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Corley v. Stevenson

United States District Court, D. South Carolina, Rock Hill Division

March 2, 2016

Stephen Corley, Petitioner,
v.
Warden Robert Stevenson, Respondent.

ORDER

R. Bryan Harwell United States District Judge

Petitioner, Stephen Corley, a state prisoner proceeding pro se, initiated this action by filing a petition for a writ of habeas corpus pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254. See [ECF No. 1]. Respondent, Warden Robert Stevenson, filed a return and motion for summary judgment pursuant to Rule 56 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. This matter is before the Court with the Report and Recommendation (R & R) of United States Magistrate Judge Paige J. Gossett.[1] See [ECF No. 18.] The Magistrate Judge recommended granting the Respondent’s motion for summary judgment and denying Petitioner’s petition. For the reasons stated below, the Court adopts the Magistrate Judge’s R & R, grants Respondent’s motion for summary judgment, and dismisses Petitioner’s § 2254 petition with prejudice.

Facts and Procedural History

This matter arises from the criminal conviction and sentence of Petitioner, Stephen Corley, (“Corley”) on two counts of causing death by operating a vehicle under the influence of drugs or alcohol. Corley, who was represented by attorney Fred Wallace Woods, Jr., pled guilty to the two indictments on September 21, 2011, and was sentenced to twenty-two years imprisonment on each indictment with both sentences to run consecutively. As a result of the plea, the State dismissed two counts of reckless homicide. Corley did not appeal his conviction or sentence.

On February 21, 2012, Corley filed a pro se application for post-conviction relief in which he alleged:

a) Ineffective assistance of counsel based on a conflict of interest;
b) Involuntary guilty plea - plea was not entered with full knowledge of the totality of the circumstances surrounding the case, and counsel failed to investigate the crime scene; and
c) Counsel failed to investigate and plea counsel abandoned Corley during an appeal proceeding.

Corley then filed a pro se amendment to his PCR application in which he alleged thirty separate instances or grounds of ineffective assistance of his plea counsel. The State filed a return and on January 23, 2013, the PCR court held an evidentiary hearing at which Corley appeared and testified and was represented by Jacqueline F. Busbee, Esq.

In an Order filed March 13, 2013, the PCR court denied and dismissed with prejudice Corley’s 2012 PCR application. Corley appealed and was represented by Carmen V. Ganjehsani, Esq. In his petition for a writ of certiorari to the South Carolina Supreme Court, Corley’s PCR appellate counsel raised the following issue:

Did the PCR court err in finding that Petitioner’s plea was knowing and voluntary where plea counsel misadvised Petitioner that the two counts of reckless homicide that were dismissed pursuant to the plea carried more severe consequences than the felony DUI counts to which Petitioner pled guilty?

The South Carolina Supreme Court issued an order denying Corley’s petition for a writ of certiorari on September 11, 2014. The remittitur was issued September 29, 2014.

Corley filed a second and third application for post-conviction relief, which were both denied and dismissed as successive, untimely, and barred under the doctrine of res judicata. Corley then filed the pending petition for a writ of habeas corpus under 28 U.S.C. § 2254.

In the current petition, Corley raises four grounds. In ground one, Corley alleges ineffective assistance of counsel in that his trial counsel failed to interview witness, investigate the cause of the accident, or obtain an accident reconstruction expert on Corley’s behalf. In ground two, Corley alleges that his plea was involuntary due to his trial counsel’s ineffectiveness. Ground three contains three sub-parts as follows: 3a) Corley alleges his trial counsel was ineffective for failing to obtain a competency evaluation prior to his plea; 3b) Corley alleges his trial counsel was ineffective for failing to inform him that he could file a motion for change of venue; and 3c) Corley alleges his trial counsel was ineffective for allowing/advising him to plead guilty without first interviewing witnesses. In ground four, Corley alleges his trial counsel was ineffective for failing to inform him that he could file a motion for reconsideration asking the sentencing judge to reconsider his sentence.

Respondent filed a return and motion for summary judgment on March 26, 2015, arguing that each of Corley’s four grounds have been procedurally defaulted and are barred from federal review. Respondent argues that grounds one and two, although presented to and ruled upon by the PCR court, were not subsequently raised in Corley’s petition for a writ of certiorari. Respondent argues that grounds three and four were not raised in the PCR court. Corley does not dispute that his claims were not properly raised at the state level but argues that any procedural default should be excused pursuant to Martinez v. Ryan, 132 S.Ct. 1309 (2012).

Legal Standards of Review

I. Review of the Magistrate Judge’s Report & ...


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