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Watts v. Stephon

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

July 10, 2019

Taurus S. Watts, Petitioner,
v.
Warden Michael Stephon, Respondent.

          OPINION AND ORDER

          CAMERON MCGOWAN CURRIE SENIOR UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         This matter is before the court on Petitioner's pro se Petition for writ of habeas corpus, challenging his 2009 murder conviction and filed in this court pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254. ECF No. 1. In accordance with 28 U.S.C. § 636(b) and Local Civil Rule 73.02(B)(2)(c), DSC, this matter was referred to United States Magistrate Judge Shiva V. Hodges for pre-trial proceedings and a Report and Recommendation (“Report”).

         On May 22, 2019, the Magistrate Judge issued an Order to Show Cause why the Petition should not be dismissed as untimely. ECF No. 8. The Order provided notice to Petitioner the court was “considering dismissal of his case based on the running of the one-year statute of limitations” for such petitions, as there was an “unexplained 7-year gap between when Petitioner's conviction became final and the filing of this habeas petition.” Id. at 1, 2. Petitioner was afforded 21 days to “submit a document to this court providing facts concerning the issue of timeliness of this petition that would provide a basis for the application of equitable tolling and thereby prevent dismissal based on the limitations bar.” Id. at 2. No. response was received from Petitioner. On June 19, 2019, the Magistrate Judge entered a Report recommending the case be dismissed without issuance and service of process for failure to prosecute and because the habeas petition is untimely. ECF No. 12. The Magistrate Judge advised Petitioner of the procedures and requirements for filing objections to the Report and Recommendation and the serious consequences if he failed to do so. Petitioner filed objections to the Report on July 1, 2019. ECF No. 14.

         Standard

         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 Mathews v. Weber, 423 U.S. 261 (1976). The court is charged with making a de novo determination of any portion of the Report and Recommendation 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).

         Discussion

         The Report recommends dismissal for failure to prosecute, or in the alternative because the statute of limitations bars Petitioner's claims and Petitioner has demonstrated no grounds for equitable tolling. ECF No. 12.

         Petitioner's objections argue his Petition is not untimely. ECF No. 14. He sets forth the following timeline:

• June 20, 2012 - Direct Appeal denied[1]
• May 30, 2013 - PCR application filed in Richland County Court of Common Pleas
• March 3, 2016 - PCR denied
• March 9, 2016 - PCR Notice of Appeal filed
• November 17, 2016 - PCR Petition for Writ of Certiorari ...

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