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Hammond v. Brooks

May 29, 2009


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Yohn, J.


Presently before the court is petitioner Christopher Wade Hammond's motion for a writ of habeas corpus pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254. Hammond was convicted of first-degree murder, robbery, and theft and was sentenced to consecutive terms of life imprisonment for the murder conviction and ten to twenty years' imprisonment for the robbery conviction. After conducting a de novo review of the Report and Recommendation of United States Magistrate Judge Timothy R. Rice, and upon consideration of petitioner's objections thereto, the court will overrule petitioner's objections, adopt in substantial part the Report, and approve the Recommendation.


The Pennsylvania Superior Court, in reviewing Hammond's direct appeal, summarized the history of Hammond's arrest and convictions:

The victim, an employee of Dunkin' Donuts, was killed at the store. Police investigation into the murder focused on a young black man described by many witnesses as being in and around the Dunkin' Donuts store in the hours surrounding the matter. In the early part of the day, starting at approximately 1:30 p.m., witnesses recalled observing a man fitting this description siting in the store; after 6:00 p.m. that day, customers were waited on by a similarly-described man, who appeared unfamiliar with the workings of the store. Across the street, another witness was at the bus stop at approximately 6:08 p.m. when he was approached by a black man who asked him what time the bus arrived and, upon learning the bus was due, but was usually late, ran across the street to Dunkin' Donuts. Several minutes later, a black man banged on the bus door, got on the bus and remained in the front. At approximately the same time, an ambulance driver observed a black man run from Dunkin' Donuts and frantically try to catch a bus. The bus driver similarly recalled a young black man run from the Dunkin' Donuts, board the bus and stand in the front until the driver let him off in Center City Philadelphia. Register tapes from Dunkin' Donuts showed irregular activity beginning at 5:46 p.m. the evening of the murder.

The Montgomery County Grand Jury began an investigation into the murder. The grand jury issued a subpoena ordering [Hammond] to appear. Detectives searched unsuccessfully for [Hammond] before hand-delivering the subpoena to [Hammond's] father at [Hammond's] last known address.

[Hammond] failed to appear before the grand jury on the date specified in the subpoena. As a result, a bench warrant was issued for [Hammond]. This information was entered into the National Crime Information Computer ("NCIC").

Approximately two months later, [Hammond] was arrested in Ohio on unrelated theft and drug charges. Before they released [Hammond], the Ohio police notified Montgomery County authorities that [Hammond] was in custody, and would be detained on the basis of the NCIC notices. Montgomery County detectives went to Ohio and met with [Hammond]. After being advised of his Miranda rights, [Hammond] waived those rights and gave an incriminating statement in which he explained the events of the day of the murder. . . . [Hammond] subsequently appeared for an extradition hearing, represented by counsel, at which he waived extradition and agree[d] to return to Pennsylvania. The Montgomery County detectives accompanied [Hammond] back to Pennsylvania. During the return trip [Hammond] made additional incriminating statements.

Commonwealth v. Hammond, 764 A.2d 1123 (Pa. Super. Ct. 2000) (unpublished table decision).

On February 9, 1999, a jury convicted Hammond of first-degree murder, robbery and theft. The jury could not agree on a sentence, so on February 11, 1999, the trial judge sentenced Hammond to life imprisonment for the first-degree murder charge and ten to twenty years' imprisonment for the robbery charge. The terms of imprisonment were to run consecutively.

Hammond filed a timely notice of appeal in the Superior Court of Pennsylvania on October 22, 1999. In his direct appeal, Hammond raised three claims:

(1) [W]hether the trial court improperly refused to suppress [Hammond's] inculpatory statements;

(2) [W]hether the verdict was against the weight of the evidence; and

(3) [W]hether the trial court improperly refused to instruct the jury on [Hammond's] voluntary intoxication or drugged condition.

Id. On August 28, 2000, the Pennsylvania Superior Court affirmed the judgment of sentence. Hammond then filed a petition for allowance of appeal to the Pennsylvania Supreme Court, which the Pennsylvania Supreme Court denied on June 4, 2001.

On May 29, 2002, Hammond filed a Pennsylvania Post Conviction Relief Act ("PCRA") petition pursuant to 42 Pa. Con. Stat. §§ 9451 et seq. Hammond later filed an amended PCRA petition, in which he raised three grounds for relief in an effort to make out a layered ineffective assistance of counsel claim:

(1) During the early stages of this case, [Hammond's initial counsel] failed to file a Motion to Quash Subpoena before the issuing judge on January 26, 1998. This failure to file an appropriate Motion to Quash led to the admission of statements made by [Hammond] in Ohio in January of 1998 that would not have been [admitted into evidence] but for counsel's failure to effectively represent [Hammond.] Additionally, [counsel] failed to meet with [Hammond] prior to appearing on [Hammond's] behalf before the Honorable Judge Subers, the supervising judge of the Montgomery County Grand Jury at the time. [Counsel] also initiated plea bargain negotiations without the consent of his client[. The plea negotiations] were contrary to [Hammond's] wishes.

(2) Trial counsel . . . was ineffective in his representation of [Hammond] during the actual trial phase of these proceedings to the extent that [Hammond] did not receive a fair trial in contradiction to his constitutional rights. Specifically, [trial counsel] failed to challenge the voluntariness of [Hammond's] statements at any phase of the proceedings, but specifically during the two-day suppression hearing in May of 1998. [Trial counsel] also failed to notify [Hammond] of his right to testify at the suppression hearing and no colloquy was performed at this hearing that allowed [Hammond] to know his rights. Additionally, [trial counsel] failed to challenge or argue against the contradictory testimony given by a commonwealth witness as to the chronology of events that occurred on the day of the murder and failed to have independent DNA analysis performed on blood and hair samples found at the scene of the crime. Finally, [trial counsel] failed to adequately argue the alibi defense that was implicit from the facts of this case or to request that the Trial Court give an alibi defense instruction.

(3) [Appellate Counsel] failed to submit an adequate appeal on [Hammond's] behalf in that she failed to raise prior counsel's ineffectiveness, failed to raise the issue of the alibi defense, failed to challenge rulings made by the Trial Court in regard to unavailable witnesses and failed to notify [Hammond] of his appellate rights.

(Resp't's Answer Pet'r's Pet. Writ Habeas Corpus, Ex. E, Pet'r's PCRA Pet. at5-7.)

After appointing counsel and holding a hearing, the PCRA court denied Hammond's motion on March 17, 2003. Hammond appealed this dismissal to the Superior Court, raising five issues for review:

(1) The Trial Court erred by failing to find that [Hammond's] first attorney . . . was constitutionally ineffective when [he] failed to file, or to otherwise present to the Court of Common Pleas, a Motion to Quash the bench warrant that had been issued . . . in November of 1997 for failure to appear before the Montgomery County Grand Jury. The Superior Court of Pennsylvania later found that ...

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