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Toldness v. Ryan

United States District Court, D. Massachusetts

May 8, 2017

MICHAEL TOLDNESS, Petitioner,
v.
KELLY RYAN, Respondent.

          MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

          DOUGLAS P. WOODLOCK UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         Petitioner Michael Toldness, who was convicted of various felony domestic abuse crimes in state court, filed this petition for habeas corpus relief from this court under 28 U.S.C. § 2254. His custodian, Respondent Kelly Ryan, has moved to dismiss the petition. I will grant Respondent's motion.

         I. BACKGROUND

         In 2012, Petitioner was indicted on fourteen counts stemming from his alleged attack on his wife on December 25, 2011. Commonwealth v. Toldness, 28 N.E.3d 14 (Table), 2015 WL 1650066, at *1 (Mass. App. Ct. 2015).

         The first indictment charged Petitioner with aggravated rape in count one, armed burglary in count two, aggravated assault and battery by means of a dangerous weapon on a person with a protective order in count three, aggravated assault and battery on a person with a protective order in count four, violation of an abuse prevention order in count five, larceny over $250 in count six, aggravated assault and battery on a person with a protective order in count seven, violation of an abuse prevention order in counts eight and nine, threatening to commit a crime in count ten, assault by means of a dangerous weapon in count eleven, and threatening to commit a crime in count twelve. Id. at *1 n.2. In a second indictment, Petitioner was charged with intimidating a witness and violating an abuse prevention order. Id.

         On January 22, 2013, a jury in Norfolk Superior Court found Petitioner guilty on counts two, three, four, five, seven, eight, nine, and ten of the first indictment and both counts of the second indictment. Id.[1] As to counts one and six of the first indictment, the jury found Petitioner guilty of the lesser included offenses of indecent assault and battery and larceny under $250. Id. The Appeals Court affirmed his conviction. Id. The Supreme Judicial Court denied further review. Commonwealth v. Toldness, 32 N.E.3d 316 (Mass. 2015).

         II. ANALYSIS

         The Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996 provides that “a writ of habeas corpus will not be granted unless the state court's adjudication of the claim on the merits ‘resulted in a decision that was contrary to, or involved an unreasonable application of, clearly established Federal law, as determined by the Supreme Court of the United States, ' or ‘resulted in a decision that was based on an unreasonable determination of the facts in light of the evidence presented in the State court proceeding.'” Jenkins v. Bergeron, 824 F.3d 148, 152 (1st Cir. 2016) (quoting 28 U.S.C. § 2254(d)(1)-(2)) (citations omitted).

         “A state court decision is ‘contrary to' clearly established federal law if it ‘contradicts the governing law set forth in the Supreme Court's cases or confronts a set of facts that are materially indistinguishable from a decision of the Supreme Court' but reaches a different result.” Gaskins v. Duval, 640 F.3d 443, 451-52 (1st Cir. 2011) (quoting John v. Russo, 561 F.3d 88, 96 (1st Cir. 2009)). A state court “unreasonably applies” clearly established law “if it applies Supreme Court precedent to the facts of the case in an objectively unreasonable manner, such as reaching a result that is ‘devoid of record support' for its conclusion.” Id. at 452 (quoting McCambridge v. Hall, 303 F.3d 24, 37 (1st Cir. 2002)) (citations omitted).

         Toldness pursues two grounds for relief in this court.[2]First, he argues that the trial judge's refusal to provide the jury instruction he requested regarding the unlawful entry component of the armed burglary charge deprived him of a fair trial. Second, he argues that the Commonwealth's expert regarding domestic abuse provided improper testimony that in turn deprived him of a fair trial.

         A. Denial of Petitioner's Requested Unlawful Entry Instruction

         Massachusetts General Laws c. 266, ' 14 sets forth the offense of armed burglary in Massachusetts:

Whoever breaks and enters a dwelling house in the night time, with intent to commit a felony, or whoever, after having entered with such intent, breaks such dwelling house in the night time, any person being then lawfully therein, and the offender being armed with a dangerous weapon at the time of such breaking or entry, or so arming himself in such house, or making an actual assault on a person lawfully therein, shall be punished by imprisonment in the state prison for life or for any term of not less than ten years.

         Massachusetts law is settled that “‘[t]he term ‘enters' within the statute is given no special definition. Nonetheless, the word is to be construed as an unlawful entry, consistent with its use in a criminal context.'” Commonwealth v. Mahar, 722 N.E.2d 461, 465 ...


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