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Dubose v. The Attorney General of the State of New Jersey

United States District Court, D. New Jersey

December 6, 2019

ERNEST DUBOSE, Petitioner,
v.
THE ATTORNEY GENERAL OF THE STATE OF NEW JERSEY, et al., Respondents.

          OPINION

          Hon. Susan D. Wigenton, United States District Judge.

         Presently before the Court is the amended petition for a writ of habeas corpus of Ernest Dubose (“Petitioner”) brought pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254 challenging his state court convictions. (ECF No. 3). Following an order to answer, Respondents filed an answer to the petition (ECF No. 10). Petitioner did not file a reply. For the following reasons, the Court will deny Petitioner's habeas petition, and deny Petitioner a certificate of appealability.

         I. BACKGROUND

         Because Petitioner's amended petition presents three discrete claims, only a limited discussion of the background of this matter is necessary for the purposes of this opinion. As explained by the Superior Court of New Jersey - Appellate Division,

A Morris County grand jury charged [Petitioner] in a five-count indictment with second-degree conspiracy [in violation of N.J. Stat. Ann. §] 2C:5-2 (count one); second-degree official misconduct [in violation of N.J. Stat. Ann. §] 2C:30-2(a) (count two); second-degree bribery in official and political matters [in violation of N.J. Stat. Ann. §] 2C:27-2(c) (count three); second-degree attempted theft by deception [in violation of N.J. Stat. Ann. §] 2C:20-4(a) (count four); and second-degree false contract payment claims [in violation of N.J. Stat. Ann. §] 2C:21-34(a) (count five). Following a thirteen-day trial, the jury convicted [Petitioner] of all of the charges. The trial judge sentenced [Petitioner] to six years in prison on count one, and concurrent six-year terms on counts two, three, four, [and] five.

(Document 9 attached to ECF No. 10 at 1-2). Petitioner's charges and conviction arose out of a scheme in which he and his co-conspirator Gaudner Metellus conspired to defraud the New Jersey Department of Transportation out of several hundreds of thousands of dollars by, among other things, inflating repair costs for state owned bridges as part of grant proposals submitted to the Department. (ECF No. 3 at 19; ECF No. 10 at 6). At his trial, Petitioner represented himself with the aid of standby counsel. (Document 9 attached to ECF No. 10 at 3 n. 1).

         II. DISCUSSION

         A. Legal Standard

         Under 28 U.S.C. § 2254(a), the district court “shall entertain an application for a writ of habeas corpus in 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.” The 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, ___U.S.___, ___, 132 S.Ct. 2148, 2151 (2012). Under the statute, as amended by the Anti-Terrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act, 28 U.S.C. § 2244 (“AEDPA”), district courts are required to give great deference to the determinations of the state trial and appellate courts. See Renico v. Lett, 559 U.S. 766, 772-73 (2010).

         Where a claim has been adjudicated on the merits by the state courts, the district court shall not grant an application for a writ of habeas corpus unless the state court adjudication

(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 determination of the facts in light of the evidence presented in the State court proceeding.

28 U.S.C. § 2254(d)(1)-(2). The Supreme Court has explained that “clearly established Federal law for the purposes of § 2254(d)(1) includes only the holdings, as opposed to the dicta” of the opinions of the United States Supreme Court. See Woods v. Donald, ___ U.S.___, ___, 135 S.Ct. 1372, 1376 (2015) (internal quotations omitted). “When reviewing state criminal convictions on collateral review, federal judges are required to afford state courts due respect by overturning their decisions only when there could be no reasonable dispute that they were wrong.” Id. Where a petitioner challenges an allegedly erroneous factual determination of the state courts, “a determination of a factual issue made by a State court shall be presumed to be correct [and t]he applicant shall have the burden of rebutting the presumption of correctness by clear and convincing evidence. 28 U.S.C. § 2254(e)(1).

         B. ...


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