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Mandeville v. Spencer

United States District Court, D. Massachusetts

July 23, 2015

R.H. MANDEVILLE, Petitioner,
v.
LUIS SPENCER, Respondent.

MEMORANDUM AND ORDER ON RESPONDENT'S MOTION TO DISMISS AND MOTION FOR A MORE DEFINITE STATEMENT

F. DENNIS SAYLOR, IV, District Judge.

This is a petition for a writ of habeas corpus by a prisoner in state custody. Petitioner Rae Herman Mandeville was convicted on June 15, 1977, of murder in the first degree and armed assault with intent to murder. He was sentenced to concurrent prison terms of life for murder and eighteen to twenty years for armed assault with intent to murder. Proceeding pro se, he now seeks habeas relief pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254. Respondent Luis Spencer has moved to dismiss the petition for a writ of habeas corpus as time-barred under 28 U.S.C. §2244(d), or in the alternative, for a more definite statement. For the reasons set forth below, the motion to dismiss will be denied, and the motion for a more definite statement will be granted.

This case is before the Court in a somewhat bizarre procedural posture. The original conviction is now 38 years old. Over the years, Mandeville has filed seven motions for a new trial in the Superior Court, all but one of which have been denied (the other apparently has never been ruled upon); purported to file two other motions for a new trial, which do not appear to have been docketed; filed two petitions to the single justice session of the Supreme Judicial Court (both denied); and filed two prior petitions for a writ of habeas corpus filed in the District of Massachusetts (both also denied).

Mandeville once again seeks relief through a third federal petition for a writ of habeas corpus. Remarkably, under Massachusetts and federal law, that petition is not untimely. In 1996-19 years after Mandeville's conviction, and 19 years ago-Congress passed a statute that essentially provided a one-year limitation period for filing federal habeas petitions. That one-year period normally begins to run when the state appellate process has run its course. Mandeville has never sought appellate review of the denial of two of his motions for a new trial-one of which was denied in 1982 (33 years ago), and one in 1991 (24 years ago). Somewhat incredibly, it appears that he can still seek such review under state law, notwithstanding the passage of multiple decades. Accordingly, under federal law, the one-year limitations period for his federal habeas claim has been tolled at all relevant times.

Whether that is a sensible result is very much open to question; nonetheless, it appears to be required by law, and therefore the petition will not be dismissed as untimely. That does not mean, of course, that the petition will be granted; whether the petition should be dismissed on other grounds, such as failure to exhaust, is not presently before the Court. As a threshold step, respondent has requested that Mandeville be required to file a more definite statement of his claims, so that respondent can file an appropriate response. The Court will grant that request, and order that Mandeville file such a statement within 42 days.

I. Background

On the night of February 14, 1976, Rae Herman Mandeville entered the apartment of his girlfriend, Emily Kincaid, and upon finding her in bed with another woman, shot them both. Commonwealth v. Mandeville, 386 Mass. 393, 395 (1982). Ms. Kincaid was killed. The other woman, Donna Lucas, was seriously injured, but ultimately survived the ordeal. Id. On April 27, 1976, Mandeville was indicted by a Suffolk County grand jury of murder in the first degree and armed assault with intent to murder. Indictment, Commonwealth v. Mandeville , No. 1976-99597 (Mass. Sup. Apr. 27, 1976); Indictment, Commonwealth v. Mandeville , No. 1976-99598 (Mass. Sup. Apr. 27, 1976).

On June 15, 1977, after a jury trial in the Suffolk County Superior Court, Mandeville was found guilty of both charges. On June 20, 1977, he was sentenced to concurrent prison terms of life for murder and eighteen to twenty years for armed assault with intent to murder.

Mandeville filed a timely notice of appeal as to the murder conviction on June 24, 1977. Docket No. 1976-99597. On June 1, 1979, he filed an assignment of errors, after receiving an extension of time for its filing. Id. On June 3, 1982, the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court affirmed the judgments. Mandeville, 386 Mass. 393.[1] He did not file a petition for a writ of certiorari in the United States Supreme Court.

Mandeville then filed a series of motions for a new trial. He filed his first such motion on August 5, 1982. Docket No. 1976-99597. It was denied on October 19, 1982. Id. He then filed a motion to amend his motion for a new trial on November 9, 1982. Id. That motion was denied on January 4, 1983. Id. He filed another motion to amend his motion for a new trial on January 18, 1983, which was denied on the same day. Id. He filed yet another motion to amend his motion for a new trial on May 8, 1985. Id. The Superior Court held a hearing on that motion on June 21, 1985, and denied it on July 9, 1985, citing the January 4, 1983 denial of the motion on the same grounds. Id. [2]

Mandeville filed a second motion for a new trial on September 13, 1991. Id. That motion was denied on November 21, 1991. Id. [3] He filed a third motion for a new trial on January 15, 1993. Id. It appears from the record that he purported to submit fourth and fifth motions for a new trial on February 1, 1993, and February 9, 1993, respectively. (Resp't App. Mot. Dismiss 75, 80). However, there does not appear to be a record of those motions on the docket, and therefore they do not appear to have ever been filed. Docket No. 1976-99597; see also Commonwealth v. Mandeville , No. SJ-2001-0558 (Mass. Feb. 10, 2005).[4]

Having not received a response to the third, fourth, and fifth motions for a new trial, Mandeville filed a petition for a writ of habeas corpus in this court on December 8, 1995. Mandeville v. Dubois, No. 95-cv-12115-MLW (D. Mass. Dec. 8, 1995).[5] He then filed a sixth motion for a new trial on December 19, 1995, in the Superior Court. Docket No. 1976-99597.[6] On January 22, 1996, Mandeville filed a motion to amend or correct his motion for a new trial in order to correct a citation. Id. [7] On May 3, 1996, the Superior Court denied his December 19, 1995 (sixth) motion for a new trial. Id. On June 4, 1996, it denied his January 15, 1993 (third) motion for a new trial. Id. [8]

On September 13, 1996, Mandeville filed a request for an enlargement of time to file a notice of appeal of the June 4, 1996 denial of his January 15, 1993 (third) motion for a new trial. Id. The court granted that motion on September 25, 1996. Id. It appears, however, that Mandeville never actually filed a notice of appeal. Id.

Mandeville's petition for a writ of habeas corpus was still pending in this court on March 27, 2000, when he filed a petition for a writ of mandamus in the United States Court of Appeals for the First Circuit. In re Mandeville, No. 00-1423 (1st Cir. March 27, 2000). The record does not indicate the relief requested in the mandamus petition. The First Circuit denied the mandamus petition, but noted that he could seek to renew it if the District Court failed to take action within three months. ( Id. ). On April 7, 2000, the respondent filed a motion to dismiss the petition for habeas corpus. Mandeville v. DuBois, No. 95-cv-12115-MLW (D. Mass. Apr. 7, 2000). On May 2, 2000, Judge Wolf of this Court granted the motion to dismiss without prejudice on the ground that Mandeville had not yet exhausted his remedies in state court, both because he had not sought a ruling from the Supreme Judicial Court compelling the Superior Court to make a ruling on his purportedly pending motions for a new trial, and because he presented claims to the district court that he had not yet raised in state court. Memorandum and Order, ...


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