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Hayden v. State

Superior Court of Maine, Cumberland

January 19, 2017

JOEL HAYDEN, Petitioner
STATE OF MAINE, Respondent


          Nancy Mills Justice.

         Before the court is petitioner's petition for post-conviction review filed on November 20, 2014. The petition and 31-page hand-written addendum to the petition were filed on a Pro se basis. After counsel was appointed, the petition was not amended. The State filed an answer on August 21, 2015.


         On January 4, 2013, petitioner was found guilty after jury trial of two counts of intentional or knowing murder. The victims were Renee Sandora, the mother of petitioner's children, and Trevor Mills, petitioner's friend. On February 5, 2013, petitioner was sentenced to two concurrent life sentences. On February 25, 2014, after appeal, the judgments of conviction and the sentences were affirmed. State v, Hayden, 2014 ME 31, 86 A.3d 1221');">86 A.3d 1221.

         Hearing on the petition was held on August 31, 2016, Briefs were filed on September 16, 2016 and October 7, 2016.[1]

          In his petition, the petitioner alleges he received ineffective assistance of counsel at trial as follows:

1. counsel failed to prevent Ja'Kai Hayden from testifying and failed to present evidence to impeach his identification testimony;
2. counsel failed to present testimony of a forensic psychologist on the weapons focus effect with regard to Ja'Kai Hayden;
3. counsel failed to present testimony from a forensic toxicologist about the timing of petitioner's ingesting drugs and the effect of the drugs on petitioner;
4. counsel failed to hire a private investigator to investigate the case;
5. counsel failed to request a polling of the jury after the verdicts were returned;
6. counsel failed to object properly to the court's instruction, failed to object to Brandi Caron's testimony, failed to object to leading questions asked by the State's attorney of Jamie Lee Holmes, failed to prohibit the introduction in evidence of the 911 tapes, failed to object to Dr. Ferenc's testimony, failed to ensure petitioner was present at side bar conferences, failed to object to law enforcement conduct, failed to object to the testimony of John Michaud, and used peremptory challenges improperly during jury selection;
7. counsel failed to present testimony of a forensic psychologist or psychiatrist on the fight or flight syndrome with regard to one victim, Renee Sandora;
8. counsel failed to present the testimony of James Hutchinson;
9. counsel failed to obtain all discovery, including phone text information;
10. no specific allegation;
11. counsel failed to inquire about the failure to test petitioner for gun shot residue and failed to request DNA testing on petitioner's clothes;
12. counsel elicited testimony from Detective Bolton that was inconsistent with the defense theory;
13. counsel failed to present the testimony of a forensic toxicologist at sentencing about petitioner's level of intoxication at the time of the vehicle accident;
14. counsel failed to object to the use of leading questions by the State's attorney;
15. counsel failed to object to the introduction of the 911 tapes;
16. counsel should not have represented petitioner on appeal because of a conflict of interest;
17. counsel failed to argue on appeal that petitioner's reckless conduct supported a manslaughter conviction; and
18. the cumulative effect of counsel's ineffective assistance, prosecutorial misconduct, and court errors, resulted in a violation of petitioner's constitutional rights.

         For the following reasons, the petition is denied.


         Petitioner was represented by two court appointed attorneys after his first attorney withdrew. One trial counsel was admitted to the bar in 1996 and has tried more than twenty homicide cases. The other was admitted in 2002 and has tried twelve homicide cases. Trial counsel divided the labor in representing petitioner. He handled law enforcement witnesses and co-counsel handled civilian witnesses. They divided technical issues, such as DNA, toxicology, and ballistics. They met with petitioner together and, if they met separately, they briefed each other about the meeting. They both met with petitioner at the jail approximately the same number of times.

         Trial counsel began representing petitioner seven months after the case began. During this representation, trial counsel had no concern about petitioner's state of mind. He was distrustful and had no faith in the justice system or his previous counsel. Trial counsel gained credibility with petitioner when they prevailed on the motion to suppress. One trial counsel disagreed that petitioner's intelligence was low to average. The other agreed the term "average" was a fair assessment of petitioner's intelligence. Petitioner had a good grasp of English and asked relevant questions.

         During plea negotiations, the State agreed not to seek a life sentence if petitioner pleaded. The State's offer was a sentence of 70 years. At age 31, however, petitioner considered the offer a life sentence because with maximum good time, he would be released at age 92 or 93. Trial counsel refused to give petitioner a sentencing range if the State agreed to an open plea. One trial counsel believed this case involved Shortsleeves factors. The other trial counsel believed the range for the sentence to be imposed was fifty to sixty years if sentencing went well and petitioner's son was spared having to testify.

         The defense had little to work with; the evidence against petitioner was overwhelming, as the Law Court noted in its decision. See Hayden, 2014 ME 31, ¶ 13, 86 A.3d 1221');">86 A.3d 1221. There was no alternative suspect and no unaccounted for persons in the house at the scene. The State's evidence included the testimony of petitioner's son, seven year old Ja'Kai Hayden, [2] who saw petitioner shoot the two victims, and two calls to 911. One call was from one of the victims and one from a neighbor, Leslie Foley, to whom Ja'Kai said "he shot, he shot them." (Trial Tr. 81.) Trial counsel filed a motion in limine to exclude the 911 tapes; the motion was denied.

         The only viable defense for counsel to pursue was a manslaughter conviction, as opposed to a murder conviction. Trial counsel adopted this approach. There also was no possibility of a not criminally responsible defense, which was not pursued by trial counsel or petitioner's initial counsel.

         Petitioner was not in favor of his son, Ja'Kai, testifying but that testimony would have been prevented only by a plea. (Trial Tr. 49-50.) Trial counsel made efforts to prevent the testimony but found no basis on which to preclude the testimony. They determined a competency hearing prior to Ja'Kai's testimony would have been futile. (Trial Tr. 53-54.)

         Trial counsel cross-examined Ja'Kai carefully. (Trial Tr. 66-72; 73-74.) They did not believe the mistakes in Ja'Kai's identification of petitioner's clothing were significant considering what Ja'Kai had witnessed. There were differences between the testimony of Ja'Kai and a neighbor, Leslie Foley. Ja'Kai testified that petitioner left the scene in a small car. Ms. Foley testified petitioner left in a bigger sedan. (Trial Tr. 58, 78.) Trial counsel did not highlight these discrepancies. Trial counsel were familiar with the weapons focus effect, where a witness ...

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