United States District Court, D. South Carolina, Rock Hill Division
BRYAN HARWELL, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
Leroy Brown, 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 answered and filed a motion for summary judgment.
See ECF Nos. 31 & 32. The matter is now before
the Court for review of the Report and Recommendation (R
& R) of United States Magistrate Judge Paige J.
Gossett. See R & R, ECF No. 43. The
Magistrate Judge recommends granting Respondent's motion
for summary judgment and denying Petitioner's § 2254
petition. R & R at 1, 12. Petitioner and Respondent have
both filed objections to the R & R. See ECF Nos.
45 & 50.
State of South Carolina indicted Petitioner on charges of
first-degree burglary and petit larceny. ECF No. 32-1 at
362-68. Petitioner proceeded to trial on both charges; the
jury convicted him of first-degree burglary but acquitted him
of petit larceny. Id. at 252. The trial court
sentenced Petitioner to eighteen years' imprisonment on
the burglary conviction. Id. at 273.
Petitioner's conviction was affirmed on direct appeal;
his state application for post-conviction relief (PCR) was
denied and dismissed with prejudice; and his petition for a
writ of certiorari from the denial of his PCR application was
denied. ECF No. 32-1 at 276-78, 352-61; ECF No. 32-9.
Petitioner then filed the instant petition for a writ of
habeas corpus pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254. ECF No. 1.
Respondent answered and filed a motion for summary judgment.
ECF Nos. 31 & 32.
8, 2016, the Magistrate Judge issued an R & R
recommending that the Court grant Respondent's motion for
summary judgment and deny Petitioner's § 2254
petition. ECF No. 43. Objections were due by July 25, 2016.
Id. Petitioner filed timely objections to the R
& R, which were received by the prison mailroom on July
25, 2016. ECF No. 45; see generally Houston v. Lack,
487 U.S. 255, 276 (1988) (providing a pro se prisoner's
document is deemed filed at the moment of delivery to prison
authorities for forwarding to the district court). Respondent
filed a timely response to Petitioner's objections on
July 29, 2016. ECF No. 47. However, Respondent filed an
untimely objection to the R & R on August 12,
2016-eighteen days after the deadline for filing objections.
ECF No. 50; see Fed. R. Civ. P. 72(b)(2) (permitting
a party to serve and file objections to the R & R
“[w]ithin 14 days after being served with a
copy of the” R & R (emphasis added)). The matter is
now before the Court for review of the R & R and the
Review of the Magistrate Judge's R & R
Magistrate Judge makes only a recommendation to the Court.
The Magistrate Judge's 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 must conduct a de novo review
of those portions of the R & R to which specific
objections are made, and it may accept, reject, or modify, in
whole or in part, the recommendation of the Magistrate Judge
or recommit the matter with instructions. 28 U.S.C. §
Court must engage in a de novo review of every portion of the
Magistrate Judge's report to which objections have been
filed. Id. However, the Court need not conduct a de
novo review when a party makes only “general and
conclusory objections that do not direct the [C]ourt to a
specific error in the [M]agistrate [Judge]'s proposed
findings and recommendations.” Orpiano v.
Johnson, 687 F.2d 44, 47 (4th Cir. 1982). In the absence
of specific objections to the R & R, the Court reviews
only for clear error, Diamond v. Colonial Life & Acc.
Ins. Co., 416 F.3d 310, 315 (4th Cir. 2005), and the
Court need not give any explanation for adopting the
Magistrate Judge's recommendation. Camby v.
Davis, 718 F.2d 198, 199-200 (4th Cir. 1983).
judgment is appropriate when no genuine issue of material
fact exists and the moving party is entitled to judgment as a
matter of law. Reyazuddin v. Montgomery Cty., Md.,
789 F.3d 407, 413 (4th Cir. 2015); see Fed. R. Civ.
P. 56(a) (“The court shall grant summary judgment 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.”). “A party asserting that a fact
cannot be or is genuinely disputed must support the assertion
by: (A) citing to particular parts of materials in the record
. . .; or (B) showing that the materials cited do not
establish the absence or presence of a genuine dispute, or
that an adverse party cannot produce admissible evidence to
support the fact.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c)(1). The facts and
inferences to be drawn from the evidence must be viewed in
the light most favorable to the non-moving party,
Reyazuddin, 789 F.3d at 413, but the Court
“cannot weigh the evidence or make credibility
determinations.” Jacobs v. N.C. Admin. Office of
the Courts, 780 F.3d 562, 569 (4th Cir. 2015).
III.Federal Habeas Review Under 28 U.S.C. §
Petitioner filed his petition after the effective date of the
Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996
(“AEDPA”), 28 U.S.C. § 2254 governs review
of his claims. Lindh v. Murphy, 521 U.S. 320 (1997);
Breard v. Pruett, 134 F.3d 615, 618 (4th Cir. 1998).
Under the AEDPA, federal courts may not grant habeas corpus
relief unless the underlying state adjudication:
(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;
(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.
28 U.S.C. § 2254(d). “Section 2254(d)(1) describes
the standard of review to be applied to claims challenging
how the state courts applied federal law, while §
2254(d)(2) describes the standard to be applied to claims
challenging how the state courts determined the facts.”
Winston v. Kelly, 592 F.3d 535, 553 (4th Cir. 2010).
federal habeas court may not issue the writ simply because
that court concludes in its independent judgment that the
relevant state-court decision applied clearly established
federal law erroneously or incorrectly. Rather, that
application must also be unreasonable.” Williams v.
Taylor, 529 U.S. 362, 411 (2000). “A state
court's determination that a claim lacks merit precludes
federal habeas relief so long as ‘fairminded jurists
could disagree' on the correctness of the state
court's decision, ” and “[e]ven a strong case
for relief does not mean the state court's contrary
conclusion was unreasonable.” Harrington v.
Richter, 562 U.S. 86, 88 (2011) (quoting Yarborough
v. Alvarado, 541 U.S. 652, 664 (2004)). Moreover, state
court factual determinations are presumed to be correct, and
Petitioner has the burden to rebut this presumption by clear
and convincing evidence. 28 U.S.C. § 2254(e)(1).
the AEDPA, a federal court must afford a state court's
decision the “deference and latitude that are not in
operation when the case” is being considered on direct
review. Harrington, 562 U.S. at 101. Federal review
of a state court decision under the AEDPA standard does not
require an opinion from the state court explaining its
reasoning. See Id. at 98 (observing “[t]here
is no text in [§ 2254] requiring a statement of
reasons” by the state court). If no explanation
accompanies the state court's decision, a federal habeas
petitioner must show there was no reasonable basis for the
state court to deny relief. Id. Pursuant to §
2254(d), a federal habeas court must (1) determine what
arguments or theories supported or could have supported the
state court's decision; and (2) ask whether it is
possible that fairminded jurists could disagree that those
arguments or theories are inconsistent with the holding of a
prior decision of the United States Supreme Court.
Id. at 102.
other words, to obtain habeas corpus from a federal court,
“a state prisoner must show that the state court's
ruling on the claim being presented in federal court was so
lacking in justification that there was an error well
understood and comprehended in existing law beyond any
possibility for fairminded disagreement.” Id.
at 103. “If this standard is difficult to meet, that is
because it was meant to be.” Id. at 102.
Section 2254(d) codifies the view that habeas corpus is a
“guard against extreme malfunctions in the state
criminal justice systems, not a substitute for ordinary error
correction through appeal.” Id. at 102-03
(internal quotation marks omitted).
Strickland Test for Ineffective Assistance of
of ineffective assistance of counsel must be reviewed under
the two-part test enunciated in Strickland v.
Washington, 466 U.S. 668 (1984). A habeas petitioner
must first show counsel's performance was deficient and
fell below an objective standard of reasonableness.
Id. at 687-88. Second, the petitioner must show
prejudice, meaning “there is a reasonable probability
that, but for counsel's unprofessional errors, the result
of the proceeding would have been different.”