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Martin v. Cartledge

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

March 26, 2018




         Petitioner Shondray Lamont Martin, an inmate with the South Carolina Department of Corrections, brought this habeas corpus petition pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 225');">54. [ECF #1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1]. In his petition, he raises two grounds for habeas relief. [ECF #1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1]. Petitioner is currently incarcerated within the South Carolina Department of Corrections. [ECF #1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1]. Currently pending before this Court is Respondent's Motion for Summary Judgment [ECF #6] and the Report and Recommendation of Magistrate Judge Mary Gordon Baker. [ECF #1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">11');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1]. The Magistrate Judge recommends that summary judgment be granted in favor of Respondent on all grounds. [ECF #1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">11');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1]. Petitioner responded to Respondent's Motion on June 21');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1, 201');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">17, and thereafter amended that response on June 22, 201');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">17. [ECF #7; ECF #8]. Petitioner also timely filed objections to the Report and Recommendation on January 30, 201');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">18. [ECF #1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">12]. Respondent filed a reply to these objections on February 1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">13, 201');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">18. [ECF #1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">13]. After a review of the pleadings, this Court issues the following Order.


         A detailed procedural history and factual background is adequately set forth in the Report and Recommendation (the “R&R”). [ECF #1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">11');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1, pp. 1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1-4]. Briefly stated, in April 2002, the Abbeville County Grand Jury indicted Petitioner on charges of conspiracy, attempted robbery, murder, and possession of a firearm or knife during the commission of a violent crime. [ECF #5');">5-7, App. 1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1467-1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1475');">5]. On March 20, 2004, a jury found Petitioner guilty of murder, criminal conspiracy, and possession of a weapon during a violent crime. [ECF #1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1, p. 2');">p. 2]. That same day, Petitioner was sentenced to life in prison. [ECF #1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1, p. 2');">p. 2]. Petitioner then appealed his conviction to the South Carolina Court of Appeals by way of an Anders brief, as well as by raising other pro se issues. [ECF #1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1, p. 3].[1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1" name="FN1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1" id="FN1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1] The South Carolina Court of Appeals dismissed his appeal in an unpublished opinion on May 1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">17, 2007. [ECF #1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1, p. 3]. Petitioner filed a motion to reconsider, but the South Carolina Court of Appeals denied his request on June 28, 2007. [ECF #1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">11');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1, p. 2');">p. 2]. The Court of Appeals issued its remittitur on August 3, 2007, which was received by the Abbeville County Clerk of Court on August 1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">10, 2007. [ECF #5');">5, p. 4');">p. 4]. The clerk's file does not appear to contain a file-stamped copy of the remittitur. [ECF #5');">5-1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">14].[2]

         After the receipt of remittitur, Respondent and Petitioner disagree on whether the filing of Petitioner's application for post-conviction relief (“PCR”) was filed in a timely manner. [ECF #1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1, p. 4');">p. 4]. The only file-stamped, fully notarized copy of a PCR application in the record is dated September 29, 2009. [ECF #5');">5-6, App. 1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1273].[3] On this date, the PCR application would be considered untimely under state law. However, Petitioner contends the application should have been filed on June 23, 2008.

         According to Petitioner, on June 23, 2008, he drafted a PCR application to be sent to the Abbeville Clerk of Court. Plaintiff also states that he mailed his “brief/motion” on June 23, 2008. [ECF #5');">5-7, App. 1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1368]. In late May of 2009, approximately ten months after Petitioner alleges he believed his PCR application had been filed, Petitioner sent a letter requesting a status update from the clerk's office. At that time, he learned that his application had not been filed, and the clerk's office corresponded with him about the proper filing of a PCR application. Subsequently, the clerk's office found an application dated June 23, 2008, however this document was not notarized, as required by statute. The PCR application found in the file did not contain an envelope or any form of receipt showing the date it was received by the clerk's office. In fact at the PCR hearing, Petitioner testified that while he believed he sent the application through the certified mailing process on the same day he drafted the application, he did not have any proof in the form of a return receipt or date-stamped envelope showing he did in fact file his application prior to the one-year statute of limitations. [ECF #5');">5-1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">17, p. 8].[4] The clerk's office returned the document to him with instructions on filing a proper application in August of 2009. [ECF #5');">5-6, pp. 1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1331');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1]. However, by this date the statute of limitations had expired.

         On December 21');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1, 201');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">11');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1, A Conditional Order of Dismissal was entered, indicating that the court intended to dismiss the action because it was time-barred. [ECF #5');">5-6, App. 1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1293]. In response to this Conditional Order of Dismissal, Petitioner filed a reply and objections dated January 6, 201');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">12, indicating that on July 21');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1, 2008, he “formulated a Motion, ” apparently referring to his PCR application, instead of the June 23, 2008 date. However, he also states in that same document that “the above-mentioned dates may not clearly reflect true accuracy, as Applicant has been deprived of his personal property.” [ECF #5');">5-6, App. 1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1300].[5');">5" name="FN5');">5" id= "FN5');">5">5');">5] After the hearing, the PCR application was dismissed with prejudice by the state court. The state court found that Petitioner had failed to meet his burden of proof in that he waited until his time for filing had nearly concluded before filing the original application on his alleged “attempt to file” date, and further, that he did not have actual proof that he attempted to file his application in a timely manner. [ECF #5');">5-7, p. 1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">11');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">18]. See Butler v. State, 1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">13');">334 S.E.2d 81');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">13, 81');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">14, 1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">286 S.C. 441');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1 (S.C. 1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1985');">5) (“[T]he burden of proof is on the Applicant in post-conviction proceedings to prove the allegations in the application.”). After appealing this decision, the Supreme Court of South Carolina ultimately denied a petition for writ of certiorari, and on May 3, 201');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">16, the matter was remitted to the lower court. Petitioner filed his petition for habeas relief in this Court on April 1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">14, 201');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">17. [ECF #1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1]. The Petitioner asserts the following two grounds for relief, as listed verbatim from his petition: Ground One: Improper dismissal of state post conviction relief action on procedural grounds. Improper dismissal precluded petitioner right to raise constitutional challenges to state conviction. Ground Two: Substantive grounds alleged in state post conviction relief proceedings: (See Attachment Sheet #1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1, 2, 3). Ineffective assistance of trial and appellate counsel; due process; pros. miscond.

         The Magistrate Judge considered these grounds, and ultimately recommended that this petition be barred by the applicable statute of limitations in federal court for the filing of a habeas petition, as well as finding that the underlying state court PCR application was also not timely filed. [ECF #1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">11');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1, p. 1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">10]. Petitioner, represented by counsel in this action, filed objections to the R&R. The Plaintiff objects to the Magistrate Judge determination that the state court's finding regarding the filing date of the PCR application was supported by evidence, and objects to the finding that equitable tolling should not apply. [ECF #1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">12, p. 1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1]. This matter is now before the Court for disposition.

         Legal Standards of Review

         I. Review of the Magistrate Judge's Report & Recommendation

         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, 1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">423 U.S. 261');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1, 270-71');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1 (1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">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, and the Court may accept, reject, or modify, in whole or in part, the recommendation of the Magistrate Judge, or recommit the matter to the Magistrate Judge with instructions. 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1). The right to de novo review may be waived by the failure to file timely objections. Orpiano v. Johnson, 7 F.2d 44');">687 F.2d 44, 47 (4th Cir. 1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1982). The district court is obligated to conduct 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's proposed findings and recommendations.” Id.

         II. Summary Judgment Review

         “The 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. 5');">56(a) (201');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">10). “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. 5');">56(c)(1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1). When no genuine issue of any material fact exists, summary judgment is appropriate. See Shealy v. Winston, 929 F.2d 1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1009, 1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">101');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">11');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1 (4th Cir. 1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1991');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1). The facts and inferences to be drawn from the evidence must be viewed in the light most favorable to the non-moving party. Id. However, "the mere existence of some alleged factual dispute between the parties will not defeat an otherwise properly supported motion for summary judgment; the requirement is that there be no genuine issue of material fact." Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 77 U.S. 242');">477 U.S. 242, 247-48 (1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1986).

         Respondent moves for summary judgment and seeks dismissal of Petitioner's § 225');">54 petition arguing Petitioner is procedurally barred from seeking the requested habeas relief. Petitioner set forth two grounds for relief in his § 225');">54 petition. In the motion seeking summary judgment, Respondent argues that ground one, alleging the PCR application was improperly dismissed, is not cognizable in a habeas petition because alleged defects in state court proceedings are collateral to the conviction or sentence. [ECF #5');">5, p. 1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">17]. Respondent also argues that ground two, alleging ineffective assistance of both trial and appellate counsel, due process claims and prosecutorial misconduct, is procedurally defaulted because the state court has not ruled on these claims. [ECF #5');">5, pp. 1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1') ...

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