Holt v. Stirling et al
ORDER RULING ON REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION 24 . The Respondents motion for summary judgment is GRANTED, and Petitioners petition is DISMISSED. A certificate of appealability is denied. Signed by Honorable Timothy M Cain on 3/24/2017. (kric, )
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE DISTRICT OF SOUTH CAROLINA
Quentin J. Holt,
Bryan Stirling and Leroy Cartledge,
Civil Action No. 6:15-4865-TMC
Petitioner Quentin J. Holt (“Holt”), a state prisoner represented by counsel, is seeking
habeas corpus relief pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254. Before the court is the magistrate judge’s
Report and Recommendation (“Report”), recommending that the court grant Respondent’s
motion for summary judgment (ECF No. 16) and dismiss Holt’s petition (ECF No. 24). The
parties were advised of their right to file objections to the Report. (ECF No. 24 at 18). Holt
filed timely objections (ECF No. 28), and Respondents have responded to those objections (ECF
No. 32). Accordingly, this matter is now ripe for review.
The Report has no presumptive weight and the responsibility to make a final
determination remains with this court. See Mathews v. Weber, 423 U.S. 261, 270-71 (1976). In
the absence of objections to the Report, this court is not required to provide an explanation for
adopting the recommendation. See Camby v. Davis, 718 F.2d 198, 199 (4th Cir. 1983). Rather,
“in the absence of a timely filed objection, a district court need not conduct a de novo review,
but instead must only satisfy itself that there is no clear error on the face of the record in order to
accept the recommendation.” Diamond v. Colonial Life & Acc. Ins. Co., 416 F.3d 310, 315 (4th
Cir. 2005) (quoting Fed. R. Civ. P. 72 advisory committee’s note).
I. Background/Procedural History
The magistrate judge sets forth the background and procedural history in detail in his
Report. (Report at 1-7). Briefly, on June 17 and 20, 2009, a confidential informant working
with Georgetown Deputy Sheriff Reginald Grant bought crack cocaine from Holt. The controlled
buys were audio recorded and the confidential informant was searched before and after the buys,
and given the money to purchase the drugs. Deputy Grant and the confidential informant
testified at trial.
After a jury trial on September 20-22, 2010, Holt was convicted of two counts of
distribution of cocaine, third offense. He was sentenced to 25 years imprisonment and fined
$50,000. Holt filed a direct appeal and the South Carolina Court of Appeals affirmed Holt’s
conviction and sentence on April 25, 2012. The remittitur was issued on May 15, 2012. Holt
then filed an application for post-conviction relief (“PCR”) on July 11, 2012. After a hearing,
the PCR court denied Holt relief on February 21, 2104. On September 8, 2014, Holt filed an
appeal of the denial of his PCR application. On December 10, 2014, the South Carolina
Supreme Court denied Holt’s petition for a writ of certiorari. The remittur was issued December
30, 2014. Holt filed a second application for PCR on April 4, 2014. On April 8, 2015, the PCR
court denied the application finding it successive and barred by the statute of limitations. A final
order of dismissal was filed June 25, 2015. Holt filed this habeas petition on December 9, 2015,
raising six grounds for relief.
In his Report, the magistrate judge determined that the petition was untimely by at least a
month and declined to address the issues on the merits. (Report at 10 n.2, 12). The magistrate
judge also determined that Holt was not entitled to the application of equitable tolling. (Report
at 12-17). In addressing the equitable tolling issue, the magistrate judge addressed Holt’s
argument that he was entitled to equitable tolling because he did not receive materials relating to
an alleged Brady/Giglio1 violation until April 15, 2015. Specifically, Holt alleges that the
prosecution violated his rights by failing to disclose Deputy Grant’s personnel file.
Holt sets forth three specific objections to the Report: 1) the magistrate judge erred in
finding this habeas action is time barred and equitable tolling does not apply; 2) the magistrate
judge erred in finding that evidence related to Deputy Grant’s credibility would not have been
admissible at trial; and 3) the magistrate judge erred in failing to address Holt’s other claims
despite finding the petition time-barred. Respondents have filed a response to Holt’s objections.2
As to his first objection, Holt alleges the magistrate judge erred in determining he is not
entitled to equitable tolling “to forgive a mere one-month and four-day delay” when he has been
Brady v. Maryland, 373 U.S. 83 (1963) (holding the government has an obligation to disclose
excuplatory evidence material either to guilt or to punishment); Giglio v. United States, 405
U.S. 150, 154 (1972) (holding criminal defendants have a due process right to be informed of
evidence affecting a government witness's credibility).
The court notes that Respondents have filed a 54-page response that appears to be a re-filing of
a slightly amended version of the memorandum supporting their summary judgment motion. The
response does not specifically address Holt’s objections. Instead, Respondents are merely
repeating their arguments made in support of his summary judgment motion. To allow a party to
simply defer to its original arguments as if the magistrate judge had said nothing adds an
unnecessary layer of review and does not narrow and focus the issues as was intended by the
Federal Magistrates’ Act, 28 U.S.C. § 636. See Howard v. Secretary of Health & Human Servs.,
932 F.2d 505, 509 (6th Cir.1991) (stating that where a party files a general objection, “[t]he
district court's attention is not focused on any specific issues for review, thereby making the
initial reference to the magistrate useless,” and results in a “duplication of time and effort [that]
wastes judicial resources rather than saving them, and runs contrary to the purposes of the
Magistrates Act.”). While this reasoning is usually directed at objections, the court believes it
applies equally to responses to objections. The instant response is simply not helpful and not
responsive to Holt’s specific objections.
diligently pursuing his rights. (Objections at 2, 3).3 Specifically, Holt alleges the magistrate
judge mischaracterizes the issue by stating that Holt did not file this habeas petition until eight
months after receiving the personnel file regarding Deputy Grant. Id. He argues he has been
diligently pursuing his rights. Id. Holt states that courts are empowered to equitably toll the
statute of limitations for habeas petitions, and he cites to several cases where the court has done
so. (Objections at 3). Finally, Holt contends that he is actually innocent and thus entitled to
equitable tolling. Id.
In cases subject to the AEDPA, the Fourth Circuit has underscored that there are very
limited circumstances where equitable tolling will be permitted. The Fourth Circuit has held that
a habeas petitioner “is only entitled to equitable tolling if he presents (1) extraordinary
circumstances, (2) beyond his control or external to his own conduct, (3) that prevented him
from filing on time.” Rouse v. Lee, 339 F.3d 238, 246 (4th Cir. 2003) (en banc). Thus, rarely
will circumstances warrant equitable tolling of the AEDPA limitations period.
[A]ny invocation of equity to relieve the strict application of a statute of
limitations must be guarded and infrequent, lest circumstances of individualized
hardship supplant the rules of clearly drafted statutes. To apply equity generously
would loose the rule of law to whims about the adequacy of excuses, divergent
responses to claims of hardship, and subjective notions of fair accommodation.
We believe, therefore, that any resort to equity must be reserved for those rare
instances where - due to circumstances external to the party's own conduct - it
The statute of limitations for federal habeas claims is governed by the Anti-terrorism and
Effective Death Penalty Act (“AEDPA”). 28 U.S.C. § 2244(d)(1)(A),(d)(2). The statute provides
that a petitioner must file his federal habeas claim within one year following the conclusion of
direct review, or expiration of the time allowed to seek direct review. 28 U.S.C. §
2244(d)(1)(A). The statute also states that the time during which a state PCR proceeding is
pending shall not be counted. 28 U.S.C. § 2244(d)(2). Thus, if a petitioner seeks state
post-conviction relief, “the running of the period is suspended for the period when state
post-conviction proceedings are pending in any state court.” Harris v. Hutchinson, 209 F.3d 325,
327 (4th Cir. 2000). Holt does not object to the magistrate judge’s determination that his petition
was not timely filed. Rather, he contends that he is entitled to equitable tolling.
would be unconscionable to enforce the limitation period against the party and
gross injustice would result.
Harris v. Hutchinson, 209 F.3d 325, 330 (4th Cir. 2000). See Bogan v. South Carolina, 204 Fed.
App'x 160, 160-61 (4th Cir. 2006) (“Recourse to equitable tolling must be guarded and
infrequent. Consequently, equitable tolling is appropriate only when the government's wrongful
conduct prevents a petitioner from filing a timely petition or when extraordinary circumstances
beyond the petitioner's control make timely filing impossible.”).
As noted above, Holt states that courts are empowered to equitably toll the statute of
limitations for habeas petitions, and he cites to several cases where the court has done so.
(Objections at 3). Holt further he has been diligently pursuing his rights. Id.
The court agrees with Holt that courts have the power to equitably toll the statute of
limitations. However, the circumstances of this case simply do not warrant the application of
equitable tolling. None of the cases cited by Holt are from the Fourth Circuit. Moreover, none
are directly analogous to the instant situation and all pre-date the Fourth Circuit Court of
Appeals’ decisions in Rouse and Harris, which espouse the Court’s view that equitable tolling
should be strictly limited to extraordinary circumstances. Moreover, while Holt contends that he
has been diligent in pursuing his rights, he does not state any reason, let alone one beyond his
control, as to why he filed this habeas petition late. Instead, he argues he has been diligent in
pursuing his rights because he insisted on a trial, filed a direct appeal, filed for PCR, filed an
appeal after the denial of his PCR application, filed a second PCR application, retained counsel
to perfect his federal habeas petition, and filed an action to obtain documents from the Sheriff’s
Department. (Objections at 2-3). However, as the magistrate judge pointed out, Holt had all the
information he needed to file this habeas petition on April 15, 2015, and yet did not file this
action until eight months later on December 9, 2015, after the statute of limitations had run in
Holt also states that the petition is “a mere one-month and four-days” late. (Objections
at 2). To the extent Holt is arguing that the length of the delay in this case by itself warrants
equitable tolling, the court disagrees. “If 1-day late filings are acceptable, 10-day late filings
might be equally acceptable, and so on in a cascade of exceptions that would engulf the rule
erected by the filing deadline . . . Filing deadlines, like statutes of limitations, necessarily operate
harshly and arbitrarily with respect to individuals who fall just on the other side of them, but if
the concept of a filing deadline is to have any content, the deadline must be enforced.. . . . A
filing deadline cannot be complied with, substantially or otherwise, by filing late - even by one
day.” United States v. Locke, 471 U.S. 84, 100-01 (1985).
Holt also argues that he is entitled to equitable tolling because he alleges he is actually
innocent. (Objections at 3). A federal habeas petitioner may overcome the expiration of the
AEDPA statute of limitations by making a showing of actual innocence. McQuiggin v. Perkins,
133 S.Ct. 1924, 1928-35 (2013).4 When an otherwise time-barred habeas petitioner “presents
evidence of innocence so strong that a court cannot have confidence in the outcome of the trial
unless the court is also satisfied that the trial was free of non-harmless constitutional error,” the
court may consider the petition on the merits. See Schlup v. Delo, 513 U.S. 298, 316 (1995).
Under Schlup, a petitioner may overcome a procedural default or expiration of the statute of
limitations by (1) producing “new reliable evidence [of innocence] - whether it be exculpatory
In order for Holt to establish the existence of a miscarriage of justice sufficient to overcome the
AEDPA's time bar, he must meet the “actual innocence” gateway established in Schlup v. Delo,
513 U.S. 298 (1995).
scientific evidence, trustworthy eyewitness accounts, or critical physical evidence - that was not
presented at trial,” Schlup, 513 U.S. at 324, and (2) showing “that it is more likely than not that
no reasonable juror would have convicted him in light of the new evidence.” Id. at 327. The
Schlup standard permits review only in the “extraordinary” case. Id. at 324.
The Supreme Court, however, has cautioned that “tenable actual-innocence gateway
pleas are rare.” McQuiggin, 133 S.Ct. at 1928. “[A] petitioner does not meet the threshold
requirement unless he persuades the district court that, in light of the new evidence, no juror,
acting reasonably, would have voted to find him guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.” Id. (citing
Schlup, 513 U.S. at 329); see also House v. Bell, 547 U.S. 518, 538 (2006) (emphasizing that the
Schlup standard is demanding and seldom met).
To demonstrate actual innocence, a petitioner must identify “new reliable evidence whether it be exculpatory scientific evidence, trustworthy eyewitness accounts, or critical
physical evidence - that was not presented at trial.” Schlup, 513 U.S. at 324. That evidence
must demonstrate the “ ‘conviction of one who is actually innocent.’ ” Id. at 327 (quoting
Murray v. Carrier, 477 U.S. 478, 496 (1986)). Thus, a “petitioner must show that it is more
likely than not that no reasonable juror would have convicted him in the light of the new
evidence.” Id. Moreover, a petitioner must show factual innocence and not merely legal
Bousley v. United States, 523 U.S. 614, 623 (1998).
Finally, new reliable
evidence of innocence is a “rarity,” Calderon v. Thompson, 523 U.S. 538, 559 (1998), and the
quality of evidence necessary to support a claim of actual innocence “is obviously unavailable in
the vast majority of cases,” Schlup, 513 U.S. at 324.. Holt’s claim of actual innocence does not
even approach the standard necessary to overcome the statute of limitations bar, as described in
McQuiggin and Schlup.
Holt contends the case against him was “extraordinarily weak.” (Objections at 4). He
argues that the “entire case against [him] rests on the testimony of Joe Nathan Lewis,” the
confidential informant who purchased the drugs from Holt. (Objections at 4). Holt, however,
relies on the alleged impeachment evidence of Deputy Grant to support his actual innocence
claim.5 Moreover, the substance of the impeachment evidence as to Deputy Grant far from
exonerates Holt and is hardly “evidence of innocence so strong that a court cannot have
confidence in the outcome of the trial.” McQuiggin, 133 S.Ct. at 1936 (quoting Schlup, 513 U.S.
at 316). At most, any impeachment evidence would have called into question Deputy Grant's
credibility as a witness at trial, and it is well-established that impeachment evidence is
inadequate to establish actual innocence. See Munchinski v. Wilson, 694 F.3d 308, 338 (3d
Cir.2012) (impeachment evidence generally not sufficient to satisfy an actual innocence claim
based on newly discovered evidence (citing Schlup, 513 U.S. at 324)); Hussmann v. Vaughn, 67
F. App'x 667, 668-69 (3d Cir. 2003) (actual innocence not established where two new affidavits
would merely impeach credibility of Commonwealth witness). See also Sawyer v. Whitley, 505
U.S. 333, 349, (1992) (“[L]atter-day evidence brought forward to impeach a prosecution witness
will seldom, if ever, make a clear and convincing showing that no reasonable juror would have
believed the heart of the [witness's] account.”). Moreover, the court agrees with the magistrate
Holt states that the Georgetown Sheriff’s Office refuses to release any information about the
confidential informant. Holt appears to be arguing about information relating to other drug buys
that the confidential informant has performed for the Sheriff’s Office, and not the confidential
informant’s criminal record which was disclosed to the defense and brought out at trial. (ECF
No. 17-1 at 96-98, 123-24, 125).
judge that Grant’s personnel file was not impeachment evidence subject to disclosure pursuant to
Giglio because the incidents in the file do not go to Grant’s credibility.6 And even if they did, as
noted above Holt himself states in his objections (Objections at 4) that the entire trial rested on
the confidential informant’s testimony. Holt has not pointed to the existence of any evidence of
actual innocence of the type sufficient to entitle him to equitable tolling of the statute of
In his second objection, Holt contends that the magistrate judge erred when he found that
the evidence related to Deputy Grant’s credibility would not have been admissible at trial and
failed to consider that the omission of this evidence rendered the trial fundamentally unfair.
(Objections at 10). First, there is no fundamentally unfair exception to a habeas petition barred
by the statute of limitations. Accordingly, Holt’s argument that the non-disclosure of alleged
Brady/Giglio material rendered his trial fundamentally unfair is immaterial except to the extent
The matters in Grants’s personnel file are as follows:
1. In January 2007, Grant was fired from the Georgetown County Sheriff’s Office after he was
found to be have alcohol in his system while he was performing his duties at the Criminal Justice
Academy. Grant admitted he had been drinking. He was eventually rehired.
2. In March 2009, Grant received a written reprimand for not providing medical assistance to a
woman who had been drinking but claimed to have been raped. She indicated she did not want
to press charges and only wanted a ride home.
3.In October 2009, Grant received a written reprimand for giving another officer permission to
drive his police vehicle. Grant knew that the other officer had not been though special driver
training required to operate the vehicle.
4. In May 2010, Grant was placed on leave with pay pending the adjudication of an unspecified
criminal charge. Due to the disposition of the case, Grant was reinstated to full duty on July 9,
(ECF No.3-7 though 9).
that he alleges he is actually innocent and thus entitled to relief from the statute of limitations
pursuant to McQuiggin, 133 S.Ct. at 1928-35.
Additionally, as discussed above, Holt cannot establish actual innocence based on the
alleged Brady/Giglio violation.
As noted above Deputy Grant’s personnel file was not
impeachment evidence subject to disclosure pursuant to Giglio because the incidents in the file
do not go to Grant’s credibility. And even if they did, as Holt himself states in his objections
(Objections at 4), the entire trial rested on the confidential informant’s testimony. United States
v. Bagley, 473 U.S. 667, 682 (1985) (holding that evidence is material only if “there is a
reasonable probability that, had the evidence been disclosed to the defense, the result of the
proceeding would have been different.”). Accordingly, Holt has not shown his actual innocence
or that the outcome would have been different if the prosecution had disclosed the alleged
Brady/Giglio evidence about Deputy Grant.
As to Holt’s third objection, the court finds the magistrate judge did not err in failing to
address the merits of Holt’s grounds for relief. The AEDPA's statute of limitations must be
complied with by a habeas petitioner before a federal court can address the merits of the habeas
petition itself. See Alley v. Janecka, 143 Fed.Appx. 914, 917 n.2 (10th Cir. 2005). A merits
decision is unnecessary where a district court denies a habeas petition on statute-of-limitations
grounds. See Bachman v. Bagley, 487 F.3d 979, 982 (6th Cir. 2007). Because Holt’s habeas
application was untimely, the magistrate judge did not err in declining to address the merits of
Holt’s substantive claims.
After a thorough review of the Report and the record in this case pursuant to the
standards set forth above, the court finds Petitioner's objections are without merit and adopts the
Report. Accordingly, Respondent’s motion for summary judgment (ECF No. 16) is GRANTED,
and Petitioner’s petition is DISMISSED.
In addition, a certificate of appealability will not issue to a prisoner seeking habeas relief
absent “a substantial showing of the denial of a constitutional right.” 28 U.S.C. § 2253(c)(2). A
prisoner satisfies this standard by demonstrating that reasonable jurists would find both that his
constitutional claims are debatable and that any dispositive procedural rulings by the district
court are also debatable or wrong. See Miller-El v. Cockrell, 537 U.S. 322, 336 (2003); Rose v.
Lee, 252 F.3d 676, 683 (4th Cir. 2001). In this case, the court finds that the petitioner has failed
to make a substantial showing of the denial of a constitutional right. Accordingly, the court
declines to issue a certificate of appealability.
IT IS SO ORDERED.
s/Timothy M. Cain
United States District Judge
March 24, 2017
Anderson, South Carolina
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?