United States District Court, D. Massachusetts
MEMORANDUM OF DECISION AND ORDER
TIMOTHY S. HILLMAN U.S. DISTRICT JUDGE
Watt (“Watt” or “Petitioner”) has
filed a petition under 28 U.S.C. § 2254 for Writ of
Habeas Corpus by a Person in State Custody
(“Petition”) alleging the following grounds for
Ground One: Petitioner was denied his constitutional
right to effective assistance of counsel when his attorney
failed to present mitigating factors to the sentencing court,
such as his age, health and medical issues, resulting in him
receiving an unjustly harsh sentence; and the case against
him was based on circumstantial evidence and was weak and
therefore, the trial court erred by denying Petitioner's
motions for a required finding of not guilty.
Ground Two: Petitioner's sentence was defective:
the sentencing guideline range should have been considered
and mitigating factors should have been applied.
Ground Three: Petitioner has obtained newly
discovered evidence which would have impeached the alleged
victim's credibility and changed the outcome of the
Ground Four: The trial court erred by denying his
motion to dismiss the indictment and he received ineffective
assistance of counsel as the result of his attorney's
failure to effectively argue for dismissal of the indictment
and as the result of his appellate attorney's failure to
raise the issue on appeal.
Memorandum of Order and Decision addresses Respondent's
Motion to Dismiss For Failure To Exhaust state Court Remedies
(Docket No. 16) and Petitioner's Motion To Hold Habeas
Corpus Petition In Abeyance (Docket No. 18). More
specifically, Respondent asserts that the Petition should be
dismissed because Watt has failed to exhaust his state court
judicial remedies with respect to all asserted grounds for
relief. In turn, Watt has filed a motion requesting that the
Court stay this proceeding to permit him to return to state
court and exhaust his claims. For the reasons set forth
below, Respondent's motion to dismiss is allowed
and Petitioner's motion to stay is denied.
was convicted by a jury of aggravated rape of a child,
assault with intent to rape a child, and indecent assault and
battery on a child under the age of fourteen years old. He
filed a direct appeal of his conviction to the Massachusetts
Appeals Court (“MAC”) asserting that the trial
judge erred by denying his motion for a directed finding of
not guilty because there was insufficient evidence to support
his convictions for aggravated rape and indecent assault and
battery on a child under fourteen years of age. On May 20,
2015, the MAC affirmed Watt's conviction after finding
that the verdicts were supported by an abundance of evidence,
both direct and circumstantial. See Commonwealth v,
Watt, 87 Mass.App.Ct. 1122 (2015) (unpublished opinion).
Watt filed an Application For Leave To Obtain Further
Appellate Review (“ALOFAR”) with the
Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court (“SJC”)
asserting the following grounds for relief: (1) whether it
was error to deny Watt's motion for a required finding of
not guilty for the offense of aggravated rape where there was
insufficient evidence to sustain the conviction; and (2)
whether it was error to deny Watt's motion for a required
finding of not guilty for the offense of indecent assault and
battery on a child under fourteen years of age, where there
was insufficient evidence to sustain the conviction. On June
26, 2015, the SJC denied Jimenez's ALOFAR. See
Commonwealth v. Watt, 472 Mass. 1103 (2015) (Table).
Petitioner's Claims are Exhausted
federal court will not entertain an application for habeas
relief unless the petitioner first has fully exhausted his
state remedies in respect to each and every claim contained
within the application”. See Adelson v.
DiPaola, 131 F.3d 259, 261 (1st Cir. 1997).
“This exhaustion requirement … embodies
principles of federal-state comity and is designed to provide
state courts with an initial ‘opportunity to pass upon
and correct alleged violations of [their] prisoners'
federal rights'”. Barresi v. Maloney, 296
F.3d 48, 51 (1st Cir. 2002)(quoting Picard v.
Connor, 404 U.S. 270, 275, 92 S.Ct. 509, 512
(1971))(alteration in original). Furthermore, while
“[a] petitioner need not express his federal claims in
precisely the same terms in both state and federal courts,
” the claims presented in the petitioner's federal
habeas petition must be substantially equivalent to the
claims he presented to the state court. Id., at
51-52 (citing Picard, 404 U.S. at 277-78, 92 S.Ct.
A claim is fairly presented so long as it is made in such a
way that ‘a reasonable jurist' would have
recognized ‘the existence of the federal question.'
Where, as here, a state's highest court offers
discretionary review, a petitioner must present that court
with the opportunity to ...