United States District Court, D. Massachusetts
MEMORANDUM AND ORDER
J. Casper United States District Judge.
James Gaines (“Gaines”) has filed a petition for
a writ of habeas corpus (“Petition”) pursuant to
28 U.S.C § 2254 based upon five constitutional grounds.
D. 1. Gaines has moved to stay the Petition to allow him to
return to state court and exhaust certain of his claims. D.
21. For the reasons set forth below, the Court DENIES
Gaines's motion for stay and abeyance, id., and
DENIES Gaines's petition. D. 1.
Factual and Procedural Background
following facts are primarily drawn from the Suffolk Superior
Court's ruling on Gaines's second motion for a new
trial and the Massachusetts Appeals Court's opinion on
the related appeal. On May 26, 2005, a jury in Suffolk
Superior Court convicted Gaines of armed assault with intent
to murder, aggravated assault with a dangerous weapon and
unlawful possession of a firearm. Commonwealth v.
Gaines, No. 02-cr-11091-RJB, 2012 WL 3061155, at *1
(Mass. Super. Ct. June 1, 2012) (“Gaines
I”). Gaines filed two motions for a new trial and
appealed his conviction and sentence.
28, 2009, Gaines filed his first pro se motion for a
new trial based upon the grounds that he was: (1) denied the
right to a fair trial due to the factors the Superior Court
(Hinkle, J.) considered in sentencing; and (2) denied the
right to effective assistance of counsel. Id. at *1
n.1. As to his sentencing, Gaines claimed that his right to a
fair trial was violated when the court considered the
victims' status as uniformed police officers as an
aggravating factor in determining his sentence.
Commonwealth v. Gaines, No. 13-P-1155, 2014 WL
3630194, at *1 (Mass. App. Ct. July 24, 2014)
(“Gaines II”). In addition, Gaines
argued that his trial counsel was ineffective because counsel
“opened the door to the introduction of prejudicial
2011, the Superior Court granted a motion to stay the motion
for a new trial and in November 2011 this stay was continued
to give Gaines's newly acquired appellate counsel time to
file a second motion. Gaines I, 2012 WL 3061155, at
*1 n.1. On January 10, 2012, the court (Brassard, J.), lifted
the stay because appellate counsel never filed the second
motion and subsequently denied Gaines's first motion for
a new trial on both asserted grounds. Id.
January 20, 2012, Gaines, with the assistance of counsel,
filed a second motion for a new trial and resentencing.
Id. In that motion, Gaines raised the same two
grounds as those in his first motion for a new trial as well
as two new grounds: (1) that he was denied the right to a
public trial pursuant to the Sixth and Fourteenth Amendments;
and (2) the Massachusetts firearm statutory scheme violated
his right to bear arms and right to due process. Id.
at *5, *9. On June 1, 2012, the court declined to address the
right to a fair trial and ineffective assistance of counsel
claims “because the court already found: (1) the trial
judge did not use an improper factor in sentencing Gaines;
and (2) Gaines' trial counsel was not ineffective, these
arguments will not be considered in the current
motion.” Id. at *1 n.1. As such, the court
ruled solely on the two new grounds that Gaines advanced in
his second motion. Id.
deciding the first ground regarding the right to a public
trial, the court conducted an evidentiary hearing, hearing
testimony from Gaines's trial attorney and friends and
family, a police officer, a court officer and a recorded
interview from the trial judge, and reviewed the jury
empanelment procedure. Id at *2. The court found
that the trial court did not close the courtroom to the
public or to Gaines's friends and family during
empanelment and thus concluded that the empanelment procedure
was not conducted contrary to the right to a public trial.
Id. at *5-6, *9. Accordingly, Gaines was not
entitled to a new trial based upon that ground, id.
the second ground, Gaines argued that the firearm statutory
scheme that he was convicted under was
“unconstitutionally burdensome and create[d] a
restriction on the fundamental right to own a handgun.”
Id. at *9. Gaines also argued that the statutory
scheme improperly shifts the burden to him to show that he
had the proper license rather than to the Commonwealth to
prove that he did not. Id. In rejecting these
arguments, the court noted that “the right to bear arms
under the Second Amendment is not unlimited” and
concluded that the license requirement was constitutional and
did not improperly shift the applicable burden because
“the absence of a license is not an element of the
crime.” Id. at *9, 10. The court reasoned that
the license requirement “imposes the burden of
production on the defendant” and, as with any
affirmative defense, the “ultimate burden of disproving
a properly raised affirmative defense [is] on the
prosecution.” Id. (quoting Commonwealth v.
Powell, 459 Mass. 572, 589 (2011); Commonwealth v.
Jefferson, 461 Mass. 821, 834-35 (2012)) (internal
quotation marks omitted).
The Appellate Court Affirmed the Superior Court's Denial
of the Motions for a New Trial
Massachusetts Appeals Court affirmed the Superior Court's
rulings on the motions for a new trial. Gaines II,
2014 WL 3630194, at *1. The Massachusetts Appeals Court
concluded that: (1) Judge Hinkle properly exercised her
discretion in sentencing and was not biased; (2) the Superior
Court properly rejected the ineffective assistance of counsel
claim because Gaines did not establish that
“counsel's lapse deprived him of an otherwise
available defense;” (3) Gaines did not meet his burden
to show that the public was excluded from his trial; and (4)
the Massachusetts firearm statutes did not violate the Second
and Fourteenth Amendments where the Supreme Judicial Court
had previously rejected identical claims. Id at
*1-2. The Supreme Judicial Court subsequently denied further
review. Commonwealth v. Gaines, 469 Mass. 1109
Gaines's Grounds for Relief
Petition before this Court, Gaines raises five grounds for
relief (“Ground(s)”) and, within four of the
Grounds, advances several claims (“Claim(s)”):
1. Gaines's right to a fair trial was violated and he
received an illegal sentence because: (a) Judge Hinkle
improperly considered the fact that the victims were
uniformed police officers as an aggravating factor; and (b)
Judge Hinkle was biased against Gaines and unfairly sentenced
him because the courtroom was filled with uniformed police
officers during his sentencing. D. 1 at 5.
2. Gaines was denied effective assistance of counsel when:
(a) counsel opened the door to the admission of an unfairly
prejudicial flyer that included a mugshot of Gaines; (b)
counsel failed to challenge potentially biased jurors during
empanelment; (c) counsel failed to inform Gaines of a plea
offer; and (d) counsel failed to move to suppress illegally
seized evidence. Id. at 7.
3. Gaines's right to a public trial was violated because
Judge Hinkle ordered jury selection to be conducted “in
private, ” at which time members of the public,
specifically Gaines's family and friends, were denied
entry to the courtroom. Id. at 8.
4. The Massachusetts firearm statutory scheme, Mass. Gen. L.
c. 269, § 10(h) and c. 278, § 7: (a) create an
unconstitutional restriction of Gaines's Second Amendment
right; and (b) violate the due process clause of the
Fourteenth Amendment because the statutes improperly shift
the burden to Gaines to “prove his innocence.” D.
1 at 10.
5. Gaines's Fourth and Fourteenth Amendment rights to be
free from unreasonable search and seizure were violated.
Id at 12.
Review of Habeas Petitions
Standard of ...