Owens v. Stirling et al
ORDER denying Petitioner's 158 Second Motion for Recusal. Signed by Chief Judge Terry L Wooten on 7/20/2017. (bgoo)
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE DISTRICT OF SOUTH CAROLINA
Case No. 0:16-cv-02512-TLW-PJG
Bryan P. Stirling, Commissioner, South
Carolina Department of Corrections; Joseph
McFadden, Warden, Lieber Correctional
This matter is before the Court on Petitioner’s motion requesting that the undersigned
recuse himself pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §§ 455(a) and (b)(1). ECF No. 158. For the reasons set forth
below, that motion is denied.1
The Court set out the basic background facts in its order denying his prior motion for
Counsel has been appointed to represent Petitioner in this federal habeas matter
arising out of his 1999 conviction and death sentence in Greenville County, South
Carolina. As set forth in the motion, after Petitioner’s February 15, 1999
convictions for death-eligible murder, armed robbery, and use of a weapon during
the commission of a violent offense, he was returned to the Greenville County
Detention Center pending the sentencing phase of the trial. That evening, he killed
a cellmate, and he gave a written confession the following morning. See ECF No.
54 at 8–10. That confession, along with testimony from the pathologist who
conducted the autopsy of the killed inmate, were introduced into evidence at the
sentencing phase of the underlying trial. He was sentenced to death.
In 2001, two years after Petitioner was convicted and sentenced, the family of the
inmate he killed brought a wrongful death and survival claim in the U.S. District
Court against Greenville County and other entities and individuals, generally
asserting that they were liable for failing to protect the decedent from Petitioner.
This is the second motion for recusal that Petitioner has filed. The first was also denied. ECF
Nos. 54, 77.
Lee v. Greenville County, et al., No. 6:01-cv-00427-TLW (D.S.C.). Petitioner was
not a party to the case. After being previously assigned to two other district judges,
the case was ultimately assigned to the undersigned. The undersigned’s
involvement in the case was very limited. Specifically, the undersigned held a
status conference and entered a consent scheduling order, four consent orders
regarding depositions of inmates, and an order substituting counsel. Id., ECF Nos.
36, 37, 38, 39, 40, 41, 45. Before the date set for jury selection, the magistrate
judge held a settlement conference. Id., ECF No. 48. The parties agreed to settle
the case for $600,000, and the magistrate judge entered an order approving the
settlement and entered an order dismissing the case. Id., ECF Nos. 49, 50, 51. The
record does not reflect any involvement by the undersigned in the settlement or
dismissal of the case. The undersigned has no independent recollection of the case
or any contested evidentiary facts related to it.
ECF No. 77 at 1–2.
In Petitioner’s current recusal motion, he asserts that the undersigned’s need to rule on his
objections to the magistrate judge’s denial of his discovery requests related to the above incident
somehow adds an additional basis for recusal.2 See ECF No. 158 at 4–5. There is no merit to this
argument. As explained in the prior recusal order, the undersigned’s limited involvement in that
fifteen-year-old case provides no basis for recusal under 28 U.S.C. § 455 and the relevant case
law. Accordingly, based on the detailed reasons set forth in the prior order and Petitioner’s failure
to set forth any substantive new basis for recusal, his Second Motion for Recusal, ECF No. 158, is
IT IS SO ORDERED.
s/ Terry L. Wooten
Terry L. Wooten
Chief United States District Judge
July 20, 2017
Columbia, South Carolina
The Court will rule on those objections, ECF No. 157, in a separate order.
Disclaimer: Justia Dockets & Filings provides public litigation records from the federal appellate and district courts. These filings and docket sheets should not be considered findings of fact or liability, nor do they necessarily reflect the view of Justia.
Why Is My Information Online?