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Poole v. Cartledge

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

January 17, 2017

Willie James Poole, Petitioner,
v.
Warden Cartledge, Respondent.

          OPINION & ORDER

          Timothy M. Cain United States District Judge

         This matter is before the court on Petitioner Willie James Poole's (“Poole”) petition for a writ of habeas corpus pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254. In accordance with 28 U.S.C. § 636(b) and Local Rule 73.02(B)(2), D.S.C., all pre-trial proceedings were referred to a magistrate judge. On November 10, 2016, Magistrate Judge Kaymani D. West filed a Report and Recommendation (“Report”) recommending Respondent's motion for summary judgment (ECF No. 17) be granted and the petition denied. (ECF No. 28). On December 2, 2016, Poole timely filed objections to the Report (ECF No. 30), and on December 13, 2016, Respondent filed a response to Poole's objections (ECF No. 32).

         The Magistrate Judge makes only a recommendation to the 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). In the absence of a timely filed, specific objection, the Magistrate Judge's conclusions are reviewed only for clear error. See Diamond v. Colonial Life & Accident Ins. Co., 416 F.3d 310, 315 (4th Cir. 2005).

         I. Background/Procedural History

         The Magistrate Judge sets forth the background and procedural history detail in her Report (Report at 1-8), and Poole does not object to that portion of the Report. Accordingly, the court adopts these sections of the Report, and adds the following brief rendition of the underlying offense. On January 8, 2009, Poole was involved in an armed robbery of the property manager at Dixie Estates Apartments. Poole gave a written statement to law enforcement that he drove his two co-defendants to the apartment manager's office and drove them away after the robbery. Petitioner stated that “[t]hey got anywhere between $1000 to $1500.” (Attach. 1 at 32-187).

         In May 2010, Poole was indicted for armed robbery. He was represented at trial by attorney Tim Sullivan. Following a jury trial, he was convicted of armed robbery, and sentenced to twenty-five years imprisonment. Poole appealed his conviction and sentence raising one issue -whether the trial court erred by failing to declare a mistrial when trial counsel introduced improper character evidence. The South Carolina Court of Appeals found the issue was not preserved and affirmed Poole's conviction and sentence.

         Poole then filed an application for post-conviction relief (“PCR”) raising two issues: ineffective assistance of trial counsel and prosecutorial misconduct. Following a hearing. The PCR court denied Poole relief. Poole filed a writ of certiorari and raised the following issue: whether trial counsel erred by failing to call a particular witness who would have corroborated Poole's defense. The South Carolina Supreme Court denied the petition. Poole then filed this action seeking federal habeas relief.

         II. Discussion

         In this federal habeas action, Poole raises the following four grounds for relief:

GROUND ONE: The State Trial Court erred in not declaring a mistrial when counsel improperly elicited prejudicial character evidence.
GROUND TWO: Trial counsel erred in failing to call and present a witness during trial who would have presented favorable evidence.
GROUND THREE: Trial counsel was ineffective for failing to impeach a State's witness about an agreement received from the State.
GROUND FOUR: Prosecutorial Misconduct

         The Magistrate Judge found that Grounds One, Three, and Four are procedurally barred and that the holding in Martinez v. Ryan,132 S.Ct. 1309 (2012), would not excuse the procedural default. As for Ground Two, the ...


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