United States District Court, D. South Carolina, Florence Division
OPINION & ORDER
M. Herlong, Jr. Senior United States District Judge.
matter is before the court with the Report and Recommendation
of United States Magistrate Judge Thomas E. Rogers, III, made
in accordance with 28 U.S.C. § 636(b) and Local Civil
Rule 73.02 of the District of South Carolina. Donte Laquawn
Capers (“Capers”) is a pro se state prisoner
seeking habeas corpus relief pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §
2254. In his Report and Recommendation, Magistrate Judge
Rogers recommends granting Respondent’s motion for
summary judgment and dismissing Capers’ petition
without an evidentiary hearing.
Factual and Procedural Background
is currently incarcerated at the McCormick Correctional
Institution, a South Carolina Department of Corrections
facility. Capers pled guilty to three counts of first degree
burglary in the Court of General Sessions for Florence
County, South Carolina, and was sentenced to three concurrent
terms of twenty-five years’ imprisonment. (§ 2254
Petition 1, ECF No. 1.) His convictions were entered on June
16, 2011. (Id. at 1, ECF No. 1.) Capers appealed his
conviction and the South Carolina Court of Appeals dismissed
his appeal on October 13, 2011. (Id. at 2, ECF No.
1.) The remittitur was filed on November 17, 2011. (Return
& Memorandum Ex. 5 (Remittitur), ECF No. 18-5.) On April
11, 2012, Capers filed an application for Post-Conviction
Relief (“PCR”), and amended his application on
September 6, 2013. (Id. Ex. 1 (Appendix 37, 45), ECF
No. 18-1.) A PCR hearing was held on October 8, 2013, and the
PCR court dismissed Capers’ PCR application on December
11, 2013. (Id. Ex. 1 (Appendix 98), ECF No. 18-1.)
Capers appealed the dismissal of his PCR application.
(Id. Ex. 6 (Notice of Appeal), ECF No. 18-6.) On
September 9, 2014, Capers’ counsel filed a
Johnson petition for writ of certiorari with the
South Carolina Supreme Court. (Id. Ex. 7
(Johnson Petition), ECF No. 18-7.) The South
Carolina Supreme Court denied certiorari on January 15, 2015,
and issued a remittitur on February 2, 2015. (Id.
Ex. 9 (Sup. Ct. Order), ECF No. 18-9; id. Ex. 10
(Remittitur), ECF No. 18-10.)
filed the instant petition for writ of habeas corpus on
August 14, 2015, alleging three claims of ineffective
assistance of counsel. (§ 2254 Petition, generally, ECF No.
1; id. Ex. 1 (Supporting Document), ECF No. 1-1;
id. Ex. 3 (Envelope), ECF No. 1-3.) On December 8,
2015, Respondent filed a return and a motion for summary
judgment. (Return & Memorandum, ECF No. 18; Def. Mot.
Summ. J., ECF No. 19.) Capers’ response in opposition
was received on February 22, 2016. (Pl. Resp. Opp’n
Def. Mot. Summ. J., ECF No. 26.) On June 22, 2016, Magistrate
Judge Rogers recommended granting Respondent’s motion
for summary judgment and dismissing Capers’ petition
without an evidentiary hearing. (Report & Recommendation,
generally, ECF No. 28.) Capers timely filed objections on
July 25, 2016. (Objections Ex. 2 (Envelope), ECF No.
35-2.) This matter is now ripe for consideration.
Discussion of the Law
Summary Judgment Standard
judgment is appropriate only “if the movant shows that
there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the
movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.”
Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a). In deciding whether a genuine issue of
material fact exists, the evidence of the non-moving party is
to be believed and all justifiable inferences must be drawn
in his favor. See Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc.,
477 U.S. 242, 255 (1986). However, “[o]nly disputes
over facts that might affect the outcome of the suit under
the governing law will properly preclude the entry of summary
judgment. Factual disputes that are irrelevant or unnecessary
will not be counted.” Id. at 248.
litigant “cannot create a genuine issue of material
fact through mere speculation or the building of one
inference upon another.” Beale v. Hardy, 769
F.2d 213, 214 (4th Cir. 1985). “Where the record taken
as a whole could not lead a rational trier of fact to find
for the non- moving party, disposition by summary judgment is
appropriate.” Monahan v. County of
Chesterfield, 95 F.3d 1263, 1265 (4th Cir. 1996).
“[T]he mere existence of some alleged factual
dispute between the parties will not defeat an otherwise
properly supported motion for summary judgment; the
requirement is that there be no genuine issue of
material fact.” Ballenger v. N.C. Agric.
Extension Serv., 815 F.2d 1001, 1005 (4th Cir. 1987).
Standard of Review in a § 2254 Petition
addition to the standard that the court must employ in
considering motions for summary judgment, the court must also
consider the petition under the requirements set forth in 28
U.S.C. § 2254. Under § 2254(d),
[a]n application for a writ of habeas corpus on behalf of a
person in custody pursuant to the judgment of a State court
shall not be granted with respect to any claim that was
adjudicated on the merits in the State court proceedings
unless the adjudication of the claim - (1) resulted in a
decision that was contrary to, or involved an unreasonable
application of, clearly established Federal law, as
determined by the Supreme Court of the United States; or (2)
resulted in a decision that was based on an unreasonable
determination of the facts in light of the evidence presented
in the State court proceeding.
“a determination of a factual issue made by a State
court shall be presumed to be correct, ” Capers has
“the burden of rebutting the presumption of correctness
by clear and convincing evidence.” § 2254(e)(1).
With respect to reviewing the state court’s application
of federal law, “‘a federal habeas court may
grant the writ if the state court identifies the correct
governing principle from [the Supreme] Court’s
decisions but unreasonably applies that principle to the
facts of the prisoner’s case.’”
Humphries v. Ozmint, 397 F.3d 206, 216 (4th Cir.
2005) (quoting Williams v. Taylor, 529 U.S. 362, 413
(2000)). Further, “an ‘unreasonable application
of federal law is different from an incorrect application of
federal law, ’ because an incorrect application of
federal law is not, in all instances, objectively
unreasonable.” Id. (quoting Williams,
529 U.S. at 410). “Thus, to grant [Capers’]
habeas petition, [the court] must conclude that the state
court’s adjudication of his claims was not only
incorrect, but that it was objectively unreasonable.”
McHone v. Polk, 392 F.3d 691, 719 (4th Cir. 2004).