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Collins v. Williams

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

June 7, 2018

Robbie Collins #290946, Petitioner,
v.
C. Williams, Respondent.

          REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION

          MARY GORDON BAKER UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.

         Robbie Collins (“Petitioner”), a state prisoner proceeding pro se, has filed a petition for a writ of habeas corpus pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254. Petitioner is incarcerated at Broad River Correctional Institution located in Columbia, South Carolina. Pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §636(b)(1)(B) and Local Civil Rule 73.02(B)(2)(c)(D.S.C.), pretrial matters are assigned to United States Magistrate Judge. Having reviewed the petition and applicable law, the Magistrate Judge recommends that this § 2254 petition is an unauthorized successive petition and should be summarily dismissed without prejudice to Petitioner's ability to seek permission from the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals to file a successive petition, for the following reasons:

         I. Pro Se Habeas Review

         Under established local procedure in this judicial district, the Magistrate Judge has carefully reviewed the petition pursuant to the procedural provisions of the Anti-Terrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996 (“AEDPA”), Pub. L. 104-132, 110 Stat. 1214, and in light of the following precedents: Denton v. Hernandez, 504 U.S. 25 (1992); Neitzke v. Williams, 490 U.S. 319, 324-25 (1989); Haines v. Kerner, 404 U.S. 519 (1972).

         Pro se pleadings are given liberal construction and are held to a less stringent standard than those drafted by attorneys. Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 94 (2007) (per curiam). Courts liberally construe pro se claims to allow the development of a potentially meritorious case. Haines v. Kerner, 404 U.S. 519, 520 (1972); Gordon v. Leeke, 574 F.2d 1147, 1151 (4th Cir.1978). However, “[t]he ‘special judicial solicitude' with which a district court should view ... pro se complaints does not transform the court into an advocate. Only those questions which are squarely presented to a court may properly be addressed.” Weller v. Dept. of Soc. Servs. for City of Baltimore, 901 F.2d 387, 391 (4th Cir.1990). Giving “liberal construction” does not mean that the Court can ignore a petitioner's clear failure to allege facts that set forth a cognizable claim. United States v. Wilson, 699 F.3d 789, 797 (4th Cir.2012). “Principles requiring generous construction of pro se complaints ... [do] not require ... courts to conjure up questions never squarely presented to them.” Beaudett v. City of Hampton, 775 F.2d 1274, 1278 (4th Cir. 1985).

         II. Background

         The following facts are taken from the Petition and from the Report and Recommendation in the first habeas case brought by Petitioner. See Collins v. Padula, Case No. 2:12-710-CMC-BHH, see DE# 61, Report and Recommendation setting forth background facts).

         A Lee County Grand Jury indicted Petitioner for murder, conspiracy to commit murder, unlawful possession of a pistol, and possession of a firearm during a crime of violence. At the time of the murder, Petitioner was on probation for a prior conviction for reckless homicide. Petitioner received a jury trial in the Court of Common Pleas for the Third Judicial Circuit (Lee County, South Carolina). Petitioner's counsel moved for a directed verdict as to the conspiracy charge, which the state judge granted. The state judge also struck the charge of unlawful possession of a pistol. On August 18, 2005, the jury convicted Petitioner of the remaining two charges, i.e. murder and possession of a firearm during a crime of violence. (DE# 1, ¶¶ 1-3). Petitioner was sentenced to life imprisonment. Petitioner appealed, challenging the admission of several letters he allegedly wrote to his co-defendant. In an unpublished opinion filed on February 11, 2008, the South Carolina Court of Appeals dismissed Petitioner's appeal. See State v. Collins, 2008 WL 9832893 (Ct.App.S.C. Feb. 11, 2008) (per curiam). Remittitur was issued on February 27, 2008. Petitioner indicates he did not seek further review. (DE#1, ¶ 9(h)).

         On February 22, 2008, April 26, 2010, and June 22, 2010, Petitioner filed three consecutive applications for post-conviction relief (“PCR”) in state court. Petitioner raised numerous issues, including ineffective assistance of counsel, prosecutorial misconduct, and the sufficiency of the indictment. On December 22, 2009, the state court denied the first PCR application. Subsequently, the state court merged the second and third PCR applications, and issued a Final Order of Dismissal on January 6, 2012. Petitioner appealed. The Supreme Court of South Carolina dismissed the appeal on May 3, 2012. Remittitur was issued on May 31, 2012.

         The record reflects that on or about March 5, 2012, Petitioner filed his first federal petition for habeas corpus pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254. See Collins v. Padula, Case No. 2:12-710-CMC-BHH. Petitioner raised numerous grounds of alleged ineffective assistance of counsel. This Court considered the habeas petition on the merits and dismissed with prejudice. (Id., DE# 66, Order of 08/23/2013). On appeal, the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals dismissed for lack of jurisdiction because the notice of appeal was not timely filed. See Collins v. Padula, 575 Fed.Appx. 131 (4th Cir. June 4, 2014) (per curiam).

         Meanwhile, on May 19, 2014, Petitioner filed a fourth application for PCR relief, which was denied on August 16, 2014 as “untimely” and “successive.” The state court observed that Petitioner “had the opportunity to litigate all issues related to his case at the evidentiary hearing for his first PCR application on October 26, 2009.” (DE# 1-1, Order). Petitioner's appeal of the denial of his fourth PCR application was dismissed on August 4, 2015.

         On August 20, 2015, Petitioner filed a second federal habeas petition pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254. See Collins v. McFadden, Case No. 2:15-cv-3378-RMG-MGB. Petitioner again sought to challenge his 2005 conviction. Petitioner asserted that he was in custody unlawfully due to “extrinsic fraud” and asked for a new trial. This Court dismissed the petition as an unauthorized successive petition. (Id., DE#22, Order of 02/02/2016). See Collins v. McFadden, 2016 WL 411009 (D.S.C. Feb. 2, 2016).

         On or about June 1, 2018, Petitioner filed a third (present) federal petition for a writ of habeas corpus pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254. See Collins v. Williams, Case No. 2:18-cv-1490-RMG-MGB. As before, Petitioner alleges ineffective assistance of counsel and challenges the state court's evidentiary ruling regarding the admission of some letters allegedly written by petitioner to his co-defendant. (DE# 1 at 5-7).

         III. ...


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