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Stevenson v. Falcone

United States District Court, D. Connecticut

July 17, 2017

TERRANCE STEVENSON, Petitioner,
v.
FALCONE, Respondent.

          ORDER OF DISMISSAL

          Michael P. Shea United States District Judge.

         On February 14, 2017, the petitioner, Terrance Stevenson, filed a petition for writ of habeas corpus under 28 U.S.C. § 2254 in this Court challenging his state convictions. Specifically, he claims that the state violated his right to due process under Brady v. Maryland, 373 U.S. 83 (1963), by failing to disclose material exculpatory evidence during his criminal trial. He also claims that the state failed to correct the false testimony of its key witness, in violation of Giglio v. United States, 405 U.S. 150 (1972). On April 19, 2017, this Court ordered the petitioner to show cause why his petition should not be dismissed as time-barred under 28 U.S.C. § 2244(d)(1). Order to Show Cause [Doc.#5]. The petitioner filed two written responses to the Court's order on April 26, 2017 and May 1, 2017, respectively. Resp. to Order to Show Cause [Doc.#7]; Suppl. Resp. to Order to Show Cause [Doc.#8]. Thereafter, he filed two motions for an evidentiary hearing [Doc.#s 9, 10], a motion to expand the record to include trial transcript testimony [Doc.#11], a motion to appoint counsel [Doc.#12], and an amended petition [Doc.#13]. For reasons that follow, this Court will dismiss both petitions as untimely and deny the petitioner's motions.

         I. Background

         On March 4, 1997, the petitioner was convicted of murder as an accessory, in violation of Conn. Gen. Stat. §§ 53a-54a(a) and 53a-8, and conspiracy to commit murder, in violation of Conn. Gen. Stat. §§ 53a-54a and 53a-48(a). The Connecticut Appellate Court affirmed the judgment of conviction on June 1, 1999; State v. Stevenson, 53 Conn.App. 551, 733 A.2d 253 (1999); and the Connecticut Supreme Court denied a petition for certification to appeal the Appellate Court's decision on July 21, 1999. State v. Stevenson, 250 Conn. 917, 734 A.2d 990 (1999).

         Following his conviction, the petitioner filed his first petition for writ of habeas corpus in state court.[1] The petitioner claimed that his trial counsel was ineffective during the criminal trial and sentencing and that the trial court deprived him of due process by failing to appoint new counsel for him during sentencing. Stevenson v. Warden, No. CV970573787, 2000 WL 638947, *1 (Conn. Super. Ct. May 2, 2000). The state habeas court denied the petition on May 2, 2000. Id. at *3. Thereafter, the Connecticut Appellate Court affirmed the state habeas court's decision. Stevenson v. Comm'r of Corr., 67 Conn.App. 908, 792 A.2d 909 (2002). On March 28, 2002, the Connecticut Supreme Court denied a petition for certification to appeal the Appellate Court's decision. Stevenson v. Comm'r of Corr., 260 Conn. 905, 795 A.2d 547 (2002).

         Nine months later, on January 14, 2003, the petitioner filed his second state habeas petition. In that petition, he alleged that his appellate counsel and first state habeas counsel were ineffective for failing to raise claims regarding the prosecutor's misconduct during the criminal trial. Stevenson v. Warden, No. CV030473103S, 2007 WL 1892843, *2 (Conn. Super. Ct. Jun. 6, 2007). The state habeas court denied his second petition on June 6, 2007. Id. at 4. The Connecticut Appellate Court affirmed the denial of that petition on February 17, 2009; Stevenson v. Comm'r of Corr., 112 Conn.App. 675, 963 A.2d 1077 (2009); and the Connecticut Supreme Court denied a petition for certification to appeal the Appellate Court's decision on March 31, 2009. Stevenson v. Comm'r of Corr., 291 Conn. 904, 967 A.2d 1221 (2009).

         On March 28, 2012, approximately three years after the second state habeas judgment became final, the petitioner filed his third state habeas petition. In that petition, the petitioner raised the claims that he now raises in his federal habeas petition: (1) the state failed to disclose exculpatory material evidence; and (2) the state failed to correct the false testimony of its key witness. Stevenson v. Warden, No. CV114004660S, 2014 WL 7593460, *1 (Conn. Super. Ct. Dec. 4, 2014). With respect to the first claim, the petitioner argued that the state failed to disclose Department of Correction (“DOC”) administrative documents, known as “RT-42s” (and certain related DOC administrative documents), which allegedly contradict the testimony of the state's key witness, Jeffrey Dolphin, on a particular point. Specifically, Dolphin testified that he initially had not identified the petitioner as one of the perpetrators of the crime because he had been threatened by one of the petitioner's cohorts, Trent Butler, while in courthouse lock-up on March 8, 1995. Id. at *4. The RT-42s and other DOC administrative documents showed that Dolphin and Butler were not transported to court together on March 8, 1995, and that the two inmates were supposed to be separated from one another because Dolphin was going to testify against Butler. Id. As for the second claim, the petitioner argued that the state failed to correct Dolphin's false testimony regarding the date upon which Butler had threatened him. Id.

         The state habeas court denied the third petition on December 4, 2014; Stevenson, 2014 WL 7593460, *6-8. The court ruled that there was no evidence that the state had suppressed the RT-42s, which were created by DOC for their own administrative reasons, and, even if the state had suppressed them, they were not material with respect to the petitioner's guilt, which was supported by overwhelming evidence and other DOC documents that showed that Dolphin and Butler were together on various occasions. Id. at 5-6. As for the second claim, the court ruled that there was no evidence that Dolphin's testimony regarding the date on which Butler had threatened him was perjured as opposed to an innocuous misstatement of fact. Id. at 7. Moreover, regardless of the date upon which the threat occurred, Dolphin's testimony regarding the substance of the threat was not disputed. Id. at 7.

         The petitioner appealed the state habeas court's decision to the Connecticut Appellate Court, which affirmed the denial of the petition; Stevenson v. Comm'r of Corr., 165 Conn.App. 355, 139 A.3d 718 (2016). The Appellate Court held that the record did not support the petitioner's argument that the state had suppressed the RT-42s, in part because it was the public defender's office, not the prosecutor, who had requested that Dolphin and Butler be separated, and DOC was not the investigative arm of the state. Id. at 368. Moreover, the Appellate Court agreed with the state habeas court that there was no reasonable likelihood that Dolphin's potentially misleading testimony affected the jury's verdict, reasoning that (1) the state had presented overwhelming evidence of the petitioner's guilt, and (2) the state impeached Dolphin, its own witness, by calling a DOC representative to testify that Dolphin and Butler were not transported to court together on March 8, 1995, which gave the petitioner favorable material for closing argument. Id. at 372-73. On June 21, 2016, the Connecticut Supreme Court denied a petition for certification to appeal the Appellate Court's decision. Stevenson v. Comm'r of Corr., 322 Conn. 903, 138 A.3d 933 (2016).

         Approximately eight months after the third state habeas judgment became final, the petitioner filed this petition for writ of habeas corpus, raising the same two claims as in his third state habeas petition. In its Order to Show Cause, this Court required the petitioner to show why the petition was not barred by the one-year statute of limitations set forth in 28 U.S.C. § 2244(d)(1) because approximately four years and eight months had elapsed between the date his convictions became final and the filing of this petition.[2]

         In his responses to the Court's order, the petitioner argues that the limitations period began to run on the date his third state habeas action concluded, June 21, 2016, because the State had unconstitutionally withheld the evidence necessary to make the claim he now makes or because the factual predicate for the claims raised in this petition was newly discovered during his third state habeas action. See 28 U.S.C. §§ 2244(d)(1)(B), (D); Resp. to Order to Show Cause at 2; Suppl. Resp. to Order to Show Cause at 2. Although he acknowledges that the issue regarding the RT-42s arose during his criminal trial, he argues that DOC did not disclose the actual documents until his third state habeas trial. Suppl. Resp. to Order to Show Cause at 3, 6.

         II. Timeliness of Petition

         Title 28, section 2244(d)(1) of the United States Code imposes a one year statute of limitations on federal petitions for writ of habeas corpus challenging a judgment of conviction imposed by a state court. The one-year limitations period runs from the latest of:

(A) the date on which the judgment became final by the conclusion of direct review or the expiration of the time for seeking such review;
(B) the date on which the impediment to filing an application created by State action in violation of the Constitution or laws of the United States is removed, if the applicant was prevented from filing by such State action;
(C) the date on which the constitutional right asserted was initially recognized by the Supreme Court, if the right has been newly recognized by the Supreme Court and made ...

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