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Miller v. Marchilli

United States District Court, D. Massachusetts

January 9, 2019

DAVID T. MILLER, Petitioner,
v.
RAYMOND MARCHILLI, JR., Respondent.

          MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

          DENISE J. CASPER UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         I. Introduction

         Petitioner David Miller (“Miller”), acting pro se, has filed a petition seeking a writ of habeas corpus (“Petition”) pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254. D. 1. Respondent Raymond Marchilli Jr. (“Respondent”), the Superintendent of the Massachusetts Department of Correction, opposes the Petition. D. 34 at 3. For the reasons stated below, the Court DENIES Miller's motion to amend the Petition, D. 35, and also DENIES the Petition. D. 1.

         II. Standard of Review

         Under the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996 (“AEDPA”), the Court may grant a writ of habeas corpus if the state court adjudication “resulted in a decision that was contrary to, or involved an unreasonable application of, clearly established Federal law, as determined by the Supreme Court of the United States.” 28 U.S.C. § 2254(d)(1).

         A state court decision is “contrary to” clearly established federal law “if the state court either ‘applies a rule that contradicts the governing law set forth in [Supreme Court] cases,' or ‘confronts a set of facts that are materially indistinguishable from'” a Supreme Court precedent and arrives at an opposite conclusion. Penry v. Johnson, 532 U.S. 782, 792 (2001) (quoting Williams v. Taylor, 529 U.S. 362, 405-06 (2000)). A state court decision is an “unreasonable application” of clearly established federal law “if it correctly identifies the governing legal rule but applies that rule unreasonably to the facts of a particular prisoner's case.” White v. Woodall, 572 U.S. 415, 426 (2014). Accordingly, “a state prisoner must show that the state court's ruling on the claim being presented in federal court was so lacking in justification that there was an error well understood and comprehended in existing law beyond any possibility for fairminded disagreement.” Harrington v. Richter, 562 U.S. 86, 103 (2011).

         The Court may likewise grant habeas relief if the state court adjudication “resulted in a decision that was based on an unreasonable determination of the facts in light of the evidence presented in the [s]tate court proceeding.” 28 U.S.C. § 2254(d)(2). Federal courts may not conclude that a state court factual finding is unreasonable “merely because [it] would have reached a different conclusion in the first instance.” Wood v. Allen, 130 S.Ct. 841, 844 (2010). That reasonable minds could disagree about a state court's factual determination is insufficient to supersede the trial court's findings on federal habeas review. See Rice v. Collins, 546 U.S. 333, 341-42 (2006). Federal courts thus follow a “highly deferential standard for evaluating state-court rulings, which demands that state-court decisions be given the benefit of the doubt.” Cullen v. Pinholster, 563 U.S. 170, 181 (2011) (quoting Woodford v. Visciotti, 537 U.S. 19, 24 (2002) (per curiam)) (internal quotation marks omitted).

         III. Factual and Procedural Background

         A. Relevant State Court Proceedings

          The underlying charges against Miller arose out of a shooting at the Sunset Hill housing development in Fall River on September 25, 2006. Commonwealth v. Miller, 475 Mass. 212, 214 (2016). During the course of the police investigation, officers executed several search warrants and, as a result, seized evidence in the basement of unit 315 of the housing complex. D. 34 at 19. Miller did not live in this unit. Id. From this location, officers seized several items, including “a plastic bag containing two metal ammunition clips loaded with .223 caliber ammunition, and . . . loose .223 caliber ammunition rounds” in addition to a “rifle carrying case.” Miller, 475 Mass. at 216-17.

         Miller was indicted on three charges: murder in the first degree, carrying a firearm without a license and possessing a large capacity firearm. Id. at 217-18. Miller moved to suppress the evidence obtained from unit 315 because it was beyond the scope of the search warrant issued for his unit (unit 316). Id. The court allowed the motion as to the charge for possession of a large capacity firearm, but the Court denied it as to the charges of murder in the first degree and carrying a firearm without a license. Id. The Commonwealth later dismissed the possession of a large capacity firearm charge.

         At relevant times during the state court proceedings, Miller was representing himself pro se with standby counsel. While in pretrial custody, Miller sent a letter, with attached grand jury minutes, to family members, requesting that they contact and convince his stepfather, “Butch, ” not to testify against him. Id. at 3. Unbeknownst to Miller, the letter was intercepted by a prison staff member, who copied the contents of the correspondence. Id.; D. 34 at 6. After learning of the confiscation, on November 26, 2008, Miller moved to suppress the outgoing letter from admission at trial. D. 30-2 at 3. Miller refused his transport to court on the day of the scheduled motion hearing, thereby failing to appear at the suppression hearing and the court denied this second motion to suppress. Id. at 3-4.

         On February 24, 2009, a jury returned a guilty verdict on the first-degree murder and firearm possession charges against Miller. Id. at 5; D. 34 at 6. The court sentenced Miller to life in prison. D. 34 at 6. During a conversation with Miller's stand-by counsel, Juror 16 from Miller's trial expressed concerns about the verdict. D. 30-2 at 5. After a hearing regarding stand-by counsel's conversation with Juror 16, the court had the juror express her concerns in writing. Id. Juror 16 revealed that, during deliberation, another juror brought a magazine into the jury room that contained pictures of BB guns to resolve a disagreement among the jurors as to whether a BB gun can resemble an actual gun. Id. In light of Juror 16's allegations, Miller moved for a new trial in March 2009, contending that the introduction of extraneous information “materially affected the result” of the trial. Id. at 2; D. 34 at 6. The court denied the motion on November 20, 2009. D. 30-2 at 8-9. Miller next consolidated his appeal of the denial of his motions to suppress, the motion for a new trial with that of the direct appeal of his conviction. Miller, 475 Mass. at 214. The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed these rulings and his conviction on August 17, 2016. Id.

         B. The Initial and Still ...


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