Case Caption: Daryl Blyden v. Government of the Virgin Islands, et al.Case Number: S. Ct. Civ. No. 2014-0044Date: 03/02/2016Author: Cabret, Maria M. Citation: Summary:

The Superior Court erred in summarily denying a petition for a writ of habeas corpus. There was no defect in obtaining personal jurisdiction over the Government as respondent in the action since the petitioner need not serve the petition upon the Government. Under 5 V.I.C. § 1306 the Superior Court itself has the duty of serving the writ on the Government respondents once it is issued, and the Government must then file a return responding to the allegations. Granting the writ of habeas corpus constitutes an intermediate step in the statutory procedure - it does not address the underlying merits of the petition's allegations, nor does it entitle the petitioner to the ultimate relief sought in the petition. Issuing the writ and serving it on the Government respondents simply requires the filing of a return responding to the petition and production of the petitioner in court for a hearing on the merits of his allegations. A habeas petitioner may raise purely legal questions, which would include challenges to the sufficiency of the evidence when not otherwise procedurally barred, since a conviction based on insufficient evidence presents an error of constitutional dimension that must be remedied. Arguments concerning the lack of authentication of a firearm and inadequate cross-examination could not be raised in the petition because both issues were previously raised on direct appeal and rejected by this Court - a habeas petition may not be used to re-litigate issues previously raised on direct appeal, and this case does not present any exceptional circumstances that would justify revisiting those issues. Petitioner's prima facie showing of fabricated evidence was not raised on direct appeal and is not procedurally barred. Likewise, his claim of ineffective assistance of counsel is properly raised in the collateral proceeding rather than on direct appeal. The Superior Court erred by addressing the merits of these claims based only on the allegations of the petition, demanding too much of the petitioner, too soon. Because the petition made out a prima facie case for relief that was not procedurally barred, the Superior Court was required to issue a writ of habeas corpus to the person having custody over him, mandating the petitioner's production in court for an evidentiary hearing prior to addressing the merits of his claims, in accord with 5 V.I.C. § 1308 through § 1311. The Order of June 21, 2014 is reversed and this matter is remanded to the Superior Court with directions to issue the writ and conduct further proceedings as required by chapter 91 of title 5 of the Virgin Islands Code.

Attachment: Open Document or Opinion