United States District Court, D. Massachusetts
MEMORANDUM AND ORDER
ALLISON D. BURROUGHS, District Judge.
On October 24, 2014, Ramon Santana (the "Petitioner"), acting pro se, filed a Petition for Writ of Habeas Corpus pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254. [Dkt. 1.] The same day, he filed his first "Motion for Stay of Proceedings, " asking the Court to stay his federal habeas petition to enable him to "exhaust merit issues in state court." [Dkt. 2.] This motion for stay did not identify the unexhausted claims to be pursued in state court or articulate any grounds in support of a stay, aside from the need to exhaust issues. On November 10, 2014, the Petitioner filed a second "Motion for Stay and Abeyance, " this time identifying certain claims to be exhausted and setting forth some argument in support of his request for a stay. [Dkt. 9.] The Court previously denied the first motion for stay as moot in light of the subsequently filed motion. See Order (June 25, 2015) [Dkt. 43]. For the reasons explained below, the Court now DENIES the second motion for stay.
II. Procedural Background
The facts of the underlying criminal case are set forth in Commonwealth v. Santana, 465 Mass. 270, 272-78 (2013), and are not discussed herein, except as they pertain to this opinion. In February 2001, a jury in the Massachusetts Superior Court for Hampden County (the "Superior Court") convicted the Petitioner of first-degree murder, armed home invasion, and related crimes. [Respondent's Supplemental Answer ("S.A."), at 6, 21.] He was sentenced to two consecutive terms of life imprisonment in state prison as well as to other lengthy prison sentences based on his counts of conviction. [S.A. 171.]
On February 22, 2001, the Petitioner timely filed his direct appeal to the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court ("SJC"), although the appeal did not actually proceed at that time. [S.A. 6, 24.] In 2007, new appellate counsel was appointed, following apparent communication difficulties between the Petitioner and his first appellate counsel. [S.A. 7, 13, 24.] In July 2009, through his new counsel, the Petitioner filed a motion for a new trial, which the SJC remanded to the Superior Court. [S.A. 14, 24.] On May 27, 2010, following a non-evidentiary hearing held in November 2009 and an evidentiary hearing held in March 2010, the motion for a new trial was denied. [S.A. 24.] On June 24, 2010, the Petitioner timely appealed the denial of his motion for a new trial, and that appeal was consolidated with his direct appeal to the SJC. [Id.]
On direct appeal to the SJC, the Petitioner, still represented by counsel, made a number of arguments for the reversal of his conviction, including various ineffective assistance of counsel claims and other arguments. [See generally S.A. 35-113.] On May 29, 2013, the SJC affirmed both the conviction and the denial of the motion for a new trial. Santana, 465 Mass. at 295. On July 2, 2013, the Petitioner petitioned for rehearing by the SJC. [S.A. 15.] On July 25, 2013, the SJC denied the Petition for rehearing. [S.A. 15-16.]
On October 23, 2013, the Petitioner's conviction became final when his deadline for petitioning the Supreme Court for a writ of certiorari passed. Sup. Ct. R. 13. On October 24, 2014,  the Petitioner, now acting pro se, filed his federal habeas petition pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254, seeking relief on four grounds: (1) "The SJC's refusal to grant relief based upon the trial prosecutor's failure to disclose that the surviving victim could not identify Santana on the first day of trial was an unreasonable application of federal law."; (2) "Santana invoked his right to counsel. The SJC's application of Minnick v. Mississippi  was unreasonable."; (3) "Santana refused to sign anything without an attorney and cut off questioning. It was ineffective not to challenge the police refusal to honor his requests. SJC was unreasonable in finding no violation."; and (4) "The SJC's conclusion that the investigatory search of a pawn ticket was not prejudicial to the defendant and therefore trial counsel was not ineffective was unreasonable." [Dkt. 1, at 5, 7, 8, 10.] At the end of his supporting memorandum of law filed simultaneously with the federal habeas petition, the Petitioner included an "Addendum to Ramon Santana's Petition for Habeas Corpus Relief, " in which he asserted the following additional grounds for relief: (5) "Trial counsel rendered ineffective assistance in failing to challenge a juror who had a past attorney-client relationship with the prosecutor, who considered the prosecutor a personal friend' and who had a current doctor-patient relationship with the prosecutor."; and (6) "At the hearing on Santana's motion for a new trial, the judge ordered that Santana testify before New Jersey police officers or not at all, and refused to limit cross-examination of him. These rulings violated Santana's right to due process, right to remain silent, and right against self-incrimination." [Dkt. 50, at 47-54.]
On October 24, 2014, simultaneously with the filing of his federal habeas petition, the Petitioner also filed his first motion for stay. [Dkt. 2.] On November 10, 2014, he filed a second motion for stay, which the Court now considers. [Dkt. 9.] In his second motion for stay, the Petitioner stated that "[h]e has reviewed the entire case on a pro-se basis and has discovered new issues that must be exhausted in the state court...." [Dkt. 9, at 2.] He further stated that he intended to file a second motion for a new trial, in which
petitioner will bring forth an argument that counsel was ineffective under Strickland v. Washington, 466 U.S. 668 (1984). Due to forfeiting the defendant trial defense, that the defendant suffered from a cocaine psychosis, as set forth in Commonwealth v. McHoul, 352 Mass. 544 (1967); see also Sully v. Ayers, 725 F.3d 1057, 1066 (9th Cir. 2013). [Dkt. 9, at 5.]
On November 25, 2014, approximately one month after filing his federal habeas petition and first motion for stay, the Petitioner, also acting pro se, filed a second motion for a new trial in the Superior Court. [S.A. 10.] In this motion for a new trial, the Petitioner asserted two new grounds that he had not previously raised in his direct appeal to the SJC: he claimed that trial counsel was ineffective by: (1) "abandoning a cocaine psychosis' defense"; and (2) "failing to request the trial court to instruct the jury on voluntary intoxication as the evidence calls for such." [Dkt. 35-2, at 12, 16.] On December 15, 2014, the Superior Court denied this second motion for a new trial in a margin order. [Dkt. 35-1.] It appears that as of the date of this opinion, the Petitioner has not appealed this denial.
Although it is not entirely clear from the Petitioner's second motion for stay [Dkt. 9], when that motion is read in combination with his second motion for a new trial [Dkt. 35-2], and construing both motions liberally in light of his pro se status, it appears that he is asking the Court to stay his federal habeas petition while he pursues the two ineffective assistance of trial counsel claims made in his second motion for a new trial-i.e., abandonment of a cocaine psychosis defense and failure to request a jury instruction on voluntary intoxication. The trial cannot be relied on as having produced a just result, " and if so, that "the deficient performance prejudiced the defense." 466 U.S. at 686-87. In Commonwealth v. McHoul, the SJC addressed the proper jury instructions for the legal defense of insanity. 352 Mass. at 555. This case did not deal specifically with a defense of cocaine psychosis. In Sully v. Ayers, a federal habeas case, the Ninth Circuit affirmed the district court's rejection of a claim of ineffective assistance of trial counsel for failure to investigate and present a mental state defense based in part on the petitioner's purported cocaine psychosis. 725 F.3d at 1065-66, 1069. The Ninth Circuit explained that even if trial counsel's performance was deficient, the "California Supreme Court would not have been unreasonable to conclude that no prejudice resulted from counsel's errors" since there was no evidence relating to "the impact of [the petitioner's] cocaine usage or psychotic symptoms on specific instances of murder...." Id. at 1069-70. following analysis is predicated on that understanding.
A federal court may not consider a petition for a writ of habeas corpus by a person in state custody unless the petitioner has previously exhausted his state court remedies for all claims raised in the federal habeas petition. 28 U.S.C. § 2254(b)(1); Rose v. Lundy, 455 U.S. 509, 518 ...