United States District Court, D. South Carolina, Orangeburg Division
PATRICK MICHAEL DUFFY UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
matter is before the Court on Petitioner's objections to
United States Magistrate Judge Kevin F. McDonald's report
and recommendation (“R & R”) (ECF Nos. 20
& 19). The Magistrate Judge recommends granting
Respondent's summary judgment motion (ECF No. 12) and
denying Petitioner's petition for relief under 28 U.S.C.
§ 2254 (ECF No. 1).
Judge McDonald issued his R & R on July 25. Petitioner
filed his objections to the R & R on August 7, and
Respondent filed a reply on August 21. Accordingly, this
matter is now ripe for review.
Magistrate Judge makes only a recommendation to this Court.
The R & R has no presumptive weight, and the
responsibility for making a final determination remains with
the Court. Mathews v. Weber, 423 U.S. 261, 270-71
(1976). Parties may make written objections to the R & R
within fourteen days after being served with a copy of it. 28
U.S.C. § 636(b)(1). This Court must conduct a de novo
review of any portion of the R & R to which a specific
objection is made, and it may accept, reject, or modify the
Magistrate Judge's findings and recommendations in whole
or in part. Id. Additionally, the Court may receive
more evidence or recommit the matter to the Magistrate Judge
with instructions. Id. A party's failure to
object is taken as the party's agreement with the
Magistrate Judge's conclusions. See Thomas v.
Arn, 474 U.S. 140 (1985). Absent a timely, specific
objection-or as to those portions of the R & R to which
no specific objection is made-this Court “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
& Accident Ins. Co., 416 F.3d 310, 315 (4th Cir.
2005) (quoting Fed.R.Civ.P. 72 advisory committee's
Magistrate Judge recommends granting summary judgment on all
seven of Petitioner's grounds for relief. Petitioner has
raised objections to the R & R's analysis of grounds
one, two, three, four, and six, while expressly waiving
grounds five and seven. Accordingly, the Court will only
address the non-waived grounds.
Magistrate Judge concluded that ground two was not subject to
federal habeas review because the question of whether the
trial judge should have severed Petitioner's burglary
charge from the trial of his other charges is governed by
state law. As noted by the Magistrate Judge,
“[g]enerally, severance is a question of state law not
cognizable in federal habeas proceedings.” Zeigler
v. Bush, No. 0:14-cv-MGL-PJG, 2015 WL 3775901, at *18
(D.S.C. Sept. 22, 2015). “[A] defendant has no
constitutional right to a severance unless he can make a
strong showing of prejudice caused by a joint trial.”
Id. (citing Fox v. Ward, 200 F.3d 1286,
1292 (10th Cir. 2000)).
contends that he was prejudiced by the trial judge's
failure to sever the burglary charge because the failure
effectively lowered the State's burden of proof such that
the State no longer had to prove each element of each crime
beyond a reasonable doubt. Petitioner further argues that he
was prejudiced because the jury found him guilty on the basis
of factors other than the facts of a particular crime.
However, beyond that statement Petitioner has offered no
evidence of prejudice. Additionally, the trial judge
repeatedly emphasized in his jury instructions that the State
had to prove each element of each offense beyond a reasonable
doubt. The South Carolina Supreme Court rejected
Petitioner's severance argument, and the Court agrees
with the Magistrate Judge's conclusion that the South
Carolina Supreme Court's decision meets §
2254(d)'s standards. Thus, Petitioner's objection as
to ground two is overruled.
next ground for relief is that the South Carolina Supreme
Court should have reviewed his claim that the PCR judge erred
in finding his trial counsel was not ineffective when he
failed to explore or investigate Petitioner's complaint
against Donald Martin, Jr. regarding his alleged sexual
assault of Erica Gray's minor daughter.
Petitioner's ground could also have been asserted as an
ineffective assistance of counsel claim, the Magistrate Judge
correctly construed the ground, written by Petitioner's
counsel, as a claim that the South Carolina Supreme Court
should have reviewed the PCR judge's ruling. The decision
of a state appellate court not to review the decision of a
state PCR court only implicates state law, and
“‘federal habeas corpus relief does not lie for
errors of state law.'” Estelle v. McGuire,
502 U.S. 62, 68 (1991) (quoting Lewis v. Jeffers,
497 U.S. 764, 780 (1990)). Accordingly, Petitioner's
objection to ground six is overruled.