Patterson v. Webb
MEMORANDUM OPINION. Signed by Judge Deborah K. Chasanow on 5/18/2015. (c/m 5/18/2015 aos, Deputy Clerk)
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE DISTRICT OF MARYLAND
WAYNE WEBB ,
* Civil Action No. DKC-12-3111
On October 17, 2012,1 Petitioner Broderick Patterson filed the instant 28 U.S.C. § 2254
habeas corpus application attacking his 2008 conviction for identity fraud, theft, and conspiracy
to commit theft. ECF No. 1. Respondent filed a limited answer with exhibits, addressing only
the issue of exhaustion. ECF No. 5. Petitioner filed a reply to Respondent’s limited answer.
ECF No. 6. At the court’s direction, Respondent thereafter filed a supplemental answer, ECF
No. 13, to which Petitioner filed a supplemental reply, ECF No. 16, followed by an additional
supplemental reply, ECF No. 21. After reviewing the filings, the court finds no need for an
evidentiary hearing. See Rule 8(a), Rules Governing Section 2254 Cases in the United States
District Courts and Local Rule 105.6 (D. Md. 2014); see also Fisher v. Lee, 215 F. 3d 438, 455
(4th Cir. 2000) (petitioner not entitled to a hearing under 28 U.S.C. §2254(e)(2)). For the
reasons set forth herein, the court shall dismiss the Petition.
Factual and Procedural History
On June 26, 2008, after a jury trial, Petitioner was convicted in the Circuit Court for
Baltimore County of identity fraud, theft, and conspiracy to commit theft. ECF No. 5-1, p. 7.2
Through counsel, he filed a notice of appeal on July 1, 2008. Id. Petitioner raised the following
The Petition, received on October 19, 2012, is dated October 17, 2012, and is deemed filed on that
Citation reflects that of the electronic docket.
issues: “Was there sufficient evidence to sustain appellant’s conviction;” and “Did the circuit
court err in making statements regarding the anticipated brevity of appellant’s trial.”3 ECF No.
5-2, p. 2. On April 19, 2010, the Maryland Court of Special Appeals affirmed the Circuit
Court’s judgment. Id., p. 17. The court’s mandate issued on May 19, 2010. Id. Petitioner,
through counsel, filed a petition for writ of certiorari to the Court of Appeals of Maryland,
raising a single issue: “Is a defendant’s mere presence at the scene of the crime — without any
facts demonstrating the defendant’s knowledge of, or involvement in, the crime — sufficient to
satisfy the accomplice corroboration rule?” ECF No. 5-3, p. 4. The Court of Appeals denied
Petitioner’s request for review on August 23, 2010. ECF No. 5-4.
In the meantime, Petitioner filed a number of motions in the circuit court: a motion for
modification of sentence (July 2, 2008); an application for review by a three-judge panel (July
14, 2008); and a motion for a new trial (May 13, 2009). ECF No. 5-1, p. 7. All of these motions
were denied. Id.
On November 17, 2010, Petitioner, proceeding pro se, filed for post-conviction relief in
the Circuit Court for Baltimore County. ECF No. 5-5; ECF No. 5-6, p. 2. Through counsel, he
filed a supplemental petition on August 3, 2011. ECF No. 6-1; ECF No. 5-6, p. 2. As construed
by the circuit court, Petitioner claimed that: (1) he was improperly denied a preliminary hearing;
and (2) his trial counsel was ineffective in failing to object to the introduction of certain
The Court of Special Appeals noted that Petitioner had presented the issues as:
Did the trial court err in determining that the State had
introduced sufficient evidence to satisfy the “accomplice
Did the trial court err in denying Appellant’s motion for
judgment of acquittal?
Did the trial court err in stating to the jury, in several
instances, that Appellant’s trial would be short?
ECF No. 5-2, p. 2 n.2.
photographs.4 ECF No. 5-6, p. 2. A hearing was held on September 21, 2011. Id., p. 1. On
September 22, 2011, Petitioner’s state post-conviction petition was denied. Id., p. 7.5 Petitioner
thereafter filed an application for leave to appeal the denial of post-conviction relief. ECF No. 57. He argued that his trial counsel failed to file any pre-trial motions and performed ineffectively
when he failed properly to preserve the record for appeal, specifically by failing to object to the
admission of photographic evidence. Id., pp. 4-5. The application was denied by the Maryland
Court of Special Appeals on April 8, 2013. ECF No. 12, p. 1. The court’s mandate issued on
May 9, 2013. Id.
As noted above, Petitioner’s Application for Issuance of a Writ of Habeas Corpus was
received by this court on October 19, 2012. In it, Petitioner presented two claims of error for the
court’s review: that he was not assigned counsel until the time for filing pre-trial motions had
passed, and that belatedly-appointed counsel was ineffective. ECF No. 1, p. 2-3. On January 17,
2013, Respondent filed a Limited Answer to the Petition, in which he argued that the Petition
should be dismissed as unexhausted because Petitioner still had matters pending in state court
relating to the judgment being challenged in this court. ECF No. 5, p. 1. Petitioner, in his Reply
to Respondent’s Limited Answer, claimed that he had no pending matters in state court related to
the constitutional issues raised here and that all adversarial proceedings in the higher state courts
had been exhausted. ECF No. 6, p. 4. Accordingly, the court issued an Order, directing
Respondent to file a supplemental response addressing the merits of Petitioner’s claims, as it
In his original state post-conviction petition, Petitioner alleged that his rights to a preliminary
hearing and effective counsel had been violated. ECF No. 5-5, p. 2. He also alleged that no pre-trial motions had
been filed on his behalf and that his counsel had failed to object to the trial judge’s negative comments. Id. In his
supplemental petition and at hearing, Petitioner abandoned several grounds asserted in his pro se petition and
proceeded on those alleged in the supplemental petition, ECF No. 5-5, p. 2; ECF No. 5-6, p. 2.
Both the Memorandum Opinion and Order were signed on September 22, 2011. ECF No. 5-6, pp.
6-7. However, the docket in Petitioner’s criminal case reflects that they were held sub-curia and that they were filed
on October 24, 2011. ECF No. 1, p. 9.
appeared from the exhibits to Petitioner’s Reply that he had exhausted his state court remedies.
ECF No. 12, p. 2. On September 2, 2014, Respondent filed his Supplemental Answer to the
Petition. Petitioner filed a Reply to Respondent’s Supplemental Answer and an Additional
Reply to Respondent’s Supplemental Response to Habeas Petition on December 5, 2014, and
December 30, 2014, respectively.
Before a petitioner may seek habeas relief in federal court, he must exhaust each claim
presented to the federal court by pursuing remedies available in state court. See Rose v. Lundy,
455 U. S. 509, 521 (1982). This exhaustion requirement is satisfied by seeking review of the
claim in the highest state court with jurisdiction to consider the claim. See O=Sullivan v.
Boerckel, 526 U.S. 838 (1999); 28 U.S.C. § 2254(b) and (c).
In Maryland, this may be
accomplished by raising certain claims on direct appeal and other claims by way of postconviction proceedings. Exhaustion is not required if at the time a federal habeas corpus petition
is filed petitioner has no available state remedy. See Teague v. Lane, 489 U.S. 288, 297-98
Where a petitioner has failed to present a claim to the highest state court with jurisdiction
to hear it, whether it be by failing to raise the claim in post-conviction proceedings or on direct
appeal, or by failing timely to note an appeal, the procedural default doctrine applies. See
Coleman v. Thompson, 501 U. S. 722, 749-50 (1991)(failure to note timely appeal); Murray v.
Carrier, 477 U.S. 478, 489-91 (1986)(failure to raise claim on direct appeal); Murch v. Mottram,
409 U. S. 41, 46 (1972)(failure to raise claim during post-conviction); Bradley v. Davis, 551 F.
Supp. 479, 481 (D. Md. 1982) (failure to seek leave to appeal denial of post- conviction relief).
A procedural default also may occur where a state court declines “to consider the merits [of a
claim] on the basis of an adequate and independent state procedural rule.” Yeatts v. Angelone,
166 F.3d 255, 260 (4th Cir. 1999).
As the Fourth Circuit has explained:
If a state court clearly and expressly bases its dismissal of a habeas petitioner’s
claim on a state procedural rule, and that procedural rule provides an independent
and adequate ground for the dismissal, the habeas petitioner has procedurally
defaulted his federal habeas claim. See Coleman v. Thompson, 501 U.S. 722,
731-32 (1991). A procedural default also occurs when a habeas petitioner fails to
exhaust available state remedies and “the court to which the petitioner would be
required to present his claims in order to meet the exhaustion requirement would
now find the claims procedurally barred.” Id. at 735 n. 1.
Breard v. Pruett, 134 F.3d 615, 619 (4th Cir. 1998).
If a procedural default has occurred, a federal court may not address the merits of a state
prisoner’s habeas claim unless the petitioner can show (1) both cause for the default and
prejudice that would result from failing to consider the claim on the merits, or (2) that failure to
consider the claim on the merits would result in a miscarriage of justice, i.e. the conviction of
one who is actually innocent.6 See Murray v. Carrier, 477 U.S. 478, 495-96 (1986); Breard, 134
F.3d at 620. “Cause” consists of “some objective factor external to the defense [that] impeded
counsel’s efforts to raise the claim in state court at the appropriate time.” Breard, 134 F.3d at
620 (quoting Murray, 477 U.S. at 488). Even where a petitioner fails to show cause and
prejudice for a procedural default, a court must still consider whether it should reach the merits
Habeas petitioners may use an actual innocence claim to excuse the procedural default of a
separate constitutional claim upon which they request habeas relief. See Murray v. Carrier, 477 U.S. at 496.
“[When] a constitutional violation has probably resulted in the conviction of one who is actually innocent, a federal
habeas court may grant the writ even in the absence of a showing of cause for the procedural default.” Id.; see also
Reid v. True, 349 F.3d 788, 806 (4th Cir. 2003). Petitioners who wish to use a claim of actual innocence as a
gateway to raising an otherwise defaulted constitutional claim must demonstrate by a preponderance of the evidence
that a reasonable juror could not have convicted the petitioner in light of the new evidence. See Buckner v. Polk,
453 F.3d 195, 199-200 (4th Cir. 2006).
of a petitioner’s claims in order to prevent a fundamental miscarriage of justice. See Schlup v.
Delo, 513 U. S. 298, 314 (1995).
Framework for Analysis
Section 2254 states that a district court “shall entertain an application for a writ of habeas
corpus on behalf of a person in custody pursuant to the judgment of a State court 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).
The statutory framework of the federal habeas statute sets forth a “highly deferential
standard for evaluating state-court rulings.” Lindh v. Murphy, 521 U.S. 320, 333 n.7 (1997); see
also Bell v. Cone, 543 U.S. 447, 455 (2005). The standard is “difficult to meet,” and requires
courts to give state-court decisions the benefit of the doubt. Cullen v. Pinholster, __U.S. __, 131
S.Ct. 1388, 1398 (2011)(internal quotation marks and citations omitted); see also Harrington v.
Richter, 562 U.S. 86, 102 (2011)(“If this standard is difficult to meet, that is because it was
meant to be.”).
A federal court may not grant a writ of habeas corpus unless the state’s adjudication on
1) “resulted in a decision that was contrary to, or involved an unreasonable
application of, clearly established federal law, as determined by the Supreme Court of the United
States,” or 2) “resulted in a decision that was based on an unreasonable determination of the facts
in light of the evidence presented in the State court proceeding.” 28 U.S.C. § 2254(d).
A state adjudication is contrary to clearly established federal law under § 2254(d)(1)
where the state court “arrives at a conclusion opposite to that reached by [the Supreme] Court on
a question of law,” or “confronts facts that are materially indistinguishable from a relevant
Supreme Court precedent and arrives at a result opposite to [the Supreme Court].” Williams v.
Taylor, 529 U.S. 362, 405 (2000). Under the “unreasonable application” analysis pursuant to
2254(d)(1), a “state court's determination that a claim lacks merit precludes federal habeas relief
so long as ‘fairminded jurists could disagree’ on the correctness of the state court’s decision.”
Harrington, 562 U.S. at 101 (quoting Yarborough v. Alvarado, 541 U.S. 652, 664 (2004)). “[A]
federal habeas court may not issue the writ simply because [it] concludes in its independent
judgment that the relevant state-court decision applied established federal law erroneously or
incorrectly.” Renico v. Lett, 559 U.S. 766, (2010)(quoting Williams, 529 U.S. at 411). “Rather,
that application must be objectively unreasonable.” Id. Thus, “an unreasonable application of
federal law is different from an incorrect application of federal law.” Harrington, 562 U.S. at
101 (quoting Williams, 529 U.S. at 410).
Further, under § 2254(d)(2), “a state-court factual determination is not unreasonable
merely because the federal habeas court would have reached a different conclusion in the first
instance.” Wood v. Allen, 558 U.S. 290, 301 (2010). “[E]ven if reasonable minds reviewing the
record might disagree about the finding in question,” a federal habeas court may not conclude
that the state court decision was based on an unreasonable determination of the facts. Id.
(internal quotation marks and citation omitted).
The habeas statute provides that “a determination of a factual issue made by a State court
shall be presumed to be correct,” and the petitioner bears “the burden of rebutting the
presumption of correctness by clear and convincing evidence.” 28 U.S.C. § 2254(e) (1). “Where
the state court conducted an evidentiary hearing and explained its reasoning with some care, it
should be particularly difficult to establish clear and convincing evidence of error on the state
court's part.” Sharpe v. Bell, 593 F.3d 372, 378 (4th Cir. 2010). This is especially true where
state courts have “resolved issues like witness credibility, which are ‘factual determinations’ for
purposes of Section 2254(e)(1).” Id. at 379 (quoting 28 U .S.C. § 2254(e)(1)).
When a petitioner alleges a claim of ineffective assistance of counsel, he must show both
that counsel’s performance was deficient and that the deficient performance prejudiced his
defense. Strickland v. Washington, 466 U.S. 668, 687 (1984). Representation is deficient if it
falls below an objective standard of reasonableness, considering all the circumstances. Id. at
To satisfy the first part of this standard, it must be demonstrated that counsel’s
performance was not “within the range of competence normally demanded of attorneys in
criminal cases.” Id. at 687. The standard for assessing such competence is “highly deferential”
and has a “strong presumption that counsel’s conduct falls within a wide range of reasonable
professional assistance.” Id. at 669. A federal court’s consideration of ineffective assistance of
counsel claims arising from state criminal proceedings is limited on habeas review due to the
deference accorded trial attorneys and state appellate courts reviewing their performance. A
petitioner must overcome the “strong presumption” that counsel’s strategy and tactics fall
“within the wide range of reasonable professional assistance.” Burch v. Corcoran, 273 F.3d 577,
588 (4th Cir. 2001) (quoting Strickland, 466 at 689). “There is a strong presumption that
counsel’s attention to certain issues to the exclusion of others reflects trial tactics rather than
Harrington, 562 U.S. at 109 (citations omitted) (internal quotation marks
omitted); see also Sharpe, 593 F.3d at 383 (“Counsel is not required to engage in the filing of
“The standards created by Strickland and § 2254(d) are both ‘highly
deferential,’ and when the two apply in tandem, review is ‘doubly’ so.” Id. at 105 (citations
“When § 2254(d) applies, the question is not whether counsel’s actions were
reasonable. The question is whether there is any reasonable argument that counsel satisfied
Strickland’s deferential standard.” Id.
The second prong requires the court to consider whether counsel’s errors were so serious
as to deprive the defendant of a fair trial whose result is reliable and that there was a reasonable
probability that, but for counsel’s unprofessional errors, the result of the proceeding would have
been different. Strickland, 466 U.S. at 690-94. “The benchmark of an ineffective assistance
claim must be whether counsel’s conduct so undermined the proper functioning of the
adversarial process that the trial cannot be relied upon as having produced a just result.” Id. at
686. It is not enough “to show that the errors had some conceivable effect on the outcome of the
proceeding.” Id. at 693. Rather, counsel’s errors must be “so serious as to deprive the defendant
of a fair trial, a trial whose result is reliable.” Id. at 687. A determination need not be made
concerning the attorney’s performance if it is clear that no prejudice would have resulted had the
attorney been deficient. See id. at 697. See id. at 687.
The principles governing ineffectiveness claims apply in federal collateral proceedings as
they do on direct appeal or in a motion for new trial. Id. at 697. Indeed, the presumption that a
criminal judgment is final is at its strongest in collateral attacks on that judgment. Id.
In his Petition before this court, Petitioner claims that:
The Petitioner was not furnished with an attorney until after the time for which
most very crucial pre-trial motions were to be filed; and
The belated assigned attorney was ineffective in representing the Petitioner
causing the Petitioner to be convicted of criminal transgressions for which the
Petitioner was unaware of.
ECF No. 1, pp. 2-3.7 Without waiving his exhaustion argument, Respondent argues that “none
of the claims raised in Patterson’s underlying petition have been raised to all appropriate state
courts.” ECF No. 13, p. 7. Because the time for doing so has expired, Respondent contends that
Petitioner has procedurally defaulted his claims. Id., p. 11.
Lack of Counsel
Petitioner was incarcerated for the crimes of which he eventually was convicted on
February 14, 2008. ECF No. 1, p. 2. A public defender was appointed to represent him on May
1, 2008. Id. Petitioner alleges that a “request for a preliminary hearing would have made a
significant difference in the outcome of the case.” Id. Petitioner additionally notes that the delay
in the appointment of counsel resulted in “hamstringing the Petitioner’s ability to suppress
evidence and to file preliminary motions.” Id., p. 5.
This claim of error was not included in Petitioner’s direct appeal of his conviction to the
Court of Special Appeals.8 ECF No. 5-2, p. 2. In his state post-conviction relief application,
Petitioner claimed that he was improperly denied a preliminary hearing. ECF No. 5-5, p. 2. He
did not, however, link the alleged denial of a preliminary hearing to the delay in the appointment
of counsel, as he does in his Petition in this court. ECF No. 5-6, pp. 2-3; ECF No. 1, pp. 2-3.
Respondent summarizes Petitioner’s claims as follows: Petitioner was denied his right to counsel
at a critical time period, and trial counsel was ineffective for failing to object to the admission of photographs and
for failing to make a proper motion for judgment of acquittal. ECF No. 13, p. 7.
Petitioner stated generally that the errors in this case “are not waived because they were the result
of ineffective assistance of counsel in violation of Petitioner’s Sixth Amendment right to counsel.” ECF No. 5-5, p.
3. He correctly notes that “[p]ost conviction proceedings are the preferred vehicle for litigating ineffective
assistance of counsel claims.” Id. (citing Mosley v. State, 836 A.2d 678, 684 (2003)). However, he did not present
this claim as an ineffective assistance of counsel claim to the state post-conviction court, and he does not do so here.
Rather, Petitioner stated that: “Before going to trial I inquired through my attorney (Christopher
Purpura) as to when I was going to have a preliminary hearing concerning the charges levied
against me. It never happened.” ECF No. 5-5, p. 2. The circuit court found that Petitioner had
waived this claim by failing to raise it within ten days of his arrest. ECF No. 5-6, p. 3 (citing
Md. Rule 4-221(a); Md. Rule 4-213(a)(3)). The court also observed that “[t]rial counsel was not
appointed by the Office of the Public Defender to represent Petitioner until May 1, 2008, long
after that time expired, so the failure to request a preliminary hearing cannot be blamed on
The court concludes that this ground for relief has been procedurally defaulted. See Breard,
134 F.3d at 619 (“If a state court clearly and expressly bases its dismissal of a habeas petitioner’s
claim on a state procedural rule, and that procedural rule provides an independent and adequate
ground for the dismissal, the habeas petitioner has procedurally defaulted his federal habeas
claim.”). The post-conviction court provided an independent and adequate ground for dismissing
Petitioner’s claim with regard to the failure to request a preliminary hearing.
Petitioner has demonstrated neither cause for his procedural default, nor prejudice resulting
therefrom. In this court, Petitioner blames the failure to file a motion for a pre-trial hearing on
the delay in the appointment of counsel which, read generously, could be considered “some
objective factor external to the defense [that] impeded counsel’s efforts to raise the claim in state
court at the appropriate time.” Breard, 134 F.3d at 620 (internal citations omitted). However, as
discussed below, Petitioner has made no showing of how the lack of a preliminary hearing
Indeed, he has not explained what he intended a preliminary hearing to
This statement by the circuit court does not negate the fact that Petitioner presented this claim in
an entirely different light before this court, not as a result of counsel’s failure to file such a motion, but, rather, that
the lack of counsel during a crucial period resulted in the lack of filing of pre-trial motions, including a motion for a
accomplish. Although Petitioner affirms that he is actually innocent of the crimes for which he
was convicted, ECF No. 16, p. 6; ECF No. 21, p. 4, other than his own statements, he has
provided no evidence that he is actually innocent. Therefore, he has failed to demonstrate that he
“falls within the narrow class of cases ... implicating a fundamental miscarriage of justice.”
Schlup, 513 U.S. at 314-15 (alteration in original) (internal quotation marks omitted).
Even if not procedurally defaulted, the claim would fail on the merits, as the circuit court
found. The post-conviction court stated that “Petitioner admitted to his own lack of legal
sophistication, and could not precisely articulate the nature of the hearing to which he felt he was
entitled. Petitioner’s attorney was unable to further clarify what type of hearing Petitioner was
denied.” ECF No. 5-6, p. 2. Petitioner has provided no further information to this court.
Therefore, the court defers to the post-conviction court’s findings. See Bell, 543 U.S at 455 (“As
we have said before, § 2254(d) dictates a highly deferential standard for evaluating state-court
rulings which demands that state-court decisions be given the benefit of the doubt.”)(citations
and internal quotation marks omitted).
In his Application for Leave to Appeal the Denial of Post-Conviction Relief, Petitioner
recharacterized this claim, alleging that trial counsel failed to file any pre-trial motions. ECF No.
5-7, p. 4. He claimed that: “The Petitioner’s right to effective counsel was undermined, by his
trial counsel, when said counsel failed to file any pre-trial motions to dispute a plethora of
erroneous information in the prosecutor’s probable cause discovery packet. Counsel failed to
request an evidentiary hearing to exonerate Petitioner.”
Id., p. 5.
This is the extent of
Petitioner’s argument with regard to the failure to file pre-trial motions.
Again, Petitioner’s focus is not on the lack of appointment of counsel in a timely manner, but
on counsel’s failures, in the circuit court, to request a preliminary hearing and in his application
for leave to appeal to seek an evidentiary hearing. In his application for leave to appeal the
circuit court’s ruling to the Court of Special Appeals, Petitioner’s only conceivable attempt to
demonstrate cause is his claim that counsel was ineffective. However, this does not constitute a
factor “external to the defense [that] impeded counsel’s efforts to raise the claim in state court at
the appropriate time.” Breard, 134 F.3d at 620. As for prejudice, Petitioner has not provided
any information as to the “plethora of erroneous information” provided or how a pre-trial hearing
would have exonerated him.
The court concludes that Petitioner has procedurally defaulted his first ground for relief
by failing to “fairly present” it to all appropriate state courts. See O’Sullivan, 526 U.S. at 848;
see also id. at 845 (“state prisoners must give the state courts one full opportunity to resolve any
constitutional issues by invoking one complete round of the State’s established appellate review
process.”). Even if not procedurally defaulted, Ground One fails on the merits.
Effectiveness of Counsel
Petitioner next claims that his trial counsel was ineffective, resulting in his conviction.
ECF No. 1, p. 3. Petitioner alleges that appointed counsel was deficient in failing to preserve an
issue, specifically the objection to the admission of still photographs, and for failing to make a
proper motion for judgment of acquittal on one of the counts which, according to Petitioner, was
not supported by any evidence. Id.
Failure to preserve issue
Petitioner alleges that defense counsel was deficient for failing to preserve an issue, by
not objecting to the admission of still photographs into evidence at trial. Id. Petitioner argues
At trial, the State admitted still photos (without objection from defense attorney)
for their probative value. The still photos are the only evidence that even
remotely link the Petitioner to the incident, and without them, the State could not
have proved its case. There was no foundation provided to properly admit the
photos. If the trial counsel had objected to the admission of the still photos
coming into evidence, the argument would have made a viable package for
Id. Petitioner asserts that the state post-conviction court erroneously stated that defense counsel
did not object to the admission of the still photos as a “trial tactic.” Id., p. 4.
Petitioner presented this issue in his supplemental state post-conviction application. ECF
No. 6-1, p. 4; ECF No. 5-6, p. 2. He also presented the claim in his application for leave to
appeal the denial of his post-conviction petition to the Court of Special Appeals. ECF No. 5-7,
p. 6. Nonetheless, Respondent argues that the claim has been procedurally defaulted because
Petitioner “filed an untimely pro se application for leave to appeal [the circuit court’s] ruling.”
ECF No. 13, p. 6.
There is a great deal of confusion as to when, and where, Petitioner filed his application
for leave to appeal the denial of his state post-conviction petition. Petitioner affirms that he “did
timely file an Application for Leave to Appeal directly to the Clerk of the Circuit Court for
Baltimore County.” ECF No. 16, p. 4; ECF No. 16-3, p. 1. Petitioner signed the Application on
November 11, 2011. ECF No. 5-7, p. 10. There is no docket entry in the circuit court reflecting
this alleged filing. ECF No. 5-1, p. 9. However, there is a letter from the Chief Deputy Clerk of
the Court of Special Appeals to the Clerk of the Circuit Court dated July 19, 2012, enclosing “an
Application for Leave to Appeal to the Court of Special Appeals that was erroneously filed in
our Court on November 3, 2011 by the defendant in the above-referenced case.
forwarding it to you for appropriate handling.” ECF No. 5-7, p. 1. Petitioner’s application is
date-stamped by the Court of Special Appeals as having been received in the clerk’s office on
November 3, 2011. Id., p. 2. The circuit court docket contains an entry on July 31, 2012, for an
Application for Leave to Appeal. ECF No. 5-1, p. 9.10
The Court of Special Appeals denied Petitioner’s application for leave to appeal on April
8, 2013. ECF No. 13-6. The court’s mandate issued on May 9, 2013. Id.
In its July 2, 2014, Order, this court stated that it appeared “from exhibits attached to the
Response to the Petition, that Petitioner’s application for leave to appeal was misfiled and not
forwarded for processing until July 19, 2012.” ECF No. 12, p. 1. Given the confusion described
above, the court will afford Petitioner the benefit of the doubt and assume that he timely filed his
application for leave to appeal. Therefore, the court turns to the merits of the claim.
Petitioner challenges trial counsel’s failure to object to the admission of still photos taken
from video surveillance at a Macy’s store where Petitioner’s alleged accomplice, Eva Hawkins,
used a stolen credit card to make purchases. ECF No. 13-1,11 pp. 55-56. The photographs
purport to show Petitioner in the store in the vicinity of Ms. Hawkins while she was shopping
and, subsequently, the two leaving the store. Id. When the assistant state’s attorney moved to
admit the photos into evidence, defense counsel stated “No objection.” Id., p. 56.
Petitioner argues that his “Sixth Amendment right to the effective assistance of counsel
was violated, due to the fact, that the belated assigned attorney failed to object to the only
evidence (still photos) used to convict the Petitioner.” ECF No. 1, p. 5. He reiterates his
contention that there was no foundation provided to properly admit the evidence. Id.12
Petitioner’s exhibits also include a notice from the Clerk of the Circuit Court for Baltimore
County, dated October 5, 2012, which states that “[y]our petition was destroyed in the mail by the post office.
Please resubmit your petition so that everything can be read.” ECF No. 16-4, p. 1. It is unclear whether this
statement refers to Petitioner’s application for leave to appeal, or to some other filing.
ECF Nos. 13-1 and 13-2 are the trial transcript.
Petitioner additionally argues that:
The post-conviction court addressed the issue of the admission of the photos at length:
Petitioner argues that it constituted ineffective assistance when his attorney failed
to object to the admission of the Macy’s Photos. Petitioner urges that the Photos
were not properly authenticated at trial, and therefore inadmissible. Petitioner
argues that his attorney should have objected, because the State did not provide a
proper foundation to admit the Macy’s Photos into evidence. At trial the State
showed Detective Healy the photos, and asked “[d]o you recognize what those
photographs are?” The Detective replied “[y]es, I do,” and proceeded to describe
what the photographs showed. Without any further questions, the State moved to
admit the Photos, and Petitioner’s attorney stated he had no objection. Petitioner
argues that this failure to object was deficient, because proper authentication of
photographs requires testimony as to the “process used, manner of operation of
the cameras, the reliability or authenticity of the images, or the chain of custody
of the pictures.”
As to Strickland’s first prong, the decision by Petitioner’s attorney not to object to
the admission of the Photos was not deficient, but rather constituted a calculated
trial tactic. There is no contention that the Photos could not have been
authenticated, or that a Macy’s employee was not available to authenticate the
Photos if required at trial.
The defense was that the Petitioner was not complicit in the criminal activity that
occurred while he was in Macy’s. There was no assertion that he wasn’t present
in the store. At the hearing on this Motion, Petitioner’s trial attorney testified that
he was aware the Macy’s employee was on the State’s witness list. He saw no
benefit in requiring additional testimony to authenticate the Photos, particularly
since Petitioner’s presence in the store was not disputed. Therefore, counsel did
not object to the Photos being admitted.
As to Strickland’s second prong, Petitioner has not shown how he was prejudiced
by his attorney’s failure to object. If the attorney had objected to improper
foundation, the State could have asked additional questions of Detective Healy, or
put the Macy’s employee on the stand to authenticate the Photos. Because of the
availability of the Macy’s employee, there is little doubt that the Photos would
have been admitted even over Petitioner’s objection at trial. There is therefore no
substantial likelihood that Petitioner was prejudiced by his attorney’s failure to
object to the Photos.
During the Court’s opening instructions to the jury, the judge explicitly stated that the evidence
will come in the form of testimony, not photos. Any proficient attorney would have objected to
the still photos once the judge explicitly stated, before trial, that there would only be testimony at
ECF No. 1, p. 4 (internal citation omitted). This argument can be dispensed with easily. The trial judge actually
said that “[t]he evidence will come in the form, I think primarily, of testimony.” ECF No. 13-1, p. 29. The judge
did not specifically rule out the admission of evidence other than testimony. Petitioner is simply mistaken.
ECF No. 5-6, pp. 4-5 (alterations in original)(internal citations omitted).
Although Petitioner disputes the post-conviction court’s findings that trial counsel’s
failure to object was trial strategy and that there was no assertion at trial that Petitioner was not
in Macy’s during the time in question, these are exactly the kind of factual findings to which this
court must defer. See 28 U.S.C. § 2254(e)(1). Petitioner’s trial counsel testified at the hearing.
Ms. Hawkins testified at the hearing.13 Detective Healy testified regarding the photos. The
circuit court explained its reasoning thoroughly. As noted previously, “[w]here the state court
conducted an evidentiary hearing and explained its reasoning with some care, it should be
particularly difficult to establish clear and convincing evidence of error on the state court's part.”
Sharpe, 593 F.3d at 378. “This is especially so when the court resolved issues like witness
credibility, which are ‘factual determinations’ for purposes of Section 2254(e)(1).” Id. at 379
(quoting 28 U.S.C. § 2254(e)(1)).
The court concludes that Petitioner has not satisfied his burden of showing, by clear and
convincing evidence, that the post-conviction court erred, or overcome the presumption that trial
counsel’s conduct was sound trial strategy under the circumstances. Strickland, 466 U.S. at 689.
While Petitioner disagrees with the characterization of counsel’s inaction as a “trial tactic,” in
any event no reasonable argument can be made that counsel’s conduct was not “within the range
of competence normally demanded of attorneys in criminal cases,” id. at 687, thereby satisfying
Strickland’s (and § 2254(d)’s) deferential standard, Harrington, 562 U.S. at 105.
Nor can Petitioner demonstrate prejudice from trial counsel’s lack of objection to
admission of the still photographs.
As the state post-conviction court found, had counsel
In this regard, the court observes that the testimony of Ms. Hawkins contradicts Petitioner’s
statements that the photos were “the only evidence that even remotely link[ed] the Petitioner to the incident, and
without them, the State could not have proved its case,” ECF No. 1, p. 3, and that the photos were “the only
evidence (still photos) used to convict the Petitioner,” id., p. 5.
objected, the state could have had Detective Healy testify further regarding the photos or had the
Macy’s employee testify.
Although Petitioner disputes that there was a Macy’s employee
available to testify, counsel acknowledged that one appeared on the state’s witness list who could
have been called to testify.14 Thus, objecting to the photos’ admission would have been futile, cf.
Sharpe, 593 F.3d at 383 (“Counsel is not required to engage in the filing of futile motions.”), as
the circuit court found. Therefore, Petitioner was not prejudiced by the lack of an objection, and
the first part of Petitioner’s ineffective assistance of counsel claim fails.
Failure to move for judgment of acquittal
Turning to Petitioner’s second allegation of ineffective assistance of counsel, Petitioner
argues that counsel should have made a “proper motion for judgment of acquittal on one of the
counts, when that count was not supported by any evidence.” ECF No. 1, p. 3. The court
concludes that this ground, too, has been procedurally defaulted.
Petitioner did not include any allegation regarding failure to make a motion for judgment
of acquittal in his pro se state post-conviction petition. ECF No. 5-5, p. 2-3. In his supplemental
petition, the only reference to this issue occurred in the context of failure to preserve the record
[I]n Testerman v. State, 170 Md.App.324 (2006), the Court of Special Appeals
found that there was ineffective assistance of trial counsel, when counsel failed to
preserve the record for appeal. Specifically, defense counsel failed to make a
proper motion for judgment of acquittal on one of the counts, when that count was
not supported by evidence. Accordingly, the “failure to preserve the record”
remains a viable theory of ineffective assistance.
Petitioner characterizes trial counsel’s testimony on this point as a “false statement, by defense
counsel, Christopher Purpura, that the creator of the only inculpatory evidence, the video tape from Macy’s, was
available for questioning at Petitioner’s jury trial on June 26, 2008. The creator of the tape was never available.”
ECF No. 5-7, p. 5. The post-conviction court found otherwise, noting the availability of the Macy’s employee. ECF
No. 5-6, p. 5.
ECF No. 6-1, p. 4. Petitioner then goes on to address the allegation that trial counsel failed to
preserve the record when he failed to object to the admission of photographic evidence discussed
above, id., with no further discussion regarding a motion for judgment of acquittal. He did not
include the issue in his application for leave to appeal the denial of his state post-conviction
petition. ECF No. 5-7. Moreover, Petitioner concedes that the claim is procedurally defaulted,
because he was in segregation and his legal documentation had been confiscated at the time he
filed his state habeas corpus petition. ECF No. 16, p. 11.
Even if not procedurally defaulted, the claim would clearly fail on the merits. First,
Petitioner does not identify which count should have been the subject of a motion for judgment
of acquittal, or explain how the count was not supported by evidence. Second, the trial transcript
reveals that defense counsel made two motions for judgment of acquittal, once at the close of the
State’s case, ECF No. 13-2, pp. 18-20, and again after Petitioner declined to testify, id. pp. 2122. Although the motions do not refer to a specific count, counsel cannot be found to be
ineffective, under the Strickland standard, on this basis.
Again, Petitioner has failed fairly to present his claim that counsel failed to make a proper
motion for judgment of acquittal to all appropriate state courts, thereby procedurally defaulting
the claim. See O’Sullivan, 526 U.S. at 845, 848. Moreover, this portion of Petitioner’s second
ground for relief fails on the merits.
For the reasons stated herein, the court will deny and dismiss the Petition with prejudice.
Additionally, a Certificate of Appealability is not warranted as it may issue “only if the applicant
has made a substantial showing of the denial of a constitutional right.” 28 U.S.C. ' 2253(c)(2).
The Petitioner “must demonstrate that reasonable jurists would find the district court’s
assessment of the constitutional claims debatable or wrong,” Tennard v. Dretke, 542 U.S. 274,
282 (2004) (citation and internal quotation marks omitted), or that “the issues presented are
adequate to deserve encouragement to proceed further,” Miller-El v. Cockrell, 537 U.S. 322, 327
(2003). Because this court finds that there has been no substantial showing of the denial of a
constitutional right, a Certificate of Appealability shall be denied. See 28 U. S.C. § 2253(c)(2).
Denial of a Certificate of Appealability in the district court does not preclude Patterson from
requesting a Certificate of Appealability from the appellate court.
A separate Order follows.
May 18, 2015
DEBORAH K. CHASANOW
United States District Judge
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