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Alley v. Warden, McCormick Correctional Institution

United States District Court, D. South Carolina

March 23, 2018

Walter Chase Alley, Petitioner,
v.
Warden, McCormick Correctional Institution Respondent.

          ORDER

          Joseph F. Anderson, Jr. Judge

         I. Introduction

         Walter Chase Alley (“Petitioner” or “Alley”), a prisoner proceeding pro se, filed a petition for writ of habeas corpus seeking relief under 28 U.S.C. § 2254. He plead guilty, but mentally ill in state court to the murder charge and is serving a thirty-seven year sentence. Petitioner alleges ineffective assistance of plea counsel.

         The Respondent filed a motion for summary judgment on August 10, 2017. Pursuant to Roseboro v. Garrison, 528 F.2d 309 (4th Cir. 1975), this Court advised Petitioner of the summary judgment and dismissal procedures and the possible consequences if he failed to adequately respond to the Respondent's motion. Petitioner filed a response on September 15, 2017. Respondent filed a reply on September 22, 2017.

         The Magistrate Judge assigned to this action[1] prepared a thorough Report and Recommendation (“Report”) and opines that this Court should grant Respondent's Motion for Summary Judgment and dismiss Alley's Petition. (ECF No. 23). The Magistrate Judge determined that the state court's dismissal of Petitioner's ineffective assistance of counsel claims did not involve an unreasonable application of federal law. The Report sets forth, in detail, the relevant facts and standards of law on this matter, and this Court incorporates those facts and standards without a recitation.

         Plaintiff was advised of his right to object to the Report, which was entered on the docket on September 25, 2017. (ECF No. 23). Petitioner filed objections to the Report on October 23, 2017, (ECF No. 26), and Respondent filed a response to Petitioner's objections on November 20, 2017. (ECF No. 52). Thus, this matter is ripe for the Court's review.

         II. Discussion

         Within his petition for writ of habeas corpus, Alley asserts one ground for relief. Petitioner argues that his Sixth Amendment rights to the effective assistance of counsel were violated when defense counsel failed to call Petitioner's aunt, Joyce Means, as a witness at the Jackson v. Denno[2] hearing. The Magistrate Judge's Report thoroughly outlines the applicable legal standards and properly analyzes the claims for relief before concluding that summary judgment should be granted and the petition should be dismissed. (ECF No. 23).

         The Magistrate Judge addressed Petitioner's ground for relief on the merits under Strickland v. Washington, 466 U.S. 558 (1984). The Magistrate Judge, agrees with the PCR court's finding that the plea counsel did not err by failing to call Petitioner's aunt as witness at the Jackson v. Denno hearing. The Magistrate Judge opines that trial counsel's performance was not deficient under Strickland.

         The Magistrate Judge further finds that Petitioner knowingly, voluntarily, and intelligently plead guilty to the state charges. Although not raised as a separate ground by Petitioner, the Magistrate correctly determined that the plea court conducted a thorough colloquy and closely examined Petitioner's understanding of the charges and his available constitutional rights.

         Ultimately, the Magistrate Judge concludes that the state courts' decisions did not result “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” nor were they “based on an unreasonable determination of the facts in light of the evidence presented in the State court proceeding.” 28 U.S.C. § 2254.

         Petitioner has submitted a four-sentence response to the Report. (ECF No. 26). Petitioner makes two general and conclusory objections to the Magistrate's Report. Petitioner first asserts that “the R&R erred when it found that trial counsel did not render ineffective assistance of counsel pursuant to Strickland v. Washington, 466 U.S. 668 (1984), when he failed to call Petitioner's aunt, Joyce Means to testify on his behalf during the Jackson v . Denno hearing.” Id. at 1. Then Petitioner asserts that the “R&R also erred when it found that Petitioner's guilty plea was voluntarily entered.” Id. Petitioner's Objections to the Report are largely verbatim recitations of his arguments previously made to and considered by the Magistrate Judge. Petitioner does not specifically point to how the Magistrate erred in making these findings.

         De novo review is not required for general, nonspecific objections. “Generally stated, nonspecific objections have the same effect as would a failure to object.” Staley v. Norton, C/A/ No. 9:07-cv-0288-PMD, 2007 WL 821181, at *1 (D.S.C. Mar. 2, 2007). Thus, a de novo review of the Magistrate Judge's Report is unnecessary “when a party makes 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, 48 (4th Cir. 1982).

         As previously stated, in the absence of specific objections to portions of the Report, the Court is not required to give an explanation for adopting the recommending and 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 & ...


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