447 F.3d 6 (1st Cir. 2006), 05-1770, Knight v. Spencer

Docket Nº:05-1770.
Citation:447 F.3d 6
Party Name:Edward KNIGHT, Appellant, v. Luis SPENCER, Appellee.
Case Date:May 02, 2006
Court:United States Courts of Appeals, Court of Appeals for the First Circuit

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447 F.3d 6 (1st Cir. 2006)

Edward KNIGHT, Appellant,


Luis SPENCER, Appellee.

No. 05-1770.

United States Court of Appeals, First Circuit.

May 2, 2006

Heard Jan. 12, 2006.


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Edward B. Gaffney, for appellant.

Daniel I. Smulow, Assistant Attorney General, with whom Thomas F. Reilly, Attorney General, Office of the Attorney General, was on brief for appellee.

Before Torruella, Circuit Judge, Campbell, Senior Circuit Judge, Lipez, Circuit Judge.

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CAMPBELL, Senior Circuit Judge.

Edward Knight appeals from the denial of his petition for a writ of habeas corpus pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254(d)(1) in the United States District Court for the District of Massachusetts. Knight argues that the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court ("SJC") erred in holding, first, that Knight's Sixth Amendment right to confrontation was not violated when the state trial court refused to allow him to pursue a particular area of inquiry during cross-examination of a prosecution witness, and, second, that Knight's counsel was not constitutionally ineffective.

I. Background

On December 31, 1996, Knight was indicted in Massachusetts by the Suffolk County Grand Jury for the murder and armed robbery of Pasquale Candelino. A jury trial was held in Suffolk Superior Court, and on June 29, 1998, Knight was found guilty of armed robbery and first degree murder. He received a life sentence on the murder conviction, and the armed robbery conviction was placed on file. On June 30, 1998, Knight appealed.

On July 25, 2000, Knight filed and later supplemented a motion for a new trial. On May 22, 2001, the Superior Court denied the motion. On May 30, 2001, Knight appealed from the denial of his motion for a new trial, and that appeal was consolidated with the direct appeal from his conviction. Both appeals were rejected by the SJC. Commonwealth v. Knight, 437 Mass. 487, 773 N.E.2d 390 (2002).

On July 2, 2003, Knight petitioned the federal district court for a writ of habeas corpus. After a hearing and following issuance of a comprehensive memorandum, the district court denied the petition. Knight thereupon filed a notice of appeal and an application for a Certificate of Appealability. The district court granted a Certificate of Appealability for the petitioner's Confrontation Clause and ineffective assistance of counsel claims.

II. Supreme Judicial Court Decision

A state court's factual findings are presumed to be correct under 28 U.S.C. § 2254(e)(1). See Gunter v. Maloney, 291 F.3d 74, 76 (1st Cir. 2002); Coombs v. State of Maine, 202 F.3d 14, 18 (1st Cir.2000). The SJC found the following facts in Knight's case:

Pasquale Candelino was a sixty-one year old man who resided in the North End section of Boston. In the afternoon of Saturday, June 22, 1996, his body was found by his landlord in the bedroom of his apartment. The apartment had been "ransacked, drawers were open, doors, cabinet doors were open," and there was blood on the floor and the walls of the bedroom and bloody fingerprints inside an open drawer. [FN2. These were not identifiable.]

The medical examiner conducted an autopsy and determined that the victim died of multiple stab wounds to the neck. [FN3. The victim had been stabbed ten times in the neck.] The state of the body's decomposition was consistent with the injuries having been inflicted, and death having occurred, as early as the previous Wednesday, June 19, 1996. [FN4. The body "was in an early state of decomposition with green/black discoloration of the right side of the head and chest," and "marbling of the skin and skin slippage and wrinkling of the forearms."]

Knight and his girlfriend, Betsy Kelley, were drug addicts who supported their habits principally by shoplifting. They had sold stolen goods to the victim in the past, and had also purchased pills from him. On Wednesday evening, June 19, 1996, sometime after 9 P.M.,

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they were in the North End looking for money to buy drugs. Their normal hunting grounds, the malls, were closed. They saw the victim on the street, and Knight suggested they rob him. Kelley agreed. She approached the victim and asked if she could use the bathroom in his apartment. While Kelley was in the victim's apartment (and the victim was in his bedroom), Knight rang the door bell and Kelley let him in.

Knight hid behind the refrigerator in the kitchen. When the victim came out of his bedroom Knight attacked him, pushing him back into the bedroom where a struggle ensued. Kelley remained in the kitchen searching for drugs and money. Kelley heard the victim saying, "Eddie what - what are you doing? What are you doing?," and "Eddie, no." She also heard Knight tell the victim to "shut the fuck up." After the struggle ended, "It was just quiet," and Kelley heard "drawers opening." When Knight came out of the bedroom, he had blood on his sneakers. Kelley and Knight put drugs and "stuff" from the victim's apartment in a black bag, then wiped the door knobs with their shirts as they were leaving. They went to a friend's apartment, where Knight told Kelley he had killed the victim.

Late in the evening of the next day, Thursday, June 20, 1996, Knight, Kelley, and two friends left for Florida on a bus that arrived in Orlando on Saturday morning, June 22, 1996. Knight and Kelley returned separately to the Boston area the following week. After their return, they went to the Boston Public Library and looked for newspaper accounts of the murder. The articles they found reported that the police believed the murder to have occurred on Saturday, June 22, 1996, the day on which Knight and Kelley arrived in Florida. Knight told Kelley not to worry, because "they have the dates wrong."

In September 1996, three detectives came looking for Kelley at her father's home where she was staying. Her father was not at home, and she did not answer the door. After the detectives left, Kelley telephoned her father and told him that she was in trouble and had been present when Knight had killed someone. Her father began arranging for a lawyer to represent her. Kelley's father drove her to a friend's house, and she told the friend what had happened in the victim's apartment on the night of the murder.

Knight was arrested on December 16, 1996, and was indicted on December 31, 1996, for murder in the first degree and armed robbery. The indictment stated that the victim died "on or about June 21, 1996." Kelley was also indicted and, as arranged by her lawyer, surrendered to the police on January 2, 1997. After being held in jail pending trial for more than one year, Kelley agreed to be interviewed by detectives and, in January 1998, negotiated a plea agreement with the Commonwealth. The agreement required that she testify at Knight's trial and plead guilty to manslaughter. The Commonwealth agreed to recommend an eighteen-month sentence, guaranteeing Kelley's release from prison shortly after Knight's trial.

When Kelley was interviewed, she told the detectives that the victim had been robbed and killed on June 19, 1996, before she and Knight went to Florida. Thereafter, the Commonwealth moved to amend the indictment to change the date of the murder to "on or about June 19, 1996." After a hearing, the motion judge allowed the amendment over Knight's objection.

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At trial, the Commonwealth relied primarily on Kelley's testimony to establish Knight's guilt. The Commonwealth also introduced evidence of a knife that police seized from Knight when he was arrested on unrelated charges on June 27, 1996, five days after the victim's body was found. The medical examiner's testimony indicated that the knife was not inconsistent with the victim's wounds. The defense relied primarily on the testimony of six witnesses from the victim's neighborhood who testified that they had seen the victim at various locations on Thursday, June 20, and Friday, June 21, when the undisputed evidence demonstrated that Kelley and Knight were on a bus bound for Florida. [FN5. The Commonwealth contended that these witnesses saw the victim often, and were simply mistaken with regard to when they last saw him.] The defense contended that Kelley's testimony was a fabrication induced by the Commonwealth's offer of an eighteen-month sentence and by her fear of remaining in prison for life if she were convicted. The Commonwealth attempted to rebut this contention by calling the friend to whom Kelley had confided the details of the murder in September, 1996, long before her indictment, arrest, and incarceration.

Knight, 773 N.E.2d at 394-95.

In its opinion, the SJC considered Knight's claims of trial error, including those now included in Knight's habeas petition.

Among the latter was Knight's challenge to the ruling by the trial judge that defense counsel could not, when cross-examining Betsey Kelley, inquire about the effect upon her of the guilty verdict in the contemporaneous state trial of Louise Woodward, a nineteen-year-old British au pair, found guilty of second-degree murder in the death of an infant in her care. The judge in Woodward's case had subsequently reduced the jury's verdict to involuntary manslaughter, vacated her life sentence, and sentenced her to time served. Knight, 773 N.E.2d at 398, n.9. The SJC held that the trial judge's ruling excluding reference to Woodward's case had not violated Knight's constitutional right to confrontation under the Sixth Amendment to the United States Constitution and Article 12 of the Declaration of Rights of the Massachusetts Constitution. Id. The SJC said, inter alia,

[t]he judge did not improperly limit the defense's cross-examination of Kelley . . . because the jury were presented...

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