United States District Court, D. Massachusetts
MEMORANDUM AND ORDER
J. Casper United States District Judge
Vincent Wadlington (“Wadlington”) has filed a
petition seeking a writ of habeas corpus
(“Petition”) pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254.
D. 1. Respondent Lisa Mitchell, Superintendent of the
Massachusetts Department of Corrections, opposes the Petition
on the grounds that Wadlington's claims either fail on
the merits or are procedurally defaulted. For the reasons
stated below, the Court DENIES the Petition.
Standard of Review
Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996
(“AEDPA”) requires this Court to review the
Petition to determine whether the state court adjudication
either “resulted in a decision that was contrary to, or
involved an unreasonable application of, clearly established
Federal law” or “resulted in a decision that 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)(1)-(2).
“Clearly established federal law” for the
purposes of § 2254(d) “refers to the holdings, as
opposed to the dicta, of [the Supreme Court's] decisions
as of the time of the relevant state-court decision.”
Yarborough v. Alvarado, 541 U.S. 652, 660-61 (2004)
(quoting Williams v. Taylor, 529 U.S. 362, 412
(2000)). State court decisions are “contrary to”
clearly established Supreme Court precedent if they either
“appl[y] a rule that contradicts the governing law set
forth in [Supreme Court] cases” or “confront a
set of facts that are materially indistinguishable from a
decision of [the Supreme Court] and nevertheless arrive at
a result different from [Supreme Court] precedent.”
Williams, 529 U.S. at 405-06. State court decisions
involve an “unreasonable application” of clearly
established federal law if they “correctly identif[y]
the governing legal rule but appl[y] it unreasonably to the
facts of a particular prisoner's case.”
Id. at 407-08.
purposes of § 2254(d)(2), any factual determinations
made by a state court are “presumed to be
correct” unless rebutted by “clear and convincing
evidence.” 28 U.S.C. § 2254(e)(1). “[A]
decision adjudicated on the merits in a state court and based
on a factual determination will not be overturned on factual
grounds unless objectively unreasonable in light of the
evidence presented in the state-court proceeding.”
Miller-El v. Cockrell, 537 U.S. 322, 340 (2003).
Relevant Factual Background
otherwise noted, the following facts are drawn from the
Bristol Superior Court's rulings denying Wadlington's
suppression motions and motion for a new trial, the trial
transcripts for Wadlington's trial and the opinion of the
Supreme Judicial Court affirming Wadlington's convictions
The Commission of the Crimes
before Christmas in 2005, Wadlington met William Fields and
Leslie Cole through a mutual acquaintance. S.A. 94,
Fields and Cole had been planning a robbery, but their
efforts were hindered because they lacked a firearm. S.A. 94.
The mutual acquaintance introduced Fields and Cole to
Wadlington because she knew Wadlington possessed a gun. S.A.
791. The mutual acquaintance knew Wadlington only as
“Blue” and introduced him as such to Fields and
Cole. S.A. 94. On December 24, 2005 the three “devised
a plan to rob a drug dealer's home.” S.A. 791. To
execute this plan, they travelled in Cole's car to
Brockton, where they acquired a .22 caliber rifle, and then
to a residence in New Bedford, where they acquired dark
clothing to wear during the robbery. S.A. 791. Shortly before
midnight, the trio travelled to the apartment of Christopher
Busby (“Busby”) in New Bedford, which would be
the target of their armed robbery. S.A. 791. Busby was there
with Rudolph Santos, Busby's friend, when Wadlington,
Cole and Fields approached his apartment's back door.
S.A. 791. Although Busby initially denied them entry, he
eventually opened the door, at which point the three were
able to force themselves inside, after which a fight broke
out. S.A. 94, 791.
and Fields began to fight with Busby as Wadlington fought
with Santos. S.A. 791. Shortly after the fight began, Fields
returned to Cole's car, “drove to a nearby house
where he knew the occupants and told them to call the police
because he heard gunshots.” S.A. 792. While Fields was
gone, Wadlington and Cole acquired the keys to the
house's cellar from Santos, despite Busby's effort to
stop them by wounding Cole with a samurai sword. S.A. 792.
One of the men then went down to the cellar, presumably to
look for drugs, but came upstairs to ask “[w]here is
it? [w]here is it?” S.A. 792; S.A. 94. Busby then
recalled hearing was a gunshot. S.A. 792. Fields eventually
returned and the three men fled by foot. S.A. 792.
arrived at the scene shortly before 1:00 a.m., where they
found Santos dead and Busby covered in blood with a black
sheath to a sword lying next to him. S.A. 792. Busby survived
the attack, but suffered from multiple puncture wounds. S.A.
792. Two days after the robbery, Fields and Cole drove to the
ocean, where they discarded the samurai sword and the clothes
Cole had worn during the crime. S.A. 792.
The Police Investigation
the crime, Trooper Scott A. Flaherty conducted a series of
interviews, the results of which he conveyed through his
affidavit in support of a search warrant of the residence of
Wadlington's girlfriend's residence in New Bedford.
S.A. 618-26. He attested to the substance of these interviews
in his affidavit. Id. Among other things, he
attested in his affidavit that Fields told him that
“after formulating their plan on the evening of
December 24, 2005, to commit the robbery, he, Cole, and
[Wadlington] traveled in Cole's automobile to a home on
County Street in New Bedford that he believed was the
residence of [Wadlington's] girl friend” and
retrieved the sawed-off rifle. S.A. 795. (Later, prior to
trial, Fields would assert that they had traveled to a
residence in New Bedford where Wadlington had retrieved the
firearm, S.A. 795).
spoke to officers investigating the robbery and murder on
January 12, 2006, while he was in custody at the Plymouth
House of Correction for an unrelated motor vehicle charge.
S.A. 109. Before the interview, a corrections officer
informed Wadlington that two police officers wished to speak
with him. S.A. 110. Further, the corrections officer told
Wadlington that he would hear his Miranda rights
first and that Wadlington could speak to the officers if he
wanted to but did not have to. S.A. 110. Before speaking with
the officers, Wadlington was informed of his Miranda
rights orally and through a written form. S.A. 110-11; S.A.
794. The police also advised him of his Miranda
rights, and presented Wadlington with a consent form, which
included a “fifth” Miranda warning, that
provided, “[i]f you decide to answer questions, you may
stop at any time to consult with a lawyer.” S.A. 119.
Wadlington signed the portion of the consent form that
indicated he had been informed of his Miranda rights
but refused to sign the part of the consent form which
indicated he had not been coerced into signing it. S.A.
the interview started, Wadlington repeatedly asked the
officers what prompted their visit and what they were
interviewing him about. S.A. 112. Eventually, the police
showed Wadlington pictures of Busby and Santos and asked
whether Wadlington knew either, to which Wadlington responded
that he did not. S.A. 112-13. An officer then explained that
there had been a drug theft which had resulted in one
victim's death and another's injury by stab wounds.
S.A. 113. He further explained that he knew that Cole,
Wadlington and a third man gathered on Christmas Eve on North
Street, after which the men entered Cole's car and drove
to get the gun and then to Hillman Street. S.A. 113. In the
interview, Wadlington “denied any involvement in the
killing and denied knowing Cole.” S.A. 792-93. He
claimed to have been “at home with his girl friend,
” Janelle Morales, on the night of the incident. S.A.
793. Before the interview ended, the officers contacted
Morales who would not corroborate Wadlington's alibi, at
which point Wadlington invoked his right to stop answering
questions by asking, “[c]an I please leave without my
lawyer being present?” S.A. 114.
Wadlington is Charged and His Pretrial and Trial
was indicted on March 3, 2006, on charges of first degree
murder, assault with intent to murder, assault with a
dangerous weapon, armed robbery and armed home invasion. S.A.
5; S.A. 364. Wadlington moved to suppress the statements he
made to police on January 12, 2006. S.A. 108. The trial court
noted that “the so-called fifth Miranda
warning” in the written consent form “improperly
qualified Wadlington's right to stop questioning at any
time by tying that right to Wadlington's consultations
with a lawyer.” S.A. 119. Wadlington conceded that he
understood his rights, but argued that his waiver of his
Miranda rights was not knowing and voluntary. S.A.
119. The trial court concluded that Wadlington's waiver
was voluntary, because Wadlington demonstrated throughout the
interview that he desired to learn more about what the
officers were investigating and knew the only way to gain
such knowledge was by talking to them. S.A. 120. Thus, the
trial court suppressed the statements Wadlington made after
he asked to leave without his lawyer being present, but
declined to suppress the statements he made before this
request. S.A. 120, 123, 793.
also moved to suppress the evidence obtained pursuant to the
execution of search warrant on his girlfriend's
residence. He argued that there was “an insufficient
showing of probable cause that evidence of a crime would be
found at the place to be searched.” S.A. 127. The trial
court denied this motion as well. S.A. 127. The court held
that “[t]he affidavit here set forth sufficient facts
connecting the defendant to [this residence] and established
probable cause that evidence of the homicide would be located
therein.” S.A. 130. It based this ruling on the finding
that Wadlington had been “placed at his residence the
night of the crime, where he retrieved a sawed-off rifle that
was identified by Busby and Fields as being present during
the robbery.” S.A. 130. Although Wadlington's
location after the murder was unknown, the court concluded
that it was reasonable to believe that he would have returned
to his home with the murder weapon, particularly considering
that the murder weapon had been retrieved from that location.
trial, Fields changed his story by stating “they had
actually traveled to, and the defendant retrieved a firearm
from, a residence in Brockton, ” not New Bedford as he
had originally asserted to police. S.A. 623, 795. Within a
month of Fields changing his statement, the prosecution sent
notice to Wadlington's counsel. S.A. 795; S.A. 555. The
prosecution reminded the attorney of this disclosure in March
2010, six weeks before trial, when defense counsel filed a
motion for discovery. S.A. 796; S.A. 559.
jury trial began on May 10, 2010. S.A. 91. In its opening
statement, among other things, the government told the jury
that blood had been collected from the scene of the crime and
from Cole's car and that both samples matched
Wadlington's DNA profile. T. Tr. I: 73. The prosecution
also told the jury that analysis done on a palm print found
in the cellar would trace back to Wadlington. T. Tr. I: 73.
At trial, Sergeant Kerri Gilpin, the fingerprint evidence
analyst, testified as to the similarity between a palm print
found at the scene of the crime and the known palm print of
Wadlington. S.A. 792. She testified that, “in [her]
opinion, the latent and the known print were made by the same
donor.” Id. On cross-examination, Gilpin was
asked how many “matching ‘lines' of friction
ridges she needed to find before she could form an opinion,
” and specifically if eight lines would be enough. S.A.
798. Gilpin responded that the determination ultimately
depends on “the totality of the information” but
she would not be personally comfortable making a
determination on such a low number of matching lines and that
she “would never want to put an innocent person in
jail.” Id. Amy Joy, the DNA analyst, compared
a DNA profile “from a swab taken from a
‘red-brown drop' on the cellar stairs . . . with
the known DNA profile of [Wadlington].” S.A. 792. Joy
also compared the known DNA profile of Wadlington, who is
African American, with another sample taken from a red-brown
stain located in Cole's car. Id. For each
comparison to Wadlington's known DNA profile, Joy
testified that each sample was consistent with his DNA
profile and that “the probability of a randomly
selected African-American having the same DNA profile is one
in 3.782 quintillion.” Id.
also testified at trial. S.A. 793. At trial, Wadlington
stated that, on December 24, “he was in Brockton
delivering Christmas presents to his aunt and visiting his
father in a nursing home, and that he returned home around
midnight.” Id. He said he had never been in
the residence where the killing occurred” nor had he
ever met Cole or been in his car. Id. This testimony
differs from the statement Wadlington had originally given
the police on January 12, 2006, in which he claimed to have
been at home all night with his girlfriend, id., an
inconsistency that the Commonwealth pointed out in its
cross-examination of him. S.A. 96.
its closing argument, the government summarized the evidence
and, among other things, argued that “[a] drug dealer,
drug user or not, 19-year-old Rudolph Santos was left to die
on the floor by [Wadlington] and Leslie Cole, that's what
really happened, ladies and gentlemen.” S.A. 739.
jury was not given an unanimity instruction regarding either
the identity of the victim of armed robbery or the underlying
felony which served as the basis for the felony murder charge
as part of the jury charge. S.A. 799. Wadlington's
attorney did not object to the absence of either.
Id. Additionally, the jury was instructed to find
Wadlington guilty of felony murder if it found he had
committed a felony inherently dangerous to human life and
that the felonies of armed robbery and armed home invasion
are inherently dangerous to human life. S.A. 799-00.
20, 2010, the jury returned a guilty verdict on the charges
of first-degree murder (on theories of deliberate
premeditation, extreme atrocity or cruelty and felony
murder), assault by means of a dangerous weapon, armed
robbery and armed home invasion. S.A. 91-92, 791 & n.1.
(Wadlington was acquitted of the assault with intent to
murder charge). S.A. 791 n.1. The judge sentenced Wadlington
to a life sentence on the murder conviction and terms of
years, to be served concurrently, on the other convictions.
Wadlington's Motion for New ...