United States District Court, D. Massachusetts
MEMORANDUM & ORDER
NATHANIEL M. GORTON, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
the Court is a petition for a writ of habeas corpus filed by
Rodrick Taylor (“Taylor” or
“petitioner”) pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254
challenging his July, 2008, conviction for second degree
murder in the Massachusetts Superior Court for Suffolk
July, 2006, Taylor was indicted by a grand jury for first
Commonwealth presented credible evidence at trial that Taylor
had strangled the victim, Dominique Samuels
(“Samuels” or “the victim”), and
burned her body in a public park days later. Samuels resided
in a multi-bedroom apartment with Martin McCray
(“McCray”), McCray's brother, McCray's
female cousin and a male friend of McCray. Taylor is
McCray's cousin and throughout the trial Taylor
maintained that McCray had actually committed the murder. In
the alternative, he claimed that the Medical Examiner implied
that there was evidence that no murder had been committed.
night in question, April 27 into the early hours of April 28,
2006, Taylor and McCray were in McCray's room, drinking
alcohol and playing video games. Around 10:00 P.M., McCray
left his apartment to spend the night at his girlfriend's
home. Taylor remained in McCray's room.
number of witnesses recalled hearing screaming that night
coming from the victim's apartment. The landlord's
daughter testified that she heard two men laughing and
dragging something after an altercation. McCray's cousin
heard what she initially assumed was a sexual encounter but
later believed it to be a woman in distress and then a loud
boom. Despite those noises, no one residing inside the
building notified law enforcement.
following morning, Taylor went to the apartment of
McCray's girlfriend to see McCray. McCray claimed that
Taylor confessed to killing Samuels at that time and showed
McCray scratches on his hands and neck inflicted by Samuels.
During the next few days, McCray and Taylor spoke on the
phone several times. McCray alleged that Taylor sought access
to a vehicle to dispose of Samuels's body. McCray also
claimed that Taylor told him that he intended to burn
Samuels's fingertips because his skin was underneath her
fingernails. McCray testified that at 5:30 A.M. on Sunday,
April 30, 2006, Taylor called him to tell him “it's
done”. Samuels's body was discovered in Franklin
Park 30 minutes later.
search of McCray's room thereafter revealed two distinct
bloodstains: one containing the DNA of the victim and one
containing the DNA of Taylor.
State Court Proceedings
the trial, a juror notified the court that some of the other
jurors may have been sleeping during some of the testimony.
The judge offered to speak with individual jurors or with the
group as a whole. Defense counsel indicated that addressing
the group was sufficient and the judge then instructed the
jurors to remain alert throughout the testimony. That issue
was not raised again during the trial.
prosecutor asserted in his closing argument that the
alternate theory of the defense that McCray committed the
murder was not credible, stating:
if you don't believe Martin McCray because you think he
killed Dominique Samuels, I suggest to you, ladies and
gentlemen, that you will have violated the oath that you took
to call [the defense's theory] a rumor, to call that
speculation, to call that innuendo is to give that statement
too much credit . . . [and it] is a bald-face-lie.
prosecutor also suggested that only Taylor knew where he was
when certain incriminating phone calls were placed.
Specifically, he stated that:
[N]ot one witness put the defendant at Martha Laing's
house, not one, not any of the witnesses [defense counsel]
called. Marie Anderson doesn't say that. Martha Laing
doesn't say that. And you know who else doesn't say
that? The defendant doesn't say that. In his statement to
the police on May 3, before any of these cell phone records
came to light, what would the defendant say about his
whereabouts in the early morning of April 30? He was asked a
direct question: Where were you? And how did he answer? I was
at home at Richfield Street. I stayed there all night. No.
mention of going to Norwood.
[Defense counsel] says I can't tell you that that means
that he was in Franklin Park. I'm not saying he was in
Franklin Park. I have no idea where he was when he made those
calls. Nobody does except for the defendant. But the cell
phone records prove something: he wasn't in ...