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McCoy v. Cartledge

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

December 15, 2016

Mark McCoy, Petitioner,
Warden 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] Mark McCoy (“McCoy”) 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 McCoy's petition without an evidentiary hearing.

         I. Factual and Procedural Background

         McCoy is currently incarcerated at the Broad River Correctional Institution, a South Carolina Department of Corrections facility. In September 2008, McCoy was indicted in South Carolina state court on charges of murder and possession of a firearm during the commission of a violent crime. (Mem. Supp. Mot. Summ. J. Ex. 3 (App'x 604-05), ECF No. 14-3.) After a jury trial, McCoy was found guilty on September 25, 2008. (Id. Ex. 1 (App'x 211), ECF No. 14-1.) McCoy was sentenced to life imprisonment for murder and five years' imprisonment for the possession of a firearm, to be served consecutively. (Id. Ex. 1 (App'x 227), ECF No. 14-1.)

         McCoy appealed his conviction on October 21, 2008. (Id. Ex. 6 (Notice of Appeal), ECF No. 14-6.) The South Carolina Court of Appeals affirmed McCoy's conviction on June 8, 2011. (Id. Ex. 9 (Court of Appeals Order), ECF No. 14-9.) On June 5, 2012, McCoy filed an application for post-conviction relief (“PCR”) raising the following grounds:

1. Ineffective assistance of counsel:
a. “[F]ailure to continue his objection to the false material evidence being used by the solicitor; that counsel previously objected to.”
b. “[F]ailure to request trial judge to instruct jury on the lesser included offense of voluntary manslaughter.”
c. “[F]ailure to object to trial judge's instruction to the jury to find applicant guilty of the charge.”
2. Prosecutorial misconduct:
a. Violation of Brady v. Maryland, 373 U.S. 83 (1963).
b. “Material evidence suppressed by prosecution.”
3. Due Process violations:
a. “[W]hen the Magistrate Judge issued arrest warrant based on information that never existed for probable cause.”
b. “[A]s a result of prosecutorial misconduct by Solicitor Fant, Special Agent, and Police withholding crucial prosecution's witnesses statements of facts
. . . .”
c. “[V]iolated by Solicitor Fant's misconduct making promise and favor (agreements) within the criminal justice system with crucial witness and not correcting her false information to the jurors (solicitors).”
d. “[A]s a result of the misconduct by the solicitor, in regard of suppressing evidence that was material, before and during applicant's trial thus the material evidence exposes solicitor deliberately allowing [or] overlooking false testimony from crucial federal inmate witnesses along with solicitor misleading court and juror's with false information herself.”
e. “[V]iolated by the trial judge's erroneous instruction to find the applicant guilty, even if the evidence does not convince the jury.”

(Mem. Supp. Mot. Summ. J. Ex. 3 (App'x 588), ECF No. 14-3.) An evidentiary hearing was held on February 27, 2014. (Id. Ex. 2 (App'x 454), ECF No. 14-2.) On May 23, 2014, the PCR court denied McCoy's PCR application. (Id. Ex. 3 (App'x 587), ECF No. 14-3.) McCoy filed a petition for a writ of certiorari with the South Carolina Supreme Court on March 25, 2014. (Id. Ex. 12 (Pet. for Writ of Cert.), ECF No. 14-12.) On February 12, 2015, the South Carolina Supreme Court denied the petition for writ of certiorari. (Id. Ex. 15 (Feb. 10, 2014 Order), ECF No. 14-15.)

         McCoy, acting pro se, filed the instant § 2254 petition on February 24, 2016, [2] raising due process and ineffective assistance of counsel claims. (§ 2254 Pet., ECF No. 1.) On May 2, 2016, Respondent filed a motion for summary judgment. (Mot. Summ. J., ECF No. 28.) On August 22, 2016, McCoy responded. (Resp. Opp. Summ. J., ECF No. 29.) Respondent replied on September 1, 2016. (Reply, ECF No. 30.) On October 21, 2016, Magistrate Judge Rogers recommended granting Respondent's motion for summary judgment and denying McCoy's petition. (Report & Recommendation, ECF No. 31.) McCoy timely filed objections on November 15, 2016.[3] (Objs., ECF No. 38.) Respondent filed a response on December 2, 2016. (Resp. Opp'n Objs., ECF No. 41.) 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, ” McCoy 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 [McCoy's] 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. Objections

         McCoy filed objections to the Report and Recommendation. Objections to the Report and Recommendation must be specific. Failure to file specific objections constitutes a waiver of a party's right to further judicial review, including appellate review, if the recommendation is accepted by the district judge. See United States v. Schronce, 727 F.2d 91, 94 & n.4 (4th Cir. 1984). In the absence of specific objections to the Report and Recommendation of the magistrate judge, this court is not required to give any explanation for adopting the recommendation. See Camby v. Davis, 718 F.2d 198, 199 (4th Cir. 1983). Upon review, the court finds that many of McCoy's objections are non-specific, unrelated to the dispositive portions of the magistrate judge's Report and Recommendation, or merely restate his claims. However, the court was able to glean several specific objections. McCoy objects that the magistrate judge erred by (1) giving deference to the state court's ...

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