Brailsford v. Eagleton et al
ORDER RULING ON REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION 39 . Respondents motion for summary judgement is GRANTED; and Petitioners § 2254 petition is DISMISSED. The Court declines to issue a certificate of appealability in this matter. Signed by Honorable G Ross Anderson, Jr on 11/6/2015. (kric, )
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
DISTRICT OF SOUTH CAROLINA
Warden Willie Eagleton,
C/A No.: 6:15-1800-GRA
This matter comes before this Court for review of United States Magistrate
Judge Kevin McDonald’s Report and Recommendation made in accordance with 28
U.S.C. § 636(b)(1) and Local Civil Rule 73.02(B)(2)(d) DSC, and filed on September
23, 2015. ECF No. 39. Petitioner Ikeef Brailsford (“Petitioner”), an inmate currently in
state custody at MacDougall Correctional Institution, brought this action pursuant to
28 U.S.C. § 2254 on April, 30 2015. ECF No. 1. On July 22, 2015, Respondent
moved for summary judgment.
ECF No. 23.
Magistrate Judge McDonald now
recommends this Court dismiss Petitioner’s § 2254 petition as untimely and grant
Respondent’s motion for summary judgment.
ECF No. 39.
Attached to the
Magistrate Judge’s Report and Recommendation was a notice advising Petitioner of
his right to file objections to the Report and Recommendation within fourteen days of
service. See 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1). Petitioner filed timely objections on October 9,
2015, ECF No. 42, and the matter is now ripe for review.
The Magistrate Judge’s recommendation has no presumptive weight, and the
responsibility to make a final determination remains with this Court.
Weber, 423 U.S. 261, 270–71 (1976). This Court is charged with making a de novo
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determination of those portions of the Report and Recommendation to which specific
objection is made, and this Court may "accept, reject, or modify, in whole or in part,
the findings or recommendations made by the magistrate." 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1). In
the absence of specific objections to the Report and Recommendation, this Court is
not required to give any explanation for adopting the recommendation. Camby v.
Davis, 718 F.2d 198 (4th Cir. 1983).
Petitioner objects that the Magistrate Judge’s Report and Recommendation:
1) misapplies the U.S. Supreme Court’s holding in Martinez v. Ryan to the
Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996’s (“AEDPA’s”) statute of
limitations for § 2254 petitions; 2) misapplies the test for equitable tolling of the
AEDPA’s statute of limitations to the facts of his case; 3) misapplies the South
Carolina Supreme Court’s holding in Robinson v. State to Petitioner’s claim of actual
innocence; and 4) indicates a preference for Respondent over Petitioner by closely
adopting Respondent’s arguments.
Application of Martinez v. Ryan to the AEDPA’s Statute of Limitations
Petitioner first asserts that his § 2254 petition is timely because this Court
should extend the U.S. Supreme Court’s holdings in Martinez v. Ryan and McQuiggin
v. Perkins to the facts of his case. See ECF No. 42 at 1–2. In Martinez, the U.S.
Supreme Court addressed the doctrine of procedural default, which precludes federal
courts from granting habeas relief when state courts have already denied relief based
on a state procedural rule. 132 S. Ct. 1309, 1314 (2012). Specifically, the Court
examined whether procedural default caused by ineffective assistance of counsel at a
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state initial-collateral review proceeding precludes a federal court from reaching the
merits of a habeas petition for ineffective assistance of counsel at trial. Id. at 1315.
The Court found that it does not. Id. at 1320. In McQuiggin, the U.S. Supreme Court
held that actual innocence, if proved, can overcome expiration of the AEDPA’s statute
of limitations or an impediment caused by a procedural bar. 133 S. Ct. 1924, 1928
(2013). Petitioner argues that McQuiggin “paralleled” procedural default and statutes
of limitations, and he essentially urges this Court to intermesh the U.S. Supreme
Court’s reasoning in Martinez and McQuiggin to find that his habeas claims are not
time barred by the AEDPA. See ECF No. 42 at 1–2.
After a careful review of the above cases, this Court finds Petitioner’s
arguments unavailing. The AEDPA’s statute of limitations was designed, at least in
part, to help promote the finality of state court judgments. Rouse v. Lee, 339 F.3d
238, 251 (4th Cir. 2003); see also Duncan v. Walker, 533 U.S. 167, 178 (2001). This
is in keeping with general rules designed to ensure federal habeas courts reviewing
state court judgments accord the judgments “the finality and respect necessary to
preserve the integrity of legal proceedings within our system of federalism.” Martinez,
132 S. Ct. at 1316. The U.S. Supreme Court’s holding in Martinez is a “narrow
exception” grounded in a need to protect state prisoners from scenarios where no
federal or state court is able to hear the prisoner’s underlying habeas claim because
of error by counsel at a state initial-collateral review proceeding. See Martinez, 132
S. Ct. at 1315–16 (“When an attorney errs in initial-review collateral proceedings, it is
likely that no state court at any level will hear the prisoner’s claim . . . . And if
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counsel’s errors . . . do not establish cause to excuse the procedural default in a
federal habeas proceeding, no court will review the prisoner’s claims.”).
Here, no such conundrum exists because Petitioner was not procedurally
barred from pursuing his habeas claims in state court, and indeed, Petitioner received
a full hearing on his habeas claims in a state post-conviction relief action. ECF No.
39 at 2–4. Thus, the U.S. Supreme Court’s reasoning in Martinez is inapplicable to
Petitioner’s AEDPA statute of limitations argument. This determination is not altered
by the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in McQuiggin, which does not “parallel” the
AEDPA’s statute of limitations and procedural default in the broad sense Petitioner
asserts, but rather addresses a narrow exception to the AEDPA’s time bar when a
prisoner presents strong evidence of actual innocence. See McQuiggin, 133 S. Ct. at
Equitable Tolling of the AEDPA’s Statute of Limitations
In his second objection, Petitioner argues that the Magistrate’s Report and
Recommendation misapplies the doctrine of equitable tolling “by the measure of
Holland v. Florida.” In Holland, the U.S. Supreme Court noted that, “a ‘petitioner’ is
‘entitled to equitable tolling’ only if he shows ‘(1) that he has been pursuing his rights
diligently, and (2) that some extraordinary circumstance stood in his way’ and
prevented timely filing [of his habeas petition].” Holland v. Florida, 560 U.S. 631, 649
(2010) (quoting Pace v. DiGuglielmo, 544 U.S. 408, 418 (2005)). However, the Court
also advised lower courts to exercise flexibility when using their equitable powers,
and it encouraged courts to draw from both precedent and traditional notions of
fairness when examining claims. See id. at 649–51. After applying the two-part test
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to Petitioner’s claim, the Magistrate Judge found Petitioner failed to meet the test’s
requirements. ECF No. 39 at 10–11.
Petitioner argues that his § 2254 petition was delayed because his postconviction relief attorney had to conduct an investigation into his trial attorney’s
activities before filing his state post-conviction relief appeal, ECF No. 42 at 3, and
adjudication of his state claim was required before filing a federal habeas petition.
According to Petitioner, the dynamics of the claims raised coupled with the
investigation constitute an “extraordinary circumstance.” Id. Moreover, Petitioner
asserts his unfamiliarity with the law prevented him from filing a state post-conviction
relief appeal without aid of counsel, which further delayed eventual filing of his federal
habeas petition. See id. at 2. To support his arguments, Petitioner again cites to
Martinez v. Ryan, contending it establishes that “an adequate attorney is needed for a
prisoner to vindicate a substantial ineffective-assistance-of-trial claim and those
claims depend on ‘investigative work’ where often the evidence is ‘outside the trial
record.”’ Id. (citing Martinez, 132 S. Ct. at 1318).
After reviewing the record and applicable law, this Court finds Petitioner’s
objection is without merit. Petitioner ‘“bears a strong burden to show specific facts’
that demonstrate he fulfills both elements of the test” outlined in Holland. Lawrence
v. Warden of Kirkland Corr. Inst., No. 5:12-3054-TMC, 2013 WL 6054486, at *1
(D.S.C. Nov. 15, 2013) (quoting Yang v. Archuleta, 525 F.3d 925, 928 (10th Cir.
As a general rule, unfamiliarity with the legal process and lack of legal
representation do not warrant equitable tolling. Edens v. Eagleton, No. 5:12-3427SB, 2014 WL 692872, at *3 (D.S.C. Feb. 21, 2014). Further, although post-conviction
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relief counsel may have needed to conduct some investigation into the activities of
Petitioner’s trial counsel, this Court agrees with the Magistrate Judge’s determination
that extended investigation was not required for Petitioner to file his state postconviction relief application.
ECF No. 39 at 11.
In short, Petitioner fails to
demonstrate that the delay in filing his state post-conviction relief application and
eventually his § 2254 petition was the result of anything other than his own apathy.
Thus, this is not one of those “rare instances where—due to circumstances external
to the party’s own conduct—it would be unconscionable to enforce the limitation
period against [Petitioner].” See Harris v. Hutchinson, 209 F.3d 325, 330 (4th Cir.
2000); see also Jones v. South Carolina, No. 4:05-2424-CMC, 2006 WL 1876543, at
*3 (D.S.C. June 30, 2006) (“Other courts addressing equitable tolling have found that
‘extraordinary circumstances' are not having an inadequate law library, attorney error,
claims of actual innocence, reliance on other inmates' advice, ignorance of the
AEDPA filing deadline, or even (in some instances) petitioner illness.”). Because
Petitioner has failed to prove he pursued his rights diligently or demonstrate that an
extraordinary circumstance prevented him from raising his claims, equitable tolling is
not appropriate in this case.
Actual Innocence and the AEDPA’s Statute of Limitations
Petitioner’s third objection centers on whether he has presented a valid claim
for actual innocence of a third state-narcotics offense.
The crux of Petitioner’s
argument is that he should not have been sentenced as a third-time narcotics
offender because his two prior narcotics offenses were resolved simultaneously in a
plea agreement that classified both offenses as first-time narcotics convictions. ECF
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No. 42 at 3–4.
Petitioner contends that plea agreements must be scrupulously
honored by courts; hence, his sentence as a third-time narcotics offender is
inequitable and contrary to public policy. See id.
If proven, actual innocence may overcome the AEDPA’s statutory time bar.
McQuiggin, 133 S. Ct. at 1928. But tenable actual innocence claims are rare, as a
petitioner must persuade “the district court that, in light of . . . new evidence, no juror,
acting reasonably, would have voted to find him guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.”
Id. The Magistrate’s Report and Recommendation finds Petitioner failed to meet this
threshold because, at his plea hearing, Petitioner stated he was guilty, and Petitioner
has offered no new evidence of innocence. ECF No. 39 at 11. Additionally, the
Report and Recommendation notes that, in Robinson v. State, the South Carolina
Supreme Court found that guilty pleas entered on the same day for multiple narcotics
offenses are considered separate offenses for purposes of sentencing after
subsequent convictions. ECF No. 39 at 12; see also 693 S.E.2d 402, 405 (S.C.
2010). For his part, Petitioner argues that Robinson is distinguishable from his case
because the defendant in Robinson did not enter into a plea agreement classifying
his prior convictions as first-time offenses. ECF No. 42 at 3–4.
Here again, this Court finds Petitioner’s arguments unpersuasive. The facts in
Robinson are slightly different from the facts in Petitioner’s case, but the reasoning
employed by the South Carolina Supreme Court is equally applicable.
indictments for Petitioner’s prior narcotics convictions show that each offense
constituted a separate offense which occurred on different days.
ECF No. 34-1.
Although Petitioner’s plea agreement for his prior narcotics offenses may have
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classified him as a first-time offender for sentencing on those convictions, Petitioner
offers no evidence that the plea agreement consolidated or merged the two offenses
into one offense for purposes of future sentencings after subsequent convictions. See
ECF No. 34-1. And in that regard, Petitioner’s case is like Robinson. A review of
Petitioner’s guilty plea transcript indicates that the judge explained this point to
Petitioner before accepting his guilty plea, and Petitioner stated he understood the
judge’s explanation and wished to plead guilty to a third-state narcotics offense. ECF
No. 22-1 at 9–12. Accordingly, Petitioner has failed to offer new evidence of actual
innocence sufficient to convince this Court that no reasonable juror would vote to find
him guilty of a third-state narcotics offense.
The Magistrate Judge’s Concurrence with Respondent’s Motion
In his final objection, Petitioner argues the Magistrate’s Report and
Recommendation evinces a preference for Respondent over Petitioner because “the
Report of the Magistrate is a direct adaptation of an out of time reply by the
Respondent.” ECF No. 42 at 4. This Court finds no validity to Petitioner’s assertion.
Petitioner filed a response in opposition to Respondent’s motion for summary
judgement on August 24, 2015. ECF No. 26. Under Local Rule 7.07, Respondent
was allowed seven days to reply plus three days for mail time. On September 3,
2015, the Magistrate Judge granted Respondent’s motion for a fourteen day
extension to file the reply. ECF No. 29. Respondent then timely filed a reply on
September 18, 2015. ECF No. 34. Under the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure,
courts have broad discretion to extend deadlines, See Fed. R. Civ. P. 6(b); see also
Carderelli v. Duruttya, No. 5:15-00004, 2015 WL 5430252, at *3 (W.D. Va. Sep. 15,
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2015); therefore, it was not improper for the Magistrate Judge to grant the extension.
Similarities between the Report and Recommendation and Respondent’s arguments
are the result of Respondent’s accurate application of the law rather than
collaboration between the Magistrate Judge and Respondent.
For the reasons stated above and in the Magistrate Judge’s Report and
Recommendation, this Court finds Petitioner’s § 2254 petition untimely.
IT IS THEREFORE ORDERED that the Magistrate Judge’s Report and
Recommendation is adopted and incorporated herein; Petitioner’s objections are
overruled; Respondent’s motion for summary judgement is GRANTED; and
Petitioner’s § 2254 petition is DISMISSED. The Court declines to issue a certificate
of appealability in this matter.1
IT IS SO ORDERED.
G. Ross Anderson, Jr.
Senior United States District Judge
November 6, 2015
Anderson, South Carolina
When a district court issues a final ruling on a habeas petition, the court must issue or deny a
certificate of appealability. See Rule 11(a) of the Rules governing 28 U.S.C. § 2254 & 2255. The
Court has reviewed its order and, pursuant to Rule 11(a), declines to issue a certificate of appealability
as Petitioner has not made a substantial showing of a denial of a constitutional right. 28 U.S.C. §
2253(c)(2); see Slack v. McDaniel, 529 U.S. 473, 484 (2000) (holding that, to satisfy § 2253(c), “a
petitioner must demonstrate that reasonable jurists would find the district court’s assessment of the
constitutional claims debatable or wrong.”).
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