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Carriere v. Medeiros

United States District Court, D. Massachusetts

September 5, 2018

EDMOND J. CARRIERE, JR., Petitioner,
v.
SUPERINTENDENT SEAN MEDEIROS, Respondent.

          MEMORANDUM AND ORDER ON PETITION FOR A WRIT OF HABEAS CORPUS

          F. Dennis Saylor, IV United States District Judge.

         This is a pro se petition for a writ of habeas corpus pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254(d). Petitioner Edmond J. Carriere, Jr., was convicted by a jury in state court of one count of first-degree murder under theories of deliberate premeditation and extreme atrocity and cruelty. Commonwealth v. Carriere, 470 Mass. 1, 3 (2014). He was given a mandatory sentence of life in prison without the possibility of parole.

         Carriere alleges three grounds for relief: (1) that his Sixth Amendment right to confrontation and Fourteenth Amendment right to a fair trial were violated by the trial judge's admission of numerous hearsay statements; (2) that he was denied his right to due process when the trial judged precluded him from eliciting purportedly admissible and exculpatory evidence from a witness; and (3) that his due process rights were violated because of the prosecutor's improprieties during his closing argument. For the following reasons, the petition will be denied.

         I. Background

         A. Factual Background

         The facts of this case are set out in detail in the decision of the Supreme Judicial Court.

         Frances Carriere was found stabbed to death in her home in Bourne, Massachusetts, on January 3, 1980. Carriere, 470 Mass. at 3. Prior to her death, Frances and her husband, Edmond J. Carriere, Jr., had been in the midst of a tumultuous divorce. Id. at 4. Carriere believed Frances would take the home and “everything else” from him, and she refused to accept Carriere's offer of money in exchange for her “just [going] away.” Id.

         Two or three months before Frances's death, Carriere asked his friends Charles Berryman and Russell Breault whether they had any desire to make some money by killing Frances. Carriere, 470 Mass. at 4. Carriere offered them $2, 000 for the murder, but Berryman and Breault thought Carriere was merely joking. Id. In December 1979, Carriere revisited the idea of Frances's murder and asked another friend, Richard Grebauski, if he “knew anyone big, big and black that would go in there and do things to his wife that she would never forget.” Id. at 4-5. Grebauski's then-girlfriend, Shannon Glover, and friend, Steven Stewart, both overheard Carriere talking about his wish that his wife were dead. Carriere, 470 Mass. at 5.

         Later, Grebauski told Stewart that Carriere had offered him $5, 000 to kill Frances and asked Stewart if he wanted to participate. Carriere, 470 Mass. at 5. Although he initially declined, Stewart eventually agreed to the proposal because he owed Grebauski $500 for prior cocaine purchases. Id.

         On December 10, 1979, Carriere and his minor daughter traveled to Florida to visit his older daughter, Linda McCraney. Carriere, 470 Mass. at 5. During the visit, Carriere made contentious remarks regarding Frances, including calling her a whore who slept with everybody on Cape Cod and stating that she would be sorry for continuing with the divorce. Id.

         On January 3, 1980, Carriere called Grebauski to tell him that Frances had to be killed that night because his daughter's school break was ending and they needed to return to Massachusetts. Carriere, 470 Mass. at 5. Grebauski retrieved a fillet knife from his kitchen and a pair of gloves. Id. Grebauski handed the materials to Stewart and instructed him to walk into the Carriere family house and stab Frances in the heart. Id. at 5-6. Stewart went to the house, found Frances in the bathroom, and stabbed her after a struggle in which she hit her head on the radiator. Id. at 6. Stewart then disposed of the knife and gloves in the Cape Cod Canal and drove to his grandmother's home in Brockton. Id. Upon arriving in Brockton, Stewart contacted Grebauski to tell him the job was done. Id.

         Soon thereafter, Carriere went to Grebauski's house, where Grebauski and Stewart were playing pool, to deliver the money. Carriere, 470 Mass. at 7. Although satisfied that Frances was dead, Carriere was outraged Stewart and Grebauski had not disposed of Frances's body and had not also killed Carriere's son, and he threatened not to pay the full amount. Id. However, Carriere eventually acquiesced and threw $10, 000 down on Grebauski's pool table. Grebauski and Stewart then engaged in their own contentious debate regarding the proper allocation of the money. Id. Ultimately, Stewart received $4, 500 for the murder-the $5000 he was initially promised minus the $500 he owed to Grebauski. Id.

         B. Procedural Background

         On May 22, 2012, a jury in Barnstable County Superior Court convicted Carriere of one count of first-degree murder under theories of deliberate premeditation and extreme atrocity and cruelty. Carriere was sentenced to a term of natural life without the possibility of parole. He appealed his conviction on June 15, 2012, directly to the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court (“SJC”) pursuant to Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 278, § 33E. The SJC denied his appeal on October 28, 2014. Carriere did not seek further review from the United States Supreme Court.

         Carriere timely filed the present petition on October 1, 2015, claiming violations of his Sixth and Fourteenth Amendment rights. See 28 U.S.C. § 2254(d).

         The amended petition presents four grounds: (1) that Carriere was “denied his right to a fair trial by the admission of prejudicial inadmissible hearsay; and his right to confrontation under the Sixth Amendment was violated by the admission of such evidence and thus it was contrary to, an unreasonable application of, clearly established Supreme Court precedent”; (2) “the defendant was denied his constitutional right to a fair trial when the Commonwealth was permitted to introduce incredibly prejudicial and irrelevant evidence that the defendant wanted his son killed and that he wanted a big black man to ‘do things to his wife that she would never forget'”; (3) he was “denied his due process right to a fair trial when the trial court precluded him from eliciting crucial testimony that Grebauski[] admitted to Mello ‘I offed the bitch'”; and (4) “the SJC's decision denied petitioner's Fourteenth Amendment right to due process when it allowed the prosecution to introduce highly inflammatory closing argument which contained misstatement of law.” (Am. Pet. at 19, 28, 32, 43).

         Respondent filed an opposition on October 25, 2016. On June 22, 2017, the Court entered an order finding that the second ground of the petition had not been exhausted, and directing Carriere to dismiss all claims or proceed solely on the exhausted claims. Carriere elected to dismiss the second ground in order to proceed on his other claims.

         II. Standard of Review

         A. Habeas Review

         Under 28 U.S.C. § 2254(d), a federal court may not issue a habeas petition “with respect to any claim that was adjudicated on the merits in State court proceedings” unless the state court decision (1) “was contrary to, or involved an unreasonable application of, clearly established Federal law, as determined by the Supreme Court of the United States, ” or (2) “was based on an unreasonable determination of the facts in light of the evidence presented in the State court proceeding.” 28 U.S.C. § 2254(d).

         A state-court decision is “contrary to” clearly established federal law if it (1) “applies a rule that contradicts the governing law set forth in [the Supreme Court's] cases” or (2) resolves a case differently from the Supreme Court on a set of “materially indistinguishable” facts. Early v. Packer, 537 U.S. 3, 8 (2002) (quoting Williams v. Taylor, 529 U.S. 362, 405-06 (2000)). In either scenario, the state-court decision must be “substantially different, ” “diametrically different, ” “opposite in character or nature, ” or “mutually opposed” to Supreme Court precedent. Williams, 529 U.S. at 405.

         A state-court decision involves an “unreasonable application” of federal law if the state court identified the correct governing legal principle from the Supreme Court's decisions, but applied it in an objectively unreasonable manner. See Lockyer v. Andrade, 538 U.S. 63, 75-76 (2003) (citing Williams, 529 U.S. at 409). The Supreme Court has cautioned that “[a]n unreasonable application of federal law is different from an incorrect application of federal law.” Williams, 529 U.S. at 365. The state court's application of federal law must be “more than incorrect or erroneous.” Lockyer, 538 U.S. at 75 (citing Williams, 529 U.S. at 410, 412); see also Teti v. Bender, 507 F.3d 50, 57 (1st Cir. 2007) (“A decision can still be reasonable even if the reviewing court thinks it is wrong; ‘unreasonable' here means something more than incorrect or erroneous.”). Furthermore,

if it is a close question whether the state decision is in error, then the state decision cannot be an unreasonable application . . . . [S]ome increment of incorrectness beyond error is required. The increment need not necessarily be great, but it must be great enough to make the decision ...

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