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Muller v. Goguen

United States District Court, D. Massachusetts

June 25, 2019




         On March 14, 2011, a Worcester County jury found Christian Muller (“Petitioner”) guilty of seven offenses: two counts of first-degree murder, one count of armed assault with intent to murder, three counts of armed home invasion, one count of unlawful possession of a firearm. (Docket No. 16, at 9).

         On March 31, 2011, Petitioner filed a notice of appeal to the SJC. Id. at 10. Petitioner argued:

(1) the jury instruction on criminal responsibility and voluntary intoxication was erroneous because it failed to comply with Commonwealth v. Berry, 457 Mass. 602, 931 N.E.2d 972 (2010), S.C., 466 Mass. 763, 2 N.E.3d 177 (2014), and Commonwealth v. DiPadova, 460 Mass. 424, 951 N.E.2d 891 (2011); (2) certain of the jury instructions were fatally flawed; and (3) the prosecutor's closing argument was improper.

Commonwealth v. Muller, 477 Mass. 415, 416, 78 N.E.3d 51 (2017). Petitioner sought relief pursuant to Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 278, § 33E, which permits the SJC to “(a) order a new trial or (b) direct the entry of a verdict of a lesser degree of guilt, and remand the case to the superior court for the imposition of sentence.” The SJC affirmed the convictions and declined to grant relief pursuant to Section 33E. Id.

         On October 22, 2018, Petitioner filed his habeas petition in this Court. (Docket No. 1). Petitioner alleges the following grounds for relief:

Ground One: the errors in the jury instructions noted by the SJC violated his right to Due Process by trivializing the burden of proof necessary for a conviction
Ground Two: the criminal responsibility and voluntary intoxication instructions were erroneous and consequently violated his right to due process
Ground Three: the prosecutor “improperly demeaned the defense of lack of criminal responsibility” which “affected the impartiality of the jury.”
Ground Four: the state's judicial system failed to fulfill its constitutional responsibilities in the adjudication of mentally disabled persons.

(Docket No. 1, at 6, 8, 9, 11). On February 1, 2019, Superintendent Collette Goguen (“Respondent”) moved to dismiss the petition. (Docket No. 12). For the reasons stated below, the petition for writ of habeas corpus (Docket No. 1) is denied and Respondent's motion to dismiss (Docket No. 12) is granted.


         In federal habeas proceedings, “the state court's factual findings are entitled to a presumption of correctness that can be rebutted only by clear and convincing evidence to the contrary.” Ouber v. Guarino, 293 F.3d 19, 27 (1st Cir. 2002). That presumption “remains true when those findings are made by a state appellate court as well as when they are made by a state trial court.” Rashad v. Walsh, 300 F.3d 27, 35 (1st Cir. 2002) (citations omitted). In this case, the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court (“SJC”) summarized the Commonwealth's case as follows:

On the evening of July 8, 2007, Joanne Mercier was in her bedroom in the third-floor apartment that she shared with her brother, Aaron Bash, in Dudley. Bash was asleep in his bedroom and their friend, Denise Johnston, was sleeping on a sofa in the living room. Shortly after midnight on July 9, the defendant and Marc Letang kicked down the back door and entered the apartment with their guns drawn. The men walked through the kitchen and entered Mercier's bedroom, asking where Bash was. After Mercier told them that Bash was asleep in his bedroom, the men left Mercier's room and awoke Bash. As Mercier followed the men into Bash's bedroom, she heard the defendant asking Bash whether he was sleeping with the defendant's wife. Bash denied the accusation.
Letang went into the living room and brought Johnston into Bash's bedroom at the defendant's request. The defendant was at the foot of the bed facing the victims, who were all sitting on the bed, while Letang stood in the corner of the room. The defendant continued to accuse Bash of sleeping with his wife and Bash repeatedly denied it, stating that he would not do that to his friend. Finally, the defendant told Bash that if he just admitted it and told the defendant what he wanted to hear, this would all be over. When Bash refused to admit to the defendant's accusations, the defendant said, “Fuck this, ” and shot Johnston in the head. As Bash asked the defendant, “What the eff are you doing?” the defendant shot Mercier in the head. ...

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