United States District Court, D. New Jersey
SUSAN D. WIGENTON, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
before the Court is the amended petition for a writ of habeas
corpus of James Baker (“Petitioner”) brought
pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254. (ECF No. 6). Following an
order to answer, Respondents filed a response to the petition
(ECF No. 8), to which Petitioner replied. (ECF No. 14). For
the following reasons, this Court will deny the petition and
will deny Petitioner a certificate of appealability.
affirming Petitioner's conviction, the Superior Court of
New Jersey - Appellate Division provided the following
summary of the factual background of this matter:
We discern the following facts from the testimony at trial.
At 6:00 a.m. on January 22, 2009, several members of the
Elizabeth Police Department executed a search warrant at a
one-family residence. When detectives entered, they first
encountered [Petitioner]'s mother Alberta, his brother
Ernest, and his juvenile cousin on the first floor.
Detectives then proceeded upstairs to an attic bedroom where
they found [Petitioner] alone, dressed only in his boxer
shorts. When detectives searched the bedroom, they found five
glassine envelopes of heroin in a coffee cup on the dresser
and eighty more glassine envelopes packaged together inside
an eyeglass case on the nightstand. Detectives also recovered
$2000 from [Petitioner]'s shoe in the closet, two cell
phones and [Petitioner]'s car keys on top of the dresser,
and several pieces of mail addressed to [Petitioner] in the
top dresser drawer. [Petitioner] was arrested and later
At trial, the State presented the testimony of three officers
who participated in the search. The State also presented an
expert in narcotics distribution who testified that the
amount of heroin recovered, and the manner in which it was
packaged, indicated it would not have been for personal use,
but for sale and distribution.
[Petitioner] presented the testimony of his mother Alberta,
and his brothers Ernest, Jerome, and Edward Baker. They all
testified essentially that the bedroom in the attic was not
assigned to anyone in particular; rather, it was
first-come-first-serve for the brothers, including another
non-testifying sibling, Jeffrey, depending on who stayed at
the residence on a particular night. None of the defense
witnesses knew who was staying in the bedroom that night or
how the heroin got there.
Edward Baker further testified that he had given [Petitioner]
$2000 to use to get an apartment and left the money in
[Petitioner]'s shoe in the attic closet. He also
testified that he had been arrested numerous times for heroin
possession, that he had an addiction spanning twenty years,
that he was purchasing and using heroin at the time of the
search, and that he was using up to twenty envelopes of
heroin per day. However, he denied putting the heroin in the
(Document 5 attached to ECF No. 8 at 3-4).
on the testimony produced at trial, a jury convicted
Petitioner of third degree possession of a controlled
dangerous substance in violation of N.J. Stat. Ann. §
2C:35-10(a)(1) and third degree possession with intent to
distribute in violation of N.J. Stat. Ann. §
2C:35-5(a)(1) and 5(b)(3). (Id. at 1). A third
charge for which Petitioner was indicted, distribution of a
controlled substance within five hundred feet of a public
park, was dismissed prior to trial. (Id. a 2).
Petitioner's convictions were merged for sentencing
purposes, and Petitioner was sentenced to five years in
custody with a thirty-month period of parole ineligibility.
his sentencing, Petitioner appealed. On June 5, 2014, the
Appellate Division affirmed Petitioner's conviction and
sentence by way of a written opinion, but remanded
Petitioner's criminal matter so that the judgment of
conviction could be edited to reflect the fact that
Petitioner's charge for distribution near a park was
dismissed prior to trial. (Id. at 1-11). Petitioner
filed a petition for certification with the New Jersey
Supreme Court, but that petition was denied on November 14,
2014. (Document 8 attached to ECF No. 8). Petitioner did not
file a petition for certiorari, nor did he file a petition
for post-conviction relief prior to the filing of his habeas
petition in this matter. Instead, Petitioner filed his
initial habeas petition on or about December 24, 2014. (ECF
No. 1). That petition was terminated on March 4, 2015,
because Petitioner had not used the form required for all
pro se habeas petitions. (ECF No. 2). Petitioner
filed an amended petition on or about April 1, 2015, (ECF No.
3), but that petition was dismissed on May 4, 2015. (ECF No.
5). Petitioner thereafter filed his current amended habeas
petition on or about May 26, 2015. (ECF No. 6).
28 U.S.C. § 2254(a), the district court “shall
entertain an application for a writ of habeas corpus [o]n
behalf of a person in custody pursuant to the judgment of a
State court only on the ground that he is in custody in
violation of the Constitution or laws or treaties of the
United States.” A habeas petitioner has the burden of
establishing his entitlement to relief for each claim
presented in his petition based upon the record that was
before the state court. See Eley v. Erickson, 712
F.3d 837, 846 (3d Cir. 2013); see also Parker v.
Matthews, 567 U.S. 37, 40-41 (2012). Under the statute,
as amended by the Anti-Terrorism and Effective Death Penalty
Act, 28 U.S.C. § ...