RAYMOND D. TEMPEST, JR., Petitioner,
STATE OF RHODE ISLAND, Respondent.
COUNSEL FOR PETITIONER: Michael Kendall, Esq., Matthew R. Turnell, Esq., Katherine Dyson, Esq., Karen Eisenstadt, Esq., Evan Panich, Esq. Samuel Feldman, Esq., Lauren E. Jones, Eq. (401) 274-4446, ext. 11, Betty Anne Waters, Esq. (401) 965-0009
COUNSEL FOR STATE: Christopher R. Bush, Esq. Aaron L. Weisman, Esq. Patrick Youngs, Esq. Jeanine P. McConaghy, Esq.
This matter is before the Court pursuant to the State of Rhode Island's (State) Motion for Summary Disposition to foreclose Petitioner Raymond "Beaver" Tempest, Jr.'s (Petitioner) request for post-conviction relief.
Facts and Travel
This case has a long and complex history, beginning with the beating death of Doreen Picard of Woonsocket, Rhode Island on February 19, 1982. (Resp't Mem. 1.) After an initial investigation, the case sat idle for nearly a decade until the State indicted Petitioner on June 5, 1991. (Resp't Ex. 1.) On April 22, 1992, a jury found Tempest guilty of second degree murder, and our Supreme Court upheld that conviction in 1995. Id.
Nine years later, in 2004, Petitioner submitted an application for post-conviction relief seeking modern DNA testing of crime scene evidence under G.L. 1956 §§ 10-0.1-11 and 10-0.1-12. (Resp't Ex. 1.) It is noteworthy that the DNA analysis sought did not exist at the time of Petitioner's trial in 1992. (Resp't Mem. 12.) This Court granted Petitioner's request, and between 2005 and 2013 the Rhode Island Department of Health (RIDOH) and Orchid Cellmark conducted DNA testing and comparison on multiple hairs recovered at the scene of the Woonsocket attack. On March 29, 2014, Petitioner filed a seventy-seven page amended application for post-conviction relief (PCR Application) requesting that the Court vacate the 1992 judgment. Id. Since that time, the parties have held numerous conferences; several scheduling orders have been entered, the last scheduling a hearing date for February 2, 2015, and the number of attorneys representing the parties has grown to twelve, eight representing Petitioner and four representing the State. The Court has been actively engaged in scheduling the matter, including a full evidentiary hearing that is expected to last at least two weeks. Now, within thirty days of the hearing, the State asks this Court to hear and consider requests for summary judgment on every claim raised in Petitioner's expansive PCR Application. For the following reasons, the Court declines to hear and decide the State's motion without prejudice.
Standard of Review
General Laws Section 10-9.1-6(c) empowers this Court to grant summary disposition of an application for post-conviction relief "when it appears from the pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions and agreements of fact, together with any affidavits submitted, that there is no genuine issue of material fact and the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." Sec. 10-9.1-6(c)). In deciding such a motion, this Court applies the same standard as when deciding summary judgment under Super. R. Civ. P. 56. See Palmigiano v. State, 120 R.I. 402, 406, 387 A.2d 1382, 1385 (1978). The preliminary question before the Court is whether there is a genuine issue as to any material fact which must be resolved. See R.I. Hospital Trust Nat'l Bank v. Boiteau, 119 R.I. 64, 376 A.2d 323 (1977); O'Connor v. McKanna, 116 R.I. 627, 359 A.2d 350 (1976). If an examination of the evidence, viewed in the light most favorable to the opposing party, reveals no such issue, then the petition is ripe for summary judgment. See R.I. Hospital Trust Nat'l Bank, 119 R.I. at 66, 376 A.2d at 324; Harold W. Merrill Post. No. 16 Am. Legion v. Heirs-at-Law, Next of Kin and Devisees of Smith, 116 R.I. 646, 360 A.2d 110 (1976). When the moving party sustains its burden, the opposing party must then prove "by competent evidence the existence of a disputed material issue of fact and cannot rest on allegations or denials in the pleadings or on conclusions or legal opinions." See Accent Store Design, Inc. v. Marathon House, Inc., 674 A.2d 1223, 1225 (R.I. 1996); see also McAdam v. Grzelczyk, 911 A.2d 255, 259 (R.I. 2006). The trial justice must keep in mind that summary judgment '"is a drastic remedy and should be cautiously applied."' See Steinberg v. State, R.I., 427 A.2d 338, 339–40 (R.I. 1981) (quoting Ardente v. Horan, 117 R.I. 254, 366 A.2d 162, 164 (R.I. 1976)). The purpose of summary judgment "is not to cull out the weak cases from the herd of lawsuits waiting to be tried . . . only if the case is legally dead on arrival should the court take the drastic step of . . . granting summary judgment." See Mitchell v. Mitchell, 756 A.2d 179, 185 (R.I. 2000).