United States District Court, D. South Carolina, Rock Hill Division
OPINION & ORDER
Timothy M. Cain United States District Judge
This matter is before the court on Petitioner Adarius Quante Dennis’ (“Dennis”) petition for a writ of habeas corpus pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254. In accordance with 28 U.S.C. § 636(b) and Local Rule 73.02(B)(2), D.S.C., all pre-trial proceedings were referred to a magistrate judge. On December 2, 2015, Magistrate Judge Paige J. Gossett filed a Report and Recommendation recommending Respondent’s motion for summary judgment (ECF No. 23) be granted and the petition denied. (ECF No. 32). On January 8, 2016, Dennis timely filed objections to the Report (ECF No. 42).
The Magistrate Judge makes only a recommendation to the court. The recommendation has no presumptive weight. The responsibility to make a final determination remains with the court. Mathews v. Weber, 423 U.S. 261, 270-71 (1976). The court is charged with making a de novo determination of those portions of the Report to which specific objection is made, and the court may accept, reject, or modify, in whole or in part, the recommendation of the Magistrate Judge, or recommit the matter with instructions. 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1). However, the court need not conduct a de novo review when a party makes only “general and conclusory objections that do not direct the court to a specific error in the magistrate’s proposed findings and recommendations.” Orpiano v. Johnson, 687 F.2d 44, 47 (4th Cir. 1982). In the absence of a timely filed, specific objection, the Magistrate Judge’s conclusions are reviewed only for clear error. See Diamond v. Colonial Life & Accident Ins. Co., 416 F.3d 310, 315 (4th Cir. 2005).
I. Background/Procedural History
Renaldo Robinson (“Victim”) bought tennis shoes in bulk and sold them to individuals and at flea markets. He had previously sold shoes on several occasions to Dennis, who he knew by the name “Hawk.” On June 23, 2008, Dennis called Victim and told him he was interested in buying more shoes, and they arranged a meeting outside of a home. Victim arrived at the house with his four-year-old daughter and meet Dennis outside by Victim’s car. While Victim was showing Dennis some shoes, co-defendant Devirio Manley and his brother came from around the home and confronted Victim with a handgun. Manly pistol whipped the Victim and he fell into the car where a struggle over the gun ensued. While Victim was fighting with Manly, several large boxes of tennis shoes were removed from Victim’s vehicle. Victim managed to escaped, but suffered severe lacerations to his head which required staples.
In October 2008, Dennis was indicted for armed robbery, and in June 2009, he was tried in abstenia before a jury. Manley pled guilty to armed robbery prior to Dennis’ trial and testified for the prosecution at Dennis’ trial. Dennis was convicted of armed robbery and sentenced to twenty-three years imprisonment. Dennis filed a direct appeal and the South Carolina Court of Appeals affirmed his sentence and conviction. Dennis then filed an application for post-conviction relief (“PCR”), which the PCR court denied. Dennis filed a petition for a writ of certiorari to review the denial of PCR, but the South Carolina Supreme Court denied the petition.
Dennis then filed this petition for habeas relief raising two grounds for relief:
Ground One: Trial counsel ineffective for not adequately cross examining the codefendant[.]
Supporting Facts: Trial counsel ineffective for failing to adequately cross examine state witness violating my 6th Amendment right confrontation clause. Whether trial counsel was ineffective for failing to attack witness credibility after witness recanted and changed testimony under oath.
Ground Two: Trial counsel ineffective for not fully explaining sentencing guidelines/plea agreement.
Supporting Facts: Trial counsel ineffective for not fully explaining to me the approximate time I would serve on the ten years non-violent plea offer from the state.
(Pet. at 6 and 8, ECF No. 1 at 6 and 8).
In his first ground for relief, Dennis alleges that trial counsel was ineffective for not adequately cross-examining Manley regarding testimony he gave about whether Dennis knew a gun was going to be involved during the robbery. Prior to trial, trial counsel interviewed Manley at the detention center and, based on this interview, she believed Manley would testify as a defense witness that Dennis had no knowledge of a gun. However, Manley later recanted and told trial counsel that he had lied at the jail and he was going to tell the truth when he testified in court. At trial, on direct examination, Manley testified that Dennis called Victim to arrange the meeting and Dennis and the co-defendants had discussed that they ...