Massie v. Medeiros, Civil Action No. 18-cv-10391-ADB

CourtUnited States District Courts. 1st Circuit. United States District Courts. 1st Circuit. District of Massachusetts
Writing for the CourtBURROUGHS, D.J.
PartiesTACUMA MASSIE, Petitioner, v. SEAN MEDEIROS, Respondent.
Docket NumberCivil Action No. 18-cv-10391-ADB
Decision Date11 March 2021

TACUMA MASSIE, Petitioner,
SEAN MEDEIROS, Respondent.

Civil Action No. 18-cv-10391-ADB


March 11, 2021



Petitioner Tacuma Massie ("Petitioner") was sentenced to life in prison following his September 2013 convictions for murder in the first degree and related charges. [ECF No. 37 at 1]; Commonwealth v. Mendez, 69 N.E.3d 968, 971 (Mass. 2017). Currently pending before this Court is Petitioner's petition for a writ of habeas corpus brought pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254. [ECF No. 1]. For the reasons stated herein, the petition is DENIED.


The Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court ("SJC") provided an account of the facts, which is excerpted below.1

On the evening of November 18, 2010, just after 6 p.m., the defendants [Petitioner and co-defendant Charles Mendez] ambushed and robbed Ryan Moitoso in a parking lot. Moitoso thought he was meeting Mendez's girl friend to sell her marijuana. The girl friend drove the defendants near the area where she was to meet Moitoso and let them out of her vehicle. As Moitoso spoke with the girl friend, the defendants approached him from behind. One of them hit him in the head with a hard metal object and told him to empty his pockets. Moitoso turned

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over some cash and marijuana, and heard a clicking noise that sounded like a gun being cocked, before being allowed to return to his vehicle. The defendants got back into the girl friend's vehicle, and she drove away. When she asked what had happened, one of the defendants replied, "That's life," and tossed a bag of marijuana into the front passenger area.

Next, the girl friend dropped the defendants off at a nearby housing complex where [Petitioner] had arranged to meet Platts (victim) on the pretext of wanting to make a marijuana purchase. The defendants intended to rob the victim of the approximately $4,000 that, [Petitioner] had learned, he was carrying that day. Prior to the meeting, a witness was parked in the housing complex and, while sitting in his vehicle, observed two men fitting the description of the defendants walk by him. The victim, who had a puppy with him, parked his vehicle behind the witness's vehicle. The witness then observed the same two men walk toward the back of his vehicle. Within seconds, the witness heard a gunshot and a vehicle engine accelerate, and then he felt the victim's vehicle hit the back of his vehicle. The witness telephoned 911 and told the dispatcher that a man had been shot. A resident of the complex looked out of her window at the sound of the gun shot to observe an individual matching Mendez's description get out of the passenger side of the victim's vehicle and quickly leave the scene carrying something clutched to his chest.

In the meantime, Mendez's girl friend received several telephone calls from [Petitioner] between 6:41 and 6:49 p.m. She returned to the complex and picked up both [Petitioner] and Mendez, pulling away quickly from the curb where they entered her vehicle. A State trooper who was in the housing complex investigating the 911 call observed the vehicle's hasty departure, and followed it.

When the defendants were arrested, both were carrying handguns; [Petitioner]'s was loaded. [Petitioner] had more than $4,000 in cash, Mendez's clothes were stained with the victim's blood, and police found the victim's puppy in the [girl friend's] vehicle. Police found Mendez's hat in the victim's vehicle.

The victim was shot at close range behind his right ear as he sat in his vehicle. At trial, Mendez claimed that the victim had drawn a gun on him and, after a struggle, he shot the victim in self-defense. He also claimed that the handgun that he had had in his possession when he was apprehended belonged to the victim.

Mendez, 69 N.E.3d at 972 (citation omitted). Following the indictment, Petitioner and Mendez moved to suppress evidence, including firearms, seized by police when their vehicle was stopped shortly after Platts was killed. [Supplemental Answer ("S.A.") at 1, 190-207]. On December 4, 2012, after an evidentiary hearing, the motion judge denied the motion to suppress. [Id. at 190-207]. The SJC summarized the facts found by the motion judge:

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After the witness's vehicle was hit by the victim's, the witness telephoned 911 to report that a person had been shot in the head in his vehicle and was dead, and that the individuals involved had fled. A State police trooper with the violent fugitive apprehension section, who was dressed in plain clothes and traveling nearby in an unmarked police cruiser, heard the police transmission of this report and headed toward the housing development. Approximately two blocks from the development he observed a person moving quickly toward a parked vehicle. Without stopping, the trooper relayed the registration plate number and learned that the vehicle was registered to a woman with no criminal history. Moments later, and less than ten minutes after the initial 911 transmission, he arrived at the complex and began to patrol, looking for suspicious activity.

As the trooper drove through the housing complex, which he found to be unusually quiet, he observed an individual, later identified as Mendez, make a "beeline" to a white Honda Civic automobile that was stopped at the curb with its engine running. Mendez entered at the rear passenger side of the vehicle, which started to pull away quickly, before Mendez had fully entered or closed the door. Because of what appeared to the trooper to be a very unusual absence of any other people and lack of any other activity on the streets or sidewalks in the housing complex, and the vehicle's quick departure from the area, the trooper followed the vehicle while it traveled in a "serpentine route," meandering through the city streets. Meanwhile, police who had responded to the scene at the housing complex confirmed to the trooper that a man had been shot in the head and killed.

While following the vehicle, the trooper reported its registration plate number and learned that an individual associated with the address of the vehicle's owner had "lots of violence" on his record, including a firearms charge, and pending drug charges. The trooper, who could see that there were two persons seated in the back of the vehicle, radioed for backup. Approximately four miles away from the housing complex, the driver of the vehicle stopped in front of a three-family home but kept the motor running. As the trooper was without backup or a place to park, he stopped his vehicle in the middle of the street and waited. Approximately fifteen to thirty seconds later, the two defendants got out of the back seat of the vehicle at the same time and turned to face him. They were speaking to one another and both had their hands in their jacket pockets. In fear of his safety, the trooper got out of his vehicle, showed his badge and said, "Police, don't move." The two men fled in opposite directions. Mendez ran toward the trooper but soon returned to the white vehicle, getting in and telling the driver to "take off." The trooper drew his weapon and ordered the driver, later identified as Mendez's girl friend, to shut off the motor; she did so. Once another officer arrived, police recovered a handgun that was tucked into Mendez's waistband.

In the meantime, a third officer saw [Petitioner], who was less than one block away from the white vehicle and running with one hand in his pocket. The officer chased him and ordered him to stop. [Petitioner] did not comply, but he was apprehended; he was carrying a loaded semiautomatic pistol and cash.

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Mendez, 69 N.E.3d at 973-74 (footnotes omitted).

On September 27, 2013, a jury convicted Petitioner of first-degree murder, carrying a firearm without a license, carrying a loaded firearm without a license, and armed robbery, and Petitioner was sentenced to life in prison. [S.A. at 3]; Mendez, 69 N.E.3d at 971. Following his conviction, Petitioner filed a timely notice of appeal and the SJC affirmed Petitioner's conviction on February 22, 2017. Mendez, 69 N.E.3d at 980. On February 27, 2018, Petitioner filed his petition for a writ of habeas corpus pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254. [ECF No. 1]. He later filed a memorandum of law in support of the petition, [ECF No. 37], which Respondent opposed, [ECF No. 44]. Petitioner then replied. [ECF No. 55].


A federal court cannot grant habeas relief to a state prisoner unless the prisoner has first exhausted his federal constitutional claims in state court. 28 U.S.C. § 2254(b)(1)(A). "[T]he state prisoner must give the state courts an opportunity to act on his claims before he presents those claims to a federal court in a habeas petition." O'Sullivan v. Boerckel, 526 U.S. 838, 842 (1999). A claim for habeas relief is exhausted if it has been "fairly and recognizably" presented in state court. Sanchez v. Roden, 753 F.3d 279, 294 (1st Cir. 2014) (quoting Casella v. Clemons, 207 F.3d 18, 20 (1st Cir. 2000)). In other words, "a petitioner must have tendered his federal claim [in state court] in such a way as to make it probable that a reasonable jurist would have been alerted to the existence of the federal question." Id. (internal quotation marks and citations omitted).

Once a claim has been exhausted in state court, under the Anti-Terrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996 ("AEDPA"),

[a]n application for a writ of habeas corpus on behalf of a person in custody pursuant to the judgment of a State court shall not be granted with respect to any

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claim that was adjudicated on the merits in State court proceedings unless the adjudication of the claim —
(1) resulted in a decision that was contrary to, or involved an unreasonable application of, clearly established Federal law, as determined by the Supreme Court of the United States; or
(2) resulted in a decision that was based on an unreasonable

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