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Holt v. Stirling

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

March 24, 2017

Quentin J. Holt, Petitioner,
v.
Bryan Stirling and Leroy Cartledge, Respondents.

          ORDER

          Timothy M. Cain United States District Judge.

         Petitioner Quentin J. Holt ("Holt"), a state prisoner represented by counsel, is seeking habeas corpus relief pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254. Before the court is the magistrate judge's Report and Recommendation ("Report"), recommending that the court grant Respondent's motion for summary judgment (ECF No. 16) and dismiss Holt's petition (ECF No. 24). The parties were advised of their right to file objections to the Report. (ECF No. 24 at 18). Holt filed timely objections (ECF No. 28), and Respondents have responded to those objections (ECF No. 32). Accordingly, this matter is now ripe for review.

         The Report has no presumptive weight and the responsibility to make a final determination remains with this court. See Mathews v. Weber, 423 U.S. 261, 270-71 (1976). In the absence of objections to the Report, this court is not required to provide an explanation for adopting the recommendation. See Camby v. Davis, 718 F.2d 198, 199 (4th Cir. 1983). Rather, "in the absence of a timely filed objection, a district court need not conduct a de novo review, but instead must only satisfy itself that there is no clear error on the face of the record in order to accept the recommendation." Diamond v. Colonial Life & Ace. Ins. Co., 416F.3d310, 315 (4th Cir. 2005) (quoting Fed.R.Civ.P. 72 advisory committee's note).

         I. Background/Procedural History

         The magistrate judge sets forth the background and procedural history in detail in his Report. (Report at 1-7). Briefly, on June 17 and 20, 2009, a confidential informant working with Georgetown Deputy Sheriff Reginald Grant bought crack cocaine from Holt. The controlled buys were audio recorded and the confidential informant was searched before and after the buys, and given the money to purchase the drugs. Deputy Grant and the confidential informant testified at trial.

         After a jury trial on September 20-22, 2010, Holt was convicted of two counts of distribution of cocaine, third offense. He was sentenced to 25 years imprisonment and fined $50, 000. Holt filed a direct appeal and the South Carolina Court of Appeals affirmed Holt's conviction and sentence on April 25, 2012. The remittitur was issued on May 15, 2012. Holt then filed an application for post-conviction relief ("PCR") on July 11, 2012. After a hearing, the PCR court denied Holt relief on February 21, 2104. On September 8, 2014, Holt filed an appeal of the denial of his PCR application. On December 10, 2014, the South Carolina Supreme Court denied Holt's petition for a writ of certiorari. The remittur was issued December 30, 2014. Holt filed a second application for PCR on April 4, 2014. On April 8, 2015, the PCR court denied the application finding it successive and barred by the statute of limitations. A final order of dismissal was filed June 25, 2015. Holt filed this habeas petition on December 9, 2015, raising six grounds for relief.

         II. Discussion

         In his Report, the magistrate judge determined that the petition was untimely by at least a month and declined to address the issues on the merits. (Report at 10 n.2, 12). The magistrate judge also determined that Holt was not entitled to the application of equitable tolling. (Report at 12-17). In addressing the equitable tolling issue, the magistrate judge addressed Holt's argument that he was entitled to equitable tolling because he did not receive materials relating to an alleged Brady/Giglio[1] violation until April 15, 2015. Specifically, Holt alleges that the prosecution violated his rights by failing to disclose Deputy Grant's personnel file.

         Holt sets forth three specific objections to the Report: 1) the magistrate judge erred in finding this habeas action is time barred and equitable tolling does not apply; 2) the magistrate judge erred in finding that evidence related to Deputy Grant's credibility would not have been admissible at trial; and 3) the magistrate judge erred in failing to address Holt's other claims despite finding the petition time-barred. Respondents have filed a response to Holt's objections.[2]

         As to his first objection, Holt alleges the magistrate judge erred in determining he is not entitled to equitable tolling "to forgive a mere one-month and four-day delay" when he has been diligently pursuing his rights. (Objections at 2, 3).[3] Specifically, Holt alleges the magistrate judge mischaracterizes the issue by stating that Holt did not file this habeas petition until eight months after receiving the personnel file regarding Deputy Grant. Id. He argues he has been diligently pursuing his rights. Id. Holt states that courts are empowered to equitably toll the statute of limitations for habeas petitions, and he cites to several cases where the court has done so. (Objections at 3). Finally, Holt contends that he is actually innocent and thus entitled to equitable tolling. Id.

         In cases subject to the AEDPA, the Fourth Circuit has underscored that there are very limited circumstances where equitable tolling will be permitted. The Fourth Circuit has held that a habeas petitioner "is only entitled to equitable tolling if he presents (1) extraordinary circumstances, (2) beyond his control or external to his own conduct, (3) that prevented him from filing on time." Rouse v. Lee, 339 F.3d 238, 246 (4th Cir. 2003) (en banc). Thus, rarely will circumstances warrant equitable tolling of the AEDPA limitations period.

[A]ny invocation of equity to relieve the strict application of a statute of limitations must be guarded and infrequent, lest circumstances of individualized hardship supplant the rules of clearly drafted statutes. To apply equity generously would loose the rule of law to whims about the adequacy of excuses, divergent responses to claims of hardship, and subjective notions of fair accommodation. We believe, therefore, that any resort to equity must be reserved for those rare instances where - due to circumstances external to the party's own conduct - it would be unconscionable to enforce the limitation period against the party and gross injustice would result.

Harris v. Hutchinson, 209 F.3d 325, 330 (4th Cir. 2000). See Bogan v. South Carolina, 204 Fed.App'x 160, 160-61 (4th Cir. 2006) ("Recourse to equitable tolling must be guarded and infrequent. Consequently, equitable tolling is appropriate only when the government's wrongful conduct prevents a petitioner from filing a timely petition or when extraordinary circumstances beyond the petitioner's control make timely filing impossible.").

         As noted above, Holt states that courts are empowered to equitably toll the statute of limitations for habeas petitions, and he cites to several cases where the court has done so. (Objections at 3). ...


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