United States District Court, D. South Carolina, Charleston Division
ORDER AND OPINION
RICHARD MARK GERGEL UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT JUDGE.
the Court is the Report and Recommendation ("R &
R") of the Magistrate Judge (Dkt. No. 32) recommending
Defendant's motion for summary judgment be granted to
dismiss Petitioner's petition for a writ of habeas corpus
pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254. For the reasons set forth
below, the Court adopts the R & R as the Order of the
Court, grants Defendant's motion for summary judgment
(Dkt. No. 19), dismisses Petitioner's petition and denies
a Certificate of Appealability.
Putnam is a state prisoner proceeding pro se to
petition for a writ of habeas corpus pursuant to 28 U.S.C.
§ 2254. (Dkt. No. 1.) This case arises from the
Petitioner's 2009 state court conviction for homicide of
her infant son by child abuse. Petitioner directly appealed
that conviction, which was denied. Her subsequent application
for post-conviction relief was denied, which the South
Carolina Court of Appeals affirmed. Her petition for a
rehearing was denied, as was her petition to the South
Carolina Supreme Court for certiorari.
now seeks federal habeas relief on eight specific grounds:
(1) ineffective assistance of counsel for failure to secure
trial witnesses; (2) "information gained by someone
other than law enforcement and not Mirandized by
police"; (3) no Miranda given; (4) extraordinarily high
bond of $250, 000; (5) "law enforcement used an officer
to create information used at trial to substantiate
State's claims"; (6) counsel failed to
"question persons on the stand offering no reasons for
the lack of information in the discovery process and not
asking for release of custody"; (7) counsel failed
"to actually go to the crime scene"; and (8)
"[p]rior to indictment petitioner asked for habeas
corpus and asked for new representation and was denied on
both without explanation; after a twenty-three month wait the
indictment handed down was no more than exact copy of the
warrant." (Dkt. No. 1 at 6-11.) Defendant Warden Yeldell
moves to dismiss the petition on summary judgment (Dkt. No.
19), to which Petitioner filed a response in opposition (Dkt.
No. 23) and Defendant replied (Dkt. No. 30). Petitioner also
filed objections to the R & R. (Dkt. No. 34.)
Review of R&R
Magistrate Judge makes a recommendation to the Court that 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 there are
specific objections to the R&R, the Court "makes a
de novo determination of those portions of the
report or specified proposed findings or recommendations to
which objection is made." Id. In the absence of
objections, 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; see also
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.").
Motion for Summary Judgment
judgment is appropriate if a party "shows that there is
no genuine dispute as to any material fact" and that the
movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.
Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a). In other words, summary judgment should
be granted "only when it is clear that there is no
dispute concerning either the facts of the controversy or the
inferences to be drawn from those facts." Pulliam
Inv. Co. v. Cameo Props., 810 F.2d 1282, 1286 (4th Cir.
1987). "In determining whether a genuine issue has been
raised, the court must construe all inferences and
ambiguities in favor of the nonmoving party."
HealthSouth Rehab. Hosp. v. Am. Nat'l Red Cross,
101 F.3d 1005, 1008 (4th Cir. 1996). The movant has the
initial burden of demonstrating that there is no genuine
issue of material fact. Celotex Corp. v. Catrett,
477 U.S. 317, 323 (1986). Once the movant has made this
threshold demonstration, to survive summary judgment the
respondent must demonstrate that specific, material facts
exist that give rise to a genuine issue. Id. at 324.
Under this standard, "[c]onclusory or speculative
allegations do not suffice, nor does a 'mere scintilla of
evidence'" in support of the non-moving party's
case. Thompson v. Potomac Elec. Power Co., 312 F.3d
645, 649 (4th Cir. 2002) (quoting Phillips v. CSX Transp,
Inc., 190 F.3d 285, 287 (4th Cir. 1999)).
Federal Habeas Relief Pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §
corpus in federal court exists only to "guard against
extreme malfunctions in the state criminal justice
systems." Harrington v. Richter, 562 U.S. 86,
102 (2011) (citation and internal quotation marks omitted).
Federal habeas is neither an alternative to state-court
relief nor an additional chance to appeal erroneous
state-court rulings. See Id. The preference for, and
deference to, state courts is borne out in the various
constraints placed on federal courts. See Shoop
v. Hill, 139 S.Ct. 504, 506 (2019) (per curiam) (stating
§ 2254 "imposes important limitations on the power
of federal courts to overturn the judgments of state courts
in criminal cases"); see also Woods v. Donald,
135 S.Ct. 1372, 1376 (2015) (stating § 2254
"reflect[s] a presumption that state courts know and
follow the law" (citation and internal quotation marks
instance, a state prisoner who challenges matters
"adjudicated on the merits in State court" cannot
get relief in federal court unless she shows that the state
court's decision "was contrary to, or involved an
unreasonable application of, clearly established Federal law,
as determined by the Supreme Court" or "was based
on an unreasonable determination of the facts in light of the
evidence presented in the State court proceeding." 28
U.S.C. § 2254(d). Meaning, a state court's ruling
must be "so lacking in justification that there was an
error well understood and comprehended in existing law beyond
any possibility for fair minded disagreement."
Harrington, 562 U.S. at 103.
courts must also defer to state courts' factual
determinations, which are presumed correct unless and until
the prisoner rebuts that presumption with clear and
convincing evidence. § 2254(e)(1). In addition, before a
state prisoner may try to overcome those high hurdles, two
rules steer her to first pursue all relief available in the
state courts. See § 2254(b)(1). The first,
known as exhaustion of remedies, requires a prisoner to
present her claims to the highest state court with
jurisdiction to decide them. Stewart v. Warden of Lieber
Corr. Inst.,701 F.Supp.2d 785, 790 (D.S.C. 2010). A
federal court cannot grant a prisoner's habeas petition
until she exhausts her state-court remedies. §
2254(b)(1), (c). The second rule, called procedural default,
comes into play when a prisoner failed to present a claim to
the state courts at the appropriate time and has no means of
doing so now. Stewart, 701 F.Supp.2d at 790. Federal
courts may not consider a procedurally defaulted ...