United States District Court, D. Massachusetts
MEMORANDUM AND ORDER
J. Casper United States District Judge.
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.
Standard of Review
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).
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).
Relevant Factual and Procedural Background
Charge and Cassidy's Trial
February 2008, a grand jury sitting in Bristol County charged
Cassidy with first degree murder. S.A. 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
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.
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.
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.
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.