United States District Court, D. South Carolina, Charleston Division
Sol Blatt, Jr., Senior United States District Judge
This matter is before the Court upon Petitioner Thompson White's ("White" or "the Petitioner") pro se petition for a writ of habeas corpus pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254, wherein he alleges two grounds: (1) "false imprisonment/unlawful confinement for a murder in which Petitioner defended himself from an oncoming threat" and (2) "Petitioner White was or actually believed he was in imminent danger of losing his life or sustaining serious bodily injury and had right to stand his ground." (Entry 1 at 6, 8.)
On August 12, 2015, the Respondent filed a motion for summary judgment, and White filed a response in opposition. Pursuant to 28 U.S.C. 636(b)(1)(B) and the Local Rules for the District of South Carolina, the matter was referred to a United States Magistrate Judge for review. On January 26, 2016, Magistrate Judge Mary Gordon Baker, issued a report and recommendation ("R&R") outlining the issues and recommending that the Court grant the Respondent's motion for summary judgment.
The Charleston County Grand Jury indicted the Petitioner for murder in March of 2011. Attorneys Andrew J. Savage and Allen Mastantuno represented the Petitioner. On February 14, 2012, the Petitioner entered a guilty plea to the lesser offense of voluntary manslaughter, with a sentencing cap of fifteen years. The Honorable Thomas L. Hughston, Jr., accepted the Petitioner's plea and sentenced him to twelve years' imprisonment. On February 24, 2012, Savage filed a motion to reconsider the sentence, and on February 11, 2013, Judge Hughston reduced the Petitioner's sentence to ten years.
On July 16, 2013, the Petitioner filed an application for post-conviction relief ("PCR"), alleging that counsel was ineffective for failing to investigate the facts of his case and the governing law and for failing to pursue available remedies, resulting in an unknowing and involuntary plea. On December 3, 2013, the State responded and requested a hearing. Attorney Rodney D. Davis represented the Petitioner.
On April 16, 2014, the Honorable R. Markley Dennis held a hearing at which the Petitioner and his plea counsel, Savage, testified. Judge Dennis ultimately found that neither self-defense nor the Protection of Persons and Property Act, SC Code §§ 16-1-410 through -450 ("PPP" Act") applied to the facts of the Petitioner's case and denied relief in an order in June of 2014, which was amended by an order filed July 16, 2014.
The Petitioner appealed the PCR court's order, and Appellate Defendant Robert M. Pachak represented the Petitioner. Pachak filed a Johnson petition raising the issue of whether plea counsel was ineffective for failing to pursue immunity under the PPP Act. The Petitioner also filed a pro se response. The Supreme Court denied the petition on December 10, 2014, and issued the remittitur on December 30, 2014.
STANDARDS OF REVIEW
I. The Magistrate Judge's R&R
The Magistrate Judge makes only a recommendation to the Court. The recommendation has no presumptive weight, and the responsibility to make a final determination remains with the Court. See Mathews v. Weber, 423 U.S. 261 (1976). The Court is charged with malting a de novo determination of any portion of the R&R to which a specific objection is made. The Court may accept, reject, or modify, in whole or in part, the recommendation made by the Magistrate Judge or recommit the matter to the Magistrate Judge with instructions. See 28 U.S.C. § 636(b).
II Summary Judgment
To grant a motion for summary judgment, this Court must find that "there is no genuine issue as to any material fact." Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c). The Court is not to weigh the evidence, but rather to determine if there is a genuine issue of fact. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby. Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 249 (1986). If no material factual disputes remain, then summary judgment should be granted against a party who fails to make a showing sufficient to establish the existence of an element essential to that party's case, and on which the party bears the burden of proof. Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317 (1986), All ...