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Capers v. Cartledge

United States District Court, D. South Carolina, Florence Division

August 11, 2016

Donte Laquawn Capers, Petitioner,
v.
Warden Leroy Cartledge, Respondent.

          OPINION & ORDER

          Henry M. Herlong, Jr. Senior United States District Judge.

         This 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.[1] 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.

         I. Factual and Procedural Background

         Capers 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.[2] (§ 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.)

         Capers filed the instant petition for writ of habeas corpus on August 14, 2015, alleging three claims of ineffective assistance of counsel.[3] (§ 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.[4] (Objections Ex. 2 (Envelope), ECF No. 35-2.) This matter is now ripe for consideration.

         II. Discussion of the Law

         A. Summary Judgment Standard

         Summary 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.

         A 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).

         B. Standard of Review in a § 2254 Petition

         In 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.

         As “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).

         C. ...


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