United States District Court, D. South Carolina, Greenville Division
C. Coggins, Jr. United States District Judge.
a state prisoner proceeding pro se, is seeking habeas corpus
relief pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254. ECF No. 1.
Respondent filed a Motion for Summary Judgment and Return and
Memorandum on March 9, 2018. ECF Nos. 17, 18. Petitioner
filed a Response in Opposition to the Motion for Summary
Judgment, and Respondent filed a Reply. ECF Nos. 25, 27.
accordance with 28 U.S.C. § 636(b) and Local Civil Rule
73.02(B)(2), (D.S.C.), this matter was referred to United
States Magistrate Judge Kevin F. McDonald for pre-trial
proceedings and a Report and Recommendation
(“Report”). On October 26, 2018, the Magistrate
Judge issued a Report recommending that the Motion for
Summary Judgment be granted and the Petition be denied. ECF
No. 28. Petitioner filed objections to the Report. ECF No.
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 Mathews v. Weber, 423 U.S. 261 (1976).
The Court is charged with making a de novo determination of
any portion of the Report of the Magistrate Judge to which a
specific objection is made. The Court may accept, reject, or
modify, in whole or in part, the recommendation made by the
Magistrate Judge or recommit the matter to the Magistrate
Judge with instructions. See 28 U.S.C. §
636(b). The Court will review the Report only for clear error
in the absence of an objection. See Diamond v. Colonial
Life & Accident Ins. Co., 416 F.3d 310, 315 (4th
Cir. 2005) (stating that “in the absence of timely
filed objection, a district court need not conduct a de
novo review, but instead must only satisfy itself that
there is no clear error on the face of the record in order to
accept the recommendation.” (citation omitted)).
claims are governed by 28 U.S.C. § 2254(d), which
provides that his petition cannot be granted unless the
claims “(1) resulted in a decision that was contrary
to, or involved an unreasonable application of, clearly
established Federal law, as determined by the Supreme Court
of the United States; or (2) resulted in a decision that 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). “[A]
federal habeas court may not issue the writ simply because
that court concludes in its independent judgment that the
relevant state-court decision applied clearly established
federal law erroneously or incorrectly. Rather, that
application must also be unreasonable.” Williams v.
Taylor, 529 U.S. 362, 411 (2000). Importantly, “a
determination of a factual issue made by a State court shall
be presumed to be correct, ” and Petitioner has
“the burden of rebutting the presumption of correctness
by clear and convincing evidence.” 28 U.S.C. §
Assistance of Counsel
allegations of ineffective assistance of counsel are made,
the question is “whether counsel's conduct so
undermined the proper functioning of the adversarial process
that the trial cannot be relied on as having produced a just
result.” Strickland v. Washington, 466 U.S.
668, 686 (1984). First, a petitioner must show that counsel
made errors so serious that counsel's performance was
below the objective standard of reasonableness guaranteed by
the Sixth Amendment. Id. at 687-88. Second, the
petitioner must show that “there is a reasonable
probability that, but for counsel's unprofessional
errors, the result of the proceeding would have been
different.” Id. at 694. “The standards
created by Strickland and § 2254(d) are both
highly deferential . . . and when the two apply in tandem,
review is ‘doubly' so.” Harrington v.
Richter, 562U.S. 86, 105 (2011). In applying §
2254(d), “the question is not whether counsel's
actions were reasonable. The question is whether there is any
reasonable argument that counsel satisfied Strickland's
deferential standard.” Id.
specific context of a guilty plea, to satisfy the prejudice
prong of Strickland, a prisoner must show that
“there is a reasonable probability that, but for
counsel's errors, [the prisoner] would not have pleaded
guilty and would have insisted on going to trial.”
Hill v. Lockhart, 474 U.S. 52, 59 (1985). The
Supreme Court further explained,
In many guilty plea cases, the “prejudice”
inquiry will closely resemble the inquiry engaged in by
courts reviewing ineffective-assistance challenges to
convictions obtained through a trial. For example, where the
alleged error of counsel is a failure to investigate or
discover potentially exculpatory evidence, the determination
whether the error “prejudiced” the defendant by
causing him to plead guilty rather than go to trial will
depend on the likelihood that discovery of the evidence would
have led counsel to change his recommendation as to the plea.
This assessment, in turn, will depend in large part on a
prediction whether the evidence likely would have changed the
outcome of a trial . . . . As we explained in Strickland
v. Washington, supra, these predictions of the
outcome at a possible trial, where necessary, should be made
objectively, without regard for the “idiosyncrasies of
the particular decisionmaker.” Id., 466 U.S.,
Hill, 474 U.S. at 59-60.