criminal defendant who pleads guilty “may not thereafter raise independent claims relating to the deprivation of constitutional rights that occurred prior to the entry of the guilty plea.” Id. Rather, “the inquiry is ordinarily confined to whether the underlying plea was both counseled and voluntary.” United States v. Broce, 488 U.S. 563, 569 (1989); see also Hill v. Lockhart, 474 U.S. 52, 56 (1985) (citation omitted) (“The longstanding test for determining the validity of a guilty plea is ‘whether the plea represents a voluntary and intelligent choice among the alternative courses of action open to the defendant.'”).

         While this rule bars most non-jurisdictional challenges to a conviction based upon a guilty plea, some courts have recognized an exception for Brady claims. Under this exception, several federal circuit courts have allowed a defendant to argue that a “guilty plea was not voluntary and intelligent because it was made in the absence of withheld Brady material.” Sanchez v. United States, 50 F.3d 1448, 1453 (9th Cir. 1995) (citing White v. United States, 858 F.2d 416, 422 (8th Cir. 1988), cert. denied, 489 U.S. 1029 (1989); Miller v. Angliker, 848 F.2d 1312, 1319-20 (2d Cir.), cert. denied, 488 U.S. 890 (1988); Campbell v. Marshall, 769 F.2d 314, 321 (6th Cir. 1985), cert. denied, 475 U.S. 1048 (1986)). Thus, this exception would, in theory, permit Dicks to challenge the validity of his guilty plea through his Brady claim.

         Respondents note, however, that even if such an exception is recognized, Dicks' Brady claim must fail because Brady does not apply to pre-plea disclosure of impeachment evidence. To fall within the scope of Brady, evidence must be favorable to the defense, either because it is exculpatory or impeaching. Strickler v. Greene, 527 U.S. 263, 281-82 (1999). The Supreme Court held in United States v. Ruiz, 536 U.S. 622 (2002), “that the Constitution does not require the Government to disclose material impeachment evidence prior to entering a plea agreement with a criminal defendant.” Id. at 633. The Court explained that “impeachment information is special in relation to the fairness of a trial, not in ...

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