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Elangwe v. O'Brien

United States District Court, D. Massachusetts

September 7, 2016

STEVEN O'BRIEN, Respondent.


          INDIRA TALWANI United States District Court.

         Petitioner Manfred Elangwe's pro se amended petition for a writ of habeas corpus contains sixteen separate bases for relief. Am. Pet. [#20]. Respondent Steven O'Brien has moved to dismiss the amended petition in its entirety, arguing that at least thirteen of Petitioner's claims are unexhausted or based solely on state law. Mot. Dismiss [#24]. In response, Petitioner requests to stay his petition so that he can return to state court to exhaust his claims. Mot. Stay Abeyance [#26]. For the reasons set forth below, Petitioner's claims do not warrant a stay. Accordingly, the court will grant the Motion to Dismiss [#24] unless Petitioner dismisses the unexhausted claims and proceeds only on the merits of the exhausted claims.

         I. BACKGROUND

         a. Procedural Background

         Petitioner's first trial ended in a mistrial after the jury was unable to reach a verdict on any of the charges. Commonwealth v. Elangwe, 7 N.E.3d 1102, 1105 n. 3 (Mass.App. Ct. 2014). After a second jury trial, Petitioner was convicted of rape of Mary Smith (“Smith”), [1] of assault and battery as a lesser included offence of Susan Jones (“Jones”), and accosting and annoying a person of the opposite sex (also of Jones). Id. at 1105. Petitioner appealed his conviction and filed a motion for new trial. Those two actions were consolidated before the Massachusetts Appeals Court, which affirmed both the conviction and the denial of the motion for new trial. Id. Thereafter, Defendant filed an Application for Leave to Obtain Further Appellate Review (“ALOFAR”) with the Supreme Judicial Court (“SJC”). The SJC summarily denied the appeal on June 11, 2014. Commonwealth v. Elangwe, 10 N.E.3d 1134 (Mass. 2014). One year later, Petitioner filed a writ of habeas corpus with this court. Pet. Writ Habeas Corpus [#1]. Petitioner sought to amend his petition, which the court allowed. [#19].

         b. Factual Background

         The following facts are taken from the Massachusetts Appeals Court decision.[2]

The victims lived at the Hildebrand Family Self-Help Center, a shelter in Cambridge, during the summer of 2004. The shelter had one “house manager” on site at any one time. The defendant was a house manager during the victims' stay. The defendant's direct supervisor was Lorraine D'Eon, the director of program operations for the shelter.
a. Smith. One day in July of 2004, after finishing her chores, Smith sat down on a sofa in the common area near where the defendant was sitting. The defendant was the only other person in the common area. The defendant suddenly approached Smith and forced her to have sexual intercourse with him on the sofa. After the defendant finished, he told Smith that no one would believe her because she was homeless. Smith discarded her clothes and did not photograph or document her injuries.
Smith then went to the residence of her children's father, Dan Emde. While there, she took a bath and used two douches that she purchased on the way.[3] Although Smith sounded upset talking to Emde, she did not tell him about the rape. Smith did not tell anyone about the rape at that time because she was afraid she would be evicted from the shelter.
A few weeks later, Smith had another encounter with the defendant that led her to believe he would once again force her to have sexual intercourse with him. As a result, Smith told a staff member about the rape. The staff member arranged a meeting with D'Eon and other shelter staff to report the incident. The police were not involved at that time but a few weeks after the meeting with the shelter staff, Smith reported the incident to the Cambridge police.
b. Jones. One day in August of 2003, Jones asked the defendant to borrow a screwdriver. When the defendant brought it up the stairs to her, he grabbed her upper thigh with his hands and said, “Wow. These are getting big.” Jones said, “Enough, ” loud enough to make her daughter cry. Later that day, the defendant attempted to grab her arm as she walked past him, which prompted her to report the incident to a staff member. She too met with D'Eon and other shelter staff about the matter. Jones reported the incident to police after she saw the defendant still employed at the shelter the following weekend.
c. Trial testimony regarding Smith's civil suit. After Smith and Emde testified at trial, the Commonwealth stated its intention to call D'Eon as a hostile witness.[4] Defense counsel contacted D'Eon and arranged to meet with her, apparently for the first time, on the Friday before D'Eon's scheduled testimony on the following Monday. At that meeting, defense counsel learned that Smith had filed a civil action for damages arising from the alleged rape. Smith had brought suit against the shelter, the defendant, and the personnel agency that arranged the defendant's temporary employment at the shelter. Prior to the resumption of the trial on Monday, defense counsel checked the court docket and confirmed the existence of the civil suit. According to the docket, Smith had filed the suit on behalf of herself and her minor children within days of the completion of the first trial and approximately nine months before the start of the second trial.
Counsel, however, did not disclose this information to the judge or to the prosecutor. Despite her knowledge of the civil suit, however, she agreed to a stipulation to be read during D'Eon's testimony to the effect that the statute of limitations had passed and that no suit had been filed by any of the women who alleged sexual misconduct against the defendant.[5] Defense counsel also failed to mention the suit when the prosecutor indicated to the judge that she intended to inquire of D'Eon whether Smith had filed a civil suit. To the apparent surprise of the prosecutor, D'Eon replied ...

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