United States District Court, D. South Carolina, Charleston Division
ORDER AND OPINION
Richard Mark Gergel United States District Court Judge
Saunders ("Petitioner"), a state prisoner
proceeding pro se, filed this action on May 27,
2016, seeking habeas relief under 28 U.S.C. § 2254.
(Dkt. No. 1.) This matter is before the Court on the Report
and Recommendation ("R. & R.") of the
Magistrate Judge to grant Respondent's motion for summary
judgment and deny the habeas petition. (Dkt. No. 22.)
Magistrate filed the R. & R. on January 31, 2017 and
mailed it to Petitioner on that day. (Dkt. Nos. 22, 23.)
Parties have fourteen (14) days from the date of service
(i.e. the date the R. & R. was mailed to Petitioner) to
file written objections. 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1);
Fed.R.Civ.P. 72(b); see Fed. R. Civ. P. 6(a), (d).
Under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 6(d), Petitioner's
deadline was extended by three (3) days from February 14,
2017 to February 17, 2017 because the R. & R. was served
prisoner's pleading is filed at the moment he delivers it
to prison mailroom authorities for forwarding to the district
court. Houston v. Lack, 487 U.S. 266, 270-71 (1988).
Petitioner delivered his objections to the prison mailroom on
February 28, 2017. (Dkt. No. 27-2 at 2.) Although Petitioner
filed a certificate of service with his objections claiming
that he delivered his objections to the prison mailroom on
February 16, 2017 (Dkt. No. 27 at 8), district courts examine
objective indicia to determine the date of delivery to the
prison officials. See Houston, 487 U.S. at 275. In
this case, objective indicia is available in the form of a
prison mailroom stamp, so this court will rely on that
evidence. Perry v. Kendall ex rel. Leath Corn, No.
4:11-CV-434-DCN-TER, 2011 WL 4904459, at *4 (D.S.C. Sept. 19,
2011). Petitioner's objections to the R. & R. are
untimely because he filed them on February 28, 2017, eleven
(11) days after the February 17, 2017 deadline.
Court construes Petitioner's untimely objections, mailed
after the deadline for objections and received after the
Court has ruled on the Report and Recommendation, as a motion
to reconsider. The Court denies Petitioner's objections,
construed as a motion to reconsider, for the reasons set
forth below. The Court denies a certificate of appealability
in this matter.
Petitioner has asserted claims for due process violations and
ineffective assistance of counsel based on the trial
court's alleged failure to name the juror who disclosed
during voir dire that s/he had been a classmate of Mr.
Jenkins, a witness in the trial. Petitioner has objected to
the Magistrate's "finding that the Petitioner has
always known the identity of [that] juror." (Dkt. No. 27
at 1.) The R. & R. contains a small error when it says
that Petitioner stated "that [Petitioner] has always
known the identity of the juror." (Dkt. No. 22 at 15, n.
9.) Petitioner in fact stated that "the identity of the
Juror has always been known by the
Respondent." (Dkt. No. 20 at 12)
(emphasis added.) This error has no impact on this
Court's determination that the Magistrate's analysis
of this issue is thorough and correct.
juror who knew witness Jenkins confirmed that s/he could be
fair and impartial at trial, so there was "no manifest
error in the trial court's handling of voir dire ...
[when the court] ensured that a juror who knew one of the
witnesses could be fair and impartial in the trial of the
case." (Dkt. No. 22 at 26.) Mr. Jenkins's
credibility was not an issue in the trial, and his testimony
was not inconsistent with Petitioner's testimony because
Petitioner "did not dispute that he originally rented
the trailer and paid the rent. His position, that he paid the
rent although he let his little brother live in the trailer,
is not inconsistent with witness Jenkins5 testimony [that] he
did not know who lived in the trailer and would not be
shocked if the Petitioner's brother were living
there." (Id. at 25.) For these reasons, the
trial court did not violate Petitioner's due process
rights in its handling of voir dire. As outlined in the R.
& R., Petitioner's ineffective assistance of counsel
claim connected to this issue fails for similar reasons.
(Id. at 26.)
objects to the Magistrate's recommendation as to Ground
One, Petitioner's allegation that the trial court erred
when it denied a motion for directed verdict when Petitioner
was only present at the scene and there was no evidence that
Petitioner possessed the drugs that were found inside the
trailer. (Dkt. No. 27 at 2; Dkt. No. 22 at 21.) The
Magistrate found that a rational trier of fact could have
found that Petitioner had constructive possession of the
drugs in the trailer so was guilty beyond a reasonable doubt
based on the following facts: (1) Petitioner leased the
trailer; (2) Petitioner or his girlfriend made all rent
payments; and (3) one witness testified that he had been to
the trailer the night before the execution of the search
warrant to purchase drugs from Petitioner. Although
Petitioner claims to object to the Magistrate's failure
to consider whether he knowingly constructively
possessed the drugs in the trailer (Dkt, No. 27 at 2), the
only non-conclusory statements in Petitioner's objections
simply re-argue the question of whether Petitioner actually
or constructively possessed the drugs. For example,
Petitioner asserts that he was not even physically in the
trailer when the search warrant was executed while others,
like Akeem Saunders, actually held the drugs in their hands.
(Id. at 2-3.)
has not objected to the Magistrate's factual findings in
support of the conclusion that a rationale trier of fact
could have found Petitioner guilty beyond a reasonable doubt
based on his constructive possession of the drugs in the
trailer. For this reason, the Court adopts the
Magistrate's well-reasoned analysis of this issue.
Petitioner objects to the Magistrate's "factual and
legal resolution of Grounds Ten, Sixteen, and
Twenty-One." (Id. at 5.) These grounds all turn
on the question of whether defense counsel was ineffective
for allegedly failing to challenge the search warrant.
Petitioner claims the trial judge unconstitutionally limited
his rights when he told defense counsel that Petitioner could
not make contradictory arguments at the suppression hearing
and during the defense's case in chief. (Id. at
5-6.) Petitioner has not, however, objected to the
Magistrate's finding that Petitioner failed to show that
he was prejudiced by counsel's performance (i.e. that
absent counsel's alleged failure to challenge the search
warrant the outcome of the proceeding would have been