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Aldrich v. Ryan

United States District Court, D. Massachusetts

August 10, 2016

ROBERT ALDRICH, Plaintiff,
v.
KELLY RYAN, Respondent.

          ORDER

          Denise J. Casper United States District Judge

         I. Introduction

         Petitioner Robert Aldrich (“Aldrich”) brings this petition seeking a writ of habeas corpus, pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254 (“the Petition”). D. 1. Respondent Kelly Ryan (“Ryan”), the Superintendent of MCI-Shirley, moves to dismiss the Petition for failure to exhaust state remedies. D. 20. For the reasons stated below, the Court DENIES the motion to dismiss, D. 20.

         II. Standard of Review

         On a motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6), the Court must resolve whether the facts alleged “plausibly narrate a claim for relief.” Schatz v. Republican State Leadership Comm., 669 F.3d 50, 55 (1st Cir. 2012) (citation omitted). To conduct this inquiry, the Court reads the complaint “as a whole.” García-Catalán v. United States, 734 F.3d 100, 103 (1st Cir. 2013) (citation omitted). Next, the Court must conduct a context-specific inquiry. Id. This inquiry has two steps, where the first step requires the Court to perform a close reading of the complaint to distinguish the factual allegations from the conclusory legal allegations contained therein. Id. The court must accept factual allegations as true, but does not need to grant conclusory legal conclusions credit. Id. In the second step, the Court must determine whether the factual allegations present a “reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the conduct alleged.” Haley v. City of Boston, 657 F.3d 39, 46 (1st Cir. 2011) (citation omitted). At bottom, the complaint must provide sufficient factual allegations for the Court to find the claim “plausible on its face.” García-Catalán, 734 F.3d at 103.

         III. Procedural History

         A. Trial

         On February 7, 2008, a Middlesex County grand jury indicted Aldrich on the following charges: (1) attempt to commit a crime; (2) malicious destruction of property over $250; (3) furnishing a false name to a law enforcement officer; (4) two counts of larceny over $250; (5) resisting arrest; (6) unarmed burglary; and (7) possession of burglarious tools. D. 20-1 at 1-3. On December 15, 2009, a jury in the Middlesex Superior Court convicted Aldrich of attempt to commit a crime, unarmed burglary and two counts of larceny over $250. Aldrich v. MacEachern, 880 F.Supp.2d 271, 271 (D. Mass. 2012). Aldrich was also convicted of being a habitual offender as to unarmed burglary and larceny over $250. MacEachern, 880 F.Supp.2d at 272. On December 17, 2009, the trial court vacated the habitual offender portion of the attempt to commit a crime conviction and sentenced Aldrich to twenty years on the unarmed burglary conviction and five years on the two larceny convictions. Id.

         B. Initial Post-Conviction Relief Sought

         Aldrich filed a notice of appeal on December 22, 2009, D. 20-1 at 20, which was not docketed due to a delay in preparing trial transcripts, MacEachern, 880 F.Supp.2d at 272. Aldrich also filed a motion for post-conviction relief and for an evidentiary hearing on February 4, 2010, followed by a series of six motions requesting hearings on the post-conviction relief motion. D. 20-1 at 20-21. On May 18, 2010, the trial judge denied the motion for post-conviction relief. MacEachern, 880 F.Supp.2d at 272.

         C. Aldrich’s State Habeas Petition

         On May 17, 2010, while still awaiting a decision from the trial court on the February 4, 2010 motion, Aldrich filed a petition to the Supreme Judicial Court for a writ of habeas corpus and release from unlawful confinement. Id. Aldrich argued that he was entitled to state habeas corpus relief because the “trial court had not yet acted on his motion for post-conviction relief.” Id. On May 18, 2010, the day after Aldrich filed the state habeas petition, the trial judge denied Aldrich’s initial motion for post-conviction relief. D. 20-1 at 21. On June 14, 2010, a single justice of the Supreme Judicial Court denied Aldrich’s state habeas petition as moot because the trial judge had by that point acted upon Aldrich’s claims. MacEachern, 880 F.Supp.2d at 272. Aldrich appealed the single justice’s decision on July 15, 2010 and the Supreme Judicial Court affirmed the single justice’s decision on February 22, 2011. In re Aldrich, 459 Mass. 1001, 1001-1002 (2011).

         Aldrich filed a second state habeas petition on June 10, 2013, which a single justice of the Supreme Judicial Court denied on August 6, 2013. D. 20-7 at 2. Aldrich appealed and the Supreme Judicial Court affirmed the single justice’s decision on June 4, 2014. Aldrich, petitioner, 468 Mass. 1013 (2014).

         D. Aldrich’s First Federal Habeas Petition

         After the Supreme Judicial Court affirmed the single justice’s denial of Aldrich’s first state habeas corpus petition, Aldrich filed another series of motions in the trial court. MacEachern, 880 F.Supp.2d at 272-273. On June 23, 2010, Aldrich filed another “motion for a new trial with supporting affidavit and exhibits and for reconsideration of his motion for post conviction relief.” Id. The trial court denied this motion on August 24, 2010. Id. On September 9, 2010, Aldrich filed a second motion with the trial court for reconsideration of his motion for a new trial; the motion was denied on September 21, 2010. Id. On September 17, 2010, the Supreme Judicial Court allowed Aldrich’s motion to file a late notice of direct appeal. Id. On September 28, 2010, Aldrich appealed the trial court’s denial of his August 24, 2010 and September 21, 2010 motions.[1] Id. On November 3, 2010, Aldrich filed his third motion for a new trial, which the trial court denied on April 11, 2012. Id.

         After filing this set of challenges in state court, Aldrich filed a federal petition for writ of habeas corpus on April 21, 2011. Id. The petition raised the following claims: (1) a police officer’s threats violated Aldrich’s rights to a full and fair trial and to testify on his own behalf; (2) the trial judge violated Aldrich’s rights to due process and equal protection by denying Aldrich’s motion for a post-trial evidentiary hearing; (3) the trial judge violated Aldrich’s rights by denying a petition to transfer a state habeas corpus petition from Middlesex to Suffolk Superior Court[2]; and (4) the state prosecutor obstructed justice by allegedly preparing and filing a false affidavit on behalf of the police officer who threatened Aldrich. Id. The district court dismissed this first federal habeas petition on August 2, 2012 without prejudice because claims with the same substance as those asserted in the petition were simultaneously pending in state court. See id. at 275-276. The district court explained that Aldrich had failed to exhaust the claims in his federal habeas petition because “the Supreme Judicial Court ha[d] not reached the merits of Aldrich’s habeas corpus petition and ha[d] not inquired into the alleged threats and intimidation by a police officer before the trial which [were] alleged in Aldrich’s federal habeas petition.” Id. at 276.

         E. Aldrich’s Recent Petitions

         1. Aldrich’s Application for Further Appellate Review, FAR-23767 On September 17, 2010, a single justice of the Supreme Judicial Court allowed Aldrich to file a notice of late appeal. D. 20-1 at 23. On May 10, 2012, appeal No. 2012-P-0787 was docketed in the Massachusetts Appeals Court. D. 20-4 at 2. In this appeal, Aldrich asserted that: (1) the two larceny convictions were duplicative; (2) the conviction of attempted larceny was duplicative of one of the larceny convictions; (3) Aldrich’s conversation with a cellmate should have been suppressed; (4) the trial judge abused his discretion in denying Aldrich’s motion to continue; (5) the evidence was insufficient to prove the “breaking” element of the burglary crime; (6) the trial judge erred in allowing the jury to convict Aldrich of the lesser included offense of “breaking and entering in the daytime with intent to commit a felony;” (7) the trial judge erred in allowing the assistant district attorney to act as an identification witness; (8) the trial judge violated Aldrich’s right to confrontation in limiting cross-examination; and (9) the trial judge abused his discretion in denying Aldrich’s motion for a new trial without an evidentiary hearing. See Commonwealth v. Aldrich, 88 Mass.App.Ct. 1102 (2015).

         On August 26, 2015, the Massachusetts Appeals Court ruled upon this appeal. Commonwealth v. Aldrich, 88 Mass.App.Ct. 113, 119-120 (2015). The court vacated Aldrich’s conviction for attempted larceny and affirmed his remaining convictions. Id. Thereafter, Aldrich filed an application for further appellate review, FAR-23767. D. 20-8 at 2. Aldrich raised the following arguments: (1) the evidence was not “constitutionally sufficient to establish” that Aldrich broke into the house; (2) Aldrich’s convictions for stealing the same money twice violated his due process rights and the prohibition against double jeopardy; (3) the trial judge erred in permitting the assistant district attorney to testify as the sole identification witness at the habitual offender trial; and (4) Aldrich’s constitutional right to confront the witnesses against him was violated because the judge sharply limited cross-examination. Commonwealth v. Aldrich, No. FAR-23767, 1, 13 (Mass. filed Sept. 15, 2015). This application is currently stayed. Commonwealth v. Aldrich, No. FAR-23767, D. 11 (Mass. filed Sept. 15, 2015).

         2. Aldrich’s Application for Further Appellate ...


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