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Matthews v. Ryan

United States District Court, D. Massachusetts

April 11, 2016

PAUL MATTHEWS, Petitioner,
v.
KELLY RYAN, Respondent.

MEMORANDUM AND ORDER ON PETITION FOR HABEAS CORPUS

F. Dennis Saylor IV, United States District Judge.

This is an action by a state prisoner, currently serving his sentence at Massachusetts Correctional Institution-Shirley (“MCI-Shirley”), seeking a writ of habeas corpus pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254. Petitioner Paul Matthews was convicted in Bristol County Superior Court on charges of armed home invasion, in violation of Mass. Gen. Laws. ch. 265, § 18C; kidnapping, in violation of Mass. Gen. Laws. ch. 265, § 26; unlawful possession of a firearm, in violation of Mass. Gen. Laws. ch. 269, § 10(a); breaking and entering in the daytime, placing a person in fear, in violation of Mass. Gen. Laws. ch. 266, § 17; larceny of a motor vehicle, in violation of Mass. Gen. Laws. ch. 266, § 28(a); and unlawful possession of a loaded firearm, in violation of Mass. Gen. Laws. ch. 269, § 10(n). He was sentenced to 30 to 45 years in state prison. The Massachusetts Appeals Court affirmed his conviction and the Supreme Judicial Court denied his application for leave to obtain further appellate review.

Matthews has filed a petition for habeas relief, contending that his conviction was obtained (1) in violation of his Fifth and Fourteenth Amendment rights to due process, because of improper evidence and testimony presented at his grand jury hearing; and (2) in violation of his due-process rights, because the evidence used to convict him on the firearms charge was insufficient to prove that the firearm was operable pursuant to state law. Respondent Kelly Ryan, Superintendent of MCI-Shirley, has filed a motion to dismiss the petition under Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6), contending that the first claim presents an issue without a clearly established Supreme Court precedent, and that his second claim is based on state law only. For the following reasons, the motion to dismiss will be granted and the petition will be denied.

I. Background

A. Factual Background

On September 18, 2009, a man later identified as John Keogh entered a woman’s home and, at gunpoint, demanded her car keys. (Dkt. 2 at 9-10). He then tied her up in her bathroom and left the house, driving away in her car. (Dkt. 2 at 10). The victim freed herself and called 911; police were able to track the car and apprehend Keogh. (Id.). Keogh told the police that he had not acted alone, but that Paul Matthews had been in the victim’s home with him. (Id.). Keogh also turned over a gun in his possession. (Id.). Police later tested the gun and found it to be inoperable. (Id. at 12). However, Officer Michael Arnold, of the Massachusetts State Police, also determined that a minor repair-replacing the firing pin-would render the gun operable. (Id.). Based on Keogh’s statements, officers went to Matthews’s home and arrested him. (Id.). Matthews’s wife consented to a search of their home. (Id. at 11). Within the house, police found evidence that linked Matthews to the crime, including evidence that matched items found in the victim’s stolen car. (Id.). DNA testing also linked Matthews to items found in the car. (Id. at 12).

On November 6, 2009, a grand jury returned an indictment against Matthews. He went to trial, and a jury entered a guilty verdict on December 21, 2011. On December 23, 2011, he filed an appeal with the Massachusetts Appeals Court. He appealed the issue of the evidence presented at the grand jury hearing as well as the issue of whether there was sufficient evidence that the firearm was operable; those two claims are reasserted here. See Commonwealth v. Matthews, 84 Mass.App.Ct. 1136 (2014). The Massachusetts Appeals Court upheld the conviction in an opinion dated February 18, 2014. See Id. On April 2, 2014, the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court denied Matthews’s application for leave to obtain further appellate review. See Commonwealth v. Matthews, 468 Mass. 1101 (2014).

II. Analysis

A. Standard of Review

Matthews’s claims for relief can be reduced to two basic contentions: (1) a violation of due process under both the Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments and (2) a due process violation for insufficiency of evidence. As a prisoner in state custody, he seeks relief under 28 U.S.C. § 2254(d), which provides:

An application for a writ of habeas corpus on behalf of a person in custody pursuant to the judgment of a State court shall not be granted with respect to any claim that was adjudicated on the merits in State court proceedings unless the adjudication of the claim- (1) resulted in a decision that was contrary to, or involved an unreasonable application of, clearly established Federal law, as determined by the Supreme Court of the United States; or (2) resulted in a decision that was based on an unreasonable determination of the facts in light of the evidence presented in the State court proceeding.

28 U.S.C. § 2254(d). The Supreme Court has elaborated upon this standard:

[A] state-court decision can be ‘contrary to’ [the Supreme Court’s] clearly established precedent in two ways. First . . . if the state court arrives at a conclusion opposite to that reached by this Court on a question of law. Second, a state-court decision is also contrary to this Court’s precedent if the state court confronts facts that are materially ...

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