Searching over 5,500,000 cases.

Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

Pencille v. Joyner

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

June 10, 2019

Gregory Thomas Pencille, #312332, Petitioner,
Aaron Joyner, Respondent.



         Before the Court is the Report and Recommendation ("R & R") of the Magistrate Judge (Dkt. No. 39) recommending that the Court grant Respondent's motion for summary judgment (Dkt. No. 22) on 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 and grants Respondent's motion for summary judgment.

         I. Background

         Petitioner Gregory Thomas Pencille is a is an incarcerated person proceeding pro se to seek habeas corpus relief pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254. Petitioner pled guilty in August 2010 to one count of criminal sexual conduct in the first degree, for which the Circuit Court judge sentenced Petitioner to the statutory maximum of thirty years' imprisonment. The plea colloquy was extensive and the sentencing judge heard statements from Petitioner's attorney and father, as well as the victim of Petitioner's crime. Petitioner did not object during the plea colloquy or sentencing, but sought reconsideration of the sentence, which the sentencing judge denied after a hearing. In September 2012, Petitioner's appellate counsel appealed on the issue, "Whether the plea court erred in taking into account other charges that appellant may have had but were not convictions in deciding to sentence him to thirty (30) years imprisonment." In June 2013, the South Carolina Supreme Court dismissed the appeal and the remittitur was issued.

         In November 2013, Petitioner filed pro se an application for post-conviction relief ("PCR") raising two grounds: (1) that his guilty plea is "invalid and was taken in violation of the Fourteenth Amendment where it was not entered knowingly, voluntarily and intelligently, and entered because of Ineffective Assistance of Counsel as alleged and shown" by nine specific sub-grounds, and (2) that he was deprived of his "Sixth and Fourteenth Amendment rights to the Effective Assistance of Counsel because of the combined actions and inactions of counsel as state[d] and/or contemplated in this Petition and any other amended or supplemental Petition." (Dkt. No. 21-1 at 54-70.) In January 2016, after an evidentiary hearing at which Petitioner was represented by counsel and testified, as did his plea counsel, the PCR application was denied and dismissed with prejudice. In October 2016, Petitioner's appellate counsel appealed and filed for a Johnson petition for writ of certiorari, raising the issue, "Did the PCF judge err in refusing to find that the guilty plea was rendered involuntary by plea counsel's failure to advise Petitioner that the guilty plea to criminal sexual conduct could subject Petitioner to civil confinement, after the service of the criminal sentence, pursuant to the Sexually Violent Predator Act?" (Dkt. No. 21-5 at 3.) On January 3, 2017, Petitioner filed a pro se brief in response to his petition that raised four additional issues including whether the courts found in error that his trial counsel and PCR counsel were not ineffective. (Dkt. No. 21-6 at 3.) In June 2018, the South Carolina Court of Appeals denied Petitioner a writ of certiorari.

         In October 2018, Petitioner filed the instant § 2254 petition, raising eight grounds for relief: one ground that Petitioner was "denied the right to petition for redress of grievances under the First Amendment of the United States Constitution when the appeal court refused to hear his complaints during the appeal process," and seven grounds of ineffective assistance of plea and appellate counsel. (Dkt. No. 1-1 at 1-18.)

         II. Legal Standard

         A. Review of R&R

         The 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.").

         B. Motion for Summary Judgment

         Summary 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)).

         C. Federal Habeas Relief Pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254

         A state prisoner who challenges matters "adjudicated on the merits in State court" can obtain federal habeas relief only if he 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). When reviewing a state court's application of federal law, "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, 410 (2000). The state court's application is unreasonable if it is "objectively unreasonable, not merely wrong." White v. Woodall, 572 U.S. 415, 419 (2014). Meaning, the 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 fairminded disagreement." Harrington v. Richter, 562 U.S. 86, 103 (2011).

         The state court's determination is presumed correct and the petitioner bears the burden of rebutting this presumption by clear and convincing evidence. 28 U.S.C. § 2254(e)(1). The state court's decision "must be granted a deference and latitude that are not in operation" when the case is considered on direct review. Harrington, 562 U.S. at 101. This is because habeas corpus in federal court exists only to "guard against extreme malfunctions in the state criminal justice systems." Id. at 102 (citation and internal quotation marks omitted). Accordingly, pursuant to 28 U.S.C. ยง 2254(d), a federal habeas court must (1) determine what arguments or theories supported or could have supported the state court's decision; and then (2) ask whether it is possible that fairminded jurists could disagree that those arguments or theories are ...

Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.