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Blodgett v. Gaffney

United States District Court, D. Massachusetts

May 1, 2018

JOHN J. BLODGETT, Petitioner,
v.
ERIN GAFFNEY, Respondent.

          ORDER DISMISSING PETITION (DOC. NO. 1) AND DENYING MOTION TO APPOINT COUNSEL (DOC. NO. 27)

          Leo T. Sorokin United States District Judge.

         John J. Blodgett, a prisoner at Old Colony Correctional Institution in Bridgewater, Massachusetts, has filed a pro se petition for a writ of habeas corpus pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254. Blodgett filed his federal claims almost forty years after the conviction and sentence he wishes to challenge became final, and twenty years after the one-year limitation period for filing a federal habeas petition expired. His petition is DISMISSED as untimely, and his motion to appoint counsel is DENIED.

         I. BACKGROUND

         On June 27, 1977, after a jury trial in Suffolk Superior Court, Blodgett was convicted of first-degree murder, armed robbery, kidnapping, and two related assault charges. Doc. No. 1 at 2; Commonwealth v. Blodgett, 386 N.E.2d 1042, 1043 (Mass. 1979). The charges arose from the shooting, stabbing, and beating of two college students hitchhiking back to their dormitory in March 1975. Blodgett, 386 N.E.2d at 1043. One victim (miraculously) lived; the other died. Id. The surviving victim identified Blodgett as the driver of the car, and as one of four men involved in the deadly assault. Id. The car used in the crime was found burning later that night with a set of keys in the ignition. Id. One key fit the door to Blodgett's apartment. Id.

         At trial, Blodgett testified that he had stolen the car involved in the crime sometime earlier, that he had driven it to a bar in Boston on the night in question, that he had encountered his alleged co-venturer (Robert Shaughnessy) at the bar, and that he had discovered his car and his keys were missing when he left the bar that night. Id. He said he later learned the car had been involved in a crime, and so he fled. Id. Blodgett was arrested two years later in Texas. Id. Before Blodgett's arrest, Shaughnessy committed suicide in jail while awaiting trial for the same offenses. Doc. No. 10 at 5.

         Blodgett received a life sentence. Doc. No. 1 at 2. He filed a timely appeal, R.P.D. at 6, [1]and the Supreme Judicial Court (“S.J.C.”) affirmed his conviction and sentence on March 8, 1979, Blodgett, 386 N.E.2d at 1043. Blodgett did not seek certiorari in the United States Supreme Court. R.P.D. at 8, 71. In February 1982, Blodgett filed his first motion for a new trial in state court, and in July 1982, before the first motion was resolved, he filed a second post-conviction motion seeking “release from unlawful restraint.” R.P.D. at 8. The Superior Court promptly denied both motions. R.P.D. at 8-9, 75-82. Blodgett filed a third post-conviction motion in state court in August 1985. R.P.D. at 9. That motion was denied a year later, after a hearing. R.P.D. at 10, 83-85. Blodgett's fourth post-conviction motion, filed in May 1989 and then amended after counsel was appointed, was denied in March 1990. R.P.D. at 11, 86-88.

         It appears as though Blodgett's attempts to secure further review in the SJC of the rulings rejecting his post-conviction claims were unsuccessful. See R.P.D. at 104-05 (reflecting Single Justice cases were opened in the SJC and disposed of in 1983, 1986, and 1990). In October 1990, Blodgett sought federal habeas review in this Court, but his petition was dismissed for failure to exhaust his claims. See Memo. & Order, Blodgett v. Ponte, No. 90-cv-12520-EFH, ECF No. 5 (D. Mass. 1990 Oct. 23, 1990) (reflecting in docket text that Judge Harrington compared “the ten grounds raised” in Blodgett's federal petition with “the three grounds raised” before the SJC to conclude Blodgett had not exhausted “most of the grounds raised here”).

         The state court dockets reflect no further filings between 1990 and 1999, when the paper dockets were converted to an electronic docketing system. See R.P.D. at 11, 66, 71-72. According to Blodgett, he filed a “state habeas corpus petition” in 1998, but the Superior Court “denied [it] without prejudice (because it was the w[ro]ng legal instrument).” Doc. No. 10 at 9.[2]In March 2010, December 2012, and February 2013, Blodgett filed a series of motions seeking to correct the mittimus issued in his case with respect to the concurrency of term-of-years sentences imposed on certain non-homicide counts. R.P.D. at 66, 69, 89. Those motions were allowed on February 21, 2013. R.P.D. at 67, 70.

         The next event reflected on the state court dockets is Blodgett's filing of another motion for a new trial on June 6, 2016. R.P.D. at 67, 70. The Superior Court denied that motion on April 13, 2017. R.P.D. at 68, 90-91. The SJC denied review on August 21, 2017, and denied reconsideration on September 8, 2017. R.P.D. at 73-74, 106-09.

         On December 11, 2017, Blodgett signed the presently pending federal habeas petition, which this Court received and docketed on December 18, 2017. Doc. No. 1. In his pro se petition, Blodgett raises two challenges to his conviction and sentence: 1) a claim that prosecutors in his case violated Brady v. Maryland, 373 U.S. 83 (1963), by concealing information related to the surviving victim's pretrial identification of his assailants and by suborning perjury by the victim and a detective at trial; and 2) a claim that Blodgett could not legally be convicted as a joint venturer because his co-defendant had died before being convicted in connection with the alleged joint venture. Doc. No. 1 at 7, 9.

         Blodgett was granted additional time in which to submit a memorandum of law and appendix in support of his federal claims. Doc. Nos. 2, 8, 9, 11. Because it appeared likely based on an initial screening that the petition was untimely, the Court did not require the respondent to answer Blodgett's claims; rather, the Court ordered the respondent to collect and submit information from the state court dockets to facilitate a complete assessment of the petition's timeliness. Doc. No. 13. That information was submitted on April 23, 2018. Doc. No. 25. On April 25, 2018, Blodgett filed a motion seeking appointment of counsel and a memorandum opposing dismissal on timeliness grounds. Doc. Nos. 27, 28.

         Having carefully reviewed all of Blodgett's submissions, as well as the state court records provided by the respondent, the Court concludes Blodgett's federal claims are hopelessly untimely, and finds no justification for the appointment of counsel.

         II. DISCUSSION

         The Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996 (“AEDPA”) imposes a one-year period of limitation on applications for writs of habeas corpus, and provides ...


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