Sleeper v. Spencer

2006 | Cited 0 times | D. Massachusetts | November 30, 2006


(Docket No. 59)

Petitioner Joseph Sleeper, a state prisoner serving a life term for first-degree murder, seeks habeas relief pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254. In his petition, he asserts six separate grounds for relief. On September 11, 2006, the court denied the petition. Petitioner has now filed a Motion for a Certificate of Appealability.

The motion is hereby allowed with regard to Petitioner's claim that he received ineffective assistance of counsel when his attorney addressed the jury in a manner that appeared to convey that he would be presenting an insanity defense, when he reasonably should have known that no such defense would be offered. Although this court found Petitioner's argument on this point unpersuasive, it also found that the argument had strength and that trial counsel's initial statements were troubling. Because this court's resolution of this issue might be debatable by reasonable jurists, Petitioner has made a "substantial showing of the denial of a constitutional right." Slack v. McDaniel, 529 U.S. 473, 484 (2000).

The application is denied with regard to five other claims for relief offered by Petitioner: the failure to disclose exculpatory evidence, the denial of Petitioner's right to be present at all critical stages of the proceedings, the jury instructions, the alleged violation of Petitioner's rights under Doyle v. Ohio, 426 U.S. 610 (1976), and the allegedly improper closing argument. As to these five grounds, no reasonable jurist could disagree. There is simply no justification for any further proceedings on these points.

In sum, the Motion for Certificate of Appealability (Dkt. No. 59) is hereby ALLOWED with regard to the claim offered under Strickland v. Washington, 466 U.S. 668 (1984), charging ineffective assistance of counsel. The Motion is hereby DENIED in all other respects.

It is So Ordered.

MICHAEL A. PONSOR United States District Judge

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