STEPHEN R. MATTATALL
STATE OF RHODE ISLAND
Sparr, Esq. For Plaintiff:
Davis, Esq. For Defendant:
this Court is Stephen R. Mattatall's (Petitioner)
Application for Post-Conviction Relief (Application).
Petitioner asserts that his conviction should be vacated
because the statute under which he was convicted in State
of Rhode Island v. Stephen R. Mattatall, K1-1983-0012A
(the underlying criminal case) is unconstitutional in that it
fails to describe a crime and prescribe a penalty therein.
Court's jurisdiction is pursuant to G.L. 1956 §
10-9.1-1. Having reviewed the parties' memoranda, and for
the reasons set forth below, this Court finds that
Petitioner's conviction was not unconstitutional.
Accordingly, Petitioner's Application is denied.
Facts and Travel
January 7, 1983, Petitioner was indicted on one count of
murder under G.L. 1956 §§ 11-23-1 and 11-23-2, and
two counts of possession of a firearm after being convicted
of a crime of violence under § 11-47-5, all alleged to
have occurred on September 24, 1982. On November 9, 1984, a
jury found Petitioner guilty of one count of murder in the
second degree. The remaining two counts were dismissed
pursuant to Super. R. Crim. P. 48(a). He was sentenced to
forty years, with thirty years to serve at the Adult
Correctional Institutions (ACI), the balance of ten years
suspended, with probation. Petitioner was also sentenced to
an additional ten years to serve as a habitual offender. On
appeal, the Rhode Island Supreme Court vacated his conviction
and remanded the case for a new trial. State v.
Mattatall, 510 A.2d 947 (R.I. 1986). The United States
Supreme Court granted the State's Petition for Writ of
Certiorari and remanded to the Rhode Island Supreme Court
instructing the court to reconsider its decision in light of
Kuhlmann v. Wilson, 477 U.S. 436 (1986). On remand,
the Supreme Court reaffirmed its prior ruling. State v.
Mattatall, 525 A.2d 49 (R.I. 1987). Petitioner's
second trial ended in a mistrial as a result of
Petitioner's courtroom behavior.
17, 1988, at the conclusion of Petitioner's third trial,
a jury again found Petitioner guilty of murder in the second
degree. On September 7, 1988, he was sentenced to sixty
years, with fifty years to serve at the ACI, the balance of
ten years suspended, with probation. The trial justice also
sentenced Petitioner to an additional twenty years as a
habitual offender, with eighteen years to serve at the ACI
before becoming eligible for parole. The trial justice
ordered the sentences to be served consecutively. Petitioner
appealed his conviction and the Supreme Court affirmed.
State v. Mattatall, 603 A.2d 1098 (R.I. 1992).
has filed multiple applications for post-conviction relief
prior to the instant Application. On December 28, 2000,
Petitioner filed an application for post-conviction relief
which was denied on September 28, 2004. Mattatall v.
State, KM-2000-0956. Before his first application was
decided, Petitioner filed a second application on November
29, 2001, which was denied on May 9, 2002. Petitioner
appealed the denial of his second application, and the
Supreme Court affirmed. Mattatall v. State, 947 A.2d
896 (R.I. 2008).
17, 2007, Petitioner filed a third application for
post-conviction relief regarding his eligibility for parole.
The court granted the State's Motion to Dismiss on
February 14, 2008. Mattatall v. State, PM-2007-3645.
On appeal, the Supreme Court remanded the case with
instructions to provide Petitioner with an opportunity to be
heard. Mattatall v. State, 966 A.2d 125 (R.I. 2009)
27, 2013, Petitioner filed another application for
post-conviction relief, which was denied on June 17, 2014.
Mattatall v. State, PM-2013-3120. Petitioner
appealed, and the Supreme Court affirmed, finding that
Petitioner's application was barred by the doctrine of
res judicata. Mattatall v. State, 126 A.3d
480 (R.I. 2015) (Mem).
September 15, 2016, Petitioner filed another application for
post-conviction relief regarding his eligibility for parole,
which was denied on July 25, 2018. Mattatall v.
State, KM-2016-0922. Petitioner filed a petition for
writ of certiorari in the Supreme Court, which was denied on
June 7, 2019. Mattatall v. State, SU-2018-0267-MP.
currently has an appeal from the denial of a Motion to
Correct Illegal Sentence pending before the Supreme Court.
State v. Mattatall, SU-2018-0263-CA.
January 24, 2019, Petitioner filed the instant pro
se Application for Post-Conviction Relief, together with
a supporting memorandum (Pet'r's Mem.) and a
supplemental memorandum (Pet'r's First Supp. Mem.)
asking this Court to vacate his conviction for second degree
murder, alleging that his conviction is
unconstitutional. In addition to the constitutional
infirmities that will be addressed herein, Petitioner also
argues in his first Supplemental Memorandum that he is
entitled to relief based upon the nature and cause of the
accusation, the variance of proof and ineffective assistance
of counsel, and he further argues that the State's answer
to his original filing was deficient in numerous ways.
the agreement of the Attorney General and by Order dated
February 22, 2019, this Court limited all
arguments to "the constitutionality of a
criminal statute which allegedly fails to state what
constitutes the crime alleged and/or fails to provide for a
penalty thereunder," without the State raising the
affirmative defenses of res judicata and/or
3, 2019, Petitioner's court-appointed counsel filed an
additional Supplemental Memorandum in Support of
Petitioner's Application for Post-Conviction Relief
(Pet'r's Second Supp. Mem.). The State filed an
objection and supporting memorandum thereto on May 20, 2019.
On May 24, 2019, the Court provided notice to the State and
Petitioner's court-appointed counsel that
Petitioner's request for relief would be considered by
this Court in the context of a summary disposition. The
parties thereafter acknowledged that an evidentiary hearing
was unnecessary to resolve the issues before this Court.
Standard of Review
§ 10-9.1-1, any person who has been convicted of a crime
may file an application for post-conviction relief to
challenge the constitutionality of his or her conviction.
Sec. 10-9.1-1(a)(1). Unlike the proceedings afforded to
Petitioner for his underlying conviction, post-conviction
relief motions are civil in nature. Brown v. State,
32 A.3d 901, 908 (R.I. 2011). Accordingly, the applicant
bears "'the burden of proving, by a preponderance of
the evidence, that such [postconviction] relief is
warranted.'" Motyka v. State, 172 A.3d
1203, 1205 (R.I. 2017) (quoting Anderson v. State,
45 A.3d 594, 601 (R.I. 2012)). Additionally, because
Petitioner challenges the constitutionality of his
conviction, Petitioner has the heightened burden of
demonstrating unconstitutionality beyond a reasonable doubt.
See State v. Beck, 114 R.I. 74, 77, 329 A.2d 190,
ruling on an application for post-conviction relief, if the
court considers matters outside the pleadings, the court
should "treat the [party's] motion as though it were
a motion for summary disposition" as opposed to a motion
to dismiss. Palmigiano v. State, 120 R.I. 402, 406,
387 A.2d 1382, 1385 (1978). As will be discussed, this Court
has considered Petitioner's indictment and verdict form,
which are outside the pleadings in the instant civil action.
Accordingly, this Court will review Petitioner's
Application in the context of a summary disposition motion
under § 10-9.1-6(c), which "'closely
resembles' a grant of summary judgment under Rule 56 of
the Superior Court Rules of Civil Procedure." Reyes
v. State, 141 A.3d 644, 652 (R.I. 2016) (quoting
Palmigiano, 120 R.I. at 405, 387 A.2d at 1384).
§ 10-9.1-6(c), the court may grant summary disposition
when it finds, based on "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). The standard for granting summary disposition on
an application for post-conviction relief is the same as in
granting summary judgment under Super. R. Civ. P. 56(c)-the
"trial justice must consider the affidavits and
pleadings . . . in the light most favorable to the party
against whom the motion is made." Palmigiano,
120 R.I. at 406, 387 A.2d at 1385. The trial justice may not
resolve genuine issues of material fact or adjudge the weight
or credibility of the evidence. Reyes, 141 A.3d at
asserts that his conviction violated his due process rights
under both the Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments of the United
States Constitution and article I, section 10 of the Rhode
Island Constitution because the single statute of conviction,
§ 11-23-1, fails to state what conduct qualifies as a
crime and fails to provide a penalty. In response, the State
contends that Petitioner cannot prove that § 11-23-1 is
unconstitutional beyond a reasonable doubt because Chapter 23
of Title 11 of the Rhode Island General Laws, when read as a
whole, clearly and unambiguously provides a description of
the criminalized conduct and states a penalty.
was convicted of one count of second degree murder in
violation of § 11-23-1. Section 11-23-1 provides:
"The unlawful killing of a human being with malice
aforethought is murder. Every murder perpetrated by poison,
lying in wait, or any other kind of wilful, deliberate,
malicious and premeditated killing, or committed in the
perpetration of, or attempt to perpetrate any arson or any
violation of §§ 11-4-2, 11-4-3 or 11-4-4 of the
general laws, rape, burglary or robbery, or while resisting
arrest by, or under arrest of, any state trooper or policeman
in the performance of his duty; or perpetrated from a
premeditated design unlawfully and maliciously to effect the
death of any human being other than him who is killed is
murder in the first degree. Any other murder is murder in the
second degree. The degree of murder may be charged in the
indictment or information, therefor, and the jury may find
the degree of murder, whether the same be charged in the
indictment or information or not, or may find the defendant
guilty of a lesser offense than that charged in the
indictment or information, in accordance with the provisions
of § 12-17-14." Sec. 11-23-1
penalty for second degree murder is set forth in §
11-23-2, which at all material times provided:
"Every person guilty of murder in the first degree,
except as hereinafter provided, shall be imprisoned for life.
Every person guilty of murder in the second degree shall be
imprisoned for not less than ten (10) years and may be
imprisoned for life. Every person who shall commit murder
while committed to confinement to the adult correctional
institutions or the state reformatory for women shall be
punished by death. The punishment of death shall be inflicted
by the administration of a lethal gas." Sec.
previously noted, Petitioner was charged in the indictment of
violating both §§ 11-23-1 and 11-23-2.