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Miranda v. Mendonsa

United States District Court, D. Massachusetts

April 11, 2017

WAYNE MIRANDA, Petitioner,
v.
ANTHONY MENDONSA, Respondent.

          MEMORANDUM & ORDER

          INDIRA TALWANI UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         Petitioner Wayne Miranda filed a Petition Under 28 U.S.C. § 2254 for Writ of Habeas Corpus by a Person in State Custody (“Petition”) [#1]. He claims that his due process rights were violated: (1) when the prosecutor participated in facilitating cash payments to eyewitnesses to the shooting, which were contingent upon reaching specified outcomes during the course of Petitioner's case; (2) when the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court (“SJC”) affirmed his conviction by applying new law ex post facto; and (3) when the prosecutor made statements during his closing argument that improperly shifted the burden of proof to Petitioner and relied on alleged evidence outside of the record. For the reasons that follow, the Petition [#1] is DENIED.

         I. Factual Background and Procedural History

         A. Factual Background

         On November 18, 2005, a grand jury charged Petitioner with murder in the first degree, assault and battery with a dangerous weapon, and unlawful possession of a firearm. Pet'r Mem. Supp. Pet. Writ Habeas Corpus 1 [#22].

         At trial, the Government presented theories of principal and joint venture liability to the jury. Commonwealth v. Miranda, 934 N.E.2d 222, 224 n.1 (Mass. 2010) (“Miranda I”). Petitioner asserted a defense of misidentification. Id. at 227. In support of that defense, his trial counsel presented expert testimony and elicited evidence that others may have been responsible for the shooting and that the police investigation was not thorough. Id.

         Trial counsel also attacked the credibility of three Government witnesses, in part by “bringing out the fact that each received some form of consideration, including monetary consideration, in exchange for their testimony.” Id. The jury heard testimony that witnesses John Andrade and Carmen Rodriguez had each already received $3, 000 from the New Bedford Chamber of Commerce (“Chamber of Commerce”) pursuant to its reward program for information leading to an indictment in an unsolved homicide, and each stood to receive an additional $2, 000 if the proffered information led to a conviction. Id. at 227-28; Suppl. Answer 1844-45, 1919-21, 2286 (“S.A.”) [#14]. The jury also heard testimony from the individual in charge of the Chamber of Commerce program that under that program, a witness would not receive payment until the Chamber of Commerce received a letter from the district attorney verifying that the witness had provided information in connection with a specified, unsolved homicide, and that the information led to an indictment, conviction, or both. S.A. 1919-22 [#14]; Miranda I, 934 N.E.2d at 227-28. That individual also testified that the district attorney provided the required letter for Andrade and Rodriguez, although the district attorney did not endorse or otherwise fund the program. S.A. 1921-22 [#14]; Miranda I, 934 N.E.2d at 227-28.

         In July 2008, Petitioner was convicted of second-degree murder, assault and battery with a dangerous weapon, and unlawful possession of a firearm. Miranda I, 934 N.E.2d at 224. The jury returned a general verdict, and with respect to the second-degree murder and assault and battery with a dangerous weapon charges, did not specify whether it found Petitioner guilty individually or as a joint venturer. Id. at 224 n.1, 232; S.A. 2496 [#14].

         B. Procedural Background

         In September 2009, the SJC granted Petitioner's application for direct appellate review. S.A. 43, 56 [#14]. In his merits brief before that court, Petitioner mentioned in a footnote the SJC's decision in Commonwealth v. Zanetti, 910 N.E.2d 869 (Mass. 2009), in which the SJC had examined theories of principal and joint venture liability. The footnote asserted that “the changes in the law of joint venture as set forth in . . . Zanetti do not apply” because his trial occurred in July 2008, S.A. 94 [#14], but did not argue that application of Zanetti to review Petitioner's case would result in an ex post facto application of law in violation of Petitioner's due process rights.

         In September 2010, the SJC affirmed Petitioner's convictions. It rejected Petitioner's contentions that there was insufficient evidence to warrant a finding that he was the shooter, and thus acted as a principal, and insufficient evidence of joint venture. Miranda I, 934 N.E.2d at 232-33. The SJC explained that “it d[id] not matter who shot the victim” because “[t]he jury reasonably could have inferred the defendant knowingly participated in the shooting by committing the shooting himself . . . or by supplying [his co-venturer] with the means to commit the shooting . . ., with the intent that [his co-venturer] do so.” Id. at 233 (citing Zanetti, 910 N.E.2d at 884). It also held that the evidence permitted a conviction on either theory. Miranda I, 934 N.E.2d at 233.

         After the SJC affirmed his convictions, Petitioner requested a rehearing for review of the SJC's alleged ex post facto application of law in its decision. S.A. 251-58 [#14]. The SJC denied the request. Id. at 259. Petitioner then filed a petition for a writ of certiorari in the United States Supreme Court, which was denied in November 2011. Miranda v. Massachusetts, 132 S.Ct. 548 (2011). Thereafter, Petitioner filed the Petition [#1] here.

         On September 3, 2014, this court stayed the Petition, finding that Petitioner had not exhausted his state court remedies with respect to the alleged ex post facto application of law claim but that a stay was warranted to allow him to do so. Mem. & Order 7 [#27]. Petitioner subsequently filed a Motion for Relief from Unlawful Restraint in Violation of the United States Constitution in Bristol County Superior Court, which was denied on June 10, 2015. Pet'r Suppl. Mem. Supp. Pet. 1-2 [#34]. The SJC affirmed that denial on May 12, 2016. Commonwealth v. Miranda, 49 N.E.3d 675, 676 (2016) (“Miranda II”). Petitioner then filed a Notice of Exhaustion and Request to Include Filings as Part of Record [#28], and this court lifted the stay on June 13, 2016. Elec. Order [#29].

         II. Legal Standard ...


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