United States District Court, E.D. Pennsylvania
MEMORANDUM & ORDER
RICHARD A. LLORET, U.S. MAGISTRATE JUDGE
Jette seeks discovery in support of his habeas claim.
See Doc. No. 64. “A habeas petitioner, unlike
the usual civil litigant in federal court, is not entitled to
discovery as a matter of ordinary course.” Bracy v.
Gramley, 520 U.S. 899, 904 (1997). Instead, the
petitioner must seek discovery pursuant to the Rules
Governing Section 2254 Cases. Under these rules, a district
court judge “may, for good cause, authorize a party to
conduct discovery.” Rule 6(a); see also Williams v.
Beard, 637 F.3d 195, 209 (3d Cir. 2011) (“We
review the District Court's denial of a discovery request
for abuse of discretion.”).
establish “good cause, ” the petitioner must make
specific allegations that demonstrate “reason to
believe that the petitioner may, if the facts are fully
developed, be able to” show that he or she is entitled
to relief. Bracy, 520 U.S. at 909 (quoting
Harris v. Nelson, 394 U.S. 286 (1969)); see also
Lee v. Glunt, 667 F.3d 397, 404 (3d Cir. 2012) (“A
habeas petitioner may satisfy the ‘good cause'
standard by setting forth specific factual allegations which,
if fully developed, would entitle him or her to the
writ.”) (quoting Williams, 637 F.3d at 209)).
This means the petitioner must “point to specific
evidence that might be discovered that would support a
constitutional claim.” Jones v. Gavin, No.
14-804, at 1 n.1 (E.D. Pa. May 18, 2015) (quoting U.S. ex
rel. Adonai-Adoni v. Prison Health Servs., No. 06-4491,
2007 WL 2407281, at *1 (E.D. Pa. Aug. 20, 2007)) (order
granting motion for discovery); see also Payne v.
Bell, 89 F.Supp.2d 967, 970 (W.D. Tenn. 2000)
(“Petitioner need not show that the additional
discovery would definitely lead to relief. Rather he need
only show good cause that the evidence sought would lead to
relevant evidence regarding his petition.”).
Consequently, “bald assertions” and
“conclusory allegations” do not establish good
cause. Green v. Vaughn, No. 03-1052, 2005 WL 806705,
at *1 (E.D. Pa. April 7, 2005) (quoting Deputy v.
Taylor, 19 F.3d 1485, 1493 (3d Cir. 1994)).
“Fishing expeditions” are not allowed. See,
e.g., Williams, 637 F.3d at 210-11;
Marshall v. Beard, No. 03-3308, 2010 WL 1257632, at
*2 (E.D. Pa. Mar. 30, 2010) (quoting Deputy, 19 F.3d
at 1493 (3d Cir. 1994)).
making the “good cause” determination, the court
should consider the “essential elements” of the
petitioner's underlying habeas claim. Id. at
904. Courts also consider the petitioner's diligence in
developing the record in state court. See, e.g.,
Tedford v. Beard, No. 09-409, 2010 WL 3885207, at
*5-6 (E.D. Pa. Sept. 28, 2010) (collecting cases); Hooks
v. Workman, 606 F.3d 715, 730 n.14 (10th Cir. 2010)
(“Only when a petitioner diligently sought to develop
the factual basis of a habeas claim in state court can he
utilize the procedures set out in Rules 6 and 7.”).
bench trial, Mr. Jette was convicted of involuntary deviate
sexual intercourse, endangering the welfare of a child, and
corrupting the morals of a minor. In his supplemental
memorandum of law to support his habeas petition, Mr. Jette
alleges that his trial counsel was ineffective for failing to
investigate, develop, and present exculpatory and impeachment
evidence, including, among others, the Department of Human
Services' (“DHS”) file from their 1995
investigation into the sexual abuse allegations against Mr.
Jette. See Doc. No. 61, at 29. Id. The
victim, J.R., first reported the abuse to the police in 1995,
when he was ten years old. See N.T. 10/1/2001, at
98- 101 (testimony of Joanne R.). At that time, Mr. Jette was
not charged based on the information that J.R. provided to
the police. See Id. at 101. J.R. also testified that
he spoke to someone other than a policeman, perhaps a social
worker, in 1995. N.T. 10/1/2001, at 58-59. Attached to one of
Mr. Jette's pro se state court filings there is
a letter from the Department of Public Welfare stating that
there was a report of suspected child abuse concerning J.R.
that was determined to be “[i]ndicated, ” that
the investigation produced “substantial evidence of
what constitutes an abused child, ” and that the case
was being closed. Doc. No. 63, at 443 (App'x to Pl. Memo.
of Law). This letter is dated March 31, 1995. Id.
Approximately five years later, in 2000, the police reopened
their investigation into J.R.'s allegations, interviewing
him for a second time. Id. at 116-18 (testimony of
Detective Kenneth Roach). During this interview, J.R.
detailed the abuse he suffered, see id., and the
police subsequently charged Mr. Jette.
of Human Services' (“DHS”) file.
discovery motion, Mr. Jette requests “[a]ny and all
documents, reports, logs, memoranda, regarding Department of
Human Services files relating to Petitioner and/or
J.R.” See Doc. No. 64, at 7 (proposed order).
He claims that this file “would have contained prior
inconsistent statements from [the victim, J.R.] and [the
victim's mother and petitioner's ex-wife, Joanne R.],
interviews with [the victim's brother, F.R.], and reports
from the investigators or medical professionals that could
have helped disprove J.R.'s allegations.” Doc. No.
61, at 29. The Commonwealth opposes this request, arguing
that these claims are procedurally defaulted, and, in the
alternative, Mr. Jette has not demonstrated good cause to
justify discovery: Mr. Jette's requests are speculative,
and he never requested the discovery in state court. Doc. No.
73, at 44-47.
Mr. Jette's habeas claims and requests for discovery, I
find he has established good cause to allow limited discovery
of the DHS file. For purposes of this motion, I assume
without deciding that his ineffective assistance of counsel
claim is not procedurally defaulted. See Jones, No.
14-804, at 1 n.1. The DHS file's contents will be
relevant to the question of whether Mr. Jette's
Martinez claim is meritorious, because one feature
the district court must consider when weighing a
Martinez claim is the potential prejudice occasioned
by the alleged ineffectiveness of PCRA counsel. See
Martinez v. Ryan, 566 U.S. 1 (2012). Mr. Jette has also
established that the DHS file may support his ineffectiveness
claims, if the facts are further developed. The DHS file
likely contains statements from J.R. that are inconsistent
with his trial testimony, especially considering (1) J.R.
provided other inconsistent statements to authorities in
1995, and (2) Mr. Jette was not charged for this abuse until
2000. Mr. Jette may be able to use these inconsistent
statements to support his claim that his trial counsel was
ineffective for failing to obtain these statements that could
have been used to impeach J.R.'s trial testimony.
Accordingly, I find that Mr. Jette has established good cause
for limited discovery, and his request should be granted to
the extent the file contains records or reports of interviews
remains the question of whether the DHS file still exists. In
his supplemental memorandum of law, Mr. Jette explained that
after his trial he requested “a copy of the [DHS] file
but was informed that it had been destroyed.” Doc. No.
61, at 4 n.4. The Commonwealth asserts that it is not in the
prosecution's trial file. Doc. No. 73, at 47. For this
reason, I am ordering the Commonwealth to provide an
affidavit describing their efforts to locate this file, by
August 26, 2019, if they assert it is no longer in the
possession of DHS. The Commonwealth should also provide an
affidavit from the appropriate custodian of DHS asserting
that a diligent search has been made and the file has not
juvenile adjudication records.
Jette argues that his trial counsel was ineffective for
failing to obtain J.R.'s juvenile adjudication records.
He contends that these records would have “provided
valuable impeachment material and evidence of a motive for
J.R. to fabricate his allegations against Mr. Jette.”
Doc. No. 61, at 29-30. In his discovery motion, Mr. Jette
specifically requests these records, including “the
facts underlying his conviction, any assessments performed on
J.R., the records of his probation and/or juvenile placement,
and the transcripts of any hearings.” Doc. No. 64,
¶ 11. He alleges that the “allegations of sexual
assault would have been relevant to J.R.'s placement,
sentencing, and treatment in juvenile court, ” and
therefore relevant to Mr. Jette's criminal case.
Id. The Commonwealth opposes this request on the
basis that Mr. Jette's ineffectiveness claims are
procedurally barred. Doc. No. 73, at 44-45. Alternatively,
the Commonwealth argues that Mr. Jette has established
“good cause” because he allegedly did not request
the file in state court and J.R.'s juvenile adjudication
record is irrelevant to his abuse allegations and
inadmissible under Pennsylvania law. Id. at 45-47.
with the Commonwealth that Mr. Jette has not established good
cause for this discovery. Under Pennsylvania law, there are
limited circumstances where juvenile adjudication evidence is
admissible for impeachment purposes. See Pa. R.
Evid. 609(d). Evidence of juvenile adjudications are
admissible only in criminal cases to impeach a witness'
credibility, “if conviction of the offense would be
admissible to attack the credibility of an adult.”
Id. This means that the juvenile adjudication could
only be admitted “if it involved dishonesty or false
statement.” See Pa. R. Evid. 609(a). Mr. Jette
has not alleged that J.R.'s juvenile adjudication
involved a crimen falsi crime (in fact, his briefing
does not even specify the crime he believes J.R.
committed). If the evidence is inadmissible, then it
would not support his ineffectiveness claim.
extent Mr. Jette is arguing that the adjudication records
could come in for some other permissible purpose, Mr. Jette
has only made conclusory allegations, failing to point to
specific evidence that would if fully developed entitle him
to relief. He simply is requesting to go on an exploratory
expedition into J.R.'s records, and this is not allowed.
Accordingly, Mr. Jette has not established “good
cause” for the discovery. I will direct the
Commonwealth to file an affidavit advising whether J.R.'s
record of juvenile adjudication included any crimen
copy of “My ...