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Boyd v. Johnson

United States District Court, D. New Jersey

January 24, 2019

DONALD E. BOYD, Petitioner,
STEVEN JOHNSON, et al., Respondents.



         Presently before the Court is the petition for a writ of habeas corpus of Donald E. Boyd (“Petitioner”) brought pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254 challenging his state court conviction. (ECF No. 1). Respondents filed an answer to the petition (ECF No. 7), to which Petitioner replied. (ECF No. 18). For the following reasons, the Court will deny the petition and no certificate of appealability shall issue.

         I. BACKGROUND

         In affirming the denial of post-conviction relief, the Superior Court of New Jersey - Appellate Division provided the following summary of the facts underlying this matter:

On March 9, 2002, [Petitioner] gained entry into the victim's apartment under the guise of being her former boyfriend, in whose company [Petitioner] had spent the prior evening. The victim, who was ill, buzzed [Petitioner] into her apartment, assuming she had just admitted [her] former boyfriend into the building so he could retrieve some belongings from the home. The victim immediately returned to bed. She was [then] assaulted from behind. The victim never saw her assailant's face, but said he was white, dressed in a blue sweatshirt, and wore surgical gloves.
The initial assault resulted in a spiral fracture of the victim's upper arm. [Petitioner] pulled a pillow case over the victim's head and secured it with a rope or wire, threatened her with a knife and gun, and told her that he was “never going back to prison.” After vaginally and anally raping her, [Petitioner] forced her into the shower, directed her to wash, and left. The victim remained in the shower until she was certain her assailant was gone. She then ran into the hallway of her apartment building, pounding on neighbors' doors, screaming that she had been raped.
When police arrived, they found the victim with the pillow case still around her head, string or lace around one leg, and a telephone cord wrapped around her broken arm. She was taken to a nearby hospital for treatment of her injuries.
The victim's former boyfriend testified at trial that he had spent the evening before the assault drinking with [Petitioner] and another person. The following morning, when he awakened, the former boyfriend realized [Petitioner] had taken his truck keys and left. When [Petitioner] returned, he was “sweaty, very nervous, agitated, and couldn't sit still.” Soon after he returned, the police called to inform the boyfriend of the assault. [Petitioner] promptly left without a word.
[Petitioner] was not identified as the perpetrator until approximately a year and a half later, when his DNA was found to match the perpetrator's.
Approximately a month before the trial was scheduled to begin, [Petitioner] sought to discharge his attorney and represent himself. After a lengthy . . . hearing [on the issue], the court permitted [Petitioner] to do so, but designated his former defense attorney to serve as standby counsel. During the hearing, [Petitioner] denied ever receiving treatment for a mental health disorder, and asserted that his only physical ailments were high blood pressure and arthritis. He was then forty-two years old, had obtained a GED, and claimed to have spent months while incarcerated preparing for the trial. [Petitioner] asked the court to order that he be allowed extra time in the law library, which request the judge granted. [Petitioner] assured the court he had spent many hours training in criminal law, and said he had “been doing this for years. He owned a few Gann law books, including the Criminal Code.
Pre-trial, [Petitioner] consented to have standby counsel conduct jury selection. The judge also ruled, over [Petitioner]'s objection, that he could not directly cross-examine [the victim], rather, that he had to use standby counsel as a “conduit” for his questions.
On the second day of trial, [Petitioner] requested that standby counsel take over the representation. The judge declined the request.
Towards the end of the [self-representation] hearing, the trial judge warned [Petitioner] that if he represented himself, he would not be able to raise ineffective assistance of counsel as a basis for [post-conviction relief].
[Petitioner] had [previously] been convicted of, among other offenses, a violent rape against a sixteen[-]year[-]old in 1985 and was linked by DNA evidence to a rape in Arizona. [An] Avenel report described [Petitioner] as “a psychopathic individual who merges his barely masked rage and distorted drive for sexual release into violent and sadistic assaults against women[, ]” and who has “a complete lack of remorse or even acknowledgement of culpability.
This conclusion was reached by the Avenel psychologist at least in part because when [Petitioner], who entirely denied any culpability, was asked about the DNA evidence, he responded that “[j]ust because there was DNA doesn't mean I raped anyone[, ]” implying that he and the victim had consensual sex. When asked further question[s] about the victim's spiral fracture, he responded that he had seen the photographs of [her] arm and it did not look broken to him.
The first day of his closing argument at trial, [Petitioner] superficially cut his arm with a sharp object he had hidden in his mouth. [Petitioner] told the Avenel psychologist that it was “planned, maybe to hurt myself, [or] maybe to get a mistrial.” [Petitioner]'s prior criminal history included twenty-seven arrests, seven prior convictions, pending charges in New York, and the possible rape charge in Arizona.
[Petitioner] was represented by a public defender at his sentence hearing, a different attorney than the one who acted as standby counsel. At [Petitioner]'s behest, that attorney requested his medical records from the Bergen County jail. She was provided with a summary of the medications he was administered while there. The summary [indicated that Petitioner had been treated with Xanax], but, in contrast to the summary, [Petitioner's] complete records revealed that the Xanax was prescribed telephonically by the facility's physician. The physician never met with [Petitioner]. He prescribed the tranquilizer upon being advised of [Petitioner]'s allegedly combative conduct upon arrival at the jail. Neither the records nor the summary included any written consent or acknowledgement by [Petitioner] that he was being given Xanax.[1]
As [Petitioner]'s trial was about to begin, he claimed he had been in an altercation with prison staff the night before, had not slept for thirty hours, and had not been provided his regular medication.
The trial judge noted that in our opinion in [Petitioner]'s prior appeal [of a different conviction], the record indicated that as trial was about to begin, [Petitioner] had similarly requested an adjournment because “he had been involved in an altercation in jail the night before, as a result of which he had sustained ‘severe abrasions' and a ‘nearly closed' right eye. He also claimed he had not received his blood pressure medication and had not slept or eaten in thirty hours.”
[Petitioner]'s defense strategy included interruptions to the smooth progress of the trial, accomplished both by his legal arguments and objections, and his conduct. For example, [Petitioner] raised his middle finger at the victim's former boyfriend when he began to testify, requiring the judge to call a recess to address [Petitioner]'s conduct, in the courtroom but outside the presence of the jury.
[Petitioner] appeared to have a plan of action for how he would proceed. For example, he attempted to admit into evidence the police report prepared by the first officer at the scene in order to demonstrate inconsistencies with the victim's description of the event at trial. In support of his application, [Petitioner] argued the excited utterance exception to the hearsay rule.
When cross-examining a detective testifying for the State, the judge admonished [Petitioner] that it was improper to refer to “alleged” restraint marks on the victim's ankles and wrists. [Petitioner] promptly corrected himself and thereafter only employed the phrase the “alleged victim.”
[Petitioner]'s relationship with standby counsel was fraught. At times, he was adamant that he wanted counsel to represent him, and at other times, he claimed counsel had betrayed him and sabotaged his defense by making promises of assistance which did not materialize.
Returning to the cutting incident and its immediate aftermath
Defendant started his summation with the words, “My name is Donald Boyd. You want to see a man bleed?, ” and proceeded to cut one of his arms with a sharp object he had concealed in his mouth. Sheriff's officers immediately took the blade away from [Petitioner], and the judge and jury left the courtroom. After the incident, while standby counsel, the judge, and the prosecutor were meeting in chambers, standby counsel was directed to leave by her supervisor, and did not return for the summations. Another attorney from the Office of the Public Defender represented [Petitioner] at sentencing.
The next day, [Petitioner] finished his closing statement. During a colloquy with the judge outside the presence of the jury, including the judge's repetition of the explanation of the limited role of standby counsel, [Petitioner] said “I don't mean to say this prejudicially, but this is one of the . . . richest, whitest communities in the United States of America, and you're going to give me a black attorney to represent me? I ain't going that route.”
Among other things [Petitioner] told the jury in closing: “I had multiple problems with medication at that time, okay. Like I said I was not going to trial with an attorney that said I was guilty.”
[Petitioner] also told the jury that the cell phone records that he had attempted to move into evidence, that were in the name of another person, were actually his own records because he had borrowed the other person's phone. The time frame of the loan included the date of the assault. Since the records showed calls made while the assault was taking place, he argued that “I couldn't have been in three places at once according to those records and I could not introduce them to you.” [Petitioner] made this argument despite the fact he did not testify.
The medical expert whom [Petitioner] called as his witness was arranged by standby counsel at [Petitioner]'s request. The expert testified in his behalf that spiral fractures such as the one sustained by the victim can result from accidents, like a fall in a bathtub.
From the second day [Petitioner] was housed at the Bergen County Jail, [Petitioner] was given Xanax as well as his regular blood pressure, stomach, and pain medicine. After his conviction, [Petitioner] sued the Bergen County Jail and [its] medical staff in federal court for medical malpractice.[] According to counsel at oral ...

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