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. 29) recommending
that the Court grant Respondent's motion for summary
judgment (Dkt. No. 21) 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.
Gregory Daniels is an incarcerated person proceeding pro
se to seek habeas corpus relief pursuant to 28 U.S.C.
§ 2254. As the Magistrate Judge comprehensively details,
in 2010 Petitioner was tried and found guilty by a jury of
murder and possession of a weapon during the commission of a
violent crime. (Dkt. No. 29 at 2.) He appealed his conviction
and the South Carolina Supreme Court affirmed. (Id.
at 3.) Petitioner then filed and later amended an application
for post-conviction relief, which the Circuit Court judge
dismissed with prejudice following a hearing, finding in part
that there was overwhelming evidence of guilt in the face of
any contention of ineffective assistance of counsel.
(Id. at 3-4, 19.) Petitioner now petitions for
federal habeas relief on three grounds: (1) should the jury
have not been instructed that it was "acting for the
community"; (2) ineffective assistance of trial and
appellate counsel and Brady violations or other prosecutorial
misconduct; and (3) that the lower court erred in finding
trial counsel did not ineffectively prepare and investigate.
(Dkt. No. 1 at 5-8.) Respondent now moves to dismiss the
petition, to which Petitioner responded in opposition.
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."). Petitioner did not file
any objections to the R & R so the Court reviews it for
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. §
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).
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. § 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 inconsistent with the holding of a prior
decision of the United States Supreme Court.
Harrington, 562 U.S. at 102. "If this standard
is difficult to meet, that is because it was meant to
the petitioner may pursue federal habeas relief to this
standard, he must first exhaust his state court remedies. 28
U.S.C. § 2254(b)(1)(A). The petitioner "must
present his claims to the state's highest court,"
Matthews v. Evatt, 105 F.3d 907, 911 (4th Cir. 1997)
(abrogated on other grounds by United States v.
Barnette, 644 F.3d 192 (4th Cir. 2011)), which requires
the petitioner to have "fairly present[ed] to the state
court both the operative facts and the controlling legal
principles associated with each claim." Longworth v.
Ozmint, 377 F.3d 437, 448 (4th Cir. 2004) (internal
quotation marks omitted). A federal habeas court should not
review the merits of claims that would be found to be
procedurally defaulted or barred under independent and
adequate state procedural rules. Lawrence v. Banker,
517 F.3d 700, 714 (4th Cir. 2008). Rather, for a procedurally
defaulted claim to be properly considered by the federal
habeas court, the petitioner must "demonstrate cause for
the default and actual prejudice as a result of the alleged
violation of federal law, or demonstrate that failure to
consider the claims will result in a fundamental miscarriage
of justice." Coleman v. Thompson, 501 U.S. 722,