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Abrahams v. Ryan

United States District Court, D. Massachusetts

May 26, 2017

KELLY RYAN, Respondent.



         Petitioner Robin Abrahams is currently serving a sentence of 45-60 years following his convictions for the forcible rape of a child, pursuant to Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 265, § 14, and armed assaultive burglary, pursuant to Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 266, § 14. Presently pending before this Court is Abrahams' petition for a writ of habeas corpus brought pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254, in which he argues that the DNA evidence and identification evidence presented at trial were unlawfully obtained and should have been suppressed. For the reasons set forth herein, this Court DENIES Abrahams' petition for a writ of habeas corpus.


         The Massachusetts Appeals Court provided the following account of the facts, which is summarized in pertinent part. See Commonwealth v. Abrahams, 6 N.E.3d 1095 (Mass. App. Ct. 2014).

         In 1991, the victim, then fifteen years old, was raped in her bedroom on the second floor of a two-story apartment building in Newburyport in the early morning hours. She awoke to see the rapist, who had broken into the apartment, standing over her. She did not scream or cry because she feared that he would hurt her, and because she worried that the rapist would also hurt her mother, who was sleeping in a bedroom nearby. After raping the victim, the rapist left through a window. The victim was immediately taken to a hospital, where a sexual assault evidence collection kit was assembled and provided to the police. The police took the sheets from the victim's bed, which contained seminal fluid in several locations, as well as other items from her bedroom. Fifteen years after the incident, Abrahams was identified as the suspect based on a DNA match. The process by which he was identified is detailed below.

         In 1993, a chemist at the state police crime laboratory identified the seminal fluid in multiple areas of the victim's bed sheets. In January 2004, the laboratory sent a cutting from the bed sheets to a private company for DNA analysis. In August 2005, Abrahams was brought to the Essex County Correctional Facility from another state based on an outstanding Massachusetts warrant. He was arraigned on charges unrelated to the present case including assault with intent to rape, indecent assault and battery, and burglary. Abrahams remained in custody as a pre-trial detainee because he was unable to post bail. While he was being held on those outstanding charges, a judge in Newburyport District Court sentenced Abrahams to concurrent ten-day terms on prior convictions, which were also unconnected to the instant case. He served the sentences on those convictions in October of 2005 at the Essex County Correctional Facility, but remained in custody at the facility as a pre-trial detainee based on the other still outstanding charges.

         On November 2, 2005, an employee at the Essex County Sherriff's Department obtained a sample of Abrahams' blood by pricking his finger.[1] The sample was then mailed to the Combined DNA Index System Unit (“CODIS”).[2] In February of 2006, CODIS determined that the DNA profile obtained from Abrahams' blood sample matched the DNA profile obtained from the seminal fluids on the bed sheets of the victim in the present case.

         Abrahams was subsequently indicted by a grand jury for the 1991 forcible rape of the victim (then a child) and armed assaultive burglary. Based on the previous DNA match from his blood sample, the Commonwealth obtained a court order to take a buccal swab sample to collect additional DNA from Abrahams' interior cheek prior to the trial. The DNA profile generated from the results of the buccal swab sample from Abrahams also matched the DNA profile obtained from the bed sheets. Abrahams then filed a motion to suppress the DNA results obtained from the initial blood test taken while he was incarcerated, and all subsequent evidence obtained as a result, on the ground that the initial collection of his blood was not authorized by the state statutes governing the collection of DNA samples of convicted offenders: Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 22E, § 3 and St. 1997, ch. 106, § 8.[3] The trial court denied the motion to suppress, and following a jury trial, Abrahams was convicted of the forcible rape of a child and armed assaultive burglary.

         The Massachusetts Appeals Court affirmed Abrahams' convictions.[4] On July 30, 2014, the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court (“SJC”) denied his application for further appellate review. On July 10, 2015, Abrahams filed his petition for a writ of habeas corpus pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254 [ECF No. 1], and on December 10, 2015, filed his accompanying memorandum of law in support [ECF No. 19]. On April 5, 2016, Respondent Kelly Ryan filed a memorandum of law in opposition to the petition [ECF No. 22], and on May 19, 2016, Abrahams filed a response [ECF No. 23].


         A federal district court's review of a state criminal conviction is governed by the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996 (“AEDPA”). AEDPA permits federal courts to grant habeas relief after a final state adjudication of a federal constitutional claim only if that adjudication:

(1) 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 (2) 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.

28 U.S.C. § 2254(d).

         A state court decision is “contrary to” clearly established Supreme Court precedent if the state court arrives at a conclusion opposite that reached by the Supreme Court on a question of law or if the state court decides a case differently from a decision of the Supreme Court on a materially indistinguishable set of facts. Williams v. Taylor, 529 U.S. 362, 405 (2000). A state court decision is considered an unreasonable application of Supreme Court precedent if the state court identifies the correct legal rule but unreasonably applies it to the facts. Id. at 407. An unreasonable application requires “some increment of incorrectness beyond error.” Norton v. Spencer, 351 F.3d 1, 8 (1st Cir. 2003) (internal quotations omitted). Lastly, a state court judgment is based on ...

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