United States District Court, D. Connecticut
FRANCIS P. GAFFNEY, Petitioner,
KENNETH BUTRICKS, Respondent.
RULING ON PETITION FOR WRIT OF HABEAS CORPUS
A. Dooley, United States District Judge
petitioner, Francis P. Gaffney (“Gaffney”), is an
inmate currently confined at Cheshire Correctional
Institution. He brings this petition for writ of habeas
corpus pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254 to challenge his
sixty-year sentence imposed following his 1989 plea of guilty
to felony murder and kidnapping charges. For the reasons that
follow, the petition is dismissed without prejudice for
failure to exhaust state court remedies.
March 28, 1989, in State v. Gaffney, No.
FBT-CR87-0032838-T, Gaffney pleaded guilty under the
Alford doctrine to one count of felony murder and one
count of kidnapping. Pet. Writ Habeas Corpus at 2. On June 2,
1989, he was sentenced to a total effective sentence of sixty
years of imprisonment without the possibility of parole.
Id. Gaffney did not appeal his conviction or
Gaffney has filed three state habeas petitions and one motion
to correct illegal sentence since 1990, for purposes of
this petition, only the third state habeas petition is of
import, see Gaffney v. Commissioner of Correction,
Docket No. TSR-CV17-4008794-S. Therein,  Gaffney
challenged his sixty-year sentence as violative of the Eighth
Amendment. See Pet. Writ Habeas Corpus at 29-31. He
argued that the holding in Miller v Alabama, 567
U.S. 460 (2012), that a mandatory life sentence for a
defendant who committed his crime before turning 18 years old
violates the Eighth Amendment, should apply to the imposition
of his sixty-year sentence for crimes he committed when he
was eighteen. See id.
addition, on July 6, 2017, Gaffney filed a motion in his
state criminal case, State v. Gaffney, No.
FBT-CR87-0032838-T, raising the same Eighth Amendment claim.
See Id. at 29. On August 23, 2017, the motion was
denied. See Id. at 30. Gaffney appealed the ruling
but withdrew the appeal on December 27, 2017. See
Id. at 13, State v. Gaffney, AC 41013.
March 22, 2018, Gaffney filed two motions for summary
judgment in the third state habeas action. See Id.
at 12-13. One motion raised the claim that Supreme
Court's holding in Miller should apply to his
sentence and the other motion raised a claim regarding
statutory construction. See Id. At the hearing on
the motions for summary judgment, Gaffney argued that the
decision in Cruz v. United States, Civil No.
11-CV-787 (JCH), which applied the holding in Miller
to vacate the sentence of a federal inmate who was eighteen
at the time that he committed his crime, should also apply to
his sentence. At the conclusion of the hearing, the judge
denied both motions but did not dismiss or deny the petition
for writ of habeas corpus. See Id. at 15-16. Gaffney
filed an interlocutory appeal of the denial of his motions
for summary judgment. On December 13, 2018, the Connecticut
Appellate Court dismissed the appeal because a final judgment
had not been entered by the trial court. See Id. at
6. On June 5, 2019, the Connecticut Supreme Court denied
Gaffney's petition for certification to appeal from the
order of the Connecticut Appellate Court. See Gaffney v.
Comm'r of Correction, 332 Conn. 903, 208 A.3d 660
(2019). As a consequence, the third habeas petition remains
pending in the superior court.
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); 28
U.S.C. § 2254(b)(1)(A). 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))).
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
Gaffney asserts that his sixty-year sentence violates both
the Cruel and Unusual Punishment Clause of the Eighth
Amendment and the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth
Amendment. Pet. Writ Habeas Corpus at 29. In support of these
claims, he alleges that the judge in his 2017 state habeas
petition erred in concluding that the neither the decision in
Miller, 567 U.S. 460, nor the decision in
Cruz, 2018 WL 1541898, applied to his sixty-year
sentence. Id. at 31-32. Although Gaffney states that
he raised the same Eighth Amendment claim in his 2017 state
habeas petition and raised the Fourteenth Amendment claim
when he appealed the denial of his motions for summary
judgment, he has not fully exhausted either claim.
Id. at 31-32. As indicated above, the third state
habeas petition is still pending. The Connecticut Appellate
Court did not address the merits of the constitutional claims
because the habeas court had not issued a final judgment.
Rather, the Appellate court “remanded” the case
back to the “habeas court for further proceedings,
” Id. at 32. Accordingly, the claim asserted
in this petition has not yet been fully exhausted.
Gaffney requests that the court stay this action while he
completes the exhaustion process in state court. In
Zarvela v. Artuz, 254 F.3d 374 (2d Cir. 2001), the
Second Circuit recommended that when “an outright
dismissal” of a petition containing both exhausted and
unexhausted claims “could jeopardize the timeliness of
a collateral attack, ” a district court should stay the
exhausted claims and dismiss the unexhausted claims with a
direction to the petitioner to timely complete the exhaustion
process and return to federal court. Id. at 380-82
(internal quotation marks and citations omitted). There is no
basis on which to stay this action because the only ground in
the petition is unexhausted. See Campbell v. Erfe,
No. 3:16CV1236(AWT), 2016 WL ...