United States District Court, D. South Carolina, Anderson Division
ORDER AND OPINION
Richard Mark Gergel, United States District Court Judge.
matter is before the Court on the Report and Recommendation
of the Magistrate Judge, recommending that Respondent's
motion for summary judgment be granted and that the petition
for habeas relief under 28 U.S.C. § 2254 be dismissed.
For the reasons set forth below, the Court adopts the Report
is a prisoner at the South Carolina Department of Corrections
Broad River Correctional Institution. Petitioner was indicted
for first-degree burglary and criminal conspiracy in January
2004. The charges arose from a home burglary that resulted in
the murder of a victim in the presence of this wife and
children. Petitioner pleaded guilty and, on February 9, 2004,
he was sentenced to life imprisonment. After exhausting
direct and post-conviction relief ("PCR") review in
state court, he timely filed the present petition for habeas
relief under 28 U.S.C. § 2254 on January 20, 2017.
Petitioner asserts two grounds for relief: (1) that his plea
counsel was constitutionally ineffective in failing to
enforce the terms of his plea agreement at sentencing, and
(2) that his plea counsel was constitutionally ineffective in
failing to respond properly to the prosecution's
assertion at sentencing that Petitioner had entered the
victim's home. On April 17, 2017, Respondent moved for
summary judgment, which the Magistrate Judge recommended
granting on October 4, 2017. Petitioner filed objections on
October 18, 2017.
Report and Recommendation of the Magistrate Judge
Magistrate Judge makes only a recommendation to this Court.
The recommendation has no presumptive weight, and the
responsibility to make a final determination remains with the
Court. Mathews v. Weber, 423 U.S. 261 (1976). The
Court is charged with making a de novo determination
of those portions of the Report and Recommendation to which
specific objection is made. The Court may accept, reject, or
modify, in whole or in part, the recommendation of the
Magistrate Judge. 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1).
proper objection is made to a particular issue, "a
district court is required to consider all arguments directed
to that issue, regardless of whether they were raised before
the magistrate." United States v. George, 971
F.2d 1113, 1118 (4th Cir. 1992). However, "[t]he
district court's decision whether to consider additional
evidence is committed to its discretion, and any refusal will
be reviewed for abuse." Doe v. Chao, 306 F.3d
170, 183 & n.9 (4th Cir. 2002). "[A]ttempts to
introduce new evidence after the magistrate judge has acted
are disfavored, " though the district court may allow it
"when a party offers sufficient reasons for so
doing." Caldwell v. Jackson, 831 F.Supp.2d 911,
914 (M.D. N.C. 2010) (listing cases).
judgment is appropriate if a party "shows that there is
no genuine dispute as to any material fact" and that the
movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.
Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a). In other words, summary judgment should
be granted "only when it is clear that there is no
dispute concerning either the facts of the controversy or the
inferences to be drawn from those facts." Pulliam
lnv. Co. v. Cameo Props., 810F.2d 1282, 1286 (4th Cir.
1987). "In determining whether a genuine issue has been
raised, the court must construe all inferences and
ambiguities in favor of the nonmoving party."
HealthSouth Rehab. Hosp. v. Am. Nat'l Red Cross,
101 F.3d 1005, 1008 (4th Cir. 1996). The party seeking
summary judgment shoulders the initial burden of
demonstrating to the court that there is no genuine issue of
material fact. Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S.
the moving party has made this threshold demonstration, the
non-moving party, to survive the motion for summary judgment,
may not rest on the allegations averred in his pleadings.
Id. at 324. Rather, the non-moving party must
demonstrate that specific, material facts exist that give
rise to a genuine issue. Id. Under this standard,
"[c]onclusory or speculative allegations do not suffice,
nor does a 'mere scintilla of evidence'" in
support of the non-moving party's case. Thompson v.
Potomac Elec. Power Co., 312 F.3d 645, 649 (4th Cir.
2002) (quoting Phillips v. CSX Transp., Inc., 190
F.3d 285, 287 (4th Cir. 1999)).
Standard for Relief
adjudicated on the merits in a state court proceeding cannot
be a basis for federal habeas corpus relief unless the
decision was "contrary to, or involved an unreasonable
application of clearly established federal law as decided by
the Supreme Court of the United States, " or the
decision "was based on an unreasonable determination of
the facts in light of the evidence presented in the state
court proceeding." 28 U.S.C. § 2254(d)(1), (2).
Section 2254(d) codifies the view that habeas corpus is a
'"guard against extreme malfunctions in the state
criminal justice systems, ' not a substitute for ordinary
error correction through appeal." Harrington v.
Richter, 562 U.S. 86, 102-03 (2011) (quoting Jackson
v. Virginia, 443 U.S. 307, 332 n.5 (1979) (Stevens, J.,
concurring in judgment)). "A state court's
determination that a claim lacks merit precludes federal
habeas relief so long as 'fairminded jurists could
disagree' on the correctness of the state court's
decision." Id. at 101 (quoting Yarborough
v. Alvarado, 541 U.S. 652, 664 (2004)); see also
White, 134 S.Ct. at 1702 (stating that '"[a]s a
condition for obtaining habeas corpus from a federal court, a
state prisoner must show that the state court's ruling on
the claim being presented in federal court was so lacking in
justification that there was an error well understood and
comprehended in existing law beyond any possibility for
fairminded disagreement'") (quoting
Harrington, 562 U.S. at 103).
when reviewing a state court's application of federal
law, "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.
Rather, that application must also be unreasonable."
Williams v. Taylor, 529 U.S. 362, 410 (2000);
see also White v. Woodall, 134 S.Ct. 1697, 1702
(2014) (describing an "unreasonable application" as
"objectively unreasonable, not merely wrong" and
providing that "even clear error will not suffice")
(internal quotation marks and citation omitted). Moreover,
review of a state court decision does not require an opinion
from the state court explaining its reasoning. See
Harrington at 98 (finding that "[t]here is no text
in [§ 2254] requiring a statement of reasons" by
the state court). If no explanation accompanies the state
court's decision, a federal habeas petitioner must show
that there was no reasonable basis for the state court to
deny relief. Id. Pursuant to § 2254(d), a
federal habeas court must (1) determine what arguments or
theories supported or could have supported the state
court's decision; and then (2) ask whether it is possible
that fairminded jurists could disagree that those arguments
or theories are inconsistent with the holding of a prior
decision of the United States Supreme Court. Id. at
102. And state court factual determinations are presumed to
be correct and the petitioner has the burden of rebutting
this presumption by clear and convincing evidence. 28 U.S.C.