United States District Court, D. South Carolina, Charleston Division
RICHARD MARK GERGEL, District Judge.
This matter is before the Court on the Report and Recommendation of the Magistrate Judge (Dkt. No. 52), recommending summary judgment for Respondent and denial of the petition for a writ of habeas corpus. For the reasons given below, the Court adopts the Report and Recommendation as the Order of the Court and grants Respondent's motion for summary judgment.
On January 7th, 2002, Petitioner Anthony Mann was riding in an automobile with Michael Crumb and Eric Zack when he was called by Beverly Blake. Ms. Blake explained to Petitioner that her roommate, Dante Tobias, was trying to prostitute her against her will. She wanted to leave Mr. Tobias, and so requested Petitioner, Mr. Crumb, and Mr. Zack to pick her up in their vehicle. Ms. Blake also told Petitioner that Mr. Tobias kept money and drugs inside a safe in his house, and the two made plans to steal those items. Petitioner, together with Mr. Crumb and Mr. Zack, first visited the residence of Peter Davies, where Mann obtained a gun.
Petitioner entered Mr. Tobias's house first, followed by Mr. Crumb, with Mr. Zack remaining in the car. Upon entering the living room, Mr. Crumb saw Petitioner pointing a gun at Mr. Tobias's head while Petitioner and Mr. Tobias discussed the purported prostitution of Ms. Blake. Mr. Tobias provided the combination to the safe, but neither Ms. Blake nor Mr. Crumb could open it. Eventually, they filled trash bags with items from around the house and left. As they sat in the car, they heard a gunshot and a scream. Petitioner emerged from the house and told them that he had shot Mr. Tobias in the leg. Mr. Tobias, however, was dead, struck in his back by a bullet that exited through his chest.
The group then returned to Mr. Davies' house, where they divided the loot. Terrance Hudson came to the house and drove Petitioner, Mr. Davies, and Ms. Blake to another vehicle in a parking lot. Eventually all four arrived at the residence of Nicole O'Connell. Before leaving Ms. O'Connell's home with Petitioner and Mr. Davies, Ms. Blake told Tiffany Mercado that Petitioner would be giving her a ride to Ms. Mercado's house. Ms. Blake was never heard from or seen alive again.
On January 13th, 2002, the body of Beverly Blake was discovered in a secluded, wooded area. She had been shot three times in the head, once in the back, and once in the chest. She appeared to be wearing the same clothes she was wearing when last seen.
Petitioner was arrested and indicted for the armed robbery and murders of Mr. Tobias and Ms. Blake. In addition to testimony establishing the facts as described above, the testimony of several witnesses indicated that Petitioner murdered Ms. Blake. Mr. Zack testified Petitioner told him that he planned to "get rid of' Ms. Blake. Dustin James testified that Petitioner indicated to him that he killed Ms. Blake because she knew that he had killed Mr. Tobias, and that Petitioner stated that Ms. Blake was "in the woods." Krystal Lackey testified that Petitioner said that he "found out that [Ms. Blake] had given some information and supposedly had told the police, and his words were that he had to kill that nigger bitch." Mervin Menier, a cellmate with Petitioner, testified that Petitioner told him that he shot Mr. Tobias, and that he also shot Ms. Blake in a secluded area that same night because she was becoming nervous. Ms. Kristy Bunch, Petitioner's girlfriend at the time, testified that in the course of her correspondence with Petitioner after his arrest he sent her statements and testimony for others to give on his behalf- specifically, to intimate that Mr. Davies killed Ms. Blake-and that in one telephone conversation he said, "[I] killed the fucking bitch." (Tr.661-62.)
B. Procedural History
Petitioner was indicted for two counts of murder and for armed robbery, and was convicted on September 24, 2002 in the Court of General Sessions for Charleston County. He was sentenced to two terms of life imprisonment plus thirty years. On January 11, 2007, the South Carolina Court of Appeals affirmed the conviction. Petitioner filed a pro se application for post-conviction relief ("PCR") on January 7, 2008, claiming many instances of ineffective assistance of counsel and actual innocence. PCR counsel amended his pro se application to raise 31 ineffective assistance of counsel claims. The PCR court held a two day hearing on November 14 and 18, 2011. On January 26, 2012, it denied Petitioner's PCR application. Petitioner filed the instant Petition for a Writ of Habeas Corpus on January 6, 2015, pro se. On September 4, 2015, Ms. Elizabeth Franklin-Best appeared on behalf of Petitioner. Petitioner's response to Respondent's motion for summary judgment and objections to the Report and Recommendation of the Magistrate Judge are both prepared with the assistance of counsel.
II. Legal Standard
A. Report and Recommendation of the Magistrate Judge
The Magistrate Judge makes only a recommendation to this Court. The recommendation has no presumptive weight, and the responsibility to make a final determination remains with the Court. Mathews v. Weber, 423 U.S. 261 (1976). The Court is charged with making a de novo determination of those portions of the Report and Recommendation to which specific objection is made. The Court may accept, reject, or modify, in whole or in part, the recommendation of the Magistrate Judge. 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(I).
When a proper objection is made to a particular issue, "a district court is required to consider all arguments directed to that issue, regardless of whether they were raised before the magistrate." United States v. George, 971 F.2d 1113, 1118 (4th Cir. 1992). However, "[t]he district court's decision whether to consider additional evidence is committed to its discretion, and any refusal will be reviewed for abuse." Doe v. Chao, 306 F.3d 170, 183 & n.9 (4th Cir. 2002). "[A]ttempts to introduce new evidence after the magistrate judge has acted are disfavored, " though the district court may allow it "when a party offers sufficient reasons for so doing." Caldwell v. Jackson, 831 F.Supp.2d 911, 914 (M.D. N.C. 2010) (listing cases).
B. Summary Judgment
Summary judgment is appropriate if a party "shows that there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact" and that the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a). In other words, summary judgment should be granted "only when it is clear that there is no dispute concerning either the facts of the controversy or the inferences to be drawn from those facts." Pulliam Inv. Co. v. Cameo Props., 810 F.2d 1282, 1286 (4th Cir. 1987). "In determining whether a genuine issue has been raised, the court must construe all inferences and ambiguities in favor of the nonmoving party." HealthSouth Rehab. Hosp. v. Am. Nat'l Red Cross, 101 F.3d 1005, 1008 (4th Cir. 1996). The party seeking summary judgment shoulders the initial burden of demonstrating to the court that there is no genuine issue of material fact. Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323 (1986).
Once the moving party has made this threshold demonstration, the non-moving party, to survive the motion for summary judgment, may not rest on the allegations averred in his pleadings. Id at 324. Rather, the non-moving party must demonstrate that specific, material facts exist that give rise to a genuine issue. Id Under this standard, "[c]onclusory or speculative allegations do not suffice, nor does a mere scintilla of evidence'" in support of the non-moving party's case. Thompson v. Potomac Elec. Power Co., 312 F.3d 645, 649 (4th Cir. 2002) (quoting Phillips v. CSXTransp., Inc., 190 F.3d 285, 287 (4th Cir. 1999)).
C. Habeas Corpus
1. Standard for Relief
Claims adjudicated on the merits in a state court proceeding cannot be a basis for federal habeas corpus relief unless the decision was "contrary to, or involved an unreasonable application of clearly established federal law as decided by the Supreme Court of the United States, " or the decision "was based on an unreasonable determination of the facts in light of the evidence presented in the state court proceeding." 28 U.S.C. § 2254(d)(1), (2). Section 2254(d) codifies the view that habeas corpus is a "guard against extreme malfunctions in the state criminal justice systems, ' not a substitute for ordinary error correction through appeal." Harrington v. Richter, 562 U.S. 86, 102-03 (2011) (quoting Jackmn v. Virginia, 443 U.S. 307, 332 n.5 (1979) (Stevens, J., concurring in judgment)). "A state court's determination that a claim lacks merit precludes federal habeas relief so long as fairminded jurists could disagree' on the correctness of the state court's decision." Id at 101 (quoting Yarborough v. Alvarado, 541 U.S. 652, 664 (2004)); see also White, 134 S.Ct. at 1702 (stating that "[a]s 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'") (quoting Harrington, 562 U.S. at 103).
Therefore, when reviewing a state court's application of federal law, "a federal habeas court may not issue the writ simply because that court concludes in its independent judgment that the relevant state-court decision applied clearly established federal law erroneously or incorrectly. Rather, that application must also be unreasonable." Williams v. Taylor, 529 U.S. 362, 410 (2000); see also White v. Woodall, 134 S.Ct. 1697, 1702 (2014) (describing an "unreasonable application" as "objectively unreasonable, not merely wrong" and providing that "even clear error will not suffice") (internal quotation marks and citation omitted). Moreover, review of a state court decision does not require an opinion from the state court explaining its reasoning. See Harrington at 98 (finding that "[t]here is no text in [§ 2254] requiring a statement of reasons" by the state court). If no explanation accompanies the state court's decision, a federal habeas petitioner must show that there was no reasonable basis for the state court to deny relief. Id. Pursuant to § 2254(d), a federal habeas court must (l) determine what arguments or theories supported or could have supported the state court's decision; and then (2) ask whether it is possible that fairminded jurists could disagree that those arguments or theories are inconsistent with the holding of a prior decision of the United States Supreme Court. Id. at 102. And state court factual determinations are presumed to be correct and the petitioner has the burden of rebutting this presumption by clear and convincing evidence. 28 U.S.C. § 2254(e)(1).
2. Procedural Default
A habeas corpus petitioner may obtain relief in federal court only after he has exhausted his state court remedies. 28 U.S.C. § 2254(b)(1)(A). "To satisfy the exhaustion requirement, a habeas petitioner must present his claims to the state's highest court." Matthews v. Evatt, 105 F.3d 907, 911 (4th Cir. 1997), abrogated on other grounds by United States v. Barnette, 644 F.3d 192 (4th Cir. 2011); see also In re Exhaustion of State Remedies in Criminal and Post-Conviction Relief Cases, 471 S.E.2d 454, 454 (S.C. 1990) (holding that "when the claim has been presented to the Court of Appeals or the Supreme Court, and relief has been denied, the litigant shall be deemed to have exhausted all available state remedies."). To exhaust his available state court remedies, a petitioner must "fairly present to the ...