United States District Court, D. Massachusetts
ORDER ON RESPONDENTS' MOTION TO DISMISS
DENNIS SAYLOR, IV UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
a petition seeking a writ of habeas corpus pursuant to 28
U.S.C. § 2254(d). Petitioner was convicted by a jury in
2007 of aggravated rape, home invasion, and mayhem, among
other things. Respondents the Commonwealth of Massachusetts
and Attorney General Maura Healey have filed a motion to
dismiss on the ground that at least one of petitioner's
claims is unexhausted. For the reasons given below, that motion
will be granted.
facts of the crimes for which petitioner was convicted are
set out in detail in the first decision by the Appeals Court.
Commonwealth v. Coutu, 88 Mass.App.Ct. 686 (2015).
brief, petitioner broke into the victim's apartment
through a hole in the wall from the apartment next door in
the early morning of March 9, 2006. Id. at 689-90.
The victim heard noises and got up to find him going through
a chest of drawers. Id. at 688. He tied her to the
bed, and then beat and raped her with a crowbar. Id.
at 688-89. The victim blacked out. When she came to, she
smelled smoke and saw a box stuck in the hole in the wall on
fire. Id. at 689. The wounds to the victim's
face were so severe that she required plastic surgery, and
“her vagina and rectal areas, were ‘completely
macerated'” such that “[h]er ‘normal
anatomy could not be identified.'” Id.
Among other evidence, the crowbar with the victim's blood
on it was found under petitioner's bed. Id. at
691. Blue jeans, also with the victim's blood on them,
and with wallboard chips in the pockets matching the
wallboard of the hole in the victim's wall, were found in
the basement of petitioner's apartment building.
was convicted by a jury in 2007 of aggravated rape, home
invasion, mayhem, assault and battery by means of a dangerous
weapon causing serious bodily injury, armed robbery,
kidnapping, and attempt to burn personal property.
Coutu, 88 Mass.App. at 687. The Appeals Court of
Massachusetts reversed the convictions for assault and
battery by means of a dangerous weapon causing serious bodily
injury and attempt to burn personal property, but affirmed
the other convictions. Id.
petitioner and the Commonwealth filed applications for leave
to obtain further appellate review (“ALOFAR”)
with the Supreme Judicial Court. The SJC denied
petitioner's application outright. Commonwealth v.
Coutu, 474 Mass. 1103 (2016). It denied the
Commonwealth's application without prejudice specifically
as to the reversal of petitioner's conviction for attempt
to burn personal property, and remanded the issue to the
Appeals Court for reconsideration in light of the SJC's
then-recent decision in Commonwealth v. Labrie, 473
Mass. 754 (2016). Coutu, 747 Mass. 1103. On remand,
on September 15, 2016, the Appeals Court reinstated
petitioner's conviction for attempt to burn personal
property. Commonwealth v. Coutu, 90 Mass.App.Ct.
227, 228 (2016). According to the petition, defendant was
sentenced to a prison term of 35 to 40 years. (Am. Pet. at
timely filed his petition for habeas relief on April 21,
2017. However, he left Question 12, which required him to
“state every ground on which [he] claim[ed] that [he
was] being held in violation of the Constitution, laws or
treaties of the United States, ” blank. (Pet. at 6).
Respondents filed a motion for an order requiring petitioner
to comply with Rule 2(c), which, among other things, requires
the petition to “specify all the grounds for relief
available to the petitioner” and “state the facts
supporting each ground.” Rule 2(c) of the Rules
Governing Section 2254 Cases in the United States District
Courts. The Court granted that motion.
then filed some exhibits and a letter that still did not
clearly identify his grounds for relief. The Court granted
respondent's second motion for a more definite statement,
and petitioner filed an amended petition on December 29,
amended petition recites the following grounds for relief:
GROUND ONE: Amendment V(5) I beli[e]ve, it's printed: nor
be deprived of life, liberty or property, without due process
(a) Supporting facts: The panel of three appellate justices
had not read, nor listened to the individually submitted
appellate briefs and appellate counsel's words durring
[sic] my safeguard for justice to prevail. (A safety net) The
appeal was not accurately vetted, to properly evaluate. The
prosecution biasness was easily seen to hold ...