Searching over 5,500,000 cases.


searching
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.

Walters v. Martin

United States District Court, N.D. West Virginia

September 12, 2019

JOHN WALTERS, Petitioner,
v.
MICHAEL MARTIN, Warden, Huttonsville Correctional Center, [1] Respondent.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER AFFIRMING AND ADOPTING REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION OF MAGISTRATE JUDGE AND OVERRULING PETITIONER'S OBJECTIONS

          FREDERICK P. STAMP, JR. UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         I. Background

         The petitioner, John Walters (“Walters”), acting pro se, [2] filed a petition (ECF No. 1) under 28 U.S.C. § 2254 for writ of habeas corpus by a person in state custody. Walters is currently incarcerated in the Huttonsville Correctional Center in Huttonsville, Randolph County, West Virginia, serving consecutive terms imposed on March 25, 2013 of forty (40) years for robbery, two to ten (2-10) years for malicious assault and an additional one to fifteen (1-15) years for burglary following his January 2013 guilty plea in the Circuit Court of Berkeley County, West Virginia. ECF No. 26-22.

         This civil action was referred to the United States Magistrate Judge James E. Seibert for initial review and report and recommendation pursuant to Local Rule of Prisoner Litigation Procedure 2 and then reassigned to United States Magistrate Judge James P. Mazzone. The magistrate judge determined summary dismissal was not warranted and the respondent was directed to show cause why the petition should not be granted. ECF No. 10. On July 6, 2018, the respondent filed an amended answer which acknowledged that the petition was timely filed (ECF No. 41) and thereafter, filed a supplemental response (ECF No. 49) and a motion for summary judgment addressing the merits of the petition. ECF No. 50. A Roseboro notice was issued (ECF No. 52) and the petitioner filed a response to the motion for summary judgment. ECF No. 57. The respondent filed a reply in support of the motion (ECF No. 59), and the petitioner filed a sur-reply. ECF No. 65.

         The magistrate judge then entered a report and recommendation (ECF No. 69) recommending that petitioner's § 2254 petition (ECF No. 1) be denied, the respondent's motion for summary judgment (ECF No. 50) be granted, and this matter be dismissed with prejudice. ECF No. 69 at 27. The magistrate judge determined that the Supreme Court of Appeals of West Virginia's resolution of the petitioner's state habeas claim was a reasonable application of federal law, and the petitioner has failed to establish that he is entitled to relief. Id. at 26. Specifically, the magistrate judge found that the analysis of the Supreme Court of Appeals of West Virginia in determining Walters has not satisfied the “prejudice prong” under Strickland v. Washington, 466 U.S. 668 (1984), like the analysis of the Circuit Court of Berkeley County, was wholly appropriate. Id.

         Following two orders granting extensions of time (ECF Nos. 72 and 75), the petitioner filed his objections to the report and recommendation. ECF No. 77. In his objections, the petitioner reiterates the argument previously asserted in his response in opposition to the motion for summary judgment that his counsel's performance was deficient. Id. at 1. Petitioner also generally asserts that the Supreme Court of Appeals of West Virginia's application of Strickland was unreasonable and that his trial counsel's actions meet the prejudice prong of Strickland and Missouri v. Frye, 132 S.Ct. 1399 (2012). Id. at 3-4.

         II. Applicable Law

         Under 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(C), this Court must conduct a de novo review of any portion of the magistrate judge's recommendation to which objection is timely made. Because the petitioner filed objections to the report and recommendation, the magistrate judge's recommendation will be reviewed de novo as to those findings to which objections were made. As to those findings to which objections were not filed, those findings and recommendations will be upheld unless they are “clearly erroneous or contrary to law.” 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(A).

         III. Discussion

         This Court's review of this habeas corpus petition is governed by the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996 (“AEDPA”), 28 U.S.C. § 2254. A federal habeas court may only consider whether a person is in custody pursuant to a state court judgment “in violation of the Constitution or laws or treaties of the United States.” 28 U.S.C. § 2254(a). The AEDPA requires federal courts to apply a “highly deferential standard” when conducting habeas corpus review of state court decisions and “demands that state-court decisions be given the benefit of the doubt.” Renico v. Lett, 559 U.S. 766, 773, 130 S.Ct. 1855, 176 L.Ed.2d 678 (2010) (internal quotation marks and citations omitted). When an issue raised in a petitioner's habeas petition has been litigated before the state court on appeal, a petitioner is entitled to habeas corpus relief only if he can show the state court adjudication “resulted in a decision that was contrary to, or involved an unreasonable application of, clearly established Federal law, as determined by the Supreme Court of the United States” or “resulted in a decision that 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).

         Section 2254 requires a federal court to presume the correctness of a state court factual findings and only overturn them when an error is “stark and clear.” Cagle v. Branker, 520 F.3d. 320, 324-25 (4th Cir. 2008). A federal court may not characterize the state court factual determinations as unreasonable “merely because [it] would have reached a different conclusion in the first instance.” Wood v. Allen, 588 U.S. 290, 301 (2010). Instead, § 2254(d)(2) requires that the federal courts accord the state trial court substantial deference. Brumfield v. Cain, 135 S.Ct. 2269 (2015).

         In order for the petitioner to satisfy the two-prong test set forth in Strickland for claims of ineffective assistance of counsel, the petitioner must show that: (1) counsel's performance fell below an objective standard of reasonableness; and (2) counsel's performance prejudiced the defendant. United States v. Basham, 789 F.3d 358, 371 (4th Cir. 2015) (citing Strickland v. Washington, 466 U.S. 668, 687 (1984)).

         The incident giving rise to the petitioner's instant claim occurred during the course of petitioner's underlying criminal proceedings when petitioner learned that a more lenient and pre-indictment March 9, 2012 plea offer was mishandled by the public defender's office. It is not disputed that this plea offer was not conveyed to petitioner until it was discovered by petitioner's appointed counsel, Thomas L. Stanley, and disclosed to petitioner in July 2012 after it had expired and after the state had made a less favorable offer. This Court notes that the parties do not dispute, and the Supreme Court of Appeals of West Virginia held, that petitioner's counsel provided deficient representation by not relaying the March 9, 2012 plea offer. However, the Supreme Court of Appeals of West Virginia determined, and the respondent asserts here, that petitioner cannot satisfy the second prong of the Strickland standard as he was not prejudiced.

         Thus, the sole issue before this Court is whether the Supreme Court of Appeals of West Virginia's application of the “prejudice prong” of the Strickland ...


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.