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Reed v. Thomas

United States District Court, District of Columbia

February 15, 2018

ANTONIO DUPREE REED, Petitioner,
v.
J.E. THOMAS, Respondent.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          Amit P. Mehta United States District Judge.

         I. INTRODUCTION

         Petitioner Antonio Dupree Reed filed a petition for writ of habeas corpus under 28 U.S.C. § 2254, seeking to vacate his 2007 conviction in the Superior Court of the District of Columbia for first-degree murder. Petitioner claims that he is entitled to such relief for three reasons: (1) he was denied the right to effective assistance of trial counsel; (2) his Confrontation Clause rights were violated by the admission of certain out-of-court statements that were not subject to meaningful cross-examination; and (3) his due process rights were violated when the District of Columbia courts failed to consider the cumulative effect of the errors committed at trial and in collateral proceedings.

         Before the court is Respondent's Motion to Dismiss for lack of subject matter jurisdiction. Respondent asserts that D.C. Code § 23-110 divests this court of jurisdiction to hear Petitioner's three claims. Section 23-110 provides that a prisoner convicted in the Superior Court of the District of Columbia may raise a collateral challenge to his sentence by motion in that court, see D.C. Code § 23-110(a), but may not petition for a writ of habeas corpus “unless it . . . appears that the remedy by motion is inadequate or ineffective to test the legality of his detention, ” id. § 23-110(g). For the reasons stated below, the court finds that it lacks jurisdiction to hear the habeas petition because the remedy under D.C. Code § 23-110 is neither inadequate nor ineffective to test the legality of Petitioner's detention. Accordingly, the court grants Respondent's Motion to Dismiss.

         II. BACKGROUND

         In 2006, Petitioner was indicted in the Superior Court of the District of Columbia (“D.C. Superior Court”) on charges of first-degree murder while armed, assault with intent to kill while armed, and two counts of possession of a firearm during the commission of a crime of violence. See Pet. Under 28 U.S.C. § 2254 for Writ of Habeas Corpus by a Person in State Custody, ECF No. 1 [hereinafter Pet.], Ex. G, Appellant's Br. 4/9/09, ECF No. 1-15 [hereinafter Pet. Ex. G], at 2; Pet., Ex. A, Trial Ct. Order 6/10/14, ECF No. 1-9, at 1. These charges arose out of a 2005 shooting that occurred at gas station in Washington, D.C., which resulted in the death of Dwayne James. Pet., Mem. of Law in Support of Pet. for Writ of Habeas Corpus, ECF No. 1-8 [hereinafter Mem. in Support of Pet.], at 2. At trial, the government presented eight witnesses and pursued two theories with respect to the first-degree murder charge. Id. The first theory was that Petitioner actually shot the decedent. Id. The second theory was that Petitioner aided and abetted the shooter. Id. The defense presented no witnesses, and Petitioner did not testify on his own behalf. Id. at 3.

         On February 9, 2007, a jury convicted Petitioner on all counts. See Pet. at 1. Petitioner was sentenced to 56 years of incarceration. Id. Petitioner then directly appealed his murder and assault convictions. Mem. in Support of Pet. at 3. In his appeal, he challenged the sufficiency of the evidence and argued, among other things, that “the use of a prior inconsistent statement of a witness who no longer has a memory of the events related to the statement . . . constitutes a violation of [the] Sixth Amendment right to cross-examination and is insufficient to sustain a conviction.” Id. at 3-4; see Pet. Ex. G at 12-16. The D.C. Court of Appeals upheld Petitioner's conviction in 2010. See Mem. in Support of Pet. at 3-4; Pet., Ex. F, App. Ct. Order 8/5/10, ECF No. 1-14 [hereinafter Pet. Ex. F]. His petition for rehearing en banc and for writ of certiorari also were denied. See Mem. in Support of Pet. at 4.

         While his direct appeal was pending, Petitioner filed a collateral challenge to his conviction and sentence in the D.C. Superior Court under D.C. Code § 23-110, alleging that his trial counsel was constitutionally ineffective and that he should receive a new trial based on newly discovered evidence. See id.; Pet., Ex. J, 23-110 Mot., ECF No. 1-18. Following an evidentiary hearing, the trial court denied his motion. See Mem. in Support of Pet. at 5. The D.C. Court of Appeals affirmed the denial of the motion on appeal. See Id. at 5-6. Again, Petitioner's petition for rehearing en banc and for writ of certiorari were denied. See Id. at 6-7.

         On March 2, 2017, Petitioner timely filed the instant petition for writ of habeas corpus under 28 U.S.C. § 2254. Id. at 1-2; see United States' Mot. to Dismiss Pet. Under 28 U.S.C. § 2254 for Writ of Habeas Corpus by a Person in State Custody, ECF No. 12 [hereinafter Mot. to Dismiss], at 4. The habeas petition challenges Petitioner's first-degree murder conviction on three separate constitutional grounds. Mem. in Support of Pet. at 1. First, Petitioner claims he was denied the right to effective assistance of trial counsel under the Sixth Amendment. Id. Second, he asserts that his rights under the Confrontation Clause of the Sixth Amendment were violated by the admission of out-of-court statements that were not subject to meaningful cross-examination. Id. at 1, 18. Finally, Petitioner maintains that he was deprived of a fair trial, and thus due process, when the District of Columbia courts failed to consider the cumulative effect of the errors committed at trial and in post-conviction proceedings. Id. at 1.

         On July 17, 2017, Respondent moved to dismiss the petition for lack of subject-matter jurisdiction pursuant to Rules 12(b)(1) and 12(b)(6) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, arguing that Petitioner's claims are foreclosed under D.C. Code § 23-110. Mot. to Dismiss at 1.

         III. LEGAL STANDARD

         “A ‘conviction in the Superior Court of the District of Columbia is considered a state court conviction under federal habeas law, ' and a challenge to a Superior Court conviction is ‘properly brought under 28 U.S.C. § 2254.'” Wright v. Wilson, 930 F.Supp.2d 7, 10 (D.D.C. 2013) (quoting Smith v. United States, No. 00-5181, 2000 WL 1279276, at *1 (D.C. Cir. Aug. 23, 2000)). District of Columbia prisoners, however, face a unique jurisdictional hurdle in seeking habeas relief in federal court: D.C. Code § 23-110.

         Congress enacted D.C. Code § 23-110 “to vest the Superior Court with exclusive jurisdiction over most collateral challenges by prisoners sentenced in that court.” Williams v. Martinez, 586 F.3d 995, 1000 (D.C. Cir. 2009). The statute achieves this result by establishing a procedure for collateral review of convictions in the D.C. Superior Court and creating exclusive jurisdiction in that court unless the prisoner's claims fall within the statute's “safety valve.” See Id. at 996; Ibrahim v. United States, 661 F.3d 1141, 1142 (D.C. Cir. 2011). Specifically, section 23-110(a) authorizes a prisoner convicted and sentenced in D.C. Superior Court to “move the court to vacate, set aside, or correct [his] sentence” on grounds that it was imposed in violation of the U.S. Constitution or is otherwise subject to collateral attack. D.C. Code § 23-110(a). Importantly, however, the statute goes on to provide that such prisoners may not petition for a writ of habeas corpus in federal court “unless it . . . appears that the remedy by motion is inadequate or ineffective to test the legality of his detention.” Id. § 23-110(g). The “remedy by motion” referenced in section 23-110(g) refers to “motions filed pursuant to section 23-110(a).” Ibrahim, 661 F.3d at 1142 (quoting Williams, 586 F.3d at 998).

         IV. ...


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