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Green v. Medeiros

United States District Court, D. Massachusetts

September 18, 2017

ANDRE GREEN, Petitioner,
SEAN MEDEIROS, Respondent.


          Denise J. Casper United States District Judge

         I. Introduction

         Petitioner Andre Green ("Green") filed a petition for a writ of habeas corpus ("Petition") pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254 based on seven grounds, alleging that his trial and conviction for first-degree murder violated his constitutional rights. D. 1. For the foregoing reasons, the Court DENIES the Petition.

         II. Factual and Procedural Background

         A. Factual Background

         The following facts are drawn from the decision of the Supreme Judicial Court denying Green's appeal. On February 5, 2003, there was a shooting on a subway train in Boston. Commonwealth v. Akara, 465 Mass. 245, 246 (2013). The intended victim of the shooting was Philip Gadsden, but one bullet struck Hawa Barry ("Barry") in the abdomen. Id. Barry was thirty-six weeks pregnant at the time; her baby was delivered alive but died shortly thereafter from injuries sustained from the shooting. Id.

         Earlier that evening, Green, Chimezie Akara ("Akara"), Sean Brown ("Brown"), and Burrell Ramsey-White ("Ramsey-White") had congregated at the Forest Hills subway station. Id. at 248. The four were members of a "small and loosely-organized gang" known as Tent City. Li They wrote "Tent City" and "TC" in green marker on a sign at the Forest Hills subway station. Id. At around 7:40 p.m. or 7:50 p.m., the four of them boarded a train. Id. Gadsden boarded the train at the same time and sat near to where the four were standing. Id. While the train was passing between stops, there was a heated exchange between Gadsden and Akara and Green. Li at 249. Either Akara or Green drew a weapon on Gadsden and Gadsden began to move away from them and shouted that they have a gun. Id. At least two shots were fired. Id. at 250. Akara, Green, Brown and Ramsey-White ran off the train car and were heard "laughing or chuckling in a congratulatory manner." Id. One of the bullets had struck Barry, who began bleeding profusely. Id. Gadsden and other passengers assisted her in getting off the train and waiting for emergency services. Id. The other bullet lodged in the guitar case of another passenger and was later turned over to the police. Id. The gun that fired the two shots was identified as a nine millimeter Desert Eagle semiautomatic handgun. Id. at 251.

         At around 8:15 p.m., Akara and Green went to the apartment where Green lived. Id. Akara displayed a nine millimeter Desert Eagle semiautomatic handgun to Green's cousin. Id. After some time, Akara and Green left that apartment and Green went to the apartment of his then-girlfriend, Sheen Sanford ("Sanford"), while Akara went to the house of Kalif Christopher ("Christopher"). Over the course of that night, Akara and Green spoke to each other on the phone four times. Li In one of these calls, Sanford answered when Akara called Green and Akara asked Sanford, "Did I get away with it?" Id. In the subsequent days, both Akara and Green instructed Green's cousin not to speak to the police. Id. at 252.

         During the investigation, Barry described the shooter as a person matching Green's description and picked Green out of a photographic array. Id. Gadsden, however, told police that the person holding the gun was wearing clothes that matched what Akara was wearing. Li at 249 n. 5. Gadsden later testified to the grand jury that he could not recall which defendant was holding the gun. Id.

         B. Procedural Background

         A grand jury indicted both Akara and Green for first-degree murder. Id. at 246. Akara and Green moved to sever their trials from each other, contending that their defenses were "mutually antagonistic and irreconcilable." Id. at 256. These motions were denied. "The Commonwealth's theory at trial was that the shootings had been committed as part of a joint venture in which one of the defendants had fired the gun intending to shoot Gadsden, and the other had acted as the joint venturer in the commission of the crime." Id. at 247. The Commonwealth "presented two alternative and mutually exclusive versions of events": that either Akara or Green was the shooter. Id. at 439.

         At trial, Sanford testified that, on the night in question, when Akara called Green, Akara had asked Sanford whether "they [were] going to get away with it." Id. at 266. The use of the word "they" conflicted with her statements to the grand jury, which indicated that Akara had asked Sanford "Did I get away with it?" Id. This was pointed out during her cross-examination and Sanford then corrected her testimony, consistent with her statements to the grand jury. Id.

         The Commonwealth's expert, John M. Brown of the Boston Police Department, testified, over the defendants' objection, that Tent City was a gang, which he defined as any "group, organization, or association of four or more people, usually under the age of [twenty-five], " who "call themselves by a group name and various common identifying signs, symbols or clothing items." Id. "Other than a brief mention of vandalism, [the expert] did not discuss any criminal activity by Tent City or other similarly-structured groups." Id. at 267. There was no evidence presented at trial that the motivation for the shooting had been gang-related. Id.

         At the close of evidence, both Akara and Green moved for a finding of not guilty, contending that the Commonwealth had not put forward sufficient evidence to support a finding of a joint venture. Id. at 247. The trial court denied these motions. Id. During closing arguments, the prosecutor argued that the jury could find a joint venture because the "Boston police, the District Attorney's office, and the Suffolk Grand Jury had heard sufficient evidence to charge not one, but two people." Id. at 262. As part of the final jury charge "following shortly after closing argument, " the judge explained to the jury that "[t]he fact that somebody is indicted of a crime is not evidence that they committed a crime and should not be considered for that purpose." Id.

         Given the alternative theories presented by the Commonwealth, the defendants requested a jury instruction stating that "if the jury could not determine who acted as principal and who as a joint venturer, [the jury] had to find beyond a reasonable doubt that a joint venture existed." Id. at 258. The court declined to give the requested instruction. Instead, the court charged that jury that, to find the defendants guilty on the basis of joint venture, "the ...

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