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Samuels v. Hassel

United States District Court, D. Connecticut

March 20, 2017

RALSTON ENRICO SAMUELS, Petitioner,
v.
SCOTT HASSEL and SCOTT SATTERFIELD, Respondents.

          RULING ON AMENDED PETITION FOR WRIT OF HABEAS CORPUS

          Vanessa L. Bryant, United States District Judge

         The petitioner, Ralston Enrico Samuels, currently residing in Jamaica, brings this action pro se for a writ of habeas corpus pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254 (2000). He challenges his conviction for sexual assault and risk of injury to a minor on the ground that he was afforded ineffective assistance of counsel. For the reasons that follow, the petition is denied.

         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 (2005).

         On July 12, 2005, the petitioner filed a petition for writ of habeas corpus in state court. In his state habeas action, the petitioner raised four claims of ineffective assistance of counsel, all relating to medical and psychological testimony. He argued 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. The state court denied the petition. Samuels v. Warden, State Prison, No. TSR-CV05-4000544-S, 2010 WL 5064654, at *3-6 (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. He included three grounds for relief. In the first ground, the petitioner alleged that he was falsely accused. In the second ground, he argued 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 alleged 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 filed a motion to dismiss, arguing that the petitioner had exhausted his state court remedies only with regard to a portion of the third ground for relief. The Court granted the motion and dismissed the case. See Doc. #20. In May 2015, the petitioner moved to reopen the case and proceed only on the exhausted claims. The Court granted the motion and ordered the respondents to address the merits of the exhausted claims, that trial counsel was ineffective for failing to consult medical and psychiatric experts and effectively cross-examine the state's experts.

         II. Factual Background

         The Connecticut Supreme Court determined that the jury reasonably could have found the following facts. The victim, age thirteen, went to live with her grandmother prior to the start of the 1998-99 school year. The grandmother, who was partially blind, owned a three-story house. She lived on the first floor and the petitioner, who was twenty-four years old, rented a basement apartment. He frequently spent time with the victim and her grandmother. Samuels, 273 Conn. at 545, 841 A.2d at 1010.

         In the early summer of 1999, the petitioner and the grandmother were involved in a dispute over an allegedly unpaid loan the grandmother had made to the petitioner. After several arguments, the grandmother asked the petitioner to move out of the apartment. The petitioner's former girlfriend helped him move. She told the grandmother that the victim had written letters to the petitioner. The grandmother asked the victim's uncle to determine whether anything inappropriate had occurred between the petitioner and the victim. Id., 841 A.2d at 1010.

         In response to her uncle's questions, the victim said that she had sexual intercourse with the petitioner on four separate occasions. The victim's mother immediately notified the police. A police officer interviewed the victim and her family and filed an official report in July 1999. Id., 841 A.2d at 1010.

         III. 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).

         The federal court cannot grant a petition for a writ of habeas corpus filed by a person in state custody with regard to any claim that was rejected on the merits by the state court ...


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