United States District Court, D. South Carolina, Charleston Division
Bryan Harwell United States District Judge
Carmen Latrice Rice, a state prisoner proceeding pro se, has
filed a petition for a writ of habeas corpus pursuant to 28
U.S.C. § 2254. See ECF No. 1. The matter is
before the Court for consideration of Petitioner's
objections to the Report and Recommendation (“R &
R”) of United States Magistrate Judge Mary Gordon
Baker. See R & R [ECF No. 22]. The
Magistrate Judge recommends granting Respondent's motion
for summary judgment, dismissing Petitioner's § 2254
petition with prejudice, and denying a certificate of
appealability. R & R at p. 33.
State of South Carolina indicted and tried Petitioner for
murder and armed robbery, and the jury convicted her of both
charges. See ECF No. 15-24 at pp. 150-51, 160-63.
The trial court sentenced her to concurrent terms of life
imprisonment for murder and thirty years for armed robbery.
See ECF No. 15-24 at pp. 158, 164-65. The South
Carolina Court of Appeals affirmed Petitioner's
convictions in a published opinion summarizing the facts
leading to Petitioner's conviction:
On the evening of October 25, 2001, Carmen Rice and Iris
Bryant (Bryant) joined Bernard Brennan (Brennan) at the
Varsity in Columbia, where Brennan was playing pool with his
friend, Alton Page. Brennan told Page one of the women was
his cousin from New York and the other was her friend from
Beaufort. Eventually, Brennan, Rice, and Bryant went to
Calloway's to eat.
After their meal, Brennan and the two women left
Calloway's together. They drove in his Mercedes to an
isolated section of Richland County, near the intersection of
Fairfield Road and Interstate 20.
Later that night, Deputy Tom Lyons found Brennan's
Mercedes in a ditch on Crawford Road. Brennan was still
buckled in his seatbelt, the engine was running, and the
vehicle was in gear. Brennan had been shot five times in the
back and died as a result of the shooting. His wallet was
The police learned Bryant was involved in the murder and
robbery after receiving information from one of Bryant's
friends. Bryant subsequently implicated Rice in the murder
In her testimony at Rice's trial, Bryant confirmed she
and Rice had planned to rob Brennan but denied any complicity
in a plan to murder him. Bryant claimed Rice unexpectedly
shot Brennan from the backseat with the weapon Rice was
issued by her employer. After the shooting, Rice removed
Brennan's wallet and wiped down the car. Then the two
Prior to trial, Bryant had given investigators multiple
statements implicating other individuals in the robbery and
murder. At Rice's trial, she confessed she lied in those
previous interviews because she was afraid she would be
charged with murder if she admitted being at the crime scene.
Rice attempted to impeach Bryant's testimony with a prior
inconsistent statement Bryant made to Alana Quattlebaum, a
fellow prisoner. The import of Bryant's statement to
Quattlebaum was that a woman named Nikki, rather than Rice,
actually killed Brennan.
Brennan's friend, Alton Page, testified he could not
identify either of the individuals he saw with Brennan on the
night of the murder, but he recalled that one of them wore a
“bright orange top.” Heidi Feagin was a waitress
at Calloway's in October of 2001. Feagin served Brennan
and the two women on October 25, and recognized Brennan as a
“regular customer.” She described one of the
women as having a stocky or medium build and wearing a bright
orange top. The other woman was thinner and younger. Before
trial, Feagin was shown a photographic lineup of six women.
The array included only Bryant's photograph. Feagin did
not identify Bryant, but instead selected two other women as
The investigation ultimately led to Rice's indictment and
trial for the armed robbery and murder of Bernard Brennan.
The jury returned a verdict of guilty and Rice was sentenced
to life imprisonment for murder and thirty years, concurrent,
for armed robbery. At the time of Rice's trial, Bryant
had been charged with murder and armed robbery.
State v. Rice, 375 S.C. 302, 312-13, 652 S.E.2d 409,
413-14 (Ct. App. 2007), overruled on other
grounds by State v. Byers, 392 S.C. 438, 710 S.E.2d
55 (2011). The South Carolina Supreme Court denied
certiorari to review the Court of Appeals' decision.
See ECF No. 15-8.
filed an application for post-conviction relief
(“PCR”), which the state PCR court denied and
dismissed with prejudice after an evidentiary hearing.
See ECF No. 15-25 at pp. 1-8, 81-93. Petitioner
filed a petition for a writ of certiorari with the South
Carolina Supreme Court; the case was transferred to the South
Carolina Court of Appeals, which granted the petition and
ordered further briefing. See ECF Nos. 15-10, 15-12.
The Court of Appeals then affirmed the PCR court's
decision in an unpublished opinion. See ECF No.
15-15; Rice v. State, No. 2015-UP-191, 2015 WL
1546200 (S.C. Ct. App. Apr. 8, 2015). The Court of Appeals
denied rehearing, and the South Carolina Supreme Court denied
certiorari. See ECF Nos. 15-16 & 15-20.
then filed the instant petition for a writ of habeas corpus
pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254. See ECF No. 1.
Respondent answered by filing a return and a motion for
summary judgment. See ECF Nos. 15 & 16. The
Magistrate Judge issued an R & R recommending that the
Court grant Respondent's motion for summary judgment and
dismiss Petitioner's § 2254 petition with prejudice.
R & R at p. 33. Petitioner has filed timely objections to
the R & R, and Respondent has filed a reply to
Petitioner's objections. See ECF Nos. 24 &
Review of the Magistrate Judge's R & R
Magistrate Judge makes only a recommendation to the Court.
The Magistrate Judge's recommendation has no presumptive
weight, and the responsibility to make a final determination
remains with the Court. Mathews v. Weber, 423 U.S.
261, 270-71 (1976). The Court must conduct a de novo review
of those portions of the R & R to which specific
objections are made, and it 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. §
Court must engage in a de novo review of every portion of the
Magistrate Judge's report to which objections have been
filed. Id. However, the Court need not conduct a de
novo review when a party makes only “general and
conclusory objections that do not direct the [C]ourt to a
specific error in the [M]agistrate [Judge]'s proposed
findings and recommendations.” Orpiano v.
Johnson, 687 F.2d 44, 47 (4th Cir. 1982). In the absence
of specific objections to the R & R, the Court reviews
only for clear error, Diamond v. Colonial Life & Acc.
Ins. Co., 416 F.3d 310, 315 (4th Cir. 2005), and the
Court need not give any explanation for adopting the
Magistrate Judge's recommendation. Camby v.
Davis, 718 F.2d 198, 199-200 (4th Cir. 1983).
court shall grant summary judgment if the movant shows that
there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the
movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.”
Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a); see generally Rule 12 of the
Rules Governing Section 2254 Cases (“The Federal Rules
of Civil Procedure . . ., to the extent that they are not
inconsistent with any statutory provisions or these rules,
may be applied to a proceeding under these rules.”);
Brandt v. Gooding, 636 F.3d 124, 132 (4th Cir. 2011)
(“Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56 ‘applies to
habeas proceedings.'” (quoting Maynard v.
Dixon, 943 F.2d 407, 412 (4th Cir. 1991))). “A
party asserting that a fact cannot be or is genuinely
disputed must support the assertion by: (A) citing to
particular parts of materials in the record . . .; or (B)
showing that the materials cited do not establish the absence
or presence of a genuine dispute, or that an adverse party
cannot produce admissible evidence to support the
fact.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c)(1). “The evidence must
be viewed in the light most favorable to the non-moving
party, with all reasonable inferences drawn in that
party's favor. The court therefore cannot weigh the
evidence or make credibility determinations.”
Reyazuddin v. Montgomery Cty., 789 F.3d 407, 413
(4th Cir. 2015) (internal citation and quotation marks
Federal Habeas Review Under 28 U.S.C. § 2254
Petitioner filed her petition after the effective date of the
Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996
(“AEDPA”), 28 U.S.C. § 2254 governs review
of her claims. Lindh v. Murphy, 521 U.S. 320 (1997);
Breard v. Pruett, 134 F.3d 615, 618 (4th Cir. 1998).
Under the AEDPA, ...