United States District Court, D. Massachusetts
MEMORANDUM AND ORDER
ALLISON D. BURROUGHS, U.S. DISTRICT JUDGE.
November 26, 2008, Petitioner Jason Strickland
(“Strickland” or “Petitioner”) was
convicted of numerous counts related to his alleged assault
of Haleigh Poutre, his minor stepdaughter, including assault
and battery causing substantial bodily injury (“Count
One”), assault and battery causing bodily injury
(“Count Two”), two counts of assault and battery
by means of a dangerous weapon, including a bat and wand or
tube (“Count Three and Five”), and assault and
battery (“Count Six”). [Supplemental Answer
(“S.A.”) at 151–56]. Presently before this
Court is Strickland’s petition for a writ of habeas
corpus pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254. [ECF No. 1].
Strickland challenges his convictions, claiming (i) the state
court violated his right to present a full defense by
excluding medical records and testimony of Haleigh’s
treatment providers and (ii) ineffective assistance of
counsel for failure to consult or obtain a child abuse expert
witness on Munchausen Syndrome by proxy (“MSBP”).
[ECF No. 1 at 5, 7]. Having reviewed the parties’
submissions, the petition for a writ of habeas corpus is
reviewing a habeas petition from an individual in custody
pursuant to the judgment of a state court, federal courts are
required to presume that factual determinations made by the
state courts are correct and “can be rebutted only by
clear and convincing evidence to the contrary.” 28
U.S.C. § 2254(e)(1); Rashad v. Walsh, 300 F.3d
27, 35 (1st Cir. 2002) (quoting Ouber v. Guarino,
293 F.3d 19, 27 (1st Cir. 2002)).
24, 2006, a Hampden County grand jury indicted Strickland on
six counts of assault and battery and trial began on October
29, 2008. [S.A. at 85–86, 119–24]. The
Massachusetts Appeals Court (“Appeals Court”)
provided an account of the facts as the jury could have found
them, which is reproduced in relevant part below.
On Sunday, September 11, 2005, at about 2:45 P.M.,
eleven-year-old Haleigh was brought to the emergency room at
Noble Hospital by her mother, Holli Strickland
[“Holli”], and Holli’s uncle, Brian Young.
Haleigh was unconscious and unresponsive, her vital signs
were very poor, and she was barely breathing. The back of her
head was bleeding and so badly damaged that medical personnel
described it as “boggy, ” i.e., swollen due to
blood filling the scalp tissue. “Huge” burns were
observed on her chest, and her face was bloody, bruised, and
“distorted.” A “CT scan” of her brain
was taken, as were photographs of her body. Haleigh was
transferred to the pediatric intensive care unit at Baystate
Medical Center at about 5 P.M. that day. The admitting nurse
testified that Haleigh’s body core temperature was just
eighty-one degrees, her pupils were “fixed, ” and
she was “posturing” her limbs, signaling a
traumatic brain injury. A second CT scan was performed at
7:30 P.M., and an “MRI” scan was completed the
next morning. Haleigh’s body was covered with other
injuries of varying age . . . .
. . .
At the time of the injuries, Haleigh was living in the family
home with her stepfather, [Strickland]; her aunt and adoptive
mother, Holli; Haleigh’s sister, [Samantha Poutre], who
was nine years old in 2005; and Haleigh’s brother, who
was two years old in 2005. After being alerted to
Haleigh’s injuries, the police searched her home and
noticed holes, indentations, and small brown blood stains on
the walls of the stairway leading to the basement. Blood
stains were also located on three walls of the basement
playroom area, as well as in the first-floor bathroom. The
blood stains on the walls of the basement stairway and in the
bathroom were swabbed, tested, and determined to match
Commonwealth v. Strickland, 23 N.E.3d 135,
139–40 (Mass. App. Ct. 2015).
government presented medical expert testimony which the
Appeals Court described as follows:
Dr. Richard Hicks [“Dr. Hicks”] reviewed
Haleigh’s scans, and opined at trial that Haleigh had
suffered severe injuries to the brain, of the type
“ordinarily . . . associated with high velocity motor
vehicle accidents.” Dr. Hicks explained that such
injuries would have rendered Haleigh unconscious immediately
and that based on the MRI and CT scans, he placed the brain
injuries as having occurred at about 4 P.M. on Saturday,
September 10, 2005, the day before Haleigh was first brought
to the hospital. Dr. Hicks opined that a simple fall down the
stairs would not have the force necessary to cause these
injuries in a child.
Another trial expert, Dr. Christine Barron [“Dr.
Barron”], corroborated Dr. Hicks’s testimony,
stating that for the injuries to Haleigh’s brain to
have resulted from a staircase fall, it “would have to
be a fall down the stairs with significant external forces,
such as a [strong] push or a kick of the child at the top of
the stairs.” Dr. Barron estimated that Haleigh had
sustained the severe head injuries some twelve to twenty-four
hours before the Noble Hospital staff took the photographs.
Dr. Barron also proffered her opinion as to the nature and
manner of infliction of Haleigh’s multiple other
injuries. She stated that the red bruises on the
child’s body were consistent with blunt force trauma,
also inflicted twelve to twenty-four hours before the
pictures were taken. Dr. Barron specifically identified two
injuries that in her opinion could not be self-inflicted: a
linear scar that ran from Haleigh’s right ribcage,
across her torso, and behind her hip; and a dry contact burn
to her chest. Dr. Barron further testified that she could not
give an opinion that any of the injuries were self-inflicted.
Dr. Barron opined that the multiple injuries and scars
occurred at different times, some having occurred within the
twenty-four hours preceding her hospitalization, while others
were at least one week old; she could not date some injuries.
Haleigh’s sister, a minor, testified at trial that she
had seen her mother and Strickland beat Haleigh on a number
At trial, Haleigh’s sister was twelve. She testified
that she had seen Holli and [Strickland] hit Haleigh with
their hands, a belt, and a baseball bat, and that she saw
scabs and bruises all over Haleigh, with whom she shared a
bedroom. Haleigh’s sister also recounted how Holli and
[Strickland] would push Haleigh down the basement stairs to
punish her and how [Strickland] began pushing Haleigh down
the stairs shortly after he moved into the home, around 2002.
Haleigh’s sister testified that after her soccer game
on Saturday, September 10, 2005, she saw [Strickland] push
Haleigh down the basement stairs and that this time Haleigh
did not “wake up.” Haleigh’s sister heard
[Strickland] order Haleigh to get up and then saw both Holli
and [Strickland] shaking Haleigh to awaken her, but she
remained on her back at the bottom of the stairs.
Haleigh’s sister saw [Strickland] carry Haleigh
upstairs and place her in the bathtub in the first-floor
bathroom. Haleigh’s sister added that a little
later she saw [Strickland] carry Haleigh up to bed. Haleigh
was not awake.
That evening Holli told a friend, a certified home health
aide, that Haleigh was ill and that she had stayed home with
Haleigh while [Strickland] went to the mall with
Haleigh’s sister and brother. Holli declined the home
health aide’s offer to come over and take a look at
Haleigh. The next morning, Holli again spoke to her
friend and told her that Haleigh was still sleeping and then
called a pediatrician at about 10:30 A.M. The doctor on call
who returned the message was not Haleigh’s regular
pediatrician. She testified that Holli reported that Haleigh
had the stomach flu and had vomited twice; she offered to see
Haleigh in one hour, but Holli declined the appointment.
The family had another soccer game to attend that afternoon,
and because Haleigh was still “asleep, ” Holli
asked Alicia Weiss [“Weiss”], her neighbor and
close friend, to watch Haleigh. Weiss arrived after noon, and
the family left at about 12:30 P.M., leaving Weiss alone with
Haleigh. Weiss testified that she checked on Haleigh three
times. She saw some foam on Haleigh’s mouth and
testified that Haleigh neither moved nor woke up. The family
returned at about 2:30 P.M., accompanied by . . .
[Holli’s uncle Brian] Young. At Holli’s urging,
Young checked on Haleigh and immediately realized something
was very wrong; he carried her downstairs and brought her to
Id. at 140–41.
sister’s account was corroborated by other eyewitness
testimony concerning additional instances in which Strickland
had beaten or otherwise abused Haleigh.
At trial, the Commonwealth introduced other eyewitness
accounts of [Strickland] abusing Haleigh, including incidents
in which [Strickland] (1) struck Haleigh in the hand with a
plastic tubular wand; (2) aided Holli in interrogating
Haleigh as Holli beat her lower legs with a bat; (3) dragged
Haleigh into the house by her ear, causing her to cry; (4)
together with Holli took Haleigh into the bathroom, after
which a muffled ...