United States District Court, D. Massachusetts
ORDER ON MOTION TO DISMISS (DOC. NO. 15)
Sorokin, United States District Judge.
Piantedosi, an inmate at the Old Colony Correctional Center
in Bridgewater, Massachusetts, has filed a pro se petition
for a writ of habeas corpus pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §
2254. The respondent has moved to dismiss the petition,
arguing it presents claims that Piantedosi has not exhausted
in state court. Doc. Nos. 15, 16. Piantedosi has not responded
to the motion. Because all but one of Piantedosi's claims
are unexhausted, the motion to dismiss will be ALLOWED unless
Piantedosi elects to delete the unexhausted claims.
September 23, 2013, after a jury trial in Middlesex County
Superior Court, Piantedosi was convicted of first-degree
murder and malicious destruction of property. Doc. No. 1 at
1-2. The charges stemmed from the stabbing death of
Piantedosi's long-term girlfriend in front of the
couple's teenaged daughter. Commonwealth v.
Piantedosi, 87 N.E.3d 549, 551-52 (Mass. 2017). He
received a mandatory life sentence on the murder charge. Doc.
No. 1 at 1.
filed a timely appeal. Doc. No. 17-1 at 11. Through counsel,
his direct appeal challenged: 1) “the judge's
decision declining to permit a defense expert to testify on
direct examination to hearsay statements made by the
defendant”; 2) “the introduction of testimony by
the Commonwealth's expert concerning what
‘drove' the defendant's behavior”; and 3)
“the judge's failure to instruct the jury that the
consequences of a verdict of not guilty by reason of insanity
would include a potential psychiatric commitment for
life.” Piantedosi, 87 N.E.3d at 550.
Piantedosi also asked the Supreme Judicial Court
(“SJC”) “to exercise its extraordinary
authority under [state law] to reduce the verdict to murder
in the second degree.” Id. at 551. In his
reply brief, Piantedosi added three claims pursuant to
Commonwealth v. Moffett, 418 N.E.2d 585 (Mass.
1981); he asserted that a member of his jury should have been
excused mid-trial, that a manslaughter instruction was
warranted, and that certain video evidence should have been
admitted. Doc. No. 1 at 17-18.
rejected Piantedosi's claims in a December 18, 2017
decision. Id. at 2. In his timely pro se federal
habeas petition, Piantedosi reasserts the same challenges he
presented to the SJC. Id. at 3, 6, 8-9, 11; see
also id. at 17-18 (attaching without explanation the
pages of his brief to the SJC in which the three
Moffett claims were identified). As set forth below,
all but one of Piantedosi's federal claims are
prisoner is not entitled to habeas relief in federal court
unless he has first exhausted his available remedies in state
court. 28 U.S.C. § 2254(b); O'Sullivan v.
Boerkel, 526 U.S. 838, 839 (1999); Mele v. Fitchburg
Dist. Ct., 850 F.2d 817, 819 (1st Cir. 1988). A
petitioner “shall not be deemed to have exhausted the
remedies available . . . if he has the right under the law of
the State to raise, by any available procedure, the question
presented.” § 2254(c). To satisfy this
requirement, a petitioner must complete the state's
established appellate review process, thereby giving
“the state courts one full opportunity to resolve any
constitutional issues.” O'Sullivan, 526
U.S. at 839; accord Mele, 850 F.2d at 819.
Massachusetts, a petitioner must present his claims to the
SJC before asking a federal habeas court to consider them.
Mele, 850 F.2d at 820, 823. “[A]n appealed
issue cannot be considered as having been fairly presented to
the SJC for exhaustion purposes unless the applicant has
raised it within the four corners of” his petition or
brief to the SJC. Id. at 823; cf. Silvia v.
Hall, 193 F.Supp.2d 305, 311 (D. Mass. 2002) (finding
issues were fairly presented to the SJC where they were
discussed in the text of the fact and argument sections of
the SJC petition, though not listed among the “issues
for further appellate review”).
petitioner may not escape the exhaustion doctrine by pairing
unexhausted claims with other constitutional questions that
have been fairly presented to every level of the state
courts. Such a “mixed petition” is subject to
dismissal unless the petitioner elects to abandon his
unexhausted claims. DeLong v. Dickhaut, 715 F.3d
382, 386 (1st Cir. 2013); accord Rose v. Lundy, 455
U.S. 509, 522 (1982). Although federal courts may hold a
mixed petition in abeyance while the petitioner returns to
state court to litigate any unexhausted claims, such
discretion is appropriately exercised only where there is a
good cause for the failure to exhaust, and the unexhausted
claims are potentially meritorious. DeLong, 715 F.3d
at 387; accord Rhines v. Weber, 544 U.S. 269, 275-76
respondent asserts that Piantedosi's petition contains
four federal claims, of which three are unexhausted. Doc. No.
16 at 1-2. The record demonstrates that the respondent is
correct with respect to the four claims it addresses, and, to
the extent Piantedosi seeks to press federal challenges
related to the three Moffett claims he presented to
the SJC, such challenges also are unexhausted.
Grounds 1 through 4
respondent implicitly concedes-correctly-that Piantedosi
exhausted the federal basis for Ground 1 in his direct
appeal. See id. at 1-2, 6, 8-11 (arguing that
Piantedosi “did nothing to alert the SJC to the federal
quality of Grounds 2-4”); see also Piantedosi,
87 N.E.3d at 553 (characterizing the first claim on appeal as
asserting a federal constitutional violation). As such, the
petition plainly includes one ...