United States District Court, D. Massachusetts
MEMORANDUM AND ORDER ON PETITION FOR A WRIT OF HABEAS
Dennis Saylor IV United States District Judge
a pro se petition for a writ of habeas corpus
pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2255. On March 18, 2018, the
jury found petitioner Shayne Parker guilty of being a felon
in possession of ammunition in violation of 18 U.S.C. §
922(g), and transporting a firearm across state lines without
a license in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 922(a)(3). He was
sentenced to a 60-month term of incarceration followed by a
three-year term of supervised release.
has filed a motion to vacate, set aside, or correct his
sentence pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2255, alleging
ineffective assistance of counsel in violation of the Sixth
Amendment. The petition is based on trial counsel's
alleged (1) failure to raise an Equal Protection Clause
challenge based on the Court's denial of individual voir
dire, and (2) failure to object to evidence admitted under
Fed.R.Evid. 404(b). For the reasons set forth below, the
motion will be denied.
following facts are taken from the opinion of the Court of
March 21, 2014, Shayne Parker drove with Ronald Scott, a drug
dealer, from Massachusetts to New Hampshire and checked into
the Keene Inn in Keene, New Hampshire. United States v.
Parker, 872 F.3d 1, 3 (1st Cir. 2017). The room was
registered in Parker's name. Id. Parker and
Scott met with Mitchell Riddell, one of Scott's
customers. Id. In Parker's presence, Riddell
talked to Scott about buying guns. Id.
next day, March 22, Parker, Scott, and Riddell met again and
were joined by Melanie LaMott. Id. LaMott could
legally buy firearms in New Hampshire and had agreed with
Riddell to act as a straw buyer. Id. Parker, Scott,
Riddell, and LaMott first went to the Alstead Gun Shop in
Alstead, New Hampshire, but left before purchasing anything
because Scott became uncomfortable with someone in the shop.
Id. at 3-4. Next, they went to the Sporting and
Hunting Depot in Charlestown, New Hampshire, where LaMott
bought several firearms. Id. at 4. After the
purchase, they went to LaMott's apartment in Keene where
Scott gave Riddell and LaMott crack cocaine as partial
payment for their services. Id. On their way to
Boston, the four stopped at Dick's Sporting Goods in
Keene where Scott and LaMott bought ammunition. Id.
Once in Boston, Parker and Scott examined the firearms and
ammunition and paid Riddell and LaMott. Id. Parker
was subsequently arrested. Id.
March 18, 2016, a jury convicted Parker of two counts: (1)
being a felon in possession of ammunition in violation of 18
U.S.C. § 922(g); and (2) transporting a firearm across
state lines without a license in violation of 18 U.S.C.
§ 922(a)(3). Parker was sentenced to 60-month terms of
imprisonment on both counts, to be served concurrently,
followed by a three-year term of supervised release.
Individual Voir Dire
to trial, petitioner's counsel moved for the Court to
conduct individual voir dire of prospective jurors to
determine if any of the jurors “harbor any racial
prejudice.” Petitioner's counsel requested that the
Court ask five questions:
1. Do you have any feelings or opinions about black people
that would cause you to question your ability to be impartial
in evaluating the evidence in this case?
2. Would the fact that Mr. Parker is a black man make it more
difficult for you to decide a verdict in his favor than if he
3. Do you believe that black men are more likely to commit a
crime than others?
4. Have you had any experiences with black people that might
make you unable to be fair and impartial in this case?
5. Can you honestly assure the court that the race of the
defendant will not affect your ability to be fair and
Parker, 872 F.3d at 4-5. (Docket No. 72). At the
final pretrial conference, petitioner's counsel explained
why he was requesting individualized voir dire. He stated:
Well, my client is an African-American man, and I've
requested a series of questions regarding racial prejudice.
And I think that it's very important, in order for Mr.
Parker to get a fair trial, that the jurors do not harbor any
prejudice against him based on race. And I don't believe
that we can realistically expect jurors to respond in the
audience in front of all of their other prospective jurors to
questions about whether they are biased or prejudiced against
people based on their race. And I think, especially in a case
like this where he's charged with firearms offenses and
where that plays into a stereotype, frankly, that it's
very important that the jurors, at least on that limited
issue, be voir dired individually so that we can make sure
that we don't end up with jurors who are - come into the
process predisposed to find Mr. Parker guilty based on his
Just one other factor, just to make the record complete. I
believe there - basically, this case involves an allegation
that my client and another individual went to the state of
New Hampshire and recruited people to purchase firearms from
gun stores. And, again, there's a cross-racial component
to that. So I think the witnesses that are going to be called
by the Government, I haven't met them, but I believe that
they're Caucasian. And they're going to be testifying
that they were recruited into purchasing firearms primarily
by this other individual named Scott.
(Final Pretrial Conf. Tr. at 8, 10). At a status conference,
the Court denied the individual voir dire request, stating
This is a relatively routine case; [it's] not a death
penalty case, not a murder case, not a highly publicized
case. There's no racial angle to it that I can see, like
a victim and a perpetrator being of different races. Nothing
about it particularly will evoke a strong emotional response
or a racially charged response, and I see no reason to take
the highly unusual and time-consuming and resource-consuming
step of individual voir dire.
(Motion Hearing Tr. at 2-3).
first day of trial, petitioner's counsel requested
reconsideration of the denial of individualized voir dire. He
Well, your Honor, the first thing I would say is this: We
have an extremely racially polarized society, and there is
systemic racism. Those are pretty undeniable facts, and as
far as my client, Shayne Parker, [who is] African-American[,
] getting a fair ...