The opinion of the court was delivered by: David C. Norton Chief United States District Judge
This matter is before the court on a petition by Matthew Brian Boseman (Boseman) for a writ of habeas corpus made under 28 U.S.C. § 2254. This court issued an order on July 24, 2008, granting Boseman a conditional writ of habeas corpus on the first of his four asserted grounds for relief. The Fourth Circuit reversed and remanded. The court now addresses Boseman's three remaining grounds.
In 1996, Boseman was indicted in the Court of General Sessions for Richland County, South Carolina, on charges of murder and armed robbery. A jury found Boseman guilty on both charges. Boseman exhausted his direct appeals and state post-conviction relief (PCR) remedies and brought the instant petition on May 14, 2007. Appearing pro se, Boseman sought habeas corpus relief on the following four grounds, all based on ineffective assistance of trial counsel: (1) failure to present witnesses in support of an alibi defense; (2) failure to request an alibi instruction; (3) failure to request a mere presence instruction; and (4) failure to present a rebuttal witness. Pet'r's Pet. 6-11. Respondent moved for summary judgment on June 30, 2007, and Boseman filed a response in opposition on September 4, 2007.
On February 4, 2008, Magistrate Judge Bristow Marchant issued a report and recommendation (R&R) recommending the court deny the writ and grant respondent's motion for summary judgment. This court rejected the R&R and granted Boseman a conditional writ of habeas corpus on the first of his four asserted grounds for relief. Specifically, this court found that under Strickland v. Washington, 466 U.S. 668 (1984), the PCR court unreasonably interpreted the facts and unreasonably applied the law with respect to Boseman's trial counsel's failure to present witnesses and evidence in support of an alibi defense. Boseman v. Bazzle, No. 07-1344, 2008 WL 2850703, at *15 (D.S.C. July 24, 2008), rev'd, 364 Fed. App'x 796 (4th Cir. 2010).
On appeal, the Fourth Circuit reversed, holding: (1) Boseman's ineffective assistance claim arising from his attorney's failure to call an alibi witness was not procedurally barred; (2) this court erred in finding the PCR court applied a per se rule of reasonableness rather than a presumption of reasonableness; and (3) this court erred in holding the PCR court's decision was objectively unreasonable under Strickland and was based on an unreasonable interpretation of the facts. Boseman, 364 Fed. App'x at 803-09. The Fourth Circuit remanded to this court for further proceedings. On April 27, 2011, Boseman filed a motion asking this court to address the remaining three grounds for relief in his habeas petition. On May 16, 2011, respondent filed a response in support of the motion.
Petitioner is proceeding pro se in this case. Federal district courts are charged with liberally construing a complaint or petition filed by a pro se litigant to allow the development of a potentially meritorious case. See Hughes v. Rowe, 449 U.S. 5, 9-10 (1980). Pro se complaints and petitions are therefore held to a less stringent standard than those drafted by attorneys. See Gordon v. Leeke, 574 F.2d 1147, 1151 (4th Cir. 1978). Liberal construction, however, does not mean that the court can ignore a clear failure in the pleading to allege facts that set forth a cognizable claim. See Weller v. Dep't of Soc. Servs., 901 F.2d 387, 390-91 (4th Cir. 1990).
This court has jurisdiction under 28 U.S.C. § 2254 to hear a petition for a writ of habeas corpus made on behalf of a person in custody pursuant to the judgment of a state court. A petitioner must exhaust all available state court remedies to properly assert his claims in federal court. 28 U.S.C. § 2254(b)(1)(A). "[A] federal habeas court may not review unexhausted claims that would be treated as procedurally barred by state courts-absent cause and prejudice or a fundamental miscarriage of justice." Longworth v. Ozmint, 377 F.3d 437, 447-48 (4th Cir. 2004). To sufficiently exhaust available state court remedies, the petitioner must "give the state courts one full opportunity to resolve any constitutional issues by invoking one complete round of the State's established appellate review process" and "fairly present to the state court both the operative facts and the controlling legal principles associated with each claim." Id. at 448 (citation and internal quotation marks omitted). In other words, "[t]he exhaustion doctrine bars a claim if it is raised for the first time in a federal habeas petition." Mickens v. Taylor, 240 F.3d 348, 356 (4th Cir. 2001) (en banc).
In accordance with the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996 (AEDPA), Pub. L. No. 104-132, 110 Stat. 1214, the court may only grant relief if the state court's decision was "contrary to, or involved an unreasonable application of, clearly established Federal law, as determined by the Supreme Court," 28 U.S.C. § 2254(d)(1), or "was based on an unreasonable determination of the facts in light of evidence presented in the State court proceeding," id. § 2254(d)(2). A state court's decision is contrary to clearly established federal law "if the state court arrives at a conclusion opposite to that reached by [the Supreme] Court on a question of law or if the state court decides differently than [the Supreme] Court has on a set of materially indistinguishable facts." Williams v. Taylor, 529 U.S. 362, 413 (2000). Moreover, a state court's decision involves an unreasonable application of clearly established federal law when the state court "identifies the correct governing legal principle from [the Supreme] Court's decisions but unreasonably applies that principle to the facts of [a particular] case." Id.
Determinations of factual issues made by the state court are presumed correct.
28 U.S.C. § 2254(e)(1). "The applicant shall have the burden of rebutting the presumption of correctness by clear and convincing evidence." Id. In considering under § 2254(d)(2) whether the state court's decision was based on an unreasonable determination of the facts, the court must apply the § 2254(e)(1) presumption of correctness to the state court's factual findings. See Lenz v. Washington, 444 F.3d 295, 300-01 (4th Cir. 2006).
Courts afford deference under AEDPA to state courts' resolutions of the habeas claims of state prisoners. See Bell v. Cone, 543 U.S. 447, 455 (2005). "As a condition for obtaining habeas corpus from a federal court, a state prisoner must show that the state court's ruling on the claim being presented in federal court was so lacking in justification that there was an error well understood and comprehended in existing law beyond any possibility for fairminded disagreement." Harrington v. Richter, 131 S. Ct. 770, 786-87 (2011). "[E]ven a strong case for relief does not mean the state court's contrary conclusion was unreasonable." Id. at 786. "If this standard is difficult to meet, that is because it was meant to be." Id.
Respondent has moved for summary judgment in this case. Summary judgment is appropriate when "the movant shows that there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(a). The party seeking summary judgment bears the initial burden of demonstrating the nonexistence of a genuine issue of material fact. Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323 (1986). When the party moving for summary judgment does not bear the ultimate burden of persuasion at trial, the burden for summary judgment may be discharged by "pointing out to the court that there is an absence of evidence to support the nonmoving party's case." Id. at 325. The nonmoving party must then "make a showing sufficient to establish the existence of an element essential to that party's case, and on which that party will bear the burden of proof at trial." Id. at 322. Evidence should be viewed in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party and all inferences drawn in its favor. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 255 (1986). However, a mere "scintilla" of evidence will not preclude summary judgment. Id. at 252.
Boseman raises three further grounds for relief: Ground Two: Trial counsel was ineffective for failing to request an alibi instruction.
Ground Three: Trial counsel was ineffective for failing to request a "mere presence" instruction.
Ground Four: Trial counsel was ineffective for failing to present ...