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Bradley v. Cartledge

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

September 30, 2016

Keith Renard Bradley, #238111, Petitioner,
v.
Warden Leroy Cartledge, Respondent.

          ORDER

          Bruce Howe Hendricks United States District Judge

         On July 8, 2015, Petitioner Keith Renard Bradley (“Bradley” or “Petitioner”), proceeding pro se, filed the instant petition for a writ of habeas corpus pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254. On October 27, 2015, Respondent Warden Leroy Cartledge (“Cartledge” or “Respondent”) filed a motion for summary judgment (ECF Nos. 18; 19). Bradley filed a motion to amend (ECF No. 22) on November 9, 2015, which the Court granted on December 30, 2015 (ECF No. 27). Respondent filed a supplemental return and memorandum in support of summary judgment on January 29, 2016 (ECF No. 30). Bradley filed his response in opposition on February 25, 2016 (ECF No. 31).

         In accordance with 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(B) and Local Civil Rule 73.02(B)(2)(d) (D.S.C.), the matter was referred to a United States Magistrate Judge for initial review. On July 19, 2016, Magistrate Judge Mary Gordon Baker issued a Report and Recommendation (“Report”) outlining the issues and recommending that the Court grant Respondent's motion for summary judgment. Bradley filed written objections to the Report on September 9, 2016, to which Respondent replied on September 26, 2016; the matter is ripe for review.

         BACKGROUND[1]

         Petitioner was indicted in Charleston County in August 2006 for murder. Petitioner, who was represented by Beattie Butler, Esquire, and Cody Grabe, Esquire, proceeded to a jury trial before the Honorable Benjamin H. Culbertson on January 14-16, 2008. On January 16, 2008, the jury found Petitioner guilty of murder and not guilty of an accompanying kidnaping charge. Judge Culbertson sentenced Petitioner to life in prison.

         On March 3, 2009, appellate counsel filed an Anders brief and a petition to be relieved as counsel. Petitioner filed a pro se brief on April 6, 2009. The South Carolina Court of Appeals dismissed the appeal and granted counsel's request to withdraw. The matter was remitted to the lower court on February 8, 2010.

         On February 25, 2010, Petitioner filed an application for post-conviction relief (“PCR”) raising a number of issues related to the putative ineffective assistance of counsel. In September 2011, Petitioner filed an amended application raising additional claims of ineffective assistance of counsel. An evidentiary hearing was held on September 15, 2011 and the record was left open until November 16, 2011, whereupon a subsequent hearing took place. By written order filed January 19, 2012, the PCR court denied relief.

         Petitioner appealed the PCR court's denial of relief, but the South Carolina Supreme Court denied Petitioner's petition for a writ of certiorari on July 23, 2014; the matter was remitted to the lower court on August 8, 2014.

         Petitioner next filed the instant § 2254 petition, raising the following grounds for review:

Ground One(A): The trial judge committed reversible error allowing into evidence an ambiguous statement appellant made at the time of his arrest, since its probative value was substantially outweighed by the danger of unfair prejudice, so that it was inadmissible under Rule 403, SCRE.
Ground One (B): The trial judge committed reversible error allowing into evidence the commission of another crime, due to the fact that the victim in the case was a female “junky” which allowed the jury to conclude Appellant was outside with the victim. This constitutes a “prior bad act” which is not admissible under Rule 404, SCRE.
Ground Two: Counsel's performance was constitutionally deficient for failing to independently investigate and locate a witness where the missing witness was the boyfriend of the State's first eyewitness and observed at the scene of the crime by the State's second eyewitness, were [sic] Counsel's trial strategy was based upon third-party guilt, where Counsel could not meet the test of third-party guilt without linking the boyfriend to forensic evidence from the crime scene, and where the PCR court repeatedly denied funding to petitioner for an investigator and experts to locate and link the missing witness to the crime scene.
Ground Three: The PCR court reversibly erred by failing to grant PCR counsel's ex parte petition seeking funds for an investigator and experts to locate the boyfriend of the State's first eyewitness and compare his DNA and prints to the forensic evidence from the crime scene, where the boyfriend was observed at the scene of the crime by the State's second eyewitness, were [sic] Counsel's trial strategy was based upon third-party guilt, where Counsel could not meet the test of third-party guilt without linking the boyfriend to forensic evidence from the crime scene, and where the PCR court repeatedly denied funding to petitioner for an investigator and experts to locate and link the missing witness to the crime scene.
Ground Four: Prosecutorial misconduct. Petitioner argues that Cynthia Major's and Hans Frasier's [sic] false/perjured testimony affected the outcome of the jury findings. SEE: Gibson v. State, 514 S.E.2d 320. When the solicitor deliberately deceived the court and jurors by presentation of known false evidence/testimony . . . . to also go uncorrected. SEE: Washington v. State, 478 S.E.2d 833 [sic] Which denied Petitioner due process per the U.S. Const. 14 Amend. SEE: Davis v. Alaska, 94 S.Ct. 1105; Chambers v. Mississippi, 410 U.S. 284; Crane v. Kentucky, 476 U.S. 683. Here, Petitioner argue [sic] that the solicitor deliberately compromised the integrity of the fact finding and truth seeking process by introducing the testimony of Major and Frasier [sic] testimony(ies) [sic].

(ECF No. 1-1 at 1, 3, 6, 11, 19.) In his amendment to his petition, Petitioner added the following claim of ineffective assistance of counsel (verbatim):

[T]rial counsel failed to object to the Prosecutorial misconduct, for allowing perjured testimony of co-defendant [sic] Cynthia Major and Hans Frazier. Which my/Petitioner factual basis and clear and convincing evidence can be found as pointed out under ground four. Thus, Petitioner re-argue.

(ECF No. 22 at 2.)

         STANDARDS OF REVIEW

         I. The Magistrate Judge's Report

         The Magistrate Judge makes only a recommendation to this Court. The recommendation has no presumptive weight. The responsibility to make a final determination remains with the Court. Mathews v. Weber, 423 U.S. 261, 270-71 (1976). The Court is charged with making a de novo determination of those portions of the Report to which specific objection is made, and the Court 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. § 636(b)(1). However, the Court need not conduct a de novo review when a party makes only “general and conclusory objections that do not direct the court to a specific error in the magistrate's proposed findings and recommendations.” Orpiano v. Johnson, 687 F.2d 44, 47 (4th Cir. 1982) (“[D]e novo review [is] unnecessary in . . . situations when a party makes general and conclusory objections that do not direct the court to a specific error in the magistrate's proposed findings and recommendation.”). In the absence of a specific objection, the Court reviews the Magistrate's conclusions only for clear error. See Diamond v. Colonial Life & Accident Ins. Co., 416 F.3d 310, 315 (4th Cir. 2005).

         In reviewing these pleadings, the Court is mindful of Petitioner's pro se status. When dealing with a pro se litigant, the Court is charged with liberal construction of the pleadings. See, e.g., De'Lonta v. Angelone, 330 F.3d 630, 633 (4th Cir. 2003). The requirement of a liberal construction does not mean, however, that the Court can ignore a petitioner's clear failure to allege facts that set forth a cognizable claim, or that the Court must assume the existence of a genuine issue of material fact where none exists. See United States v. Wilson, 699 F.3d 789, 797 (4th Cir. 2012).

         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). “Facts are ‘material' when they might affect the outcome of the case, and a ‘genuine issue' exists when the evidence would allow a reasonable jury to return a verdict for the nonmoving party.” The News & Observer Publ'g Co. v. Raleigh-Durham Airport Auth., 597 F.3d 570, 576 (4th Cir. 2010) (citing Anderson, 477 U.S. at 248). 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). In ruling on a motion for summary judgment, “‘the nonmoving party's evidence is to be believed, and all justifiable inferences are to be drawn in that party's favor.'” The News & Observer Publ'g Co., 597 F.3d at 576 (quoting Hunt v. Cromartie, 526 U.S. 541, 552 (1999)); see also Perini Corp. v. Perini Constr., Inc., 915 F.2d 121, 123-24 (4th Cir. 1990).

         III. Habeas Corpus

         Because Moore filed his petition after the effective date of the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996 (“AEDPA”), review of his claims is governed by 28 U.S.C. § 2254(d), as amended. Lindh v. Murphy, 521 U.S. 320 (1997); Breard v. Pruett, 134 F.3d 615 (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; or
(2) resulted in a decision that was based on an unreasonable determination of the facts in light of the evidence presented ...

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