United States District Court, D. Massachusetts
MEMORANDUM & ORDER
Nathaniel M. Gorton United States District Judge.
Wood (“Wood” or “petitioner”) was
convicted of first-degree murder in Massachusetts Superior
Court in 2009. He timely appealed that conviction to the
Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court (“SJC”). The
appeal consisted of nine claims, including, inter
alia, use of perjured testimony, sleeping juror,
prosecutor's press release influenced the jury, use of
hearsay testimony and an inconsistent verdict. The SJC
affirmed Wood's convictions in August, 2014.
Commonwealth v. Wood, 469 Mass.
266, 269 (2014). Wood filed this petition for habeas corpus
in August, 2015, seeking federal relief from his state court
and co-defendant Quincy Butler (“Butler”) were
tried and convicted by a jury for the murder of Betsy Tripp.
Among several convictions returned relating to the incident,
Wood was convicted of first-degree murder and Butler of
capital offense, Wood's first-degree murder conviction
was reviewed by the SJC on direct appeal. See M.G.L.
c. 278 § 33E. The SJC issued a decision in Wood's
appeal in August, 2014. Wood, 469 Mass. at 266
(2014). Wood then timely filed his petition for writ of
habeas corpus, pro se, in this Court in August,
trial, Wood and Butler purportedly challenged six peremptory
juror strikes made by the government under Batson.
See Batson v. Kentucky, 476 U.S.
79, 139 (1986). Wood alleges that the trial judge did not
follow the proper procedure for Batson challenges
because he did not require the government to provide a
neutral explanation for those strikes. Although those claims
were properly preserved at trial, Wood did not raise his
Batson claims in his appeal before the SJC.
Wood, 469 Mass. at 269 (2014).
second-degree murder is not a capital offense in
Massachusetts, see M.G.L. c. 278 § 33E,
Butler's direct appeal followed standard appellate
procedure and was decided in November, 2016, more than two
years after Wood's appeal was filed.
Commonwealth v. Butler, 90
Mass.App.Ct. 599, 599 (2016). Butler's appellate brief
tracked Wood's brief in large part but included the
Massachusetts Appeals Court affirmed Butler's conviction
but the three-judge panel was split, with each judge writing
a separate opinion. Id. at 599, 608, 612. Judge
Rubin criticized the ruling of the Court and opined that
Butler was “entitled at least to a remand to the trial
court to allow the Commonwealth to explain its
challenges.” Id. at 617 (Rubin, J.,
dissenting). Concurring “with the majority opinion in
every respect” but writing to add procedural context,
Judge Trainor found it “inexplicabl[e]” that Wood
did not include the Batson claims in his appellate
brief to the SJC. Id. at 609, 610 (Trainor, J.,
on the limited success of his co-defendant, Wood seeks to
move for a new trial. He moves for this Court to stay his
petition and hold it in abeyance pending the disposition of
his motion for a new trial. If that motion is successful, his
habeas petition would become moot. If it is unsuccessful,
however, he plans to file a motion to amend his habeas
petition to include his claims based upon Batson and
ineffective assistance of counsel.
Motion for Stay and Abeyance
individual who petitions for habeas corpus relief is
generally required to exhaust all claims in state court
before seeking federal relief. Rose v.
Lundy, 455 U.S. 509, 518-19 (1982). When a petition
contains a mixture of exhausted and unexhausted claims,
however, a court may exercise its discretion to stay the
petition and hold it in abeyance until all claims are
exhausted. Rhines v. Weber, 544
U.S. 269, 277-78 (2005). For a United States District Court
to grant a stay, the petitioner must demonstrate that there
was good cause for failing to exhaust state remedies, the
claims are potentially meritorious and he is not
intentionally engaging in dilatory tactics. Josselyn
v. Dennehy, 475 F.3d 1, 4 (1st Cir. 2007)
(citing Rhines, 544 U.S. at 278). All three factors
must be established to justify a stay of the petition.
Rhines, 544 U.S. at 277-78.
petition does not present unexhausted claims but a petitioner
plans to amend his the petition, it may be treated as
analogous to a mixed petition under the Rhines
framework. See Lessieur v. Ryan,
No. 16-CV-10831, 2016 WL 3561877, at *1 (D. Mass. June 27,
2016)(treating a motion to stay a habeas petition to allow
future amendment like a mixed petition); Roman
v. Ryan, No. 12-30160-TSH, 2014 WL 5112112,
at *2 (D. Mass. Oct. 10, 2014)(recognizing that a petitioner
seeking further state review of an otherwise exhausted habeas
petition is analogous to a mixed petition).