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Price v. Garman

United States District Court, M.D. Pennsylvania

July 24, 2018

DONNELL PRICE, Petitioner
v.
MARK GARMAN, et al., Respondents

          MEMORANDUM

          KANE JUDGE

         On June 22, 2017, the Court received and filed a petition for a writ of habeas corpus submitted pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254, signed by Petitioner Donnell Price (“Price”), who is currently incarcerated at the State Correctional Institution at Rockview, Bellefonte, Pennsylvania (“SCI-Rockview”). (Doc. No. 1.) For the reasons that follow, the Court will dismiss Price's habeas petition.

         I. BACKGROUND

         A. Procedural History

         Price is serving a term of life imprisonment imposed after he was convicted of murder, child endangerment, and possession of instruments of crime. (Doc. No. 1); see also Commonwealth v. Price, Docket No. CP-22-CR-749-2012 (Dauphin Cty. C.C.P. Mar. 8, 2013); Commonwealth v. Price, 1330 MDA 2013, 2014 WL 10919337 (Pa. Super. Ct. June 3, 2014).[1]

         The Pennsylvania Superior Court set forth the background of the case as follows:

Price was married to Tarina Price (“Ms. Price”) with whom he shared two children. Price and Ms. Price encountered marital problems in 2011, resulting in the pair living in separate areas of their home, located [on] . . . Sycamore Street in Harrisburg. Eventually, Price moved out of the Sycamore Street home and moved in with a friend [on] . . . Logan Street.
In the months leading up to December 2011, Price increasingly became frustrated and angry with his marital issues and believed that Ms. Price was cheating on him. Price began speaking to others about his anger towards Ms. Price, including her coworkers. On numerous occasions, Price expressed his anger and made references to killing Ms. Price if he saw her with another man.
On December 15, 2011, at approximately 12:35 A.M., Darlene Bradley (“Bradley”), a neighbor of Ms. Price, awoke to her dog growling. Bradley heard a low voice saying “help me, help me, help me.” Bradley looked out from her second floor bedroom window and saw two people. Bradley witnessed one person, who was later identified as Ms. Price, struggling and trying to get up and watched her crawl to the middle of the street. She then witnessed the second person, a male, dressed in a dark sweatsuit, stand over Ms. Price and pull out a gun. As Ms. Price put her hands in front of her face, the man shot her in the head. He then turned and left the scene.

Price, 2014 WL 10919337, at *1-2.

         After arriving at the scene and clearing Ms. Price's residence, the Harrisburg police contacted Price, requesting to speak with him at Ms. Price's house. Id. at *2. When Price arrived, he was handcuffed and informed that he was not under arrest, but that he was going to be detained for the purpose of an investigation. Id. He was taken to the police station where he admitted to killing Ms. Price. Id. at *3. On November 21, 2012, Price filed an omnibus pre-trial motion seeking to suppress all statements made and items seized, which was denied on February 28, 2013. Id. Following a jury trial from March 4 to March 7, 2013, Price was found guilty on all charges. Id.

         Price filed a post-sentence motion on March 18, 2013, which the trial court denied on July 24, 2013. Id. Price appealed the denial of his post-sentence motion to the Pennsylvania Superior Court, raising three issues: 1) whether the suppression court erred in failing to suppress all evidence discovered following his arrest; 2) whether the suppression court erred in failing to suppress statements made where he invoked his right to counsel; and 3) whether the Commonwealth failed to present sufficient evidence to sustain his conviction for first-degree murder. Id. at *4. The Superior Court affirmed Price's judgment of sentence on June 3, 2014. Id. On April 27, 2015, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court denied allocatur. Commonwealth v. Price, 629 Pa. 635 (Pa. 2014). Price then filed a Post Conviction Relief Act (“PCRA”) petition, [2]raising an ineffective assistance of counsel claim that was dismissed by the PCRA Court on June 21, 2016 as a result of Price's failure to respond. (Doc. No. 1 at 9-11); Commonwealth v. Price, Docket No. CP-22-CR-749-2012 (Dauphin Cty. C.C.P. June 21, 2016). The Superior Court dismissed Price's PCRA appeal on December 15, 2016 due to Price's failure to file a supporting brief. (Doc. No. 1 at 44); Commonwealth v. Price, Docket No. 1124 MDA 2016 (Pa. Super. Dec. 15, 2016). Price subsequently filed the instant petition for writ of habeas corpus pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254 on June 22, 2017. (Doc. No. 1.)

         B. Price's Habeas Claims

         Price raises the following four grounds in the instant habeas petition:

1. Whether the state court erred in failing to suppress all evidence discovered following Price's arrest where he was arrested without probable cause or a warrant in violation of the Fourth Amendment;
2. Whether Price was denied his right to counsel in violation of the Fifth Amendment;
3. Whether the Commonwealth failed to present sufficient evidence to sustain Price's conviction of first degree murder; and 4. Whether Price received ineffective assistance of counsel. (Id.)

         II. LEGAL STANDARD

         Habeas corpus is an “‘extraordinary remedy' reserved for defendants who were ‘grievously wronged' by the criminal proceedings.” Dunn v. Colleran, 247 F.3d 450, 468 (3d Cir. 2001) (quoting Calderon v. Coleman, 525 U.S. 414, 146 (1998)). The exercise of restraint by a federal court in reviewing and granting habeas relief is appropriate due to considerations of comity and federalism. Engle v. Isaac, 456 U.S. 107, 128 (1982). “The States possess primary authority for defining and enforcing the criminal law. In criminal trials they also hold the initial responsibility for vindicating constitutional rights. Federal intrusions into state criminal trials frustrate both the States' sovereign power and their good-faith attempts to honor constitutional law.” Id. States also have a recognized interest in the finality of convictions that have survived direct review within the state court system. Brecht v. Abrahamson, 507 U.S. 619, 620 (1993).

         A district court may entertain an application for a writ of habeas corpus filed by a person in state custody “only on the ground that he is in custody in violation of the Constitution or laws of the United States.” 28 U.S.C. § 2254(a). If a claim presented in a § 2254 petition has been adjudicated on the merits in state court proceedings, habeas relief cannot be granted unless:

the adjudication of the claim - (1) resulted in a decision that was contrary to, or involved an unreasonable application of, clearly established [f]ederal law, as determined by the Supreme Court of the United States; or (2) resulted in a decision that was based on an unreasonable determination of ...

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