Healy v. Spencer, 06-1269.

CourtUnited States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (1st Circuit)
Writing for the CourtLynch
Citation453 F.3d 21
PartiesWayne Blyth HEALY, Petitioner, Appellee, v. Luis SPENCER, Respondent, Appellant.
Docket NumberNo. 06-1269.,06-1269.
Decision Date27 June 2006

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453 F.3d 21
Wayne Blyth HEALY, Petitioner, Appellee,
Luis SPENCER, Respondent, Appellant.
No. 06-1269.
United States Court of Appeals, First Circuit.
Heard May 5, 2006.
Decided June 27, 2006.

Maura D. McLaughlin, Assistant Attorney General, Criminal Bureau, with whom Thomas F. Reilly, Attorney General, was on brief, for appellant.

Wendy Sibbison for appellee.

Gary D. Buseck and Mary L. Bonauto on brief for Gay & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders, amicus curiae.

Before BOUDIN, Chief Judge, LYNCH and HOWARD, Circuit Judges.

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LYNCH, Circuit Judge.

Petitioner Wayne Healy was tried in 1981 for the murder of Richard Chalue, who had been found stabbed to death in his home. At trial, the prosecution suggested, in response to certain defense arguments, that Healy killed Chalue during a homosexual encounter gone awry. Healy was convicted and is now serving a life sentence.

More than fifteen years later, in response to a discovery request connected to Healy's third motion for a new trial, prosecutors for the first time turned over to Healy a pathologist's report from the post-mortem examination of Chalue. (Healy had had access all along to a shorter, final autopsy report). This preliminary report said an examination of Chalue's genitals and rectum had revealed no marks suggestive of sexual activity. Based on this information, Healy subpoenaed the hospital where the exam was conducted; in response, the hospital turned over a handwritten note stating that smears from Chalue's mouth and rectum had tested negative for sperm.

Relying on these documents, Healy in 1999 filed an amended motion for a new trial in state court on the ground that the prosecution had suppressed exculpatory evidence in violation of his due process rights. See Brady v. Maryland, 373 U.S. 83, 83 S.Ct. 1194, 10 L.Ed.2d 215 (1963). He argued, inter alia, that the newly turned-over portion of the report on the post-mortem exam tended to prove that the killing did not occur in connection with a sexual encounter, and that this would have made a crucial difference at trial. The Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court (SJC) rejected his claim. See Commonwealth v. Healy (Healy II), 438 Mass. 672, 783 N.E.2d 428 (Mass.2003). Healy then petitioned the federal court for habeas corpus.

The district court granted habeas corpus relief. The court said the SJC had erred by failing to recognize the centrality of the sexual encounter theory and by not explicitly factoring into its analysis "how extremely close a case" the murder trial had been. Healy v. Spencer (Healy III), 397 F.Supp.2d 269, 290, 293 (D.Mass.2005).

We reverse. The SJC considered the whole record and reached a well-reasoned, supportable conclusion that Healy had not demonstrated Brady prejudice. Its analysis was not "objectively unreasonable," Lockyer v. Andrade, 538 U.S. 63, 75, 123 S.Ct. 1166, 155 L.Ed.2d 144 (2003), and the writ should not have issued.


We describe the facts as they were found by the SJC, supplemented with other record facts consistent with the SJC's findings. Lynch v. Ficco, 438 F.3d 35, 39 (1st Cir.2006).1

Police came to Chalue's apartment in Holyoke, Massachusetts, early on the morning of August 8, 1980, after receiving a report that Chalue had been screaming for help. Healy II, 783 N.E.2d at 431. The police found Chalue dead on his bed, stabbed seventeen times in the chest, neck, and thigh. Id. Chalue had on a pair of jeans, which were pulled halfway down his legs; he was otherwise naked. His hands were bound with socks; he also was

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gagged. Id. On top of a dresser in the bedroom, approximately four to five feet from the body, police found a pair of underwear. Testing of the underwear revealed the presence of semen consistent with Chalue's blood group. Id. The pathologist who conducted Chalue's autopsy opined, based on the location and angle of the wounds, that the perpetrator had been kneeling on the bed at the time the wounds were inflicted. Id.

A bloodstained knife was found on the dresser in Chalue's bedroom. Id. On the table in Chalue's kitchen were a partially empty bottle of rum, two bottles of cola, a glass, and an ashtray containing cigarette butts. Commonwealth v. Healy (Healy I), 393 Mass. 367, 471 N.E.2d 359, 364 (Mass.1984). Police also found a receipt for rum, cola, and ice, stained with blood, on the third-floor landing in Chalue's apartment building. Id.

Police contacted Healy after finding his telephone number in Chalue's address book. Id. Healy at first said he had not seen Chalue in months. He later changed his story, telling police that he had purchased the rum, coke, and ice and brought it to Chalue that evening, but had not gone inside. Id. at 365. Healy also lied about the timing of his movements that night: In an interview with police on the evening of August 8, Healy stated that after leaving Chalue, he had returned home by 10:15 p.m., and that police could verify that with Healy's roommate, George Roy.2 When questioned, however, Roy admitted that he and Healy had agreed to say Healy returned home at 10:15 p.m. but that it actually might have been closer to 12:30 a.m. Id. Healy then admitted to police that he had not gotten home by 10:15 p.m., but instead had gone out to two gay bars after leaving Chalue. Id.

At Healy's trial, the prosecution introduced a variety of circumstantial evidence tying him to the crime. The Commonwealth's fingerprint expert testified that Healy's fingerprints were on the rum and cola bottles, and that at least one of the cigarettes in the ashtray on Chalue's table had been smoked by someone who was both a "nonsecretor," i.e., who did not secrete blood group substances in his saliva, and who had Type B blood. Id. at 364. Healy was a nonsecretor with Type B blood; the Commonwealth's expert testified that these two characteristics appear together in only 2% of the population. Id.

The Commonwealth's expert serologist testified that the blood on the knife contained antigens consistent with a mixture of blood of Types A and B, and that a long-sleeved shirt found in Healy's apartment also had a small bloodstain with both A and B antigens. Chalue's blood was Type A. Id. Finally, Type B blood was found on the gear shift and brake lever of Healy's car, and police officers who questioned Healy on the evening of August 8 saw that he had a bandage on the palm of his right hand. The doctor who had sutured Healy's wound earlier that evening testified that in his opinion the wound had been between four and twenty-four hours old at the time he treated it, and that Healy's wound could have been caused by the knife found in Chalue's bedroom. Id.

Testifying at trial, Healy said he had cut his hand on a broken glass in his kitchen on the morning of the 8th. Id. at 365. He admitted that, contrary to his earlier statements to police, he had gone inside Chalue's apartment the night of the murder. Id. at 371. As to Healy's lies about what

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time he had come home that night, Healy and Roy both testified that Healy had lied because he had not wanted to disclose to the police that he was homosexual. Healy II, 783 N.E.2d at 432. The prosecution countered that explanation with evidence that Healy had led an openly gay lifestyle, id., suggesting that the lie was not explained by the reason Healy gave.

Later, during closing arguments, the defense argued that the absence of blood on the clothes Healy said he had been wearing that night3 meant he could not have been the person who stabbed Chalue seventeen times. Healy I, 471 N.E.2d at 373. The prosecution responded to this defense claim in its own closing by arguing that the killer might well have been nude, thus explaining why the killer's clothes might not have been bloody:

This man was stabbed 17 times. Blood was going all over the place. . . . Now, you've seen the photographs, Ladies and Gentlemen. The one I just showed you, what kind of activity do you think was going on in that bedroom? Ask yourselves that. Don't leave your common sense at home. Does it necessarily follow, Ladies and Gentlemen, that that person who was with Mr. Chalue had any clothes on at all?


The case went to the jury on April 3, 1981. In the course of the deliberations, the Commonwealth made two motions for mistrial. The first was based on a juror's requested re-instruction on permissible inference, reasonable doubt, and circumstantial evidence. The second came after a local newspaper published an article on the case which was prejudicial to the prosecution. In considering the second motion, the trial court noted that the trial was "delicate" and that "a small matter . . . could tip the balance."

The trial court ultimately denied the motions for mistrial. The jury returned a conviction on April 8; the next day, Healy was sentenced to life in prison.

In preparation for Healy's trial, prosecutors had turned over to the defense a final autopsy report containing Chalue's cause of death and a gross anatomical description. Healy II, 783 N.E.2d at 433. However, prosecutors had not turned over either the earlier report discussing the examination of the victim's rectum and genitalia or the handwritten notes reporting the absence of sperm.4 On April 11, 1997, Healy brought a third new trial motion5 and requested additional discovery; this request led to production of the earlier report and the notes. Healy subsequently filed an amended new trial motion asserting his Brady argument. Following an evidentiary hearing, a state Superior Court judge denied the motion. The SJC affirmed in Healy II. On November 8, 2005, the district court granted habeas relief.6

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A. Standard of Review

Our review of a district court's grant or denial of habeas is de novo. Norton v. Spencer, 351 F.3d 1, 4 (1st Cir.2003). Put differently, the district court opinion, while helpful for its reasoning, is entitled to no deference.

Under the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996...

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