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Saturno v. Mulligan

United States District Court, D. Connecticut

April 24, 2019

DONALD SATURNO, Petitioner,
v.
WILLIAM MULLIGAN, Respondent.

          RULING ON PETITION FOR WRIT OF HABEAS CORPUS

          Alvin W. Thompson United States District Judge.

         The petitioner, Donald Saturno, was incarcerated when he filed this petition for writ of habeas corpus pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254. On May 16, 2018, he notified the court that he would soon be living in Danbury, Connecticut. See Notice, ECF No. 15. On May 21, 2018, a prison official informed the court that the petitioner had been discharged from the custody of State of Connecticut Department of Correction.

         The petitioner challenges his July 2014 convictions for manufacturing a bomb and possession of child pornography. For the reasons that follow, the petition will be dismissed.

         I. Procedural Background

         On July 1, 2014, in Connecticut Superior Court for the Judicial District of Stamford, in State v. Saturno, FST-CR13-0179761-T, the petitioner pled nolo contendere to one count of illegal manufacture of a bomb in violation of Connecticut General Statutes § 53-80, and in State v. Saturno, FST-CR13-0180369-T, the petitioner pleaded nolo contendere to one count of possession of child pornography in violation of Connecticut General Statutes § 53a-196d(a)(1), conditioned on his right to appeal the denial of his motion to suppress. See Pet. Writ Habeas Corpus, ECF No. 1, at 2; State v. Saturno, 322 Conn. 80, 87 (2016). A judge imposed a total effective sentence of twelve years of imprisonment, execution suspended after five years, followed by fifteen years of probation.[1] See Pet. Writ Habeas Corpus at 2.

         On appeal to the Connecticut Supreme Court pursuant to Connecticut General Statutes § 54-94a, the petitioner challenged the trial court's ruling denying his motion to suppress. See Saturno, 322 Conn. at 83-88. On July 19, 2016, the Connecticut Supreme Court concluded that the trial court had jurisdiction to deny the petitioner's motion to suppress the evidence that formed the basis for the charges against the petitioner, the trial court properly determined that probable cause existed to issue the administrative search warrant, the issuance of the administrative search warrant in an ex parte proceeding did not violate article first, § 7 of the Connecticut Constitution, and the execution of the administrative search warrant did not violate the petitioner's Fourth Amendment rights. Id. at 89-117.

         While his direct appeal was pending, the petitioner filed a state habeas petition. See Saturno v. Warden, No. TSR-CV15-4007153-S (Conn. Super. Ct. April 24, 2015). The petitioner states that the trial court has not decided his state habeas petition. See Pet. Writ Habeas Corpus at 5.[2]

         II. Legal Standard

         A prerequisite to habeas relief under section 2254 is the exhaustion of all available state remedies. See O'Sullivan v. Boerckel, 526 U.S. 838, 842 (1999) (“[T]he state prisoner must give the state courts an opportunity to act on his claims before he presents those claims to a federal court in a habeas petition.”); 28 U.S.C. § 2254(b)(1)(A) (“[a]n application for a writ of habeas corpus on behalf of a person in custody pursuant to the judgment of a State court shall not be granted unless it appears that . . . the applicant has exhausted the remedies available in the courts of the State”). The exhaustion requirement seeks to promote considerations of comity and respect between the federal and state judicial systems. See Davila v. Davis, ___ U.S. ___, 137 S.Ct. 2058, 2064, (2017) (“The exhaustion requirement is designed to avoid the ‘unseemly' result of a federal court ‘upset[ting] a state court conviction without' first according the state courts an ‘opportunity to ... correct a constitutional violation.'”) (quoting Rose v. Lundy, 455 U.S. 509, 518 (1982)).

         To satisfy the exhaustion requirement, a petitioner must present the essential factual and legal bases of his federal claim to each appropriate state court, including the highest state court capable of reviewing it, in order to give state courts a full and fair “opportunity to pass upon and correct alleged violations of its prisoners' federal rights.” Duncan v. Henry, 513 U.S. 364, 365 (1995) (per curiam) (internal quotation marks and citation omitted). A federal claim has been “fairly present[ed] in each appropriate state court, including a state supreme court with powers of discretionary review, ” if it “alert[s] that court to the federal nature of the claim.” Baldwin v. Reese, 541 U.S. 27, 29 (2004) (internal parentheses and quotation marks omitted). A petitioner “does not fairly present a claim to a state court if that court must read beyond a petition or a brief . . . that does not alert it to the presence of a federal claim in order to find material . . . that does so.” Id. at 32.

         III. Discussion

         The petitioner raises four grounds in his petition: (1) ineffective assistance of counsel; (2) jurisdiction; (3) the Connecticut Supreme Court “exceeded the scope of the direct appeal specified in [Connecticut General Statutes §] 54-94a;” and (4) “perjury in Marjorie Beauchette[']s testimony.” See Pet. Writ Habeas Corpus at 9, 11, 13, 15. The petitioner indicates that he did not exhaust the first and second grounds of the petition and does not indicate whether he exhausted ground three or four either on direct appeal or in his state habeas petition. To the extent that the petitioner is challenging, in ground three, the trial court's denial of the motion to suppress evidence as upheld by the Connecticut Supreme Court on direct appeal, ground three appears to have been exhausted. See Saturno, 322 Conn. at 83 & n.1 (acknowledging that the trial court [had] determined that its ruling on the motion to suppress was dispositive, thereby satisfying the requirements [for filing an appeal under] § 54-94a” and that the issue to be considered on an appeal pursuant to Conn. Gen. Stat. § 54-94a “shall be limited to whether it was proper for the court to have denied the motion to suppress. . . .” (internal quotation marks and citation omitted).

         Based on the petitioner's description of the claims asserted in his state habeas petition, it appears that he has raised grounds one and two of this petition in the state habeas petition. See Pet. Writ. Habeas Corpus at 5, 9, 13. As indicated above, the state habeas petition remains pending. It is not clear whether the petitioner has raised ground four either on direct appeal or in his state habeas petition.

         As the petition stands, only one ground has arguably been fully exhausted. With respect to the other three grounds, the petitioner has not alleged that there is no opportunity for redress in state court or that the state court process is clearly deficient. Thus, he is not excused from exhausting his state remedies before proceeding in federal court. See 28 U.S.C. 2254(b)(1)(B)(i) & (ii)(federal district court may consider a claim that has not been exhausted in state court if “there is an absence of available State corrective process; or” circumstances exist that render the state court process “ineffective to protect the rights of the [petitioner].”); Duckworth v. Serrano, 454 U.S. 1, 3 (1981)(an exception to the exhaustion requirement is appropriate “only if there is no opportunity to obtain redress in state court or if the corrective process is so clearly deficient” that any attempt to secure ...


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