WILLIAMS v. STATE OF NEW JERSEY
OPINION. Signed by Chief Judge Jerome B. Simandle on 2/21/2017. (TH, )
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE DISTRICT OF NEW JERSEY
HONORABLE JEROME B. SIMANDLE
No. 16-3195 (JBS)
STATE OF NEW JERSEY,
Damon Williams, Petitioner pro se
Camden County Correctional Facility
330 Federal Street
Camden, NJ 08102
SIMANDLE, Chief Judge:
Petitioner Damon Williams filed petition for writ of habeas
corpus pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2241 as well as a motion for
injunctive relief requesting that the Court order his release
from Camden County Correctional Facility and enjoin the State of
New Jersey from proceeding with Petitioner’s criminal trial.
Petition, Docket Entry 1; Motion for Injunctive Relief, Docket
Entry 4. For the reasons expressed below, the motion is denied
and the petition is dismissed without prejudice.
On September 2, 2014, Petitioner was charged via ComplaintWarrant with second-degree robbery, N.J. STAT. ANN. § 2C:15-1(a).
Exhibit C, Motion for Injunctive Relief. Representatives of the
Camden County Prosecutor’s Office presented the charges to a
grand jury, and the grand jury returned an indictment on an
unknown date. Petition ¶ 12.
Petitioner filed a motion to dismiss the indictment on
September 8, 2015 alleging that the assistant prosecutor and
detective had “intentionally deceived the grand jury by
misrepresenting the time the crime occurred, and [withheld]
exculpatory evidence that place[d] [Petitioner] at the hospital
one minute after the crime occurred four miles away from the
crime scene.” Id. ¶ 12(g). He filed a motion to suppress on
January 28, 2016 alleging that the “arrest warrant was issued in
reliance of false information that [Petitioner’s] fingerprint was
a match to fingerprint evidence found at the crime scene.” Id.
The motion to dismiss the indictment and motion to suppress the
fingerprint evidence were denied on January 22, 2016 and March 2,
2016, respectively. Id. ¶ 12(f). Petitioner indicates he
submitted a grievance to the Attorney General’s Office, id. ¶ 7,
but he did not move for leave to appeal to the New Jersey
Superior Court Appellate Division (“Appellate Division”). Id. ¶
Petitioner thereafter filed this petition alleging
violations of his Fourth, Fifth, and Fourteenth Amendment rights.
He asserts the assistant prosecutor and detective knowingly
presented false evidence to the grand jury in order to obtain an
indictment, the arrest warrant was based on falsified evidence,
and the record support technician lied about Petitioner’s
fingerprint matching the crime scene print during the motion to
suppress. Petition ¶ 13. In a supplemental brief, Petitioner
asserts that surveillance footage from the bank contradicts a
state witness’s version of events. Supplemental Brief, Docket
On February 15, 2017, Petitioner filed a Motion for
Injunctive Relief asking the Court to enjoin the state
proceedings against him.
STANDARD OF REVIEW
Petitioner brings this petition for a writ of habeas corpus
as a pro se litigant. The Court has an obligation to liberally
construe pro se pleadings and to hold them to less stringent
standards than more formal pleadings drafted by lawyers. Erickson
v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 94 (2007); Higgs v. Attorney Gen. of the
U.S., 655 F.3d 333, 339 (3d Cir. 2011), as amended (Sept. 19,
2011) (citing Estelle v. Gamble, 429 U.S. 97, 106 (1976)). A pro
se habeas petition and any supporting submissions must be
construed liberally and with a measure of tolerance.
Nevertheless, a federal district court must dismiss a habeas
corpus petition if it appears from the face of the petition that
Petitioner is not entitled to relief. 28 U.S.C. § 2254 Rule 4
(made applicable through Rule 1(b)); see also McFarland v. Scott,
512 U.S. 849, 856 (1994); Siers v. Ryan, 773 F.2d 37, 45 (3d Cir.
1985), cert. denied, 490 U.S. 1025 (1989).
“The decision to grant or deny . . . injunctive relief is an
act of equitable discretion by the district court.” eBay, Inc. v.
MercExchange, LLC, 547 U.S. 388, 391 (2006). Injunctive relief,
however, remains “‘an extraordinary remedy never awarded as of
right.’” Groupe SEB USA, Inc. v. Euro-Pro Operating LLC, 774 F.3d
192, 197 (3d Cir. 2014) (quoting Winter v. Natural Res. Def.
Council, Inc., 555 U.S. 7, 24 (2008)). A party seeking a
temporary or preliminary injunction “‘must establish that he is
likely to succeed on the merits, that he is likely to suffer
irreparable harm in the absence of preliminary relief, that the
balance of equities tips in his favor, and that an injunction is
in the public interest.’” Id. (quoting Winter, 555 U.S. at 20).
Petitioner raises three grounds for relief in his petition:
Detectives violated the [Petitioner’s] clearly
established constitutional rights not to be
deprived of his liberty or property or to be
arrested, detained, or imprisoned except upon
probable cause to believe him guilty of a crime,
under the Fourth, Fifth, and Fourteenth Amendments
by conspiring to fabricate and forward to the
arresting officer known false
information certain to influence
a finding of
It is firmly established that a constitutional
right exist [sic] not to be deprived of liberty on
the basis of false evidence fabricated by a
government officer. Detective Fallon and Record
untruthful, erroneous, and/or misleading testimony
regarding fingerprint evidence in violation of the
Due Process Clauses of the Fifth and Fourteenth
Plaintiff’s liberty was impaired by fabrication of
evidence being used by introducing it in evidence
before the grand jury, and by A/P Nevan Soumilas,
and Det. Ferris deliberately supplied misleading
information that influenced the grand jury’s
decision, in violation of the right to grand jury
Petition ¶ 13. He argues he is being irreparably harmed by the
withholding of exculpatory material, creation of incriminating
evidence, and “suffering a[n] increasing risk of being required
to undergo the rigors of trial to vindicate my claims that
jurisdiction is lacking for the state to bring any criminal
charges against petitioner.” Declaration in support of Injunctive
Relief ¶ 8.
District courts have jurisdiction under 28 U.S.C. § 2241 to
issue a writ of habeas corpus before a criminal judgment is
entered against an individual in state court, see Moore v. De
Young, 515 F.2d 437, 441-42 (3d Cir. 1975), but “that
jurisdiction must be exercised sparingly in order to prevent in
the ordinary circumstance ‘pre-trial habeas interference by
federal courts in the normal functioning of state criminal
processes.’” Duran v. Thomas, 393 F. App’x 3, 4 (3d Cir. 2010)
(quoting Moore, 515 F.3d at 445-46). “The district court should
exercise its ‘pre-trial’ habeas jurisdiction only if petitioner
makes a special showing of the need for such adjudication and has
exhausted state remedies.” Moore, 515 F.2d at 443.
Petitioner admits he has not presented his claims to the
Appellate Division and New Jersey Supreme Court. Petition ¶¶ 8-9.
“‘[T]he practice of exercising [federal habeas] power before the
question has been raised or determined in the state court is one
which ought not to be encouraged.’” Moore, 515 F.2d at 442
(quoting Cook v. Hart, 146 U.S. 183, 195 (1892)). The state
courts are equally responsible for “protecting the accused in the
enjoyment of his [federal] constitutional rights,” and “comity
demands that the state courts, under whose process he is held . .
. should be appealed to in the first instance.” Id. at 442-43
(internal quotation marks and citations omitted). As Petitioner’s
claims have not been exhausted in the state courts, the Court
will not exercise its pre-trial habeas jurisdiction unless there
are extraordinary circumstances.
Petitioner alleges violations of the Fourth, Fifth, and
Fourteenth Amendments. He has not presented anything indicating
that the state courts are incapable of addressing his arguments,
stating only that he “lacks the ability and resources necessary
to file a timely interlocutory appeal.” Petition ¶ 8(b). After
reviewing the petition, supplemental brief, and injunctive relief
motion, the Court concludes there are no extraordinary
circumstances warranting federal intervention in Petitioner’s
state criminal case at this time. Federal habeas proceedings
should not be used as a “‘pre-trial motion forum for state
prisoners,’” or to “permit the derailment of a pending state
proceeding by an attempt to litigate constitutional defenses
prematurely in federal court.” Braden v. 30th Judicial Circuit
Court of Kentucky, 410 U.S. 484, 493 (1973).
The Third Circuit has held in other pre-trial habeas actions
that requiring defendants to “undergo the rigors of trial” does
not constitute an extraordinary circumstance justifying the
intrusion into state criminal proceedings prior to the exhaustion
of state court remedies. Moore, 515 F.2d at 446. “Once he has
exhausted state court remedies, the federal courts will, of
course, be open to him, if need be, to entertain any petition for
habeas corpus relief which may be presented. These procedures
amply serve to protect [Petitioner]'s constitutional rights
without pre-trial federal intervention in the orderly functioning
of state criminal processes.” Id. at 449.
As Petitioner has not shown extraordinary circumstances
warranting federal intervention at this time, the petition will
be dismissed without prejudice to Petitioner’s right to bring a
petition under 28 U.S.C. § 2254, if necessary, after he has
exhausted his state court remedies.1 As he has not demonstrated a
likelihood of success on the merits of his petition, his request
for preliminary injunctive relief is denied. Fed. R. Civ. P. 65.
See also Am. Express Travel Related Servs., Inc. v. SidamonEristoff, 669 F.3d 359, 366 (3d Cir. 2012) (“The moving party's
failure to show a likelihood of success on the merits must
necessarily result in the denial of a preliminary injunction.”
(internal quotation marks omitted)).
Pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2253(c), a petitioner may not appeal
from a final order denying relief from a “detention complained of
aris[ing] out of process issued by a State Court” unless he has
“made a substantial showing of the denial of a constitutional
right.” 28 U.S.C. § 2253(c)(1)-(2). “When the district court
denies a habeas petition on procedural grounds without reaching
the prisoner's underlying constitutional claim, a [certificate of
appealability] should issue when . . . jurists of reason would
find it debatable whether the petition states a valid claim of
the denial of a constitutional right and that jurists of reason
would find it debatable whether the district court was correct in
The Court expresses no opinion as to whether any forthcoming
petition has otherwise met the requirements of § 2254.
its procedural ruling.” Slack v. McDaniel, 529 U.S. 473, 484
This Court denies a certificate of appealability because
jurists of reason would not find it debatable that dismissal of
the petition for failing to exhaust state court remedies is
For the reasons expressed above, this Court will dismiss the
petition without prejudice and deny the motion for injunctive
relief. No certificate of appealability shall issue.
An accompanying Order will be entered.
February 21, 2017
s/ Jerome B. Simandle
JEROME B. SIMANDLE
Chief U.S. District Judge
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