United States District Court, D. South Carolina
Bryan Harwell United States District Judge
Johnnie Walker, 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 Jacquelyn D. Austin. See ECF
Nos. 17 & 19. The Magistrate Judge recommends granting
Respondent's motion for summary judgment and denying
Petitioner's § 2254 petition.
State of South Carolina accused Petitioner and seven other
codefendants of being involved in the disappearance and death
of Jeremy Leaphart, who went missing in December 2007 and
whose body was found in January 2008 in a trash pile in Aiken
County. See generally ECF No. 11-1 at pp. 30-43. In
July 2008, the State indicted Petitioner for accessory after
the fact to a felony. See ECF No. 11-3. In April
2009, Petitioner, represented by counsel, waived presentment
of a kidnapping indictment to the grand jury and pled guilty
to the kidnapping charge. See ECF No. 11-1 at pp. 3-143,
232-33. The state plea court sentenced him to thirty
years' imprisonment and denied his motion to reconsider
the sentence. See Id. at pp. 73, 145-72; ECF Nos.
11-4, 11-5, & 11-6. Petitioner filed a direct appeal, and
the South Carolina Court of Appeals summarily affirmed in an
unpublished opinion. See ECF Nos. 11-7 through
11-19. Petitioner then filed an application for
post-conviction relief (“PCR”) in state court.
See ECF No. 11-1 at pp. 173-78. After holding a
hearing at which Petitioner and his trial counsel testified,
the PCR court issued a written order denying and dismissing
the PCR application with prejudice. Id. at pp.
185-231. Petitioner filed a Johnson petition for a
writ of certiorari from the denial of his PCR application,
and the South Carolina Supreme Court summarily denied the
Johnson petition and remitted the case. See
ECF Nos. 11-20 through 11-25.
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. 11 & 12.
Petitioner filed a response in opposition to Respondent's
motion. See ECF No. 15. The Magistrate Judge issued
an R & R recommending that the Court grant
Respondent's motion for summary judgment and deny
Petitioner's § 2254 petition. See R & R
[ECF No. 17] at p. 29. Petitioner filed timely objections to
the R & R. See ECF No. 19.
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. §
636(b)(1); Fed.R.Civ.P. 72(b).
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 his petition after the effective date of the
Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996
(“AEDPA”), 28 U.S.C. § 2254 governs review
of his claims. Lindh v. Murphy, 521 U.S. 320 (1997);
Breard v. Pruett, 134 F.3d 615, 618 (4th Cir. 1998).
Under the AEDPA, federal courts may not grant habeas corpus
relief unless the underlying state adjudication:
(1) resulted in a decision that was contrary to, or involved
an unreasonable application of, clearly established Federal
law, as determined by the ...