United States District Court, E.D. Pennsylvania
A CAPITAL CASE
R. SÁNCHEZ, C.J.
Richard Boxley seeks discovery in support of his pending
petition for writ of habeas corpus pursuant to 28 U.S.C.
§ 2254. Although discovery is not available as a matter
of course in habeas corpus proceedings, the Court may
authorize discovery in such proceedings for good cause. After
considering Boxley's two motions for discovery, the
Commonwealth's answers to the motions, and the claims in
Boxley's habeas petition, the Court finds Boxley has
demonstrated good cause for much of the discovery he seeks.
Boxley's motions for discovery will therefore be granted
in part and denied in part as set forth herein and in the
October 19, 2000, Boxley was convicted of first-degree murder
and other offenses in connection with the June 11, 1997,
shooting death of Jason Bolton. Boxley was sentenced to death
on the first-degree murder charge. His codefendant, Jose
Busanet (also known as “Tito Black”), was tried
separately for Bolton's murder in February 1999. Busanet
was also convicted of first-degree murder and sentenced to
Boxley's trial, two witnesses identified him as a
participant in the shooting. Tamicka Johnson testified that
she saw Boxley (whom she had not previously met) and Busanet
at the home of LaDonna Johnson before and after the shooting.
According to Tamicka Johnson, before the shooting, Boxley and
Busanet discussed a plan to kill Bolton. Both men had guns:
Boxley had a .357 magnum revolver, and Busanet had a 9 mm
handgun. After the shooting, Boxley and Busanet were at
LaDonna Johnson's house with a third coconspirator,
Wilson Melendez. While there, Busanet told Tamicka Johnson he
and Boxley had “got[ten]” Bolton.
Boxley, 838 A.2d at 616.
also testified for the prosecution at Boxley's trial.
Melendez stated he first met Boxley at LaDonna Johnson's
house on the day of the shooting and provided the following
account of the shooting. At Busanet's request, Melendez
left the house to go to the grocery store with Boxley. On the
way, Melendez spotted Bolton. Boxley went to tell Busanet,
and the three men then followed Bolton. As Boxley approached,
his gun accidentally discharged. Boxley pulled the gun out
and began firing at Bolton. Busanet also shot at Bolton, who
died from a gunshot wound to the chest. Boxley, Busanet, and
Melendez fled the scene and returned to LaDonna Johnson's
house, where Boxley and Busanet celebrated the shooting.
Commonwealth also presented testimony from a ballistics
expert, Pennsylvania State Trooper Kurt Tempinski. Tempinski
testified that shell casings recovered from the scene of the
shooting matched those from a 9 mm gun linked to Busanet, and
that two metal bullet jackets recovered from the scene
matched those from a .357 magnum that had been turned over to
the police and identified as having been used by Boxley.
direct appeal, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court affirmed
Boxley's conviction but vacated his death sentence. On
remand, Boxley was again sentenced to death in September 2004
following a new penalty hearing. The Pennsylvania Supreme
Court affirmed this death sentence in May 2008, and the U.S.
Supreme Court denied certiorari in November 2008.
February 2009, Boxley filed a pro se Post Conviction Relief
Act (PCRA) petition in the Court of Common Pleas of Berks
County. Boxley later filed a counseled PCRA petition, but the
proceedings on that petition stalled, as described in the
order entered in this case on September 27, 2019.
light of the lack of meaningful progress on his state PCRA
petition, on March 27, 2019, Boxley filed the instant federal
habeas petition and consolidated memorandum of law. Boxley
argued he should be excused from exhausting his federal
constitutional claims in state court because the inordinate
delay in the state PCRA proceedings rendered the state system
effectively unavailable to him. The Commonwealth moved to
stay Boxley's federal habeas petition and hold it in
abeyance pending the outcome of the state proceedings. On
September 27, 2019, the Court denied the stay request without
prejudice to the Commonwealth's right to renew the
request once there was evidence the proceedings had resumed
in state court. In his opposition to the stay and abey
petition, Boxley noted that several discovery motions filed
in state court remained outstanding. The Court's order
denying the petition directed Boxley to file any outstanding
discovery motions in this Court.
federal habeas petition, Boxley raises 31 claims for relief.
Of particular relevance to the instant discovery motions,
Boxley alleges the Commonwealth violated its obligations
under Brady v. Maryland, 373 U.S. 83 (1963), by
failing to produce the Reading Police Department's
interview of Rafael Figueroa (also known as
“Lata”), who allegedly dropped the shooters off
at LaDonna Johnson's house before the shooting and picked
them up afterwards in a maroon van. Boxley alternatively
argues his trial counsel was ineffective for failing to
investigate Figueroa and call him as a witness. Boxley also
raises several claims regarding the ballistics evidence,
including claims of ineffective assistance of counsel and
Brady and other due process violations relating to
this evidence. His claims include that his trial counsel was
ineffective for failing to investigate and challenge the
firearms and toolmark examination, testimony, and evidence
and to seek independent testing of the ballistics evidence.
October 16, 2019, Boxley filed two discovery motions. The
first seeks discovery regarding Figueroa, the alleged getaway
driver. Boxley claims Figueroa was interviewed by the Reading
Police Department in connection with the Bolton homicide but
the interview was never produced to him in discovery. The
second seeks discovery of the ballistics evidence that was
evaluated by the Commonwealth's expert along with certain
documentation regarding that expert's analysis. Boxley
seeks this evidence so that his expert may test it
independently. The Commonwealth opposes both motions. As
explained below, Boxley's motion ...