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Ray v. Superintendent of SCI - Huntingdon

June 26, 2008

JOSEPH RAY, PETITIONER,
v.
SUPERINTENDENT OF SCI - HUNTINGDON, ET AL., DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Judge McClure

MEMORANDUM

BACKGROUND

On April 16, 2007, petitioner Joseph Ray, pro se, filed a petition for a writ of habeas corpus under 28 U.S.C. § 2254. On May 24, 2004, Ray was convicted in the Chester County Court of Common Pleas in Pennsylvania on four counts of robbery and four counts of possession of an instrument of crime and received a sentence of ten to twenty years. On September 19, 2005, the Pennsylvania Superior Court denied Ray's appeal. On December 28, 2005, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court affirmed the Superior Court's denial. Ray did not file a petition for writ of certiorari with the United States Supreme Court.

Ray also pursued a collateral appeal pursuant to the Pennsylvania Post Conviction Relief Act ("PCRA"). On August 16, 2006, the Chester County Court of Common Pleas dismissed Ray's petition. On April 13, 2007, the Superior Court affirmed the dismissal. Ray did not pursue an appeal with the Pennsylvania Supreme Court.

In his petition, Ray raises several claims of ineffective assistance of counsel as well as a claim that the stop of his vehicle violated the Fourth Amendment. (Rec. Doc. No. 1.) On December 18, 2007, we directed Ray to file a Notice of Election. (Rec. Doc. No. 4.) On January 15, 2008, Ray filed his election to have the court rule on his petition as filed. (Rec. Doc. No. 5.)

On January 16, 2008, we ordered service of the petition on the government. (Rec. Doc. No. 6.) On February 19, 2008, the government filed its response. (Rec. Doc. No. 7.) On April 28, 2008, petitioner filed his traverse. (Rec. Doc. No. 10.) For the following reasons, we will deny the petition.

DISCUSSION

I. Legal Standard

The court may "entertain an application for a writ of habeas corpus in behalf of a person in custody pursuant to the judgment of a State court only on the ground that he is in custody in violation of the Constitution or laws or treaties of the United States." 28 U.S.C. § 2254(a). A petition filed under § 2254 must be timely filed under the stringent standards set forth in the Anti-Terrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996 (AEDPA), Pub. L. No. 104-132, 110 Stat. 1214 (Apr. 24, 1996). 28 U.S.C. § 2244(d)(1). Additionally, we may only reach the merits of a petitioner's federal claims if each claim in his petition (1) has been exhausted in the state courts, and (2) is not procedurally defaulted. 28 U.S.C. § 2254(b)(1)(A); Coleman v. Thompson, 501 U.S. 722, 731-32 (1991); Slutzker v. Johnson, 393 F.3d 373, 379-81 (3d Cir. 2004). Exhaustion is required because it gives the state the "opportunity to pass upon and correct alleged violations of its prisoners' federal rights." Baldwin v. Reese, 541 U.S. 27, 29 (2004) (quoting Duncan v. Henry, 513 U.S. 364, 365 (1995) (internal quotations and additional citations omitted). In order to provide the state with the opportunity to address the prisoner's federal claims, a state prisoner must fairly present his claim in each appropriate state court (including a state supreme court with powers of discretionary review), thereby alerting that court to the federal nature of the claim. Id. (citing Duncan, 513 U.S. at 365-66.)

II. Relevant Facts

During 2002, there were a number of similar armed robberies that took place in southern Chester County, Pennsylvania and northern Delaware, which included a Wawa convenience store and a Burger King restaurant. Soon after, a confidential informant who knew petitioner contacted law enforcement concerning statements made by petitioner at a McDonald's restaurant that she overheard. Specifically, the confidential informant stated that she had heard petitioner bragging to another individual about having committed the recent armed robberies at Wawa and Burger King and also stated that it would be easy to rob the McDonald's. Petitioner then attempted to walk behind the restaurant counter but was rebuffed by an employee. The informant also informed law enforcement that he drove a maroon Crown Victoria from the 1980s.

A Pennsylvania State Police trooper went to the McDonald's and verified from an employee that petitioner had in fact attempted to walk behind the counter but was stopped by an employee. Because petitioner matched the description of the perpetrator of the other robberies and because of his actions at the McDonald's, a surveillance detail was organized for that night to watch the McDonald's.

At approximately 9 p.m. that evening, an armed robbery took place at a local market. The description of the perpetrator matched the description from the previous robberies. A patrol unit was dispatched to petitioner's residence but petitioner was not there. An hour later, an armed robbery took place at another local market and the description of the perpetrator once again matched the description from the previous robberies. State police trooper Charles Cusanno went to petitioner's residence and confirmed that he was not there. Cussano then went to an area known for drug transactions, suspecting that petitioner may be attempting to spend the proceeds from the robberies. As he approached the area, Cussano observed petitioner in his maroon Crown Victoria driving in the opposite direction. Cussano turned around and activated his siren and lights. Petitioner soon pulled over and while approaching, police observed numerous bills of small domination strewn on the front seat as well as gloves and a black pullover shirt. Petitioner was placed under arrest. At the police station, petitioner made incriminating statements against himself regarding the robberies.

Following a non-jury trial, petitioner was then found guilty of four counts of robbery and four counts of possessing an instrument of a crime. He was sentenced to a ...


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