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Nimmons v. Warden Lieber Correctional Institution

United States District Court, D. South Carolina, Anderson/Greenwood Division

August 15, 2019

Juan Mickell Nimmons, a/k/a Juan M. Nimmons, Petitioner,
Warden Lieber Correctional Institution, Respondent.


          Joseph F. Anderson, Jr. United States District Judge.


         Petitioner Juan Mickell Nimmons, a/k/a Juan M. Nimmons (“Petitioner”), a state prisoner proceeding pro se, filed a petition seeking habeas corpus relief pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254 (“Petition”) on July 13, 2018.[1] (ECF No. 1). Petitioner is currently confined at Lieber Correctional Institution in Dorchester County, South Carolina. (ECF No. 34 at 2). On November 13, 2018, Respondent Warden Lieber Correctional Institution (“Respondent”) filed a return and memorandum to the Petition along with a Motion for Summary Judgment (“Motion”). (ECF Nos. 20, 21). After reviewing the pleadings, the Magistrate Judge assigned to this action[2] prepared a thorough Report and Recommendation (“Report”) (ECF No. 34) and recommends that the Motion (ECF No. 21) be granted and that the Petition (ECF No. 1) be denied. (ECF No. 34). The Report sets forth, in detail, the relevant facts and standards of law on this matter, and this Court incorporates those facts and standards without a recitation. (ECF No. 34).

         The Report was filed on February 19, 2019 and Petitioner was advised of his right to file objections to the Report by March 5, 2019. (ECF Nos. 34, 34-1). Petitioner's Objections were filed on March 6, 2019 (ECF No. 37) and the Court accepts his filing pursuant to Rule 6(d) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure.[3] Accordingly, the Motion is ripe for review. The Court also considers Petitioner's two subsequent motions for immediate release. (ECF Nos. 41, 46).


         A district court is required to conduct a de novo review only of the specific portions of the Magistrate Judge's Report to which objections are made. See 28 U.S.C. § 636(b); Fed.R.Civ.P. 72(b); see also Carniewski v. W.Va. Bd. of Prob. & Parole, 974 F.2d 1330 (4th Cir. 1992). In the absence of specific objections to portions of the Report, the Court is not required to give an explanation for adopting the Report. See Camby v. Davis, 718 F.2d 198, 199 (4th Cir. 1983). Thus, the Court must only review those portions of the Report to which Petitioner has made specific written objections. Diamond v. Colonial Life & Acc. Ins. Co., 416 F.3d 310, 316 (4th Cir. 2005).

         “An objection is specific if it ‘enables the district judge to focus attention on those issues- factual and legal-that are at the heart of the parties' dispute.'” Dunlap v. TM Trucking of the Carolinas, LLC, No. 0:15-cv-04009-JMC, 2017 WL 6345402, at *5 n.6 (D.S.C. Dec. 12, 2017) (citing One Parcel of Real Prop. Known as 2121 E. 30th St., 73 F.3d 1057, 1059 (10th Cir. 1996)). A specific objection to the Magistrate Judge's Report thus requires more than a reassertion of arguments from the Complaint or a mere citation to legal authorities. See Workman v. Perry, No. 6:17-cv-00765-RBH, 2017 WL 4791150, at *1 (D.S.C. Oct. 23, 2017). A specific objection must “direct the court to a specific error in the magistrate's proposed findings and recommendations.” Orpiano v. Johnson, 687 F.2d 44, 47 (4th Cir. 1982).

         “Generally stated, nonspecific objections have the same effect as would a failure to object.” Staley v. Norton, No. 9:07-0288-PMD, 2007 WL 821181, at *1 (D.S.C. Mar. 2, 2007) (citing Howard v. Sec'y of Health and Human Servs., 932 F.2d 505, 509 (6th Cir. 1991)). The Court reviews portions “not objected to-including those portions to which only ‘general and conclusory' objections have been made-for clear error.” Id. (emphasis added) (citing Diamond, 416 F.3d at 315; Camby, 718 F.2d at 200; Orpiano, 687 F.2d at 47).

         Where an objection is “nonspecific, unrelated to the dispositive portions of the Magistrate Judge's Report and Recommendation, or merely restate[s] . . . claims, ” the Court need not conduct any further review of that objection. Field v. McMaster, 663 F.Supp.2d 449, 452 (D.S.C. 2009); see also McNeil v. S.C. Dept. of Corrections, No. 5:12-2880-MGL, 2013 WL 1102881, at *1 (D.S.C. Mar. 15, 2013) (finding petitioner's objections to be without merit where the objections were “non-specific, unrelated to the dispositive portions of the Magistrate Judge's Report, and consist[ed] of a reassertion of the arguments” made in the petition); Arbogast v. Spartanburg Cty., No. 07:11-cv-00198-GRA, 2011 WL 5827635, at *2 (D.S.C. Nov. 17, 2011) (finding that plaintiff's objections were not specific where the objections were “general and conclusory in that they merely reassert[ed] that his conviction was wrongful.”).


         In his habeas corpus petition, Petitioner raises the following grounds for relief: 1) the PCR Court erred in denying Petitioner's fourth PCR application because Petitioner met the five-factor test to support the grant of a new trial based on after-discovered evidence of a post-trial confession by another person; and 2) Petitioner's PCR counsel was ineffective for failing to request funds for, and failing to order, DNA tests to be performed on a bloody shirt. (ECF No. 34 at 6). The Magistrate Judge concludes that both of Petitioner's arguments are unavailing and recommends this Court grant Respondent's Motion. (ECF No. 34 at 18).

         Additionally, after filing his Objections, Petitioner filed two motions for immediate release that are substantially the same. (ECF Nos. 41, 46). The Court reviews the those motions herein following its analysis of Respondent's Motion.

         A. Ground 1

          In Ground 1, Petitioner seeks federal habeas corpus relief due to the PCR court's alleged error in denying Petitioner's fourth PCR application under the five-factor test to support grant of a new trial based on after-discovered evidence, but the Magistrate Judge recommends granting summary judgment on that ground for two reasons. (ECF No. 34 at 16-17). First, as argued in Respondent's Motion, this ground is not cognizable on federal habeas corpus review because it relies on the application of state court law, which this Court cannot review. (ECF No. 34 at 16) (quoting Pulley v. Harris, 465 U.S. 37, 41 (1984) (“A federal court may not issue the writ on the basis of a perceived error of state law . . . .”). Secondly, to the extent Petitioner attempts to assert a freestanding claim of actual innocence, such claim is not a cognizable ground for federal habeas relief. (ECF No. 34 at 17-18) (citing Smith v. Warden, No. 4:16-4008-TLW-TER, 2017 WL 6016575, at *13 (D.S.C. Oct. 12, 2017), Report ...

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