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Roman v. Ryan

United States District Court, D. Massachusetts

September 12, 2018

MIGUEL ROMAN, Petitioner,
v.
LISA RYAN, Respondent.

          MEMORANDUM AND ORDER ON PETITION FOR A WRIT OF HABEAS CORPUS

          ALLISON D. BURROUGHS U.S. DISTRICT JUDGE.

         On December 29, 2011, Petitioner Miguel Roman was convicted of deliberately premeditated murder and possession of a class B substance. Currently pending before the Court is a petition for a writ of habeas corpus pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254, in which Petitioner asserts that the evidence was insufficient to sustain his murder conviction. [ECF No. 1]. For the reasons stated herein, the petition for a writ of habeas corpus is denied.

         I. BACKGROUND

         The Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court (“SJC”) provided the following account of the facts of the case as the jury could have found them.[1]

Shortly before midnight on January 28, 2010, Angel Gonzalez (Angel) called the [Petitioner] on his cellular telephone to arrange a purchase of cocaine. Angel and Luis Soto then drove to a night club in Holyoke where [Petitioner] sold them cocaine. They traveled in a grey four-door 2006 Nissan Altima owned by Soto's girl friend. They then drove to a bar in Holyoke, ingesting the cocaine en route.
At about 12:56 a.m. on January 29, Angel's mother called Angel on his cellular telephone and told him that the victim was at the Holyoke Medical Center and needed a ride. Soto, Angel, and Angel's brother Felipe left the bar in the Altima. They drove to the hospital and went inside to get the victim. The four men then returned to the bar. After about one hour they all left together. Angel called [Petitioner] on his cellular telephone to arrange another purchase of cocaine. Angel's cellular telephone records showed three calls that connected with the [Petitioner's] cellular telephone between 1:30 a.m. and 1:52 a.m. They drove to the night club to meet [Petitioner]. Angel and the victim got out of the car and went inside the club. When they returned, [Petitioner] was with them and the three men entered the Altima.
Soto was driving; Angel was in the front passenger seat; [Petitioner] sat behind Soto; Felipe was behind Angel; and the victim sat between [Petitioner] and Felipe. [Petitioner] told Soto to drive. They proceeded down High Street. [Petitioner] directed Soto to turn right onto Essex Street. [Petitioner] pulled out a handgun and shot the victim twice in the left rear side of his head. Soto stopped the car and shifted into the “park” position. Felipe got out of the car and ran toward High Street. Angel got out of the car and stood nearby for a short time before running toward High Street. Soto was the third to get out of the car. He hesitated because he was concerned about abandoning his girl friend's car, but then he left and ran toward High Street.
[Petitioner] was the last person to get out of the Altima. He walked around the rear of the car, opened the rear passenger's side door and fired a third shot into the victim's right temple. He then got into the driver's seat of the Altima and sped off. [Petitioner] turned onto Newton Street where he stopped and dumped the victim's body in the road. In the meantime, Felipe, Angel, and Soto made their way to Sam's Food, a nearby store on High Street. [Petitioner] called Angel's cellular telephone at 2:04:07 a.m. The call connected for forty-four seconds. The Altima, driven by [Petitioner], arrived at Sam's Food store shortly thereafter. [Petitioner] left the car there, and left the scene himself. The others then drove away in the Altima. Soto turned himself in to police the next day.

Commonwealth v. Roman, 18 N.E.3d 1069, 1071 (Mass. 2014).

         Following a jury trial in the Hampden County Superior Court, Petitioner was found guilty of deliberately premeditated murder and possession of a class B substance (cocaine). [ECF No. 1 at 1]. He was sentenced to life imprisonment for the murder conviction and to a concurrent one-year House of Correction sentence for the possession conviction. Id.

         Petitioner appealed his convictions on the following grounds: (1) insufficiency of the evidence; (2) the denial of his right to a speedy trial; (3) prosecutorial misconduct in the delayed production of discovery; (4) the trial court's failure to declare a mistrial due to jury tampering by the victim's family; and (5) an erroneous jury instruction regarding the testimony of a cooperating witness. Roman, 18 N.E.3d at 1071. He also requested that the SJC exercise its power under Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 278, § 33E to reverse his convictions and either order a new trial or reduce the conviction of murder to a lesser degree. Id. On November 4, 2014, the SJC affirmed the convictions and declined to exercise its authority under § 33E. Id. On January 26, 2016, Petitioner filed this petition for a writ of habeas corpus, asserting a single claim that the SJC misapplied the sufficiency of the evidence standard and made unreasonable factual determinations concerning the murder conviction. [ECF No. 1].

         II. DISCUSSION

         A. Applicable Law

         The Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996 (“AEDPA”) permits federal courts to grant habeas corpus relief on a claim “adjudicated on the merits ...


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