WOODRUFF v. WILLIAMS et al
ORDER THAT PETITIONER'S OBJECTIONS TO THE REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION ARE OVERRULED; THE REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION IS APPROVED AND ADOPTED; THE PETITION FOR A WRIT OF HABEAS CORPUS IS DENIED WITH PREJUDICE; THERE IS NO PROBABLE CAUSE TO ISSUE A CE RTIFICATE OF APPEALABILITY AND THE CLERK OF COURT SHALL MAKE THIS CASE CLOSED FOR STATISTICAL PURPOSES. SIGNED BY HONORABLE J. WILLIAM DITTER, JR ON 2/15/17. 2/15/17 ENTERED AND COPIES MAILED TO PETITIONER, EMAILED TO COUNSEL AND COPY TO LEGAL.(jaa, )
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE EASTERN DISTRICT OF PENNSYLVANIA
R. SETH WILLIAMS, et al.
February 15, 2017
Upon consideration of the petition for a writ of habeas corpus, the
Commonwealth’s Response, the Report and Recommendation of United States Magistrate
Judge David R. Strawbridge, Petitioner’s objections, and de novo review of the record, I
make the following findings and reach the following conclusions:
Petitioner Metta Woodruff filed a pro se petition for writ of habeas corpus
on February 24, 2014, attacking her 2007 conviction for aggravated assault,
recklessly endangering another person, and possession of an instrument of
crime. On November 30, 2016, Judge Strawbridge issued a Report and
Recommendation concluding that Petitioner’s petition should be denied
because her claims were meritless.1 Petitioner has filed objections arguing
that Judge Strawbridge erred in analyzing her claims that the verdict was
against the weight of the evidence and that she is serving an illegal sentence
Prior to the issuance of his November 2016 Report and Recommendation, Judge
Strawbridge had issued a Report and Recommendation on February 29, 2016, recommending that
Petitioner’s habeas petition be placed in suspense while Petitioner’s appeal was pending in state
court. Petitioner objected to her case being placed in suspense arguing that inordinate delay in
the state court process had rendered exhaustion of her state court remedies futile. On October 19,
2016, after little to no progress was made on Petitioner’s state appeal, I concluded that the appeal
was stalled indefinitely and ordered that Petitioner’s federal habeas claims be addressed on their
pursuant to Alleyne v. United States, 133 S.Ct. 2151 (2013).2
Petitioner first argues that Judge Strawbridge erred in concluding that her
weight of the evidence claim did not merit federal habeas relief. More
specifically, she contends that the Pennsylvania Superior Court did not have
authority to rule on a “weight of the evidence” issue because members of
the appellate court were not present at trial. As Judge Strawbridge properly
determined, however, it is well established that a federal habeas court has
no power to grant habeas corpus relief because it finds that a state
conviction is against the “weight” of the evidence. See Tibbs v. Florida,
457 U.S. 31, 42-45 (1982). Petitioner’s weight of the evidence claim is not
cognizable on federal habeas review.
Petitioner next argues that Judge Strawbridge erred in concluding that
Alleyne, supra, did not apply to her sentence. In Alleyne, the United States
Supreme Court held that any fact that increases the mandatory minimum
sentence for a crime is an “element” of that crime, not a “sentencing
factor,” and thus must be submitted to a jury. Petitioner’s conviction
became final on direct appeal in 2010. Alleyne was decided in 2013 while
Petitioner’s collateral appeal, a properly filed PCRA petition, was pending
in state court. The Third Circuit Court of Appeals has concluded that
Alleyne’s new rule of law does not apply retroactively to cases on collateral
review. United States v. Reyes, 755 F.3d 210, 212 (3d Cir. 2014). Thus,
I retain jurisdiction over this matter even though Petitioner has notified the court that
“on or after January 24, 2017,” she was due to be granted parole and placed on parole
supervision for an additional 80 months. Section 2254 confers jurisdiction on United States
District Courts to entertain petitions for habeas corpus relief only from persons who are “in
custody” in violation of the Constitution or laws or treaties of the United States. 28 U.S.C. §
2254(a). The Supreme Court has interpreted § 2254 as mandating that the petitioner be “in
custody” pursuant to the conviction or sentence he seeks to attack at the time his petition is filed.
See Maleng v. Cook, 490 U.S. 488, 490-92 (1989). The custody requirement has been extended
beyond those “held in actual, physical custody in prison or jail.” Jones v. Cunningham, 371 U.S.
236, 238, 243 (1963) (those on parole are “in custody” for the purposes of federal habeas relief).
The Third Circuit has defined “custody” as the imposition of “‘significant restraints on liberty . . .
not shared by the public generally,’ along with ‘some type of continuing government
supervision.’” Obado v. New Jersey, 328 F.3d 716, 717 (3d Cir. 2003) (per curiam) (citations
omitted). Because Petitioner was “in custody” when she filed the instant petition and because
she remains “in custody” for the duration of her parole, I still have jurisdiction over her habeas
Alleyne does not provide Petitioner with any basis for federal habeas relief.3
Judge Strawbridge’s proposed findings are amply supported by the record.
Moreover, he has carefully and accurately applied the law. As a result, I
will adopt and approve the report and recommendations of the learned
Therefore, I HEREBY ORDER that:
Petitioner’s objections to the Report and Recommendation are
The Report and Recommendation is APPROVED and ADOPTED.
The petition for a writ of habeas corpus is DENIED WITH PREJUDICE.
There is no probable cause to issue a certificate of appealability.
The Clerk of Court shall mark this case closed for statistical purposes.
/s J. William Ditter, Jr.
J. WILLIAM DITTER, JR., J.
In her Objections, filed on December 14, 2016, Petitioner points to the case of
Commonwealth v. Ciccone, 2016 Pa. Super. LEXIS 377 (Pa. Super. July 12, 2016), arguing that
the Pennsylvania Superior concluded that Alleyne applied retroactively. However, on December
13, 2016, the Pennsylvania Superior Court issued an updated opinion in Commonwealth v.
Ciccone, _ A.3d _ , 2016 WL 7693907 (E.D. Pa. Dec. 13, 2016), noting that its previous decision
had been withdrawn and concluding that Alleyne did not apply retroactively.
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