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Molina v. Ryan

United States District Court, D. Massachusetts

February 7, 2017

KELLY RYAN, Respondent.



         Petitioner Alexander Molina (“Molina”) was convicted of murder in the second degree, Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 265, § 1, unlawful possession of a firearm while not at work or at home, Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 269, § 10(a), and discharge of a firearm within five hundred feet of a building, Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 269, § 12E, for which he is currently serving a life sentence. Presently pending before this Court is Molina's petition for habeas corpus relief brought pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254. [ECF No. 1]. Having reviewed the parties' submissions, and construing Molina's petition liberally because he is proceeding pro se, this Court DENIES Molina's petition for a writ of habeas corpus for the reasons explained below.

         I. BACKGROUND

         The following factual background is based on the summary of the facts as stated by the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court (“SJC”) in Commonwealth v. Molina, 3 N.E.3d 583, 586-89 (Mass. 2014), which relied on the facts as laid out by the Massachusetts Appeals Court (“APC”) in Commonwealth v. Molina, 969 N.E.2d 738 (Mass. App. Ct. 2012). “In a proceeding instituted by an application for a writ of habeas corpus by a person in custody pursuant to the judgment of a State court, a determination of a factual issue made by a State court shall be presumed to be correct. The applicant shall have the burden of rebutting the presumption of correctness by clear and convincing evidence.” 28 U.S.C. § 2254(e)(1). Here, Molina does not argue that the facts the SJC's decision relied on were erroneous.

         Around 5:00 p.m. on March 30, 2005, James Gauoette was shot to death near the intersection of Ruth and Salisbury Streets in New Bedford, Massachusetts. Three witnesses testified about their observations of the events surrounding the shooting. The APC referred to these witnesses by the pseudonyms of Alice, Barbara, and Claire. Alice testified that she heard gunfire and then saw a man in a mustard-colored T-shirt and light-colored jeans standing over the victim. The man was hitting the victim with an object. While Alice described the man as having a medium build with a tanned complexion, she could not see his face. The man ran down Salisbury Street.

         Barbara testified that she was talking with Molina around 5:00 p.m. on the day of the shooting and that he was wearing jeans and a yellow shirt. When the victim approached Molina and said he was “just [t]here to talk, ” Molina went to his vehicle, which was parked nearby, retrieved a gun, and shot the victim. About ten to fifteen minutes later, after emergency personnel arrived, Barbara saw Molina again, but he had changed into a brown jogging outfit.

         Claire testified that she heard a gunshot, looked out her window, and saw a man shoot a “kid” lying on the sidewalk four times. The shooting occurred at the corner of Ruth and Salisbury Streets. After the shooting, the man ran back across the street and handed the gun to another man, who threw it in a green car parked on Salisbury Street. Claire was familiar with Molina and testified that he had previously driven the green car. Claire also testified that about twenty or thirty minutes after the shooting, Molina came up Salisbury Street, went into a beige house, and emerged wearing a brown sweatshirt. At Molina's trial, Claire identified him as the shooter.

         At approximately 10:00 p.m. that evening, as the police prepared to tow a bluish-green vehicle located in the crime scene area, Molina and an acquaintance crossed the crime scene tape, approached an officer, and Molina advised that the vehicle was his. In response to the officer's inquiry, Molina indicated that his name was Orlando Figueroa. After the officer informed Molina that the vehicle was not his as it was registered to “Alex Molina, ” Molina gave his true name. Shortly thereafter, another officer asked Molina if he would go to the police station to answer some questions, and Molina agreed to do so. Officer David Brown transported Molina to the police station in a police vehicle. Molina was not handcuffed or under arrest.

         At approximately 11:45 p.m., State Trooper Carmelo Serrano, Jr., and Detective Christopher J. Dumont began a videotaped interview of Molina in a windowless twelve foot by eight foot room at the police station. The interview was led primarily by Trooper Serrano who conducted the interview mostly in Spanish, the first language of both Serrano and Molina. Serrano began the interview by providing Molina with written Miranda warnings in Spanish. After Molina read the warnings out loud, the following exchange took place:

Trooper Serrano: “OK. Do you understand your rights?”
Molina: “Uh-huh, but I just said if I could call my attorney and I was told that it wasn't necessary; that I was coming just to be asked some questions.”
Trooper Serrano: “Uh-huh.”
Molina: “And that I just went to . . . I was sleeping and I get a call that my car was being taken and when I go there and I am told that I have to come here, that someone wants to ask me some questions . . . I don't know what happened because I truly don't know . . . my car was there because it was getting me [SIC] music equipment.” Trooper Serrano: “OK, before . . . do you, do you want to speak with me now . . . I want to ask you some questions; do you want to speak with me now during this time? You understand your rights no?”
Molina: “Uh-huh, yes I understand.”
Trooper Serrano: “Having understood your rights, you want to speak ...

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