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Poole v. Warden, Perry Correctional Institution

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

July 7, 2017

Willie James Poole, Petitioner,
v.
Warden, Perry Correctional Institution, 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 March 6, 2017, Magistrate Judge Kaymani D. West filed a Report and Recommendation (“Report”) recommending Respondent's motion for summary judgment (ECF No. 12) be granted and the petition be denied (ECF No. 21). On April 10, 2017, Poole filed objections to the Report (ECF No. 31), and on April 19, 2017, Respondent filed a response to those objections (ECF No. 33).

         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

         In his Report, the magistrate judge sets out the facts and procedural history in detail. Briefly, in December 2009, Poole was indicted for murder and possession of a weapon during the commission of a violent crime. Poole was also charged in a separate indictment with assault and battery with intent to kill (“ABWIK”). On January 17, 2012, Poole pled guilty to voluntary manslaughter and possession of a weapon during the commission of a violent crime and the ABWIK charge was dismissed. He was sentenced to thirty years imprisonment for the manslaughter and five years imprisonment for the weapons charge to run consecutively.

         Poole filed a direct appeal which was dismissed. Poole then filed an application for post-conviction relief (“PCR”) alleging ineffective assistance of counsel, due process violations; and subject matter jurisdiction. He also alleged his plea was involuntary and that the indictment was defective. The PCR court denied Poole relief and dismissed his application. Poole appealed filing a Johnson[1]petition and raising the following issue: “Did the PCR court err in failing to find plea counsel ineffective for not insuring that Petitioner Poole's guilty plea was entered voluntarily and knowingly because plea counsel failed to adequately investigate Petitioner's case?” The South Carolina Supreme Court denied Poole's petition for a writ of certiorari.

         Poole then filed this habeas petition raising the following grounds for relief, quoted verbatim:

Ground One: Ineffective Assistance of Counsel
Supporting Facts: Counsel failed to adequately investigate the facts of the case before erroneously advising Petitioner to plead guilty to the lesser included offense. Trial counsel had previously represented Petitioner on armed robbery (5:15-5104-TMC-KDW) and therefore counsel [knew] Petitioner could not have committed the murder because Petitioner was committing armed robbery at the time the murder was being committed (See Attached additional facts).[2]
Ground Two: Conflict of Interest.
Supporting Facts: Petitioner was forced to enter a plea of guilty due to a conflict of interest. Petitioner was previously represented by counsel on an unrelated armed robbery (5:15-5104-TMC-KDW). Thereafter, a jury trial Petitioner was convicted of the armed robbery. On 1-17-2012 Petitioner appeared before Judge Stillwell on the instant offense, App.2, L.9-p.5, L.25. Judge Stillwell gave Petitioner a choice to either roll with Sullivan or self-representation. Petitioner had no choice but to plead guilty. App. 6, L1-p.14, 1, 24.

(Habeas Petition at 6, 7-8, ECF No. 1 at 5, 6-7) (emphasis in original).

         II. Applicable Law

         Because Petitioner 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, a federal court may not grant habeas 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 application of the facts in light of the evidence presented at the state court proceeding. 28 U.S.C. § 2254(d)(1) (2); see Williams v. Taylor, 529 U.S. 362, 398 (2000). “[A] federal habeas court may not issue the writ simply because that court concludes in its independent judgment that the relevant state-court decision applied clearly established federal law erroneously or incorrectly. ...


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