United States District Court, D. South Carolina
Nathaniel Johnson a/k/a Nathaniel Johnson, Jr., #211574, Petitioner,
Warden Joseph McFadden, Respondent.
RICHARD MARK GERGEL, District Judge.
This matter comes before the Court on the Report and Recommendation of the Magistrate Judge ("R&R") recommending that the Court grant Respondent's motions for summary judgment and deny Petitioner's motion for an evidentiary hearing. (Dkt. No. 40). As set forth below, the Court agrees with and adopts the R&R as the order of the Court.
Petitioner, a state prisoner proceeding pro se, filed this petition for a writ of habeas corpus pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254. (Dkt. No. 1). Pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(b) and Local Civil Rule 73.02(8)(2)(c) DSC, this matter was automatically referred to a United States Magistrate Judge for pretrial proceedings. Respondent then filed a motion for summary judgment. (Dkt. No. 25). Petitioner then filed a response in opposition to the motion and a motion for evidentiary hearing. (Dkt. No. 30). Respondent then filed an amended motion for summary judgment because Petitioner filed a second application for post-conviction relief. (Dkt. No. 34). Petitioner then filed a response to the second motion for summary judgment. (Dkt. No. 37). The Magistrate Judge then issued the present R&R. (Dkt. No. 40). Petitioner then filed timely objections to the R&R. (Dkt. No. 43).
The Magistrate Judge makes only a recommendation to this Court. The recommendation has no presumptive weight, and the responsibility for making a final determination remains with this Court. Mathews v. Weber, 423 U.S. 261, 270-71 (1976). This Court is charged with making a de novo determination of those portions of the R&R to which specific objection is made. Additionally, the Court may "accept, reject, or modify, in whole or in part, the findings or recommendations made by the magistrate judge." 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1). This Court may also "receive further evidence or recommit the matter to the magistrate judge with instructions." Id.
After review of the record, the R&R, and Petitioner's objections, the Court finds the Magistrate Judge applied sound legal principles to the facts of this case and therefore agrees with and adopts the R&R as the order of the Court. The Court agrees with the Magistrate Judge that all the grounds raised in Petitioner's habeas petition are procedurally defaulted save for his argument that trial counsel was ineffective for failure to object to the trial judge's curative instruction after Petitioner's character was allegedly put in issue. The Court, however, agrees with the Magistrate Judge's analysis that Petitioner cannot satisfy Strickland 's standard on this issue.
In his objections, Petitioner concedes that many of his grounds for relief are procedurally defaulted, but argues that this Court should consider them pursuant to Martinez v. Ryan, 132 S.Ct. 1309 (2012). That case provides that "[i]nadequate assistance of counsel at initial-review collateral proceedings may establish cause for a prisoner's procedural default of a claim of ineffective assistance at trial." Id. at 1315. "To overcome the default, a prisoner must also demonstrate that the underlying ineffective-assistance-of-counsel claim is a substantial one, which is to say that the prisoner must demonstrate that the claim has some merit." Id. at 1318.
Petitioner's grounds for relief included in his federal habeas petition are:
Ground One: False imprisonment, insufficient evidence to convict.
Supporting facts: I am not guilty as charge and the supporting facts are evidence of DNA. Kidnapping should have just been Trespassing. Improper chain of custody handling of DNA evidence and blood sample from defendant. CSC 1st should have been 1st degree Assault and Battery or Assault Battery with a High and Aggravated Nature.
Ground Two: Improper Chain of Custody with DNA evidence and Blood Sample.
Supporting facts: Counsel's failure to contemporaneously object to chain of custody, failure to suppress evidence and stipulate on material factors most favorable to ...