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Wright v. Lee

United States District Court, D. Connecticut

March 19, 2018

IAN WRIGHT, Petitioner,
CHARLES LEE, et al., Respondents.


          Stefan R. Underhill United States District Judge.

         Petitioner Ian Wright filed a petition for writ of habeas corpus pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254 in which he challenged his 2002 conviction for murder and carrying a pistol without a permit. Wright amended his petition on April 7, 2014. On July 10, 2017, I denied Wright's amended petition. See Wright v. Lee, 2017 WL 2938193 (D. Conn. July 10, 2017).

         Wright has filed a number of post-judgment motions, including a motion to alter or amend the judgment, a motion for extension of time, a motion for leave to proceed in forma pauperis on appeal, a motion for free copies of the pleadings, a motion for a copy of the docket sheet, a motion for a certificate of appealability, and motions for a hearing and a status conference. For the reasons set forth below, I deny all of Wright's motions.

         I. Motion to Alter or Amend the Judgment [Doc. No. 143]

         Wright moves to alter or amend my ruling denying his habeas petition. On August 9, 2017, Wright filed a notice of appeal of my order denying the amended habeas petition and the judgment entered in favor of the respondents. On February 6, 2018, the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit issued a Mandate that denied Wright's motions for a certificate of appealability and to proceed in forma pauperis, and dismissed Wright's appeal because Wright had not “made a substantial showing of the denial of a constitutional right.” Mandate, Doc. No. 157 (quoting 28 U.S.C. § 2253(c)); see also Miller-El v. Cockrell, 537 U.S. 322, 327 (2003).

         A. Standard of Review

         The Second Circuit has observed that a motion to alter or amend judgment under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 59(e) is essentially the same as a motion seeking reconsideration of a judgment or order-“each seeks to reopen a district court's decision on the theory that the court made mistaken findings in the first instance.” City of Hartford v. Chase, 942 F.2d 130, 133-34 (2d Cir. 1991). Accordingly, “[c]ourts consider motions under Rule 59(e) pursuant to the same standard as that governing motions for reconsideration.” Allstate Ins. Co. v. Passaro-Henry, 660 F.Supp.2d 317, 325 (D. Conn. 2009); see also Schwartz v. HSBC Bank USA, 2017 WL 2634180, at *2 (S.D.N.Y. June 19, 2017) (collecting cases)

         The standard for granting a motion for reconsideration is “strict, ” and “reconsideration will generally be denied unless the moving party can point to controlling decisions or data that the court overlooked.” Shrader v. CSX Transp., 70 F.3d 255, 257 (2d Cir. 1995). The movant must identify “matters . . . that might reasonably be expected to alter the conclusion reached by the court, ” id., such as “an intervening change of controlling law, the availability of new evidence, or the need to correct a clear error or prevent manifest injustice.” Kolel Beth Yechiel Mechil of Tartikov v. YLL Irrevocable Tr., 729 F.3d 99, 104 (2d Cir. 2013). Conversely, a Rule 59(e) motion should not be employed as “a vehicle for relitigating old issues, presenting the case under new theories, securing a rehearing on the merits, or otherwise taking a ‘second bite at the apple.'” Analytical Surveys, Inc. v. Tonga Partners, L.P., 684 F.3d 36, 52 (2d Cir. 2012).

         B. Discussion

         In the amended petition for writ of habeas corpus, Wright asserted three grounds for relief. He argued that: (1) the state trial judge erred in failing to charge the jury on the defense of justification or self-defense regarding the conduct of a third party shooter (the “jury instruction claim”); (2) trial counsel was ineffective for failing to move for a bill of particulars on the first count of the information (the “trial counsel claim”) and (3) appellate counsel was ineffective for failing to challenge the trial court's jury charge on accessorial liability (the “appellate counsel claim”). See Am. Pet., Doc. No. 45 at 12-13, 15-16, 18-19. I denied the jury instruction claim because I determined that the Connecticut Appellate Court had reasonably applied federal law in deciding that the Superior Court properly declined to give Wright's requested defense-of-others instruction. With respect to trial counsel claim and the appellate counsel claim, I concluded that both grounds for relief had been procedurally defaulted and were therefore barred from federal habeas review. Wright contends that I erred in denying each ground for relief.

         In addressing Wright's jury instruction claim, I observed that Wright argued that the Superior Court's failure to charge the jury on the defense of justification or self-defense regarding the conduct of a third party shooter deprived him of his fundamental right to present a defense, which is guaranteed by the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. See Wright, 2017 WL 2938193, at *6. I analyzed Wright's constitutional claim under the standards set forth in Estelle v. McGuire, 502 U.S. 62 (1991), Cupp v. Naughten, 414 U.S. 141 (1973), and other Supreme Court decisions, and I concluded that the omission of Wright's preferred instruction on self-defense or justification did not deny Wright due process. See Id. at 7. Therefore, I held, the Connecticut Appellate Court did not unreasonably apply federal law in affirming the Superior Court's decision not to charge the jury on Wright's defenses related to the conduct of others. Id.

         Wright argues that I based my decision on erroneous factual findings and unreasonably applied the standard set forth in Estelle, 502 U.S. at 67-68. Wright contends that he met his burden of demonstrating that the jury charge deprived him of a federal constitutional right. Wright does not indicate, however, how my decision erroneously applied Estelle. As a result, Wright has not identified any case law, information, or evidence that I overlooked in denying his jury instruction claim. I deny Wright's motion to alter or amend the judgment denying the first ground for relief raised by his amended petition for writ of habeas corpus.

         With respect to Wright's second and third grounds for relief, I concluded both were procedurally defaulted. As I noted, “[a] prerequisite for habeas corpus relief under 28 U.S.C. § 2254 is the exhaustion of available state remedies.” Wright, 2017 WL 2938193, at *8 (citing 28 U.S.C. § 2254(b)(1)(A); O'Sullivan v. Boerckel, 526 U.S. 838, 842 (1999)). “To satisfy the exhaustion requirement, a petitioner must present the essential factual and legal bases of his federal claim to each appropriate state court . . . in order to give state courts a full and fair ‘opportunity to pass upon and correct alleged violations of [state] prisoners' federal rights.'” Id. (quoting Duncan v. Henry, 513 U.S. 364, 365 (1995) (per curiam)). In addition, “[u]nder the procedural default doctrine, a federal court will not review the merits of a claim raised in a habeas petition . . . if (1) the state court declined to address the claim because the prisoner ‘failed to meet a state procedural requirement, ' and (2) the state court decision is based on ‘independent and adequate state procedural grounds.'” Id. at *10 (quoting Walker v. Martin, 562 U.S. 307, 315-16 (2011)). A defaulted claim may be reviewed only if the petitioner “demonstrate[s] ‘cause for his state-court default . . . and prejudice therefrom, '” or if he “can demonstrate a sufficient probability that [ ] failure to review his federal claim will result in a fundamental miscarriage of justice.” Id. at *11 (quoting Edwards v. Carpenter, 529 U.S. 446, 451 (2000)).

         Wright offers no support for his contention that he met (or could meet) the cause and prejudice requirements that are generally required to permit federal review of a defaulted constitutional claim. Nor does he indicate which facts found by the court were erroneous. Instead, Wright recites some of the procedural history of each ground for relief and argues that neither ground was defaulted, because he fully and fairly exhausted them by filing his own brief with the Connecticut Appellate ...

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