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Desaussure v. Warden of Lieber Correctional Institution

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

September 19, 2019

Alonda Barren Desaussure, Petitioner,
Warden of Lieber Correctional Institution, Respondent.


          Bruce Howe Hendricks United States District Judge.

         This matter is before the Court for review of the Report and Recommendation entered by United States Magistrate Judge Mary Gordon Baker on May 15, 2019 (“Report”). (ECF No. 39.) In accordance with 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(B) and Local Rule 73.02 for the District of South Carolina, this case was referred to Magistrate Judge Baker to review Petitioner Alonda Barren Desaussure’s (“Petitioner”) 28 U.S.C. § 2254 petition for habeas relief, to handle pretrial matters, and to submit findings and recommendations to the Court. In her Report, the Magistrate Judge recommends that Respondent Warden of Lieber Correctional Institution’s (“Respondent”) motion for summary judgment (ECF Nos. 25 & 26) be granted. (See ECF No. 39 at 2.) The Report sets forth in detail the relevant facts and standards of law, and the Court incorporates them here without recitation.[1]


         The Magistrate Judge entered her Report on May 15, 2019, recommending that Defendant’s motion for summary judgment (ECF Nos. 25 & 26) be granted, that Petitioner’s habeas petition (ECF No. 1) be dismissed with prejudice, and that a certificate of appealability be denied. (ECF No. 39 at 29.) Petitioner filed objections on June 3, 2019. (ECF No. 44.) The matter is ripe for consideration and the Court now makes the following ruling.


         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 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). In the absence of a 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.” Diamond v. Colonial Life & Acc. Ins. Co., 416 F.3d 310, 315 (4th Cir. 2005).


         The Court declines to repeat the cogent analysis of the Magistrate Judge with regard to every aspect of each Ground for relief and will confine its analysis of the Report to those portions about which Defendant raises an objection.

         A. Exhaustion of State Court Remedies

         The Magistrate Judge found that Petitioner failed to raise his claims of ineffective assistance of counsel under Grounds One, Two, Three, Five, and Seven during his state court post-conviction (“PCR”) proceedings, and, as a result the PCR court did not have the opportunity to adjudicate the facts and law relating to those Grounds. (See ECF No. 39 at 9.) Nevertheless, viewing all inferences in the light most favorable to Petitioner, the Magistrate Judge found that Petitioner proffered a basis for excusing the default under Martinez v. Ryan, 566 U.S. 1 (2012), and the Magistrate Judge proceeded to the second step of the Martinez analysis for Grounds One, Two, Three, Five, and Seven in order to determine whether those Grounds have merit. 566 U.S. at 13 (“To overcome the default, a prisoner must also demonstrate that the underlying ineffective-assistance-of-trial-counsel claim is a substantial one, which is to say that the prisoner must demonstrate that the claim has some merit.”)

         Petitioner first objects by stating that he has “technically satisfied the exhaustion requirement” because “he does not have any state court remedies available to him, ” “any future PCR filing will be barred as successive, ” and “any future PCR application may be untimely under the one-year statute of limitations governing the filing of PCR action[s].” (ECF No. 44 at 7 (citations omitted).) Consequently, Petitioner argues, “[t]his petition should not be dismissed in order to pursue available state remedies as there are none.” (Id.) Petitioner advances a series of conclusory arguments for why his PCR counsel’s representation was objectively unreasonable under the standard established by the U.S. Supreme Court in Strickland v. Washington, 466 U.S. 668 (1984), why a fundamental miscarriage of justice will occur if his claims are not heard, and why genuine issues of material fact exist which warrant an evidentiary hearing. (See ECF No. 44 at 7–11.)

         Petitioner’s arguments in this regard do not actually challenge any of the Magistrate Judge’s conclusions regarding whether his ineffective assistance of counsel claims in Grounds One, Two, Three, Five, and Seven were properly exhausted. Nor do they point the Court to any specific error in the Magistrate Judge’s analysis regarding whether those claims are substantial in the relevant sense. Accordingly, the Court finds that Petitioner’s objections regarding exhaustion of his state court remedies are inapposite and the objections are overruled.

         B. General Objections

         Petitioner next objects to the Magistrate Judge’s Report “because the state court’s findings are dressed in a presumption of correctness.” (Id. at 11.) He requests that this Court “determine that his conviction was based on an unreasonable determination of the facts in light of the evidence presented in the PCR hearing, ” and urges that “[t]his Court can disagree with a state court’s credibility determination and when guided by AEDPA, conclude the decision was unreasonable.” (Id. at 12.) Petitioner repeatedly asserts that the PCR court either misapprehended the evidence presented or rendered mistaken factual findings due to a mistaken view of the record, but he fails to specify any supposed misapprehension or source of mistake. (Id. at 13–14.) In an abundance of caution, the Court has conducted de novo review, found these general objections to be without merit, and hereby overrules the objections accordingly. See Orpiano v. Johnson, 687 F.2d 44, 47 (4th ...

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