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Keith J. Canfield v. Michael Klopotoski

October 23, 2012


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Judge Caputo


I. Introduction

Petitioner, Keith J. Canfield, is a former Pennsylvania state prisoner*fn1 who is proceeding pro se with an application for writ of habeas corpus under 28 U.S.C. § 2254.*fn2 (Doc. 1, Pet.) Mr. Canfield argues that his Susquehanna County Court of Common Pleas convictions for burglary and theft by unlawful taking should be vacated due to violations of his right to due process at trial, allegedly because there was insufficient evidence presented to convict him of these crimes. Mr. Canfield presented this argument to the trial court, and later to the Pennsylvania Superior Court, both of which upheld the convictions. Like those courts, this Court finds no constitutional infirmity with Mr. Canfield's convictions. For the reasons discussed below, the petition for habeas relief will be denied as well as a certificate of appealability.

II. Background

A. Factual Proceedings

On January 13, 2005, the residence of Mary Jane Koes, in Harford Township, Susquehanna County, was burglarized. (Doc. 13-2, Police Criminal Complaint.) Numerous items were taken from the home, including two class rings and a wedding band. (Id.) Six days later, on January 19, 2005, the Pennsylvania State Police (PSP) recovered the three stolen rings in a pawn shop in Binghamton, New York. (Id.) Through the owner of the pawn shop, the PSP were able to verify that the rings had been sold by Mr. Canfield for $48. (Id.) The PSP arrested Mr. Canfield, locating him in close proximity to the burglarized residence, and verified that he was both working and living in close proximity to the burglarized residence at the time of the crime. (Id.)

During an interview with the PSP, Mr. Canfield provided several different and mutually inconsistent accounts of how he came into possession of the purloined jewelry. See, infra. By way of example, Mr. Canfield admitted to selling the rings, but contended that he received them from a third party while he was at a business known as Gary's-U-Pull-It in New York. Petitioner would not reveal or disclose the identity of the third party (Id.), but did admit that he knew the rings were stolen. (Id.) Mr. Canfield was arrested for burglary and theft, and, after his preliminary arraignment, bail was set at $50,000. (Doc. 13-2, Bail Information Sheet.)

On July 18, 2005, the trial court scheduled jury selection in Mr. Canfield's case for September 6, 2005. (Doc. 13-7, Scheduling Order.) On the day of trial, Mr. Canfield entered a nolo contendere plea to one count of Burglary, with an agreement that the remaining count (theft by unlawful taking) would be nolle prosequi and that he would receive a sentence of 5 years probation to run consecutive to any other sentence he was serving. (Doc. 13-8, Plea Agreement; see also Doc. 13-9, Guilty Plea Hearing Transcript.) Mr. Canfield's sentencing was set for September 22, 2005. (Doc. 13-10, Scheduling Order.) Subsequently, at the request of counsel, Mr. Canfield's sentencing was continued to October 20, 2005. (Doc. 13-11, Scheduling Order.) On October 18, 2005, two days before his sentencing proceeding, Mr. Canfield filed a petition to withdraw his guilty plea. (Doc. 13-12. Pet. to Withdraw Guilty Plea.) On November 16, 2005, Mr. Canfield was granted leave to withdraw his nolo contendere plea, and his trial was scheduled for January 9, 2006. (Doc. 13-16, Order and Doc. 13-17, Scheduling Order.) On January 5, 2006, Petitioner's counsel filed a motion to continue jury selection. (Doc. 13-18, Request for Continuance.) The trial was rescheduled for April 3, 2006. (Doc. 13-22, Order.) Mr. Canfield's counsel also filed a motion to compel discovery of certain PSP maps, as well as a motion in limine to exclude the introduction of any of Mr. Canfield's prior bad acts. (Doc. 13-19, Mot. in Limine, and Doc. 13-20, Mot. to Compel.) After holding a hearing on these matters, the trial court ordered the Commonwealth to produce certain maps to the defense, but also restricted the defense's use of said maps. (Doc. 13-22, Order.) At the same time, the trial court held in abeyance the motion in limine relating to Mr. Canfield's prior bad acts. (Id.)

On April 3, 2006, the day of jury selection, Mr. Canfield entered into a written waiver of his right to a jury trial. (Doc. 13-26, Waiver of Jury Trial.) A bench trial was scheduled for the following day (Doc. 13-27, Order), and Mr. Canfield's motion in limine was denied. (Doc. 13-27, Order.)

At trial, the Commonwealth presented a number of witnesses. First, Mary Jane Koes testified that her residence was located in Harford Township, Susquehanna County, and described how someone broke into her home. (Doc. 13-29, Vol. I, Jury Trial Transcript, ECF pp. 10-11.) She testified that jewelry had been taken, and was able to specifically identify three rings that the PSP had recovered in New York State. (Id., ECF pp. 27-32.) The owner of the New York pawn shop was able to produce pawn shop records demonstrating that Mr. Canfield had sold the rings. (Id., ECF pp. 46-47.)

PSP Trooper Deck testified that when he recovered the rings from the New York pawn shop, he was told that Mr. Canfield had sold the rings. (Id., ECF pp. 71-72.) Trooper Deck testified that he had investigated other robberies committed by Mr. Canfield in the past, and that the burglary scene was similar to Mr. Canfield's previous burglaries. (Id., ECF pp. 60-66.) Trooper Deck also testified that Mr. Canfield confessed to possessing the rings, knowing they were stolen, and selling them to the pawn shop in New York. (Id., ECF pp. 75-78.) In addition, Trooper Deck testified that he was able to place Mr. Canfield near the scene of the burglary during the time period in question. (Doc. 13-30, ECF pp. 11-12.)

The trial court also heard testimony concerning a series of inconsistent, and occasionally inculpatory, statements made by Mr. Canfield. In the course of an interview with Trooper Deck, Mr. Canfield initially denied any knowledge of the burglary and did not provide any information until he was confronted with the fact that the rings had been recovered from a pawn shop in New York. (Doc. 13-29, ECF pp. 74-75; Doc. 13-31, ECF p. 7.) At first, Mr. Canfield would not tell Trooper Deck where he got the stolen rings but then indicated he got them from someone he saw and met everyday at Gary's U-Pull-It. (Doc. 13-29, ECF pp. 76-77; Doc. 13-31, ECF p. 8.) When questioned further, Mr. Canfield clearly acknowledged consciousness of guilt, stating: "I can't tell you because I could be looking at 3 1/2 to 7 years." (Doc. 13-29, ECF pp. 77.) Upon being pressed on this statement, Mr. Canfield replied: "I'm not going to open up a big can of worms and tell you." (Id., ECF p. 78.) Trooper Deck then specifically asked Mr. Canfield questions regarding another person of interest in other burglaries, John Wandall. (Id., ECF p. 90.) Mr. Canfield stated he had not seen John Wandall in some time. (Id.; Doc. 13-31, ECF p. 9.)

During his transport to his preliminary hearing, Mr. Canfield told Trooper Rebecca Warner that he received the rings from "a dead guy." (Doc. 13-31, ECF p. 10.) At this point, Mr. Canfield advised that he met John Wandall at an adult bookstore in Binghamton, New York, and was asked by Wandall to get rid of the rings because he did not have a driver's license necessary to provide the pawn shop as identification. (Id., ECF p. 13-14.) Mr. Canfield admitted he "probably knew the rings were stolen." (Id., ECF p. 14.) He stated he received $18 of the $48 he received for the rings, and that Wandall kept the rest. (Id.)

While at the Susquehanna County Correctional Facility awaiting trial, Mr. Canfield requested to see a member of the PSP regarding information he had regarding other on-going investigations in the county. (Doc. 13-30, ECF p. 39.) Trooper William Strong went to the facility to interview Mr. Canfield. (Id.) At this point, Mr. Canfield provided a third account of his role in the theft at the Koes' residence. (Id., ECF p. 40.) Mr. Canfield told Trooper Strong he purchased three rings from an individual on the street in Broome County, New York. (Id., ECF p. 40.) He reported the three rings were in a glass jar which contained a lot of other rings, and that he randomly picked those three rings out of the jar, then sold them. (Id.)

Based upon this evidence, the trial court convicted Mr. Canfield of burglary*fn3 and theft by unlawful taking.*fn4 (Doc. 13-33, Verdict.) On May 25, 2006, moments prior to his sentencing, Mr. Canfield obtained private counsel, and moved to continue his sentencing, which the lower court denied. (Doc. 13-40, Entry of Appearance; Doc. 13-42, Order.) The trial court sentenced Mr. Canfield to a period of incarceration of 3 years to 6 years followed by 12 years probation. (Doc. 13-43, State Sentence; Doc. 13-44, State Sentence.)

B. Post-Sentence Proceedings

On June 8, 2006, Mr. Canfield, through new private counsel, filed a "motion for arrest of judgment" and a motion to reconsider sentence. (Doc. 13-45, Mot. for Arrest of Judgment; Doc. 13-46, Mot. for Recons. of Sentence.) The trial court held a hearing on both motions. (Doc. 13-51, Tr. Post Sentence Mot. Hr'g.) At the hearing, Mr. Canfield's original trial counsel, Attorney Hollister, testified in response to Mr. Canfield's assertion that he had provided ineffective assistance of counsel. (Id.) Moreover, the Commonwealth called Mr. Canfield's purported witness, Bertie Lacount, whom Petitioner contended was with him when the rings were obtained from another person. (Id., ECF pp. 3-4.) Mr. Lacount testified that he drove to New York State with Mr. Canfield, went first to Gary's U-Pull-It, and then accompanied Mr. Canfield on errands in the area, including a stop at a pawn shop. (Id., ECF pp. 7-8.) Mr. Lacount testified he did not accompany Mr. Canfield into the pawn shop, he did not meet a third individual that day, and that Mr. Canfield did not drive off with any other individual that day. (Id., ECF pp. 8-9.)

The trial court denied Mr. Canfield's post-trial motions. (Doc. 13-52, Op. and Order.) In its opinion, the trial court stated the following:

Defendant calls into question the sufficiency of the evidence to convict him of the crimes of burglary and theft by unlawful taking. ... In the instant matter, the Commonwealth produced testimony and evidence that victim, Mary Jane Koes, not having given Defendant Canfield permission to enter her home, returned to her home on January 13, 2005, from a hair appointment to find the basement door and jam broken. She also found that jewelry - in the form of three rings and gold chains - and a camera had been taken from her bedroom during the intrusion. She identified the same rings at trial from evidence of the Pennsylvania State Police. These rings were recovered by Trooper Deck on January 19, 2005, at a pawn shop called Buyer's Unlimited in Binghamton, New York. The admitted copy of the receipt of the Buyer's Unlimited depicts the subject three rings by a photocopy of the receipt dated 1/14/05, the day after the burglary, and shows Keith J. Canfield as the seller was paid an amount of $48.00 The Commonwealth's Exhibit 2 shows a check stub record of Buyer's Unlimited paying Keith J. Canfield $48.00 for metal. Convictions of Keith J. Canfield for other burglaries in the past showed a similar patter of breaking in or going into a residence and going directly to a master bedroom and taking jewelry therefrom and later disposing of the jewelry and/or other goods at pawn shops.

Moreover, when cross examined, Keith J. Canfield admitted to possessing and selling the rings in New York state at Buyer's ...

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