United States District Court, D. Massachusetts
MEMORANDUM AND ORDER ON PETITION FOR HABEAS CORPUS
(DOC. NO. 1)
SOROKIN UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
Cooley, a prisoner at the Old Colony Correctional Center in
Bridgewater, Massachusetts, has filed a pro se petition for a
writ of habeas corpus pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254, in
which he raises two challenges to his convictions and
sentences. The respondent has opposed the petition. Because
his claims are meritless, Cooley's petition is DENIED.
September 2011, following a jury trial in Hampden County
Superior Court, Cooley was convicted of first-degree murder,
unlawful possession of a firearm, and wilful interference
with a criminal investigation, all in violation of
Massachusetts law. Commonwealth v. Cooley, 78 N.E.3d
77, 79 (Mass. 2017); Doc. No. 1 at 1-2; S.A. at 1-2,
He received a mandatory sentence of life imprisonment without
the possibility of parole. Doc. No. 1 at 1; S.A. at 8.
charges against Cooley arose from a shooting in Springfield.
Cooley, 78 N.E.3d at 49. The Supreme Judicial Court
(“SJC”) summarized the evidence presented at
trial as follows:
At approximately 12:20 A.M. on March 20, 2010, . . . a
witness heard two shots fired. She looked out her window and
saw two men speaking in a “panicking way”; the
men then ran in opposite directions. Other witnesses also
heard the gunshots, soon followed by the sound of a motor
vehicle crashing. The victim's motor vehicle had crashed
through a fence, struck another vehicle, and come to a stop
in the yard of one of the witnesses. The victim was slumped
over in the driver's seat and bleeding heavily.
As the witnesses approached the vehicle, [Cooley], wearing a
leather jacket, ran up yelling, “It's my
god-brother, ” and “Don't call the cops[;]
the guy[']s got weed on him.” He climbed into the
vehicle, pulled the victim slightly toward him while patting
him down, and took the victim's cellular telephone. He
also took a bag from behind the victim's seat, where
police later found two bags containing marijuana. After
getting out of the motor vehicle, [Cooley] told the witnesses
to telephone the police and left the scene. . . . [T]he
victim sustained injuries consistent with a bullet traveling
through his right arm and into his chest. He was pronounced
dead a short time later at a hospital.
Police were directed to [Cooley], who had since returned to
the area (without his leather jacket). [Cooley] was
interviewed at the scene and twice more at the police
station. As investigators uncovered further evidence,
[Cooley] changed portions of his statement. For example,
after first denying it, he eventually admitted that the
leather jacket, found hidden a short distance away from where
the victim and his vehicle had crashed, was his. The jacket
tested positive for gunshot primer residue on the cuffs,
indicating that the jacket may have been within three feet of
a gun when it was fired. The jacket also was stained with
blood that matched . . . the victim. [Cooley] admitted to
taking the victim's cellular telephone from the motor
vehicle after the crash only after police recovered it from a
motor vehicle belonging to [Cooley's] girlfriend.
Other portions of [Cooley's] statements to police were
proved false at trial. For example, [Cooley] stated that he
had happened to meet the victim at a pharmacy store hours
before the shooting, but surveillance video recordings from
inside and outside the store showed the victim there alone.
[Cooley's] claim that he had been on the telephone with
the victim at the time of the shooting was belied by
telephone records that showed that there were no telephone
calls between [Cooley] and the victim at any point prior to
The telephone records also showed that . . . both [Cooley and
the victim] were in touch with a third party, who had a
telephone number ending in 7471, in the hours before the
killing. There were numerous calls between the victim's
number and the 7471 number, culminating with a call made
minutes before the shooting. In addition, the records
indicated that there were calls during the night prior to the
shooting between [Cooley's] number and the 7471 number
until 9:42 P.M. Another call was made from [Cooley's]
number to the 7471 number soon after [Cooley] finished giving
his second statement at the police station.
Id. at 79-80.
prosecution's theory of the case was that Cooley
“and an unidentified person were involved in a joint
venture to rob the victim, that either one or the other shot
the victim during the course of the robbery, and that
[Cooley] completed the robbery after the shooting at the site
of the crash.” Id. at 80. The jury returned a
general verdict, convicting Cooley of murder without
specifying whether they had concluded he was the shooter.
S.A. at 21.
filed a timely direct appeal challenging the trial
court's denial of his motion for a judgment of acquittal
on the murder, armed robbery, and firearms charges. S.A. at
9; Doc. No. 1 at 2. Shortly thereafter, Cooley's trial
counsel learned from the prosecutor that, during an interview
conducted by police months before Cooley's trial
regarding an unrelated murder, a witness said he had heard
another man (not Cooley) confess to having shot the victim in
Cooley's case. Cooley, 78 N.E.3d at 82. In light
of this disclosure, Cooley filed a motion for a new trial
alleging a violation of Brady v. Maryland, 373 U.S.
83 (1963). S.A. at 9; Cooley, 78 N.E.3d at 79. The
trial court denied Cooley's motion after a hearing, S.A.
at 14-32, and the SJC consolidated his appeal of that ruling
with his direct appeal, Cooley, 78 N.E.3d at 79. The
SJC affirmed Cooley's convictions and sentence in a July
13, 2017 decision. Id.
timely federal habeas petition, Cooley advances the same two
challenges considered and rejected by the SJC: 1) that the
prosecution violated its Brady obligations when it
failed to disclose the witness statement concerning another
man's admission “to having done the murder, ”
Doc. No. 1 at 5; and 2) that the evidence was insufficient to
prove him guilty of murder, armed ...