United States District Court, D. Massachusetts
MEMORANDUM AND ORDER ON PETITION FOR HABEAS CORPUS
(DOC. NO. 1)
Sorokin United States District Judge.
Thompson, on parole following a sentence of imprisonment
served at the Massachusetts Correctional Institution at Cedar
Junction in Walpole, Massachusetts, has filed a pro se
petition for a writ of habeas corpus pursuant to 28 U.S.C.
§ 2254, in which he raises four challenges to his
convictions and sentences. Doc. No. 1. The respondent has
opposed the petition. Doc. No. 31. Because each of his claims
is either meritless, procedurally defaulted, or not
cognizable, Thompson's petition is DENIED.
early 2011, following a jury trial in the Middlesex Superior
Court, Thompson was convicted of distributing cocaine as a
second or subsequent offense, and of doing so within a
"school zone, " both in violation of Massachusetts
law. Commonwealth v. Thompson, 19 N.E.3d 419, 419
(Mass. 2014); Doc. No. 1 at 2; Doc. No. 31 at 2. He was
sentenced to terms of imprisonment on each charge, and
presently is on parole. Doc. No. 1 at 2; Doc. No. 31 at 2.
charges against Thompson arose from a hand-to-hand
transaction observed by two Cambridge police detectives,
which the Supreme Judicial Court (“SJC”)
described as follows:
On July 31, 2008, at approximately 10 P.M., [two] police
Detectives . . . were conducting patrols in Cambridge. From
their parked, unmarked vehicle, they observed . . . Michael
Benoit and Lori Quigley sitting on a curb in the parking lot
of a convenience store . . . . Both detectives were
experienced in detecting street-level narcotics sales and
were familiar with this parking lot from previous narcotics
investigations. Benoit and Quigley were counting change in
their open hands and looking furtively in all directions.
Quigley stood and made a call at a pay telephone . . . .
After about twenty seconds, she hung up the telephone and
returned to the curb, where she and Benoit continued looking
up and down the streets. Quigley paced as she did so. After
about ten minutes, Thompson approached on bicycle . . . . He
rode through the parking lot and, without stopping, exchanged
a few words with Quigley. Thompson, with Quigley following
him at a hurried pace, . . . stopped at a nearby house. As
Quigley approached him, they looked back and forth at each
other and all around in all directions. Quigley extended her
hands toward Thompson, with one palm open and facing up, and
the other in a closed fist. Thompson did the same, extending
a closed fist toward Quigley's open hand and an open hand
to her closed fist. Their hands made contact briefly, in a
manner consistent with exchanging items between them. This
exchange took place approximately 500 feet from school
property. Quigley continued pacing, acting as though she was
nervous. She returned to where Benoit was sitting at the
curb. Quigley and Benoit walked at a quickened pace across
the parking lot and . . . behind a fence at a nearby house,
[and] Thompson got back on his bicycle and rode [away].
The detectives radioed a description of Thompson[, ] . . .
got out of their car and . . . found Quigley and Benoit
behind the house in an area that was well lit with
floodlights. Benoit had in his hand an object that turned out
to be a small plastic bag containing “crack”
cocaine, and he was opening the bag. The detectives
identified themselves and displayed their badges. Benoit
quickly . . . dropped the bag. The detectives detained them
and . . . retrieved the bag from where Benoit had dropped it.
It was the cut-off corner of a plastic sandwich bag,
consistent with packaging of approximately one-half gram of
crack cocaine, which was typically valued between forty and
sixty dollars. The detectives arrested Benoit and Quigley[, ]
. . . searched [them, and found] a glass tube of the type
used to smoke crack cocaine . . . on Quigley's person.
Other officers stopped Thompson[, ] . . . searched [him, and
found] . . . two folds of cash, one containing forty-five
dollars and the other containing forty dollars, a cellular
telephone and charger, a pack of cigarettes, and a cigarette
Thompson, 19 N.E.3d at 419-20. In its review of
Thompson's case, the Massachusetts Appeals Court
(“MAC”) noted the detectives who observed the
transaction between Thompson and Quigley “never saw
what, if anything, was exchanged.” Commonwealth v.
Thompson, 988 N.E.2d 876, 876 (Mass. App. Ct. 2013)
(unpublished opinion). The MAC also specified that the
plastic bag recovered from where Benoit had dropped it
“contain[ed] .13 grams of crack cocaine.”
trial, both detectives testified that, as they approached
Benoit and Quigley to arrest them, it appeared as though
Benoit already had opened the small plastic bag containing
the drugs. S.A. Vol. II at Tab 5, pp. 15, 120. In addition, the
Commonwealth called a narcotics expert, who testified that
crack often was sold in half-gram or quarter-gram amounts,
packaged in the corners of plastic baggies, with half-gram
packages selling for between $40 and $60, and quarter-gram
packages selling for $20. S.A. Vol. II at Tab 6, pp. 47-48.
The expert further testified that it was not uncommon for the
crack actually sold to weigh less than the promised or
expected amount, due to the imprecise manner in which crack
is made and prepared for selling (as compared to powder
cocaine, which is easier to package and weigh more
accurately), or due to a seller attempting to maximize
profits by taking advantage of a buyer's desperation for
drugs and/or lack of opportunity to inspect what is purchased
at the time of the sale. Id. at 48-51.
filed a timely direct appeal. S.A. Vol. I at 5-6. On June 7,
2013, in an unpublished decision, the MAC affirmed
Thompson's convictions and sentences. See generally
Thompson, 988 N.E.2d 876. Thompson successfully
petitioned the SJC for further review, Commonwealth v.
Thompson, 3 N.E.3d 80 (Mass. 2014) (table), but the SJC
affirmed, albeit “on somewhat different grounds”
than the MAC. Thompson, 19 N.E.3d at 419. Thompson
did not petition the Supreme Court for certiorari, nor did he
pursue any collateral challenges to his conviction in state
court via a motion for a new trial. Instead, he reiterated
the same four claims he pressed on direct appeal in this
timely pro se federal habeas petition. See generally
Those four claims are:
1. That his convictions were based “on insufficient
evidence, speculation, and the piling of inference upon
inference, ” id. at 6;
2. That the trial court violated his right to due process and
improperly lessened the Commonwealth's burden of proof by
using “the mailbox example” when answering a
question from the jury regarding circumstantial evidence and
reasonable inferences, id. at 8;
3. That the trial court improperly admitted a photograph of
the alleged buyer despite the fact that its
“prejudicial nature . . . greatly outweighed its
probative value, ” id. at 9; and
4. That he should have benefitted from a subsequent change in
state law reducing the radius triggering a “school zone
violation, ” id. at 11.
petition is fully briefed and ripe for resolution.
discussed in detail in the sections that follow, Thompson is
not entitled to federal habeas relief. One of his claims is
meritless, two are procedurally defaulted, and one ...