APONTE v. ECKARD et al
ORDER THAT UPON DE NOVO REVIEW, PETITIONER'S OBJECTIONS ARE OVERRULED; THE REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION IS APPROVED AND ADOPTED; THE PETITION FOR WRIT OF HABEAS CORPUS IS DISMISSED WITH PREJUDICE; A CERTIFICATE OF APPEALABILITY WILL NOT ISSUE; AND THE CLERK IS DIRECTED TO MARK THIS CASE CLOSED.. SIGNED BY HONORABLE LAWRENCE F. STENGEL ON 2/2/17. 2/3/17 ENTERED AND COPIES MAILED TO PRO SE PETITIONER, E-MAILED TO COUNSEL.(pr, )
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE EASTERN DISTRICT OF PENNSYLVANIA
JAMES ECKARD, et al.,
AND NOW, this 2nd day of February, 2017, upon careful and independent
consideration of the petition for writ of habeas corpus, and after review of the thorough
and well-reasoned Report and Recommendation of United States Magistrate Judge Lynne
A. Sitarski, IT IS HEREBY ORDERED that:
Upon de novo review, petitioner’s objections are OVERRULED;
The report and recommendation is APPROVED and ADOPTED; 1
Petitioner Edwin Aponte brings this pro se petition for writ of habeas corpus pursuant to
28 U.S.C. § 2254. On June 3, 2016, United States Magistrate Judge Lynne A. Sitarski issued a
Report and Recommendation, recommending that the petition be dismissed. Petitioner filed
Objections to the Report and Recommendation on September 8, 2016. For the following reasons,
I will overrule the Objections, approve and adopt the Report and Recommendation, and dismiss
the petition with prejudice without an evidentiary hearing.
I will review de novo the portions of the Report and Recommendation to which petitioner
objects and I 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). Petitioner makes
several objections, which I will address in turn.
First, Petitioner argues that his conviction for murder in the first degree was not
supported by substantial evidence and that the Commonwealth did not prove its case beyond a
reasonable doubt. (Pet.’s Written Objections to the Rep. & Rec. 4 [hereinafter Objections]).
Petitioner’s objection to Judge Sitarski’s well-reasoned and thorough discussion of this claim is
Petitioner next objects to Judge Sitarski’s finding that (1) his claim that a self-defense
The petition for a writ of habeas corpus is DISMISSED with prejudice;
A certificate of appealability WILL NOT ISSUE; and
The Clerk is directed to mark this case CLOSED.
BY THE COURT
/s/ Lawrence F. Stengel
LAWRENCE F. STENGEL, J.
instruction should have been given to the jury is procedurally defaulted, and (2) that none of the
exceptions apply such that the claim may nonetheless be considered. This objection is also
overruled for the same reasons stated in the Report and Recommendation.
In petitioner’s next objection, he misunderstands that, with respect to ground two of the
petition, Judge Sitarski made two distinct findings: first, that petitioner’s claim that the trial court
erred in admitting a letter into evidence is not cognizable on federal habeas review because it
asserts only a violation of state evidentiary rules; and second, that petitioner’s claim of
ineffective assistance of counsel for failure to object to the admission of the letter or to seek a
curative instruction is procedurally defaulted and that petitioner has not shown cause and
prejudice to excuse the default. Accordingly, this objection is overruled.
Next, petitioner asserts that he should have been granted a new trial because his brother
made improper comments in the presence of the jury. The Report and Recommendation
correctly points out that a federal habeas court may not review a claim arising under an alleged
violation of state law and that therefore this claim is non-cognizable. Thus, this objection is also
Petitioner’s objection to Judge Sitarski’s recommendation with respect to ground four is
also overruled. The Report and Recommendation thoroughly explained why Petitioner’s claim
regarding the prosecutor’s statements at closing is non-cognizable and that his constitutional
claims regarding his due process and Sixth Amendment rights are procedurally defaulted.
Petitioner also objects to Judge Sitarski’s recommendation as to his claims of ineffective
assistance of counsel, in which he asserts that his trial counsel was ineffective for failing to
object to a police officer’s testimony on Confrontation Clause grounds, that all of his counsel
were ineffective for failing to raise a claim pursuant to Brady v. Maryland as to witness
Emmanuel Ramos, and that his ineffectiveness claims should be evaluated by taking into
consideration the cumulative errors of counsel. Judge Sitarski thoroughly addressed each of
Petitioner’s claims and explained why the claims of ineffective assistance of counsel should be
denied. Accordingly, Petitioner’s objections as to grounds five, six, and seven are overruled.
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