Chambers v. Phelps et al
MEMORANDUM OPINION. Signed by Judge Gregory M. Sleet on 11/14/12. (dzb, )
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE DISTRICT OF DELAWARE
) Civil Action No. 09-892-GMS
PERRY PHELPS, Warden, and
ATTORNEY GENERAL OF
THE STATE OF DELAWARE,
Joseph Chambers. Pro se petitioner.
Gregory E. Smith, Deputy Attorney General, Delaware Department of Justice, Wilmington,
Delaware. Counsel for Respondents.
Pending before the court is a petition for a writ of habeas corpus pursuant to 28 U.S.c.
§ 2254 filed by petitioner Joseph Chambers ("Chambers"). (D.L 1) For the reasons discussed,
the court will deny the petition.
I. FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND
As set forth by the Delaware Supreme Court in Chambers v. State, 930 A.2d 904, 906-07
On April 27, 2003, Gregory Graves, a resident of Simonds Gardens in New Castle, was
shot multiple times. His body was found several hours later by William Butler. Butler
discovered Graves' body in the alley between Rosegate and Simonds Gardens, and called
the police and emergency services through 911.
Butler told police that both he and his wife had been sleeping when they heard gunshots
in the early morning hours of April 27, 2003. They ignored them, however, and went
back to sleep. During the course of the police investigation, officers spoke to another
witness, Benita Evans. Evans told the police that she witnessed an argument between
Chambers and Graves. Evans knew Graves and described him as a good friend, someone
she could go to if she needed anything, including money or drugs. Evans also recognized
Chambers from the neighborhood.
On the night Graves was shot, Evans had been partying with drugs and alcohoL She was
on her way to a local liquor store when she saw Chambers and Graves arguing. Evans
was approximately fifteen feet away. Although Graves and Chambers were not loud, she
could tell they were arguing "because of their hands, language and body movement."
Both Chambers and Graves were gone by the time Evans left the liquor store.
After returning to her house, Evans heard Graves' voice. She looked out of a window
and saw Graves in the common area outside her building. She remembers this being at
approximately 3 :00 a.m. Evans went outside and asked if he could get her some cocaine.
He said no and indicated that he was waiting for someone. Evans then saw Graves walk
towards the alley leading to the park. A few minutes later, Evans saw Chambers follow
Graves into the same alley.
Officers also learned that Quinton Davis had been out during the general time of the
shooting. Davis was a resident of 117 Rose Avenue in the Rosegate neighborhood of
New Castle. Investigators spoke with Davis who told several different stories about the
night that Graves was shot. Initially, Davis told investigators that he was at a motel the
night of the shooting. He later changed his story and told investigators that he was with
Chambers, whom he knew as "Bookie," and Daniel Haye the night Graves was shot.
According to Davis, on April 27, 2003, at around 3:00 a.m., he was sitting with Chambers
and Haye, in Haye's car, near Chambers' residence. Chambers left the car and walked
past a few houses on the street. He then returned to the car and told Davis and Haye that
he had something to do in one of the houses. Chambers instructed Davis and Haye to
meet him in Simonds Garden, by the path. Davis did not know what Chambers had to do
in the house. Before driving to Simonds Gardens, Davis got into the passenger seat of
Haye's car. The two then drove to wait for Chambers.
Several minutes later, Chambers met them at the car. He was ''walking fast" and
"breathing kind of heavy." Chambers got into the back seat of Haye's car. He told Davis
and Haye that they all needed to get out of the area because he had just shot Graves.
Haye drove to Philadelphia. On the way to Philadelphia, Chambers rolled the window
down and back up once. Haye told investigators that he "heard something thrown out of
the window" and specifically indicated that a "gun was tossed out of the car in Chambers'
black hooded sweatshirt along 195 near Philadelphia."
On May 26, 2003, New Castle County Police arrested Chambers. He was later indicted
on the following charges: first degree murder; possession of a firearm during the commission of a
felony ("PFDCF"); and possession of a deadly weapon by a person prohibited ("PDWBPP"). In
March 2005, a Superior Court jury found Chambers guilty of all charges. The Superior Court
sentenced him to life in prison for the murder conviction, ten years at Level V for the PFDCF
conviction, and five years at Level V on the PDWBPP conviction. Chambers appealed, and the
Delaware Supreme Court affirmed his convictions and sentence. Chambers, 930 A.2d at 904.
In May 2008, Chambers filed a motion for post-conviction relief under Delaware
Superior Court Criminal Rule 61 ("Rule 61 motion"). The Superior Court denied the Rule 61
motion, and the Delaware Supreme Court affirmed that decision. See State v. Chambers, 2008
WL 5206772 (Del. Super. Ct. Dec. 8,2008); Chambers v. State, 985 A.2d 389 (Table), 2009
WL 3790556 (Del. Nov. 12,2009).
II. GOVERNING LEGAL PRINCIPLES
A. The Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996
Congress enacted the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996 ("AEDPA")
"to reduce delays in the execution of state and federal criminal sentences ... and to further the
principles of comity, finality, and federalism." Woodford v. Garceau, 538 U.S. 202, 206 (2003).
Pursuant to AEDP A, a federal court may consider a habeas petition filed by a state prisoner only
"on the ground that he is in custody in violation of the Constitution or laws or treaties of the
United States." 28 U.S.C. § 2254(a). AEDPA imposes procedural requirements and standards
for analyzing the merits of a habeas petition in order to "prevent federal habeas 'retrials' and to
ensure that state-court convictions are given effect to the extent possible under law." Bell v.
Cone, 535 U.S. 685, 693 (2002).
B. Exhaustion and Procedural Default
Absent exceptional circumstances, a federal court cannot grant habeas relief unless the
petitioner has exhausted all means of available relief under state law. 28 U.S.c. § 2254(b);
O'Sullivan v. Boerckel, 526 U.S. 838, 842-44 (1999); Picard v. Connor, 404 U.S. 270,275
(1971). AEDP A states, in pertinent part:
An application for a writ of habeas corpus on behalf of a person in custody pursuant to
the judgment of a State court shall not be granted unless it appears that
(A) the applicant has exhausted the remedies available in the courts of the State; or
(B)(i) there is an absence of available State corrective process; or
(ii) circumstances exist that render such process ineffective to protect the rights of the
28 U.S.C. § 2254(b)(l).
The exhaustion requirement is based on principles of comity, requiring a petitioner to
give "state courts one full opportunity to resolve any constitutional issues by invoking one
complete round ofthe State's established appellate review process." O'Sullivan, 526 U.S. at
844-45; Werts v. Vaughn, 228 F.3d 178, 192 (3d Cir. 2000). A petitioner satisfies the
exhaustion requirement by demonstrating that the habeas claims were "fairly presented" to the
state's highest court, either on direct appeal or in a post-conviction proceeding. See Lambert v.
Blackwell, 134 F.3d 506, 513 (3d Cir. 1997); Coverdale v. Snyder, 2000 WL 1897290, at *2 (D.
Del. Dec. 22, 2000). "Fair presentation of a claim means that the petitioner must present a
federal claim's factual and legal substance to the state courts in a manner that puts them on notice
that a federal claim is being asserted." Holloway v. Horn, 355 F.3d 707, 714 (3d CiT. 2004). A
federal legal claim is "fairly presented" to state courts when there is: (1) reliance in the state
courts on pertinent federal cases employing constitutional analysis; (2) reliance on state cases
employing constitutional analysis in like fact situations; (3) assertion ofthe claim in terms so
particular as to call to mind a specific right protected by the Constitution; and (4) allegation of a
pattern of facts that is well within the mainstream of constitutional litigation. See McCandless v.
Vaughn, 172 F.3d 255, 261 (3d Cir. 1999).
A petitioner's failure to exhaust state remedies will be excused if state procedural rules
preclude him from seeking further relief in state courts. Lines v. Larkins, 208 F.3d 153, 160 (3d
Cir.2000); see Teague v. Lane, 489 U.S. 288, 297-98 (1989). Although treated as technically
exhausted, such claims are nonetheless procedurally defaulted. Lines, 208 F.3d at 160; Coleman
v. Thompson, 501 U.S. 722, 750-51 (1991). Similarly, if a petitioner presents a habeas claim to
the state's highest court, but that court "clearly and expressly" refuses to review the merits of the
claim due to an independent and adequate state procedural rule, the claim is exhausted but
procedurally defaulted. See Coleman, 501 U.S. at 750; Harris v. Reed, 489 U.S. 255,260-64
Federal courts may not consider the merits of procedurally defaulted claims unless the
petitioner demonstrates either cause for the procedural default and actual prejudice resulting
therefrom, or that a fundamental miscarriage ofjustice will result if the court does not review the
claims. McCandless, 172 F.3d at 260; Coleman, 501 U.S. at 750-51. To demonstrate cause for
a procedural default, a petitioner must show that "some objective factor external to the defense
impeded counsel's efforts to comply with the State's procedural rule." Murray v. Carrier, 477
U.S. 478,488 (1986). To demonstrate actual prejudice, a petitioner must show "that [the errors
at trial] worked to his actual and substantial disadvantage, infecting his entire trial with error of
constitutional dimensions." Id. at 494.
Alternatively, a federal court may excuse a procedural default if the petitioner
demonstrates that failure to review the claim will result in a fundamental miscarriage ofjustice.
Edwards v. Carpenter, 529 U.S. 446, 451 (2000); Wenger v. Frank, 266 F.3d 218,224 (3d Cir.
2001). A petitioner demonstrates a miscarriage ofjustice by showing a "constitutional violation
has probably resulted in the conviction of one who is actually innocent." Murray, 477 U.S. at
496. Actual innocence means factual innocence, not legal insufficiency. Bousley v. United
States, 523 U.S. 614,623 (1998). In order to establish actual innocence, the petitioner must
present new reliable evidence - not presented at trial
that demonstrates "it is more likely than
not that no reasonable juror would have found petitioner guilty beyond a reasonable doubt."
House v. Bell, 547 U.S. 518,537-38 (2005); Sweger v. Chesney, 294 F.3d 506, 522-24 (3d Cir.
C. Standard of Review
When a state's highest court has adjudicated a federal habeas claim on the merits, I the
federal court must review the claim under the deferential standard contained in 28 U.S.C.
§ 2254(d). Pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254(d), federal habeas relief may only be granted if the state
court's decision was "contrary to, or involved an unreasonable application of, clearly established
Federal law, as determined by the Supreme Court ofthe United States," or the state court's
decision was an unreasonable determination of the facts based on the evidence adduced in the
trial. 28 U.S.C. § 2254(d)(I) & (2); see also Williams v. Taylor, 529 U.S. 362,412 (2000);
Appel v. Horn, 250 F.3d 203, 210 (3d Cir. 2001). This deferential standard of § 2254(d) applies
even "when a state court's order is unaccompanied by an opinion explaining the reasons relief
has been denied"; as recently explained by the Supreme Court, "it may be presumed that the state
court adjudicated the claim on the merits in the absence of any indication or state-law procedural
principles to the contrary." Harrington v. Richter, _ U.S. _, 131 S.Ct. 770, 784-85 (2011).
If the state's highest court has not adjUdicated a federal habeas claim on the merits, but
the claim is exhausted and the merits are properly before the federal court on habeas review, then
the federal court must review the claim de novo. See Breakiron v. Horn, 642 F.3d 126, 131 (3d
Cir. 2011)(citing Porter v. McCollum, 558 U.S. 30 (Jan. 19,2011». De novo review means that
'A claim has been "adjudicated on the merits" for the purposes of28 U.S.C. § 2254(d) if
the state court decision finally resolves the claim on the basis of its substance, rather than on a
procedural or some other ground. Thomas v. Horn, 570 F.3d 105, 115 (3d Cir. 2009).
the court "must exercise its independent judgment when deciding both questions of constitutional
law and mixed constitutional questions." Williams, 529 U.S. at 400 (2000)(O'Connor, l,
Finally, whether reviewing a habeas claim de novo or under § 2254(d), a federal court
must presume that the state court's determinations of factual issues are correct. 28 U.S.C. §
2254(e)(l); Appel, 250 F.3d at 210. This presumption of correctness applies to both explicit and
implicit findings of fact, and is only rebutted by clear and convincing evidence to the contrary.
28 U.S.C. § 2254(e)(l); Campbell v. Vaughn, 209 F.3d 280,286 (3d Cir. 2000); Miller-El v.
Cockrell, 537 U.S. 322, 341 (2003)(stating that the clear and convincing standard in § 2254(e)(I)
applies to factual issues, whereas the unreasonable application standard of § 2254(d)(2) applies
to factual decisions).
Chambers' timely filed petition asserts the following four grounds for relief: (l) the trial
court erred by permitting the chief investigating police officer to speak with a prosecution
witness during a brief trial recess; (2) the trial court erred by refusing to instruct the jury on
accomplice credibility; (3) the admission of out-of-court statements violated Chambers' rights
under the confrontation clause; and (4) prosecutorial misconduct.
A. Claim One: Detective's Conversation With Witness Violated Chambers' Due
During the prosecutor's direct examination of Quinton Davis, Davis explained how he
knew Chambers and Haye. Davis then recounted how he had been questioned by the police
shortly after the shooting and stated that he lied and told the police what they "wanted to hear so
[that they] all would leave [him] alone." (D.L 12, App. to Appellant's Op. Br. in Chambers v.
State, No.282,2006 at A-14) The prosecutor asked Davis about the last statement he gave to the
police on May 28t \ wherein Davis implicated Chambers as the person who killed Graves. Davis
replied that he did not remember making that police statement. The prosecutor asked Davis ifhe
wanted to be in court testifying, and Davis replied that he did not. Id. at A-15. A sidebar
conference was called, during which the prosecutor explained to the trial judge that Davis had
"expressed a fear for the people who are in this courtroom. His brothers still live in the Rosegate
area, and although -
I realize you've said I can't ask him, but he is intimidated by these people
who are sitting back there in the courtroom now." Id. The judge stated that he would remove the
individuals only if they acted in an intimidating manner. After the sidebar conference, the court
granted the prosecutor's request to ask leading questions. The prosecutor asked Davis about the
different statements he had given to the police, and Davis testified that everything he told the
police was a lie. When asked again about the May 28th police statement, Davis responded that he
did not remember anything. The prosecutor requested a recess. The judge excused the jury. The
prosecutor then infonned the judge that Davis wanted to speak with Detective Annstrong, and
asked the court to pennit such communication. Defense counsel objected to the conversation
between Detective Annstrong and Davis because the State was in the middle of its direct
examination of Davis. The judge told defense counsel to find support for counsel's assertion
that there was rule prohibiting a trial recess during the direct examination of a witness. The
judge then granted the prosecutor's request for a recess and indicated that the State was free to
confer with its own witness because cross-examination had not yet commenced. Id. at A-I6 to
A-I7. After the recess, defense counsel did not identify a rule prohibiting an adjournment during
the direct examination of a witness. Before the jury returned, Detective Annstrong infonned the
court about his conversation with Davis. Detective Armstrong described how Davis stated he
felt intimidated by some of the people who were in the audience and that, if they left the
courtroom, he would retake the stand and "tell the truth." The defense objected to the removal of
any audience members. The trial judge overruled the objection and had two people removed
from the audience. When Davis resumed his testimony after the recess, he testified consistently
with his May 28th police statement. Id. at A·18 to A-23.
The next morning, the defense moved for a mistrial. The trial court reserved decision,
stating that it would revisit the request at the close of the State's case. After hearing additional
argument and discussing the Delaware rules for sequestering witnesses, the judge denied the
motion for mistrial, explaining that he "permitted the consultation during trial for what it seemed
to [him] was a proper purpose." Id. at A-35 to A-37.
On direct appeal, Chambers asserted that the Superior Court erred in denying his motion
for mistrial, arguing that the only purpose of the recess was to provide the prosecution with time
to rehabilitate the witness. Chambers also asserted that the trial court violated its own
sequestration order. The Delaware Supreme Court rejected both assertions. First, the Delaware
Supreme Court concluded that there was no record support for Chambers' claim that the
sequestration order was violated, because the trial judge knowingly permitted Detective
Armstrong to speak with Davis. The Delaware Supreme Court also determined that the State did
not use the recess to rehabilitate or coach Davis, explaining that
Detective Armstrong spoke with Davis at a brief recess during Davis' direct examination.
According to Detective Armstrong, his conversation with Davis was not aimed at
"controlling or putting a better face on testimonial damage caused by Davis' testimony."
Instead, the substance of the conversation, as recounted by Detective Armstrong,
concerned the safety of Davis and his family. The State notes that there is support in the
record concerning the validity of the perceived threat to Davis' safety. On March 18,
2005, the trial judge called counsel to sidebar and explained the presence of extra security
within the courtroom. The basis for the increased security was due to information
communicated to the Department of Justice that Davis "was a dead man walking."
Chambers, 930 A.2d at 907-08. The Delaware Supreme Court then affirmed the Superior
Court's denial of Chambers' motion for mistrial, opining that,
[a] mistrial is appropriate only when there is manifest necessity or the ends of public
justice would otherwise be defeated. Chambers acknowledges that the substance of
Davis' "revised" testimony following the recess would have been admissible pursuant to
section 3507 of title 11. Accordingly, Chambers cannot show prejudice from Davis'
conversation with Detective Armstrong.
Id. at 909.
In claim one of this proceeding, Chambers contends that the trial court erred in granting a
recess during Davis' direct examination, arguing that the prosecutor intended to use the time for
Detective Armstrong to rehabilitate or coach Davis in his testimony. Reading this claim in
context with the Delaware case cited in the petition, the Delaware Supreme Court's discussion of
this claim in its post-conviction appeal decision that Chambers attached to his petition, and the
federal cases cited by the Delaware Supreme Court in Chambers' direct appeal, the court liberally
construes claim one as alleging that the trial court violated Chambers' due process rights by
rejecting Chambers' "witness coaching" argument and refusing to grant a mistrial. Thus, the
defining issue is whether the denial of the motion for mistrial deprived Chambers of a fair trial.
See Estelle v. McGuire, 502 U.S. 62,67-68 (1991).
Pursuant to clearly established Federal law, a trial court has discretion to grant or deny a
motion for mistrial in the absence of a showing of manifest necessity or that the ends of public
justice would otherwise be defeated. United States v. Perez, 22 U.S. 589,580 (1824); Renico v.
Lett, 130 S.Ct. 1855, 1863 (2010)("The decision to declare a mistrial is left to the sound
discretion of the judge, but the power ought to be used with the greatest caution, under urgent
circumstances, and for very plain and obvious causes."). The "manifest necessity" standard is
variable, and "abjures the application of any mechanical formula." Illinois v. Somerville, 410
u.s. 458, 462 (1973).
As for the "ends of public justice" standard,
[a] trial judge properly exercises his discretion to declare a mistrial if an impartial verdict
cannot be reached, or if a verdict of conviction could be reached but would be reversed on
appeal due to an obvious procedural error in the trial. If an error would make reversal on
appeal a certainty, it would not serve "the ends of public justice" to require that the
Government proceed with its proof when, if it succeeded before the jury, it would
automatically be stripped of that success by an appellate court.
Id. at 464.
In short, the Supreme Court has, "for the most part, explicitly declined the invitation of
litigants to formulate rules based on categories of circumstances which will permit or preclude
retrial." United States v. Jam, 400
u.s. 470, 480 (1971).
Notably, there is no constitutional
prohibition on a trial court's decision to grant a mid-testimony recess during the testimony of
prosecution witness, nor is there a constitutional right to the sequestration of witnesses. Rather,
trial management issues such as trial recesses and the sequestration of witnesses fall within a trial
judge's broad discretion to control a trial. See Geders v. United States, 425 U.S. 80, 87 (1976);
Perry v. Leeke, 488 U.S. 272, 282, 287 (1989). As explained by the Supreme Court,
a criminal trial does not unfold like a play with actors following a script; there is no
scenario and can be none. The trial judge must meet situations as they arise and to do this
must have broad power to cope with the complexities and contingencies inherent in the
adversary process. To this end, he may determine generally the order in which parties
will adduce proof; his determination will be reviewed only for abuse of discretion.
Geders, 425 U.S. at 86.
When deciding Chambers' direct appeal, the Delaware Supreme Court correctly
identified the "manifest necessity" and "ends of public justice" standards as the governing
precedent for determining if a trial court abused its discretion in denying a motion for mistrial.
Therefore, the Delaware Supreme Court's decision was not contrary to clearly established
The court's inquiry is not over, however, because it must also determine if the Delaware
Supreme Court reasonably determined the facts based on the evidence presented at trial and
whether its decision involved a reasonable application of clearly established Federal law.
Turning first to the Delaware Supreme Court's factual determination and the inquiry under
§ 22S4(d)(2), the court notes that the record in this case does not indicate that the trial court's
sequestration order prohibited police-witness contact. In turn, the record clearly demonstrates
that Davis asked to speak with Detective Armstrong, not the other way around, and the trial judge
granted the brief recess with the knowledge that Detective Armstrong planned to talk with Davis.
And finally, the record disputes Chambers' contention that the purpose of the recess was to
provide the State with an opportunity to coach and rehabilitate Davis so that he would testify to
the State's satisfaction. For instance, after meeting with Davis during the brief recess, Detective
Armstrong testified that he and Davis discussed Davis' fears about his personal safety and the
safety of his family. Detective Armstrong also testified that Davis told him, "if those two
[people in the audience] left the courtroom, he'd come up, testify, and tell the truth." (D.l. 12, at
A-17) Davis' reference to "telling the truth" was the only statement concerning the substance of
his testimony. Viewing these circumstances in context with the entire record, the court
concludes that the Delaware Supreme Court reasonably determined the facts in holding that the
sequestration order was not violated and that witness rehabilitation and/or coaching was not the
purpose or the result of the recess.
Moreover, because the testimony provided by Davis after the recess would have been
admissible under 11 Del. Code Ann. § 3507, Chambers cannot demonstrate that he was
prejudiced by the recess and conversation. For all of these reasons, it was reasonable for the
Delaware Supreme Court to conclude that the trial judge's decision to recess and permit the
conversation was consistent with the broad discretion allowed a trial court in its management of a
In turn, because this decision fell within the trial judge's discretion, there was no manifest
necessity for declaring a mistrial or a threat to the ends of public justice in not declaring a
mistrial. Consequently, the court also concludes that the Delaware Supreme Court reasonably
applied clearly established Federal law in holding that the trial judge did not abuse his discretion
in denying Chambers' motion for mistrial.2 Accordingly, the court will deny claim one because
the failure to declare a mistrial did not deprive Chambers of a fair trial.
B. Claim Two: Failure To Instruct On Accomplice Liability
During the trial, Chambers asked the trial court to instruct the jury to view the testimony
of Davis and Haye with caution because the two were accomplices to Graves' murder. The trial
judge refused to give the requested instruction, explaining that
[t]here was no evidence that either Davis or Haye were, in fact, accomplices or their
participation in the events of the 27th would make them accomplices. They weren't
charged in that fashion and, based on what they testified to, that's the only information
we have, what they did. There wouldn't be a basis to find them as accomplices. That's
2Even if the sequestration order was violated, the Delaware Supreme Court reasonably
applied clearly established Federal law in holding that the trial judge did not abuse his discretion
in refusing to declare a mistrial, because Chambers has not shown any prejudice resulting such
violation. See Gav't afthe Virgin Islands v. Edinbaraugh, 625 F.2d 472, 473 (3d Cir.
I980)("The failure to sequester witnesses is not, in itself, grounds for reversal unless defendant
can show prejudice resulting from the failure to sequester.'}
the basis I'm denying it. At the same time, the Court will give the general credibility
[instruction] that allows counsel to argue that they are biased in some fashion, they had an
interest in saying what they said, and basically attacking their credibility on the basis that
they were trying to protect their own hides.
Chambers, 930 A.2d at 909-10.
On direct appeal, the Delaware Supreme Court rejected Chambers' argument that he was
entitled to the requested accomplice credibility instruction as a matter of state law. After noting
that "Delaware law defines an accomplice as a person who 'intending to promote or facilitate the
commission of the offense ... solicits, requests, commands, importunes or otherwise attempts to
cause the other person to commit it; or aids, counsels or agrees or attempts to aid the other person
in planning or committing it," the Delaware Supreme Court held that the witnesses were not
accomplices or admitted participants, because there was "no indication [in the record] that either
Davis or Haye knew of Chambers' plan." ld. at 910. In fact, the two did not discover what had
happened until after Chambers shot Graves. ld.
The Delaware Supreme Court also rejected Chambers' implicit alternative argument that
the "immunity agreement" between Haye and the prosecutor served as a basis for instructing the
jury as requested. The "immunity agreement" stated:
Daniel Haye agrees to give a truthful, accurate and detailed statement regarding his
activities on April 26th and April2Th 2003. This statement is to include any knowledge
of meetings and/or ongoing problems with Joseph Chambers and Gregory Graves and the
disposal of any evidence.
In tum, the State of Delaware through [prosecutor], will not prosecute Daniel Haye as an
accomplice for the death of Gregory Graves.
ld. at 910. In rejecting Chambers' argument, the Delaware Supreme Court explained that "other
jurisdictions have held that such an immunity agreement does not provide a basis for concluding
that a witness was either an admitted participant or accomplice in the shooting of Graves. We
agree with the rationale of those decisions. Thus, we hold that Haye's immunity agreement did
not entitle Chambers to an instruction warning the jury to weigh Haye's and Davis' testimony
with greater caution." ld. at 910-911.
In claim two of this proceeding, Chambers contends that the trial court erred in refusing
to instruct the jury on accomplice credibility in the manner requested by the defense. To the
extent Chambers contends that he is entitled to habeas relief because the trial court provided an
erroneous jury instruction under Delaware law, he has failed to assert an issue cognizable on
federal habeas review. See Estelle, 502 U.S. at 72. Rather, the "only question" properly
addressed in this proceeding is "whether the [allegedly] ailing instruction by itself so infected the
entire trial that the resulting conviction violates due process." ld.
Given the "wide discretion" provided to courts when charging ajury, there is no per se
rule requiring a specific instruction in cases involving accomplices and immunized witnesses.
See United States v. Isaac, 134 F.3d 199,204 (3d Cir. 1998). Consequently, in most situations,
general instructions directing the jury to examine a witness' motivation and credibility are
sufficient despite a defendant's request for more specific accomplice and immunized witness
Here, it was reasonable for the trial court to conclude that Haye and Davis were not
accomplices, because the evidence presented at trial showed that Haye and Davis did not learn
about Chambers' plan until after Chambers shot Graves. Considering Chambers' failure to rebut
this factual determination with clear and convincing evidence, the court accepts as correct the
trial court's determination that Haye and Davis were not accomplices.
Logically speaking, ifHaye and Davis were not accomplices, then the trial court's refusal
to instruct the jury on the issue of accomplice credibility constituted a proper exercise of the trial
court's broad discretion. On this basis alone, the court could reject Chambers' claim that the trial
court's failure to provide such a jury instruction violated his right to due process.
Nevertheless, the court also concludes that the trial court's generalized credibility jury
instructions satisfied Chambers' due process rights. The jury was aware of the "immunity
agreement" between Haye and the prosecutor, because Haye read the entire immunity agreement
to the court and jury during his testimony. (0.1. 12, App. to Appellant's Op. Brief in Chambers
v. State, No.282,2006 at A-26) Defense counsel brought to the attention of the jury factors
suggesting that Davis and Haye were "biased in some fashion [and] had an interest in saying
what they said." Id. at A-39. And notably, the trial court permitted defense counsel to conduct a
vigorous defense and "basically attack their credibility on the basis that they were participants
in the events and were trying to protect their own hides." Id. at A-39. Nothing in this record
indicates that the absence of a jury instruction on accomplice credibility so infected the trial with
unfairness as to violate Chambers' due process rights. Accordingly, the court will deny claim
C. Claim Three: Equal Protection Rights Violated
In claim three, Chambers contends that the "trial court violated [his] equal protection
right under the confrontation clause by allowing out-of-court statements not properly
introduced." Chambers presented this argument to the Delaware Supreme Court on post
conviction appeal, but the Delaware Supreme Court denied the claim as procedurally defaulted
under Rule 61(i)(3) due to Chambers' failure to raise the argument on direct appeal. See
Chambers, 2009 WL 3790556, at *2. By applying the procedural bar of Rule 61(i)(3), the
Delaware Supreme Court articulated a "plain statement" under Harris v. Reed, 489 U.S. 255,
263-4 (1984), that its decision rested on state law grounds. Delaware Superior Court Criminal
Rule 61 constitutes an independent and adequate state procedural rule precluding federal habeas
review. See McCleafv. Carroll, 416 F. Supp. 2d 283, 296 (D. Del. 2006); Mayfieldv. Carroll,
2005 WL 2654283 (D. Del. Oct. 11, 2005). Thus, the court cannot review the merits of claim
three absent a showing of cause for the default and prejudice resulting therefrom, or upon a
showing that a miscarriage ofjustice will occur if the claim is not reviewed.
Chambers appears to assert ineffective assistance of counsel as cause for his default of
claim three. Chambers, however, never presented an ineffective assistance of counsel claim
based on counsel's failure to raise claim three in his Rule 61 proceeding. In turn, when he raised
the issue of counsel's ineffective assistance in an attempt to establish cause in his subsequent
post-conviction appeal, the Delaware Supreme Court refused to consider the argument under
Delaware Supreme Court Rule 8. See Chambers, 2009 WL 3790556, at *2.
Delaware Supreme Court Rule 8 is an independent and adequate state procedural rule
precluding federal habeas review. See Campbell v. Burris, 515 F.3d 172, 182 (3d Cir. 2008). By
applying the procedural bar of Rule 8, the Delaware Supreme Court articulated a "plain
statement" under Harris that its decision rested on state law grounds. Consequently, this
ineffective assistance of counsel allegation is itself procedurally defaulted, and cannot excuse
Chambers' procedural default of claim three. See Edwards v. Carpenter, 529 U.S. 446,453-54
In the absence of cause, the court will not address the issue of prejudice. Additionally,
the miscarriage ofjustice exception to the procedural default doctrine is inapplicable, because
Chambers has not provided any new reliable evidence of his actual innocence. Accordingly, the
court will deny claim three as procedurally barred.
D. Claim Four: Prosecutorial Misconduct
In claim four, Chambers contends that the prosecutor engaged in misconduct by
influencing improper witness testimony which went uncorrected by the court after objection.
While Chambers concedes that he did not raise this issue on direct appeal, he asserts that he
raised the argument on post-conviction appeaL The record, however, clearly demonstrates that
.Chambers did not present this prosecutorial misconduct claim on post-conviction appeaL (D.!.
12) Because any attempt to raise such an argument in a new Rule 61 motion would be barred by
Delaware Superior Court Rule 61 (i)(2) as repetitive and by Rule 61(i)(3) as procedurally
defaulted, the court must treat claim four as technically exhausted but procedurally defaulted.
Consequently, the court cannot reach the merits of the instant claim absent a showing of cause
and prejudice, or a miscarriage ofjustice.
Chambers does not assert, and the court cannot discern, any cause for his failure to raise
the instant claim on direct appeal or in his Rule 61 proceeding. In the absence of cause, the court
will not address the issue of prejudice. Additionally, the miscarriage ofjustice exception to the
procedural default doctrine is inapplicable, because Chambers has failed to provide new reliable
evidence of his actual innocence. Accordingly, the court will deny claim four as procedurally
IV. CERTIFICATE OF APPEALABILITY
When a district court issues a final order denying a § 2254 petition, the court must also
decide whether to issue a certificate of appealability. See 3d Cir. L.A.R. 22.2 (2011). A
certificate of appealability is appropriate when a petitioner makes a "substantial showing of the
denial of a constitutional right" by demonstrating "that reasonable jurists would find the district
court's assessment of the constitutional claims debatable or wrong." 28 U.S.C. § 2253(c)(2);
Slackv. McDaniel, 529 U.S. 473, 484 (2000). Ifa federal court denies a habeas petition on
procedural grounds without reaching the underlying constitutional claims, the court is not
required to issue a certificate of appealability unless the petitioner demonstrates that jurists of
reason would find it debatable: (l) whether the petition states a valid claim of the denial of a
constitutional right; and (2) whether the court was correct in its procedural ruling. Id.
The court has concluded that Chambers' petition fails to warrant federal habeas relief.
The court is persuaded that reasonable jurists would not find this conclusion to be debatable.
Therefore, the court will not issue a certificate of appealability.
For the reasons stated, Chambers' petition for habeas relief pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254
is denied without an evidentiary hearing or the issuance of a certificate of appealability. An
appropriate order shall issue.
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