United States District Court, D. Massachusetts
MEMORANDUM AND ORDER ON PETITION FOR WRIT OF HABEAS
CORPUS (DOC. NO. 1)
Sorokin, United States District Judge.
Coleman, who currently is serving a period of probation after
convictions for gun and traffic offenses, has filed a
counseled petition for a writ of habeas corpus pursuant to 28
U.S.C. § 2254. Doc. No. 1. Coleman raises two challenges to
his gun-related convictions - one to the sufficiency of
evidence that he possessed the firearm in question, and one
to the constitutionality of the Massachusetts statute
pursuant to which he was charged. Id. at 5, 7. The
respondent has opposed the petition, arguing Coleman's
claims are meritless. For the reasons that follow, the
petition is DENIED.
March 13, 2011, following a jury trial in Boston Municipal
Court, Coleman was convicted of carrying a firearm without a
license, carrying a loaded weapon, and operating a vehicle
with a suspended license. Doc. No. 1 at 1-2. He received
consecutive two-and-one-half-year sentences of incarceration
on the gun charges, with the second sentence suspended.
Id. at 1; S.A. at 618-19. The charges arose from a car
stop. Around 1:00 a.m. on September 18, 2009, Coleman was
driving alone in his girlfriend's car. Commonwealth
v. Coleman, 988 N.E.2d 876, 2013 WL 2436468, at *1
(Mass. App. Ct. 2013) (unpublished). Police stopped the car
after noticing broken tail and brake lights. Id.
When they ran his name to determine the status of his
driver's license, the officers learned Coleman had an
arrest warrant for failing to appear for jury duty.
Id. A loaded gun was found in the unlocked glove
compartment during an inventory search of the car.
Id. Coleman had no license to carry a firearm.
trial, the officers who stopped and arrested Coleman
testified that he appeared nervous throughout their encounter
with him, and that his hands appeared to be shaking during
the inventory search of the car. Id. Coleman's
girlfriend testified that Coleman had borrowed her car around
6:00 p.m. on September 17, 2009, and that she had removed her
belongings from the glove compartment before giving him the
keys. Id. She said she did not own a gun and had not
seen one in the glove compartment that evening. Id.
also testified. According to him, he had borrowed the car in
order to attend a fundraising event held to raise money for
funeral expenses of a friend who had died recently.
Id.; S.A. at 479. He testified that, after the
event, he had agreed to give two other men who also had known
his friend a ride to the Orchard Park Housing Projects.
Coleman, 2013 WL 2436468, at *1; S.A. at 482-83.
Coleman said he left the two men alone in the car for a few
minutes while he spoke with another friend before leaving the
parking lot. Coleman, 2013 WL 2436468, at *1; S.A.
at 484-87. He was stopped by police officers while driving
home, after dropping the two men off as promised.
Coleman, 2013 WL 2436468, at *1; S.A. at 487.
defense argued the evidence was insufficient to establish
beyond a reasonable doubt that Coleman knew of - let alone
constructively possessed - the gun, and that it likely had
been placed in the glove compartment by one of the men he had
driven home from the fundraiser. S.A. at 518-26; see
Coleman, 2013 WL 2436468, at *3 (rejecting direct appeal
challenge to sufficiency of evidence showing constructive
possession). The jury disagreed, finding Coleman guilty of
both charges arising from his possession of the gun. S.A. at
timely appealed, and the Massachusetts Appeals Court
(“MAC”) affirmed in an unpublished June 6, 2013
decision. Coleman, 2013 WL 2436468, at *1. The MAC
rejected Coleman's challenge to the sufficiency of
evidence establishing constructive possession, as well as a
Second Amendment challenge to the Massachusetts firearms
statute. Id. at *3-4. The Supreme Judicial Court
(“SJC”) denied Coleman's application for
further review on July 25, 2013. Commonwealth v.
Coleman, 991 N.E.2d 187 (Mass. 2013) (table). He did not
seek certiorari before the United States Supreme Court.
filed a timely, counseled federal habeas petition in this
Court on October 21, 2014 raising two claims:
1) There was insufficient evidence from which a jury could
find beyond a reasonable doubt that Coleman possessed a
firearm, and the MAC's rejection of this sufficiency
claim was objectively unreasonable; and
2) The application of Massachusetts's firearms laws
violated Coleman's constitutional right to bear arms by
placing on him the burden of proving that he was licensed to
carry a firearm, and the MAC's rejection of this Second
Amendment claim was objectively unreasonable.
Doc. No. 1 at 5, 7; see also Doc. No. 45 at 9-19.
Coleman's claims have been fully briefed.