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Cassidy v. Ryan

United States District Court, D. Massachusetts

February 5, 2019

TIMOTHY CASSIDY, Petitioner,
v.
KELLY RYAN, Respondent.

          MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

          Denise J. Casper United States District Judge.

         I. Introduction

         Petitioner Timothy Cassidy (“Cassidy”), acting pro se, has filed a petition seeking a writ of habeas corpus (“Petition”) pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254. D. 1. Respondent Kelly Ryan (“Ryan”), the Superintendent of MCI-Shirley, opposes the Petition on the basis that Cassidy's grounds for habeas relief are procedurally defaulted or fail on the merits. D. 21. For the reasons stated below, the Court DENIES the Petition, D. 1.

         II. Standard of Review

         Under the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996 (“AEDPA”), this 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). “AEDPA erects a formidable barrier to federal habeas relief for prisoners whose claims have been adjudicated in state court.” Burt v. Titlow, 571 U.S. 12, 19 (2013).

         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). In sum, “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).

         III. Relevant Factual and Procedural Background

         A. Charge and Cassidy's Trial

         In February 2008, a grand jury sitting in Bristol County charged Cassidy with first degree murder. S.A.[1] 8; Commonwealth v. Cassidy, 470 Mass. 201, 202 (2014). These charges arose out of the events of November 20, 2007. Cassidy, 470 Mass. at 203. Cassidy and his best friend, James Madonna, traveled in separate cars to play poker at a hotel in Taunton. Id. Another player saw the two men leave together around 8:15 p.m. Id. Cassidy returned to his residence between 10:30 and 11 p.m.; Madonna never arrived home. Id. When Madonna did not return home, his family searched for him and engaged Cassidy in the search. Id. The following morning, while accompanying Madonna's son on the search, Cassidy directed him to drive to a parking lot in an industrial area near the hotel. Id. There, they came upon Madonna's car, still running. Id. Madonna, shot once in the neck and four times in the back, was dead. Id. at 204. Evidence from the scene, including DNA from a cigarette butt, tied Cassidy to the scene. Id. During his subsequent interviews with police, Cassidy provided suspicious information about his whereabouts about leaving the hotel with the victim, failed to mention his .40 caliber pistol (the firearm used in the murder) in the accounting of his firearms and did not admit, until confronted, that he had borrowed a substantial amount of money from Madonna. Id. at 206-07. (The jury would later hear evidence that, at the time of the murder, Cassidy “was experiencing significant financial trouble, ” id. at 205, and that Madonna's wife had threatened Cassidy that if he did not pay them back by November 19th, the day before the murder, she would tell Cassidy's wife who was unaware of his situation. Id.).

         During their investigation, Cassidy also reported to police that a third party, Kevin Hayes, had threatened him with a shotgun. Id. at 207. Police had separately learned that Cassidy, with Hayes' assistance, had borrowed money from a loan shark. Id. at 206. After police confronted him about the loan from Madonna, he agreed to return for more questioning. Id. at 207. He did not return and instead fled the Commonwealth. Id. The police apprehended Cassidy in Georgia in December 2007 and he was held in custody pending trial. Id. Later, in 2009, while Cassidy remained in pretrial custody awaiting trial, Cassidy attempted to get his stepfather to move a container holding the pistol from Cassidy's residence and put it under the shed at a particular residence or under the driver's seat of a Lincoln automobile, believed that to be of Hayes. Id. at 205 n.6. The scheme was thwarted and the police recovered Cassidy's pistol. Id. The government produced a firearms identification witness at trial who opined that, although he could not make such determination about the recovered projectiles, the .40 caliber discharged cartridge casings recovered from the crime scene had been fired from Cassidy's pistol. Id. at 205.

         Cassidy's trial began on January 9, 2012. S.A. 4. During the trial, Cassidy testified, among other things, that the victim had been delivering cocaine for a motorcycle gang and that when a package of drugs that he had delivered to one of Cassidy's stores went missing, they became indebted to the gang. Cassidy, 470 Mass. at 207. As a result, Cassidy had taken money from his stores and gotten the loan shark's loan with Hayes' help. Id. On the night of murder, Cassidy claims that he, Madonna and Hayes were in the process of arranging a drug deal and that he witnessed Hayes shoot Madonna. Id. at 208. Cassidy further testified that Hayes had threatened him and his family if he “opened his mouth, ” and admitted that he had “lied from the beginning, ” but only “because he was afraid and because he wanted to expose Hayes as the killer.” Id.

         On January 27, 2012, the jury found Cassidy guilty of first-degree murder on the theory of extreme atrocity or cruelty. S.A. 10; Cassidy, 470 Mass. at 202. The trial court sentenced him to life imprisonment. S.A. 10.

         In his direct appeal to the Supreme Judicial Court, Cassidy raised numerous claims regarding certain evidentiary rules by the trial court which allegedly deprived him of due process and fundamental fairness under the U.S. Constitution and the Massachusetts Declaration of Rights; the trial court's response to the jury's question about whether Cassidy could have called Hayes as a witness; and misstatement of the evidence by his counsel during closing arguments. S.A. 18. On December 16, 2014, the Supreme Judicial Court denied his claims and affirmed his conviction, S.A. 234, and, on March 2, 2015, denied his motion for re-hearing. S.A. 14.

         B. T ...


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