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Collins v. Williams

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

July 3, 2018

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

          ORDER AND OPINION

          RICHARD MARK GERGEL UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT JUDGE

         Before the Court is the Report and Recommendation ("R & R") of the Magistrate Judge (Dkt. No. 8) recommending that Petitioner's petition for a writ of habeas corpus (Dkt. No. 1) be dismissed. For the reasons set forth below, the Court ADOPTS the R & R and the petition is DISMISSED WITHOUT PREJUDICE, and a Certificate of Appealability is DENIED.

         I. Background

         In August 2005, Petitioner was found guilty by a South Carolina state court jury of murder and possession of a firearm during a crime of violence. Petitioner was sentenced to life imprisonment for the murder conviction and five years for the firearm possession. Petitioner was also sentenced to ten years imprisonment for a pending probation violation. On appeal, Petitioner argued that the court improperly admitted into evidence letters allegedly written to his co-defendants. In 2008, the appeal was dismissed. Petitioner then filed three applications for post-conviction relief in state court, arguing that he was unlawfully in custody on the basis of an insufficient indictment, ineffective assistance of trial and appellate counsel, and prosecutorial misconduct. Each application was dismissed.

         In March 2012, Petitioner filed his first petition for federal habeas corpus pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254, arguing numerous grounds for ineffective assistance of trial and appellate counsel. See Collins v. Padula, No. 2:12-710-CMC-BHH (Dkt. No. 1). The District Court considered the petition's merits and dismissed with prejudice, finding that Petitioner failed to demonstrate he was prejudiced as a result of counsels' deficient performance and, to the extent Petitioner argued the trial court erred in admitting specific evidence, Petitioner had a full and fair opportunity to litigate the claim in state court. See No. 2:12-710-CMC (Dkt. No. 66).[1]Petitioner appealed to the Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit, which dismissed for lack of jurisdiction on the basis of an untimely appeal. See Collins v. Padula, 575 F.Appx. 131 (4th Cir. 2014) (Mem).

         In August 2015, Petitioner filed his second federal habeas petition on the grounds of "extrinsic fraud." See Collins v. McFadden, No. 2:15-cv-3378-RMG-MGB (Dkt. No. 1 at 5). This Court considered the petition's merits and dismissed it as an unauthorized successive petition. See No. 2:15-cv-3378-RMG (Dkt. No. 22). In June 2018, Petitioner filed his third petition for habeas corpus, which the Court considers now. Petitioner again alleges ineffective assistance of counsel and challenges the state court's admission of certain letters into evidence. See Collins v. Williams, No. 2:18-cv-1490-RMG-MGB (Dkt. No. 1).

         II. Legal Standard

         A. Review of R&R

         The 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. See, e.g., Mathews v. Weber, 423 U.S. 261, 270-71 (1976). The Court may "accept, reject, or modify, in whole or in part, the findings or recommendations made by the magistrate judge." 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(C). Where a petitioner has not objected to the R&R, the Court reviews the R & R to "only satisfy itself that there is no clear error on the face of the record in order to accept the recommendation." Fed.R.Civ.P. 72 advisory committee's note. In the absence of objections to the R & R, the Court need not give any explanation for adopting the Magistrate Judge's analysis and recommendation. See, e.g., Camby v. Davis, 718 F.2d 198, 199 (4th Cir. 1983) ("In the absence of objection ... we do not believe that it requires any explanation.").

         B. Review of Petition for a Writ of Habeas Corpus

         Mr. Collins filed this petition for a writ of habeas corpus pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254. A habeas petition is "successive" if a previously filed habeas petition was "adjudicated on the merits." Slack v. McDaniel, 529 U.S. 473, 485-89 (2000). In order to file a "successive" petition, the petitioner must first obtain authorization from the United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit.[2] See, e.g., 28 U.S.C. § 2254(b)(3)(A) (mandating that "the applicant shall move in the appropriate court of appeals for an order authorizing the district court to consider the application"); Rule 9 of Rules Governing § 2254 ("Before presenting a second or successive petition, the petitioner must obtain an order from the appropriate court of appeals authorizing the district court to consider the petition ..."); Gonzales v. Crosby, 545 U.S. 524, 530 (2005) (noting that "before the district court may accept a successive petition for filing, the court of appeals must determine that it presents a claim not previously raised that is sufficient to meet § 2244(b)(2)'s new-rule or actual-innocence provisions"). If the petitioner of a successive petition did not first obtain the necessary authorization, the District Court lacks jurisdiction to consider the merits of the petition and, as a result, must dismiss. See, e.g., Burton v. Stewart, 549 U.S. 147, 153 (2007); Smart v. Warden, Kershaw Corr. Inst., No. 2:13-cv-2449-GRA, 2013 WL 6054475, at *3 (D.S.C. Nov. 15, 2013) (dismissing unauthorized successive petition for lack of jurisdiction).

         C. Certificate of Appealability

         A certificate of Appealability will issue only on "a substantial showing of the denial of a constitutional right." 28 U.S.C. § 2253(c)(2). Where the Court denies relief on the merits, the petitioner must demonstrate that "reasonable jurists would find the district court's assessment of the constitutional claims debatable or wrong." Slack v. McDaniel, 529 U.S. 473, 484 (2000).

         III. ...


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