Samuels v. Hassel et al
ORDER granting 18 Motion to Dismiss without prejudice. See the attached Memorandum of Decision. As articulated in the attached Memorandum, the petitioner may file a motion to reopen this case after he exhausts his state court remedies. This mot ion shall demonstrate good cause for failing to exhaust the petitioner's state court remedies before commencing this action. The motion to reopen should be accompanied by an amended petition describing how each claim was exhausted. Alternative ly, the petitioner may file a motion to reopen accompanied by an amended petition containing only the exhausted claims. The Clerk is directed to enter judgment in favor of the respondents and to close this case . Signed by Judge Vanessa L. Bryant on 3/24/14. (Ives, D)
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
DISTRICT OF CONNECTICUT
RALSTON ENRICO SAMUELS,
SCOTT HASSEL, et al.,
PRISONER CASE NO.
March 24, 2014
RULING ON RESPONDENTS’ MOTION TO DISMISS [Doc. #18]
The petitioner, Ralston Enrico Samuels, filed this habeas corpus action
pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254, challenging his conviction for sexual assault and
risk of injury to a minor on the grounds that he was falsely accused, his
conviction resulted from malicious prosecution and/or perjured testimony and he
was afforded ineffective assistance of counsel. The respondents have moved to
dismiss the petition because the petitioner has not exhausted his state court
remedies with regard to all grounds for relief. For the reasons that follow, the
motion to dismiss is granted.
I. Procedural Background
The petitioner was convicted, after a jury trial, of sexual assault in the
second degree and risk of injury to a minor. On direct appeal, the petitioner
challenged his conviction on three grounds: the trial court improperly replaced a
juror with an alternate using a nonstatutorily sanctioned method, the trial court
abused its discretion by allowing the state to amend the long form information
after the jury had been impaneled, and the court improperly allowed the state to
call multiple constancy of accusation witnesses. The Connecticut Appellate
Court reversed the conviction based on its analysis of the third ground and
ordered a new trial. State v. Samuels, 75 Conn. App. 671, 677-96, 817 A.2d 719,
725-36 (2003). The Connecticut Supreme Court granted the state’s petition for
certification and, on May 10, 2005, reversed the judgment of the Connecticut
Appellate Court. State v. Samuels, 273 Conn. 541, 543-44, 871 A.2d 1005, 1009-10
On July 12, 2005, the petitioner filed a petition for writ of habeas corpus in
state court. The state court denied the petition. Samuels v. Warden, State Prison,
No. TSR-CV05-4000544-S, 2010 WL 5064654 (Conn. Super. Ct. Nov. 19, 2010). The
Connecticut Appellate Court dismissed the petitioner’s appeal in a per curiam
decision and, on March 20, 2013, the Connecticut Supreme Court denied
certification. Samuels v. Commissioner of Correction, 139 Conn. App. 906, 55
A.3d 626 (2012), cert. denied, 308 Conn. 918, 62 A.3d 1132 (2013).
The petitioner commenced this action by petition dated August 14, 2013.
II. Standard of Review
The federal court will entertain a petition for writ of habeas corpus
challenging a state court conviction only if the petitioner claims that his custody
violates the Constitution or federal laws. 28 U.S.C. § 2254(a).
Before filing a petition for writ of habeas corpus in federal court, the
petitioner must properly exhaust his state court remedies. See O’Sullivan v.
Boerckel, 526 U.S. 838, 842 (1999); 28 U.S.C. § 2254(b)(1)(A). The Second Circuit
requires the district court to conduct a two-part inquiry. First, a petitioner must
present the factual and legal bases of his federal claim to the highest state court
capable of reviewing it. Second, he must have utilized all available means to
secure appellate review of his claims. See Galdamez v. Keane, 394 F.3d 68, 73-74
(2d Cir.), cert. denied, 544 U.S. 1025 (2005).
In this federal habeas action, the petitioner asserts three grounds for relief.
In the first ground, the petitioner alleges that he was falsely accused. In the
second ground, he contends that his conviction is the result of malicious
prosecution and/or perjured testimony, that the severity of his sentence violates
the Eighth Amendment, and that the state destroyed evidence. In the third
ground, the petitioner alleges that trial counsel was ineffective because counsel
failed to call certain witnesses to testify that the petitioner took the victim and
members of her family shopping on the days the assaults occurred, investigate
whether the victim had a boyfriend, investigate the dates on which members of
the victim’s family traveled to Grenada, consult medical and psychiatric experts
and challenge the testimony of the state’s expert witnesses.
The respondents contend that the petitioner has only exhausted his state
court remedies with regard to a portion of his third ground for relief. He has not
presented the remaining portion of the third ground for relief or the first two
grounds to any state court. The petitioner raised three grounds on direct appeal:
the trial court improperly replaced a juror with an alternate, allowed the state to
amend the information after the jury had been impaneled, and improperly
admitted testimony of four constancy of accusation witnesses. The Connecticut
Supreme Court considered the first and third grounds and deemed the second
ground abandoned. Samuels, 273 Conn. at 568-73 & 563 n.13, 871 A.2d at 1022-25
& 1020 n.13. In his state habeas action, the petitioner raised four claims of
ineffective assistance of counsel, all relating to medical and psychological
testimony. He argues that counsel should have retained a forensic pediatric
gynecologist, was ineffective in his cross-examination of the examining
gynecologist, should have retained a forensic psychologist or expert in
evaluating child sexual abuse claims, and was ineffective in cross-examining the
state’s expert. Samuels, 2010 WL 5064654, at *3-6.
A comparison of the federal grounds with the exhausted claims shows that
the petitioner has exhausted his state court remedies only with regard to the
claim that trial counsel was ineffective for failing to consult medical and
psychiatric experts and to effectively cross-examine the state’s experts. The
petitioner has filed a mixed petition, i.e., a petition containing exhausted and
unexhausted claims. Federal district courts are required to dismiss mixed
petitions. See Pliler v. Ford, 542 U.S. 225, 230 (2004) (citing Rose v. Lundy, 455
U.S. 509, 510, 522 (1982)).
In 1996, Congress amended the federal habeas corpus statutes to impose a
one-year limitations period for filing a federal petition for habeas corpus. See 28
U.S.C. § 2244(d). The combined effect of the limitations period and the
requirement that mixed petitions be dismissed can result in the petitioner’s loss
of all of his claims, including those for which he has exhausted his state
remedies, because the limitations period may expire while the petitioner returns
to state court to pursue his state court remedies on the unexhausted claims. To
address this problem, the Second Circuit directed the district court not to dismiss
a mixed petition if an outright dismissal would preclude petitioner from having
the exhausted claims addressed by the federal court. See Zarvela v. Artuz, 254
F.3d 374, 380-83 (2d Cir. 2001) (recommending that the district court stay
exhausted claims and dismiss unexhausted claims with direction to timely
complete the exhaustion process and return to federal court).
The Supreme Court also has endorsed the stay and abeyance procedure
where the petition includes exhausted and unexhausted claims. See Rhines, 544
U.S. at 277-78 (noting that a stay of federal proceedings to enable the petitioner to
return to state court to exhaust his state remedies with regard to some claims
should be utilized only in limited circumstances, where the petition contains both
exhausted and unexhausted claims, the petitioner demonstrates good cause for
failing to exhaust all claims before filing the federal petition and the petitioner
may be time-barred if the case were dismissed).
The respondents correctly state that the limitations period did not
commence until March 20, 2013, when the Connecticut Supreme Court denied
review in his state habeas action. The respondents incorrectly assume, however,
that the filing of this action tolls the limitations period. See Duncan v. Walker, 533
U.S. 167, 181-82 (2001) (holding that filing federal habeas petition does not toll
limitations period). Because the limitations period expired on March 20, 2014, the
petitioner might be time-barred from pursuing his exhausted claims should the
court enter an outright dismissal of this case.
Because the petitioner has not exhausted his state court remedies with
regard to all grounds for relief, the petition is dismissed without prejudice. The
petitioner may file a motion to reopen this case after he exhausts his state court
remedies. In accordance with the Supreme Court’s direction in Rhines, the
petitioner’s motion shall demonstrate good cause for failing to exhaust his state
court remedies before commencing this action. The motion to reopen should be
accompanied by an amended petition describing how each claim was exhausted.
As an alternative, the petitioner may file a motion to reopen accompanied
by an amended petition containing only the exhausted claims. If he elects this
option, however, he may be precluded from obtaining federal review of the
The motion to dismiss [Doc. #18] is GRANTED and the petition is
dismissed without prejudice. The Clerk is directed to enter judgment in favor of
the respondents and to close this case.
The court concludes that an appeal of this order would not be taken in
good faith because no reasonable jurist could conclude that the petitioner has
exhausted his state court remedies with regard to all grounds for relief. Thus, a
certificate of appealability will not issue. See Slack v. McDaniel, 529 U.S. 473, 484
SO ORDERED this 24th day of March 2014, at Hartford, Connecticut.
Vanessa L. Bryant
United States District Judge
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