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Gjini v. Faucher

United States District Court, D. Connecticut

July 8, 2019

GAZMEN GJINI, Petitioner,
v.
WARDEN STEPHEN FAUCHER, Respondent.

          MEMORANDUM OF DECISION DENYING § 2254 APPLICATION FOR WRIT OF HABEAS CORPUS

          Hon. Vanessa L. Bryant, United States District Judge

         The Petitioner, Gazmen Gjini, an inmate currently confined at Corrigan-Radgowski Correctional Center in Uncasville, Connecticut, brings this action pro se for a writ of habeas corpus pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254. He challenges his 2013 Connecticut state court conviction for possession of a narcotic substance with intent to sell on two grounds: (1) he was denied a hearing pursuant to Franks v. Delaware in violation of his Fourth Amendment right to be free of unreasonable search and seizure and (2) his conviction for possession of a narcotic substance with the intent to sell is not supported by legally sufficient evidence. For the following reasons, the Application is denied.

         I. Standard of Review

         A district court may only entertain a petition for a writ of habeas corpus challenging a state court conviction if custody of the petitioner violates the Constitution or federal law. 28 U.S.C. § 2254(a). If a state court has rejected a petitioner's claim on its merits, federal courts cannot issue a writ of habeas corpus unless the state proceedings either:

(1) resulted in a decision that was contrary to, or involved an unreasonable application of, clearly established Federal law, as determined by the Supreme Court of the United States; or
(2) resulted in a decision that was based on an unreasonable determination of the facts in light of the evidence presented in the State court proceeding.

28 U.S.C. § 2254(d). Further, a petitioner must exhaust his remedies in state court unless there is no available state process or circumstances render the state process ineffective to protect his rights. 28 U.S.C. § 2254(b)(1).

         “State-court decisions are measured against this Court's precedents as of ‘the time the state court renders its decision.'” Cullen v. Pinholster, 563 U.S. 170, 182 (2011) (quoting Lockyer v. Andrade, 538 U.S. 63, 71-72 (2003)). A decision is “‘contrary to' clearly established federal law . . . if ‘the state court arrives at a conclusion opposite to that reached by [the Supreme] Court on a question of law or if the state court decides a case differently than [the Supreme] Court has on a set of materially indistinguishable facts.” Davis v. Grant, 532 F.3d 132, 140 (2d Cir. 2008) (quoting Williams v. Taylor, 529 U.S. 362, 412-13 (2000)). “The inquiry for the federal habeas court is not whether the state court's application of, or refusal to extend, the governing law was erroneous, but rather whether it was ‘objectively unreasonable.'” Davis, 532 F.3d at 140 (quoting Williams, 529 U.S. 408-410). Thus, federal courts grant a writ of habeas corpus if the state court's decision “was so lacking justification that there was an error well understood and comprehended in existing law beyond any possibility of fair-minded disagreement.” Harrington v. Richter, 562 U.S. 86, 103 (2011).

         Further, a federal court's review under § 2254 “is limited to the record that was before the state court that adjudicated the claim on the merits.” Cullen, 563 U.S. at 181. Factual determinations made by a state court are presumptively correct, and the petitioner may only rebut this presumption by presenting clear and convincing evidence to the contrary. 28 U.S.C. § 2254(e)(1). These procedural safeguards protect the autonomy of state criminal proceedings against federal intrusion. Harrington, 562 U.S. at 103.

         II. Factual and Procedural Background

         The Connecticut Appellate Court set forth the following facts leading to the Petitioner's surrender:

In 2009, the Stamford Police Department was investigating the defendant for illegal drug related activities. . . . The police used a cooperating witness to pose as a drug buyer and to purchase illegal drugs from the defendant. . . . [O]n June 13, 2009, under the supervision and surveillance of the police, the cooperating witness met with the defendant at a restaurant located on West Main Street in Stamford . . . [and] "talked about drugs."
One week following this initial meeting, . . . the cooperating witness contacted the defendant by telephone for the purpose of purchasing narcotics from him. . . . When the defendant arrived . . ., the cooperating witness got into the defendant's automobile, at which time she gave the defendant $80 in exchange for slightly less than one ounce of cocaine. . . .
[O]n July 2, 2009, the defendant sold drugs to one or more cooperating witnesses. . . . After this interaction, one or more police officers observed the defendant drive to his residence, a single family home located at 179 Cedar Heights Road in Stamford.
On August 13, 2009, the police obtained an arrest warrant for the defendant. That day, the police began to surveil the defendant's residence. The police observed an automobile that they had observed the defendant driving during the course of their investigation, a black 2009 Honda Accord with heavily tinted windows, parked in the driveway. The automobile was registered to Nahile Gjini, the defendant's mother. The police directed the cooperating witness to contact the defendant and arrange to purchase illegal narcotics from him. The cooperating witness informed the police that she had arranged for this transaction to take place at approximately 12:30 p.m., at the restaurant located on West Main Street in Stamford.
Shortly thereafter, the police observed the defendant exit the residence on Cedar Heights Road, get into the Honda, and drive to the restaurant located on West Main Street in Stamford, where he previously had sold narcotics to the cooperating witness. Two police officers traveling in an unmarked ...

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