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Johnson v. Taylor

United States District Court, D. South Carolina

March 7, 2016

Brandon Lav'ar Johnson, Petitioner,
v.
Edsel T. Taylor, Warden, Respondent.

ORDER

Richard Mark Gergel United States District Court Judge

This matter comes before the Court on the Report and Recommendation (R & R) of the Magistrate Judge (Dkt. No. 26), recommending that Respondent's Motion for Summary Judgment (Dkt. No. 19) be granted and the habeas petition be dismissed. For the reasons stated below, the Court ADOPTS the R & R, GRANTS Respondent's Motion for Summary Judgment, and DISMISSES the habeas petition.

I. Background

In October 2009, a Charleston County Grand Jury indicted Petitioner for first degree burglary. On April 28, 2011, Petitioner entered an Alford plea to the charge of first degree burglary as well as assault and battery in the first degree. (Dkt. No. 20-1 at 3-12). He was sentenced to fifteen years' imprisonment for the burglary charge and ten years' imprisonment for assault and battery, to run concurrently. (Dkt. No. 20-1 at 11). Petitioner did not appeal his plea or sentence.

On October 12, 2011, Petitioner filed a pro se application for post-conviction relief (PCR) raising claims of ineffective assistance of plea counsel. An evidentiary hearing took place on September May 24, 2012, and the PCR court dismissed Petitioner's application with prejudice on June 22, 2012. (Dkt. No. 20-1 at 62-68).

Petitioner timely filed a notice of appeal, and his appellate counsel filed a Johnson petition for writ of certiorari in the South Carolina Supreme Court, The petition raised the following issue:

Did the PCR court err in denying Petitioner's claim for ineffective assistance of plea counsel where the court did not make a finding as to whether Petitioner's plea was knowing and intelligent in light of plea counsel's alleged omissions, but instead denied the claim because Petitioner failed to show additional evidence or defenses that plea counsel could have discovered had she more fully prepared?

(Dkt. No. 20-2). Petitioner also filed a pro se response to the Johnson petition. (Dkt. No. 20-4). On February 25, 2015, the South Carolina Supreme Court filed an order denying certiorari and granting PCR counsel's petition to be relieved (Dkt. No. 20-5). The South Carolina Court of Appeals remitted the matter on March 17, 2015. (Dkt. No. 18-10).

Petitioner filed this Petition for Writ of Habeas Corpus on March 27, 2015. (Dkt. No. 1). Petitioner raises four grounds for relief: (1) that he is entitled to appeal his guilty plea, (2) that the State lacked sufficient evidence to indict him on attempted murder, (3) that counsel was ineffective for "Negating to Demonstrate Elements of Petitioners offense was Burglary 2nd Degree, " and (4) that he that he was denied due process of law and/or equal protection for the "Illegal Sentence on Attempted Murder Indictment." (Dkt. No. 1).

The Magistrate Judge found that none of the Petitioner's grounds satisfied § 2254(d)'s standards and that all of the grounds lacked merit. (Dkt. No. 26). Petitioner subsequently filed objections (Dkt. No. 29).

II. Legal Standard

A. Report & Recommendation

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, 270-71 (1976). The Court may "accept, reject, or modify, in whole or in part, the findings or recommendations made by the magistrate." 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1). This Court is charged with making a de novo determination of those portions of the R & R or specified proposed findings or recommendations to which objection is made. Diamond v. Colonial Life & Ace. Ins. Co., 416 F.3d 310, 315 (4th Cir. 2005) (quoting 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)); accord Fed. R. Civ. P. 72(b).

As to portions of the R & R to which no specific objection has been made, this Court "must 'only satisfy itself that there is no clear error on the face of the record in order to accept the recommendation.'" Id. (quoting Fed. R. Civ. P 72 advisory committee note). Moreover, in the absence of specific objections to the R & R, the Court need not give any explanation for adopting the Magistrate ...


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