United States District Court, D. Connecticut
ORDER FOR PETITIONER TO FILE SUPPLEMENTAL
A. BOLDEN, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
February 28, 2017, petitioner, Sheila Davalloo, an inmate
currently incarcerated at the Bedford Hills Correctional
Institution in Bedford Hills, New York, filed a petition for
writ of habeas corpus under 28 U.S.C. § 2254 in the
Southern District of New York challenging her Connecticut
conviction for murder. Pet., ECF No. 1 (Feb. 28, 2017).
Davalloo raises three claims in support of her petition: (1)
the trial court improperly admitted evidence of conversations
she had with her husband, which were protected by
Connecticut's marital privilege statute; (2) the trial
court improperly admitted evidence of uncharged misconduct,
including her attempted murder of her husband and statements
to her husband about surveilling the victim, and (3) she
“did not voluntarily and knowingly waiver her right to
counsel.” Id. at 5-8.
18, 2017, Ms. Davalloo's case was transferred to the
District of Connecticut. Order, ECF No. 17 (July 18, 2017).
November 8, 2017, Respondents submitted a written opposition
to the petition. Resp't Mem. in Opp. to Pet., ECF No. 25
(Nov. 8, 2017). In support of their opposition, Respondents
filed thirty-six documents, labeled as Appendices A through
N, of filings and judgments from the New York and Connecticut
state cases in which Ms. Davalloo was convicted.
See, Docket Entries, ECF Nos. 25-1 through 25-36
(Nov. 8, 2017).
January 16, 2018, Petitioner filed an objection to
Respondents' opposition. Pet'r Obj. to Resp't
Mem. in Opp., ECF No. 27 (Jan. 16, 2018).
support of her third ground for habeas relief, Ms. Davalloo
appears to be arguing that the trial court failed to inquire
into her competency to waive counsel. See Pet. at
8-9 (describing history of mental illness and failure of
mental health evaluators to opine on competency to waive
counsel); Pet'r Obj. at 7-8 (arguing failure of state
courts to apply Connecticut Supreme Court and United States
Supreme Court precedent on competency to waive counsel).
Although Ms. Davalloo asserted that she raised this claim in
state court, Pet. at 9; the Court's review of her
appellate court filings and state court judgments shows
direct appeal, Ms. Davalloo argued that the trial court erred
in finding a knowing, intelligent, and voluntary waiver of
counsel. Pet'r Appellate Ct. Brief, Resp't App. C,
ECF No. 25-3 at 46-50 (Aug. 30, 2013).
an accused possesses the mental competency to waive counsel,
however, is a separate inquiry from whether her waiver was
knowing, intelligent, and voluntary. As the U.S. Supreme has
The focus of a competency inquiry is the defendant's
mental capacity; the question is whether he has the
ability to understand the proceedings. The purpose
of the ‘knowing and voluntary' inquiry, by
contrast, is to determine whether the defendant actually
does understand the significance and consequences of
a particular decision and whether the decision is uncoerced.
Godinez v. Moran, 509 U.S. 389, 401 n.12 (1993)
(emphasis in the original) (internal citations omitted);
see Wright v. Bowersox, 720 F.3d 979, 985 n.5 (8th
Cir. 2013) (“A defendant's waiver of his right to
counsel must also be knowing and voluntary, but this is a
separate and distinct inquiry from whether he is
competent to waive his right to counsel.”
(emphasis in the original)).
Davalloo did not challenge the trial court's failure to
inquire into her competency to waive counsel on direct
appeal; she challenged only its finding of a knowing,
intelligent, and voluntary waiver. Therefore, to the extent
petitioner is now challenging the trial court's failure
to inquire into her competency to waive counsel,
such a claim is unexhausted.
light of the foregoing, the Court hereby
ORDERS Petitioner to file a notice with this
Court by February 14, 2020, indicating
whether she wishes to (a) exhaust the competency claim in
state court before this Court rules on her federal petition;
or (b) waive the competency claim and limit her third ground
for habeas relief to whether the trial court erred in finding
a knowing, intelligent, and voluntary waiver.
Davalloo chooses to exhaust her competency claim in state
court, this Court will deny her federal habeas petition
without prejudice subject to re-opening after the claim is
fully exhausted. See Fine v. Erfe, No. 3:17-cv-531
(AWT), 2017 WL 1362682, at *4 (D. Conn. Apr. 11, 2017)
(“[D]ismiss[ing a habeas petition] without prejudice to
reopening the case after completion of the exhaustion
process. . . . provides the same protection as the issuance
of a stay pending exhaustion.”); Rhines v.
Weber, 544 U.S. 269, 277 (2005) (“Staying a
federal habeas petition frustrates [the Antiterrorism and
Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996]'s objective of
encouraging finality by allowing a petitioner to delay the