Spellman v. South Carolina, State of
ORDER adopting Report and Recommendations of Magistrate Judge Bristow Marchant; granting 18 Motion for Summary Judgment; denying Petitioner's motion for summary judgment; DISMISSING the habeas petition. Certificate of appealability is denied. Signed by Honorable Richard M Gergel on 2/13/2017.(cwhi, )
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE DISTRICT OF SOUTH CAROLINA
Reginald Spellman, #316802
Warden of Kershaw Correctional
This matter comes before the Court on the Report and Recommendation (R & R) of the
Magistrate Judge (Dkt. No. 25). The R & R recommends that Petitioner's Motion for Summary
Judgment (Dkt. No. 21) be denied, Respondent's Motion for Summary Judgment (Dkt. No. 18)
be granted, and the habeas petition be dismissed.
For the reasons stated below, the Court
ADOPTS the R & R, DENIES Petitioner's Motion for Summary Judgment, GRANTS
Respondent's Motion for Summary Judgment, and DISMISSES the habeas petition.
In December 2010, a Richland County Grand Jury indicted Petitioner for assault with
intent to commit criminal sexual conduct (CSC) with a minor, first degree. (Dkt. No. 17-2 at
183). Petitioner was represented by Reynolds Blankenship and Prentiss Shealy, and proceeded
to a jury trial on January 9, 2012. After a 5-day trial, the jury returned a guilty verdict. (Dkt.
No. 17-2 at 24--26). Petitioner's sentencing was deferred because the trial judge fell ill the day
the jury returned a verdict. (Dkt. No. 17-2 at 27-29).
On February 2, 2012, an on-the-record in camera chambers discussion between the trial
judge and a juror took place to address the juror's mid-deliberations disclosure to her fellow
jurors that she had been sexually molested as a child. (Okt. No. 17-2 at 31-45). The juror did
not disclose this information during the jury qualification process or voir dire, and believed that
her disclosure convinced three jurors that Petitioner was guilty. (Okt. No. 17-2 at 40).
Although Petitioner's counsel did not file a motion for a mistrial, the Judge indicated that
he was not inclined to grant a mistrial because he believed the juror's voir dire omission was
unintentional. (Okt. No. 17-2 at 49). The parties consented to set aside the guilty verdict and
reached a negotiated plea agreement in which Petitioner would waive presentment to the grand
jury on a charge of lewd act upon a minor, plead guilty, and receive a 15-year sentence, which
was the maximum charge available. (Okt. No. 17-2 at 48-55). On February 27, 2012, the trial
judge accepted the plea and sentenced Petitioner to 15 years with credit for time served. (Okt.
No. 17-2 at 53).
Petitioner filed a pro se notice of appeal. (Okt. No. 17-3) Upon direction by the court,
Petitioner filed a pro se Rule 203( d)( 1)(B)(iv) explanation further stating the basis for his appeal.
(Okt. No. 17-4). Petitioner's trial and plea counsel notified the Court of Appeals that he believed
the record contained no appealable issues (Okt. No. 17-7), and on February 2, 2013, the South
Carolina Court of Appeals found that Petitioner had failed to provide a sufficient explanation as
required by S.c. App. R. 203(d)(1)(B)(iv) and dismissed his appeal. (Okt. No. 17-8). The South
Carolina Court of Appeals sent the remittitur to the Richland County Clerk of Court on March
28,2013. (Okt. No. 17-9).
On June 24, 2013, Petitioner filed an application for post-conviction relief (PCR) raising
the following issues: "(A) Ineffective Assistance of Counsel; (B) Oid not knowingly or
intelligently plead gUilty; [and] (C) Coerced into plea of guilty." (Okt. No. 17-2 at 62). After an
evidentiary hearing, the PCR court dismissed Petitioner's application in its entirety on February
Petitioner timely filed a notice of appeal, and his appellate counsel filed a Johnson
petition seeking to be relieved as counsel and raising the following issue: "Did the PCR court err
in failing to find plea counsel ineffective for not insuring that Petitioner Spellman's guilty plea
was entered voluntarily and knowlingly?" (Dkt. Nos. 17-13, 17-14). Petitioner also filed apro se
Johnson petition. (Dkt. No. 17-15). On March 25, 2016, the South Carolina Supreme Court
filed an order denying certiorari and granting appellate counsel's petition to be relieved (Dkt. No.
17-16). The South Carolina Court of Appeals remitted the matter on April 12, 2016. (Dkt. No.
Petitioner filed this Petition for Writ of Habeas Corpus on April 26, 2016. (Dkt. No.1).
Petitioner raises three grounds for relief: (1) "Unknowing and Involuntary Plea due to improper
advice of counsel"; (2) "Ineffective assistance of counsel for a variety of issues"; and (3) "Los[t]
Evidence." (Dkt. No. 22 (narrowing scope of petition in response to Respondent's motion for
The Magistrate Judge found that all of Petitioner's grounds lacked merit and
recommended granting Respondent's motion for summary judgment and dismissing the petition.
(Dkt. No. 25). Petitioner subsequently filed objections (Dkt. Nos. 27, 30).
II. Legal Standard
A. Report & Recommendation
The Magistrate Judge makes only a recommendation to this Court. The recommendation
has no presumptive weight, and the responsibility to make a final determination remains with the
Court. Mathews v. Weber, 423 U.S. 261, 270-71 (1976). The 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).
This Court is charged with making a de novo determination of those
portions of the R & R or specified proposed findings or recommendations to which objection is
made. Diamond v. Colonial Life & Ace. Ins. Co., 416 F.3d 310, 315 (4th Cir. 2005) (quoting 28
U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)); accord Fed. R. Civ. P. 72(b).
As to portions of the R & R to which no specific objection has been made, this Court
"must 'only satisfy itself that there is no clear error on the face of the record in order to accept
the recommendation.'" Id. (quoting Fed. R. Civ. P 72 advisory committee note). Moreover, in
the absence of specific objections to the R & R, the Court need not give any explanation for
adopting the Magistrate Judge's analysis and recommendation. See Camby v. Davis, 718 F.2d
198, 199-200 (4th Cir. 1983).
B. Federal Habeas Review
Petitioner's claims are governed by 28 U.S.c. § 2254(d), which provides that his petition
cannot be granted unless the claims "(I) resulted in a decision that was contrary to, or involved
an unreasonable application of, clearly established Federal law, as determined by the Supreme
Court of the United States; or (2) resulted in a decision that was based on an unreasonable
determination of the facts in light of the evidence presented in the State court proceeding." 28
U.S.C. § 2254(d). "[A] federal habeas court may not issue the writ simply because that court
concludes in its independent judgment that the relevant state-court decision applied clearly
established federal law erroneously or incorrectly.
Rather, that application must also be
unreasonable." Williams v. Taylor, 529 U.S. 362,411 (2000). Importantly, "a determination of
a factual issue made by a State court shall be presumed to be correct," and Petitioner has "the
burden of rebutting the presumption of correctness by clear and convincing evidence." 28
U.S.C. § 2254(e)(I).
C. Habeas Review of Guilty Plea Challenges Based on Ineffective Assistance of Counsel
To successfully challenge the voluntariness of a guilty plea based on ineffective
assistance of counsel, Petitioner must satisfy a two-part test. First, Petitioner "must show that
counsel's representation fell below an objective standard of reasonableness."
Washington, 466 U.S. 668, 687-88 (1984).
Second, Petitioner "must show that there is a
reasonable probability that, but for counsel's errors, he would not have pleaded guilty and would
have insisted on going to trial." Hill v. Lockhart, 474 U.S. 52, 59 (1985).
Petitioner's first ground for relief is that his guilty plea was unknowing due to improper
advice of counsel. In his objections, Petitioner again reiterates that "counsel issued advice to the
Petitioner to the effect [that] there is no defense possible" and "'coerced' the Petitioner into
entering a plea by making threats as to length of sentence verses time from verdict." (Dkt. No.
27 at 4). Petitioner did not raise any specific objections to the Magistrate Judge's findings that
the PCR court's rejection of the first grounds for relief involved neither an unreasonable
application of clearly established federal law, nor a decision based on an unreasonable
determination of the facts in light of evidence presented. The Court finds that the Magistrate
Judge ably and thoroughly summarized the factual and legal issues and appropriately found that
Petitioner's first grounds for relief failed to meet the § 2254(d) standards. Most importantly,
Petitioner failed to show with any reasonable probability that, but for plea counsel's alleged
errors, he would have not pleaded guilty.
See Hill v. Lockhart, 474 U.S. 52, 59 (1985).
Accordingly, the Court adopts the Magistrate Judge's finding on this issue as its own.
Petitioner's second ground for relief is that his trial counsel was ineffective during
various stages of the trial.
Again, Petitioner failed to raise any specific objections to the
Magistrate Judge's findings that the PCR court's rejection of this claim was not contrary to and
did not involve an unreasonable application of clearly established federal law under
§ 2254(d)(I). Because the Magistrate Judge ably and thoroughly summarized the factual and
legal issues and appropriately found that Petitioner's second grounds for relief failed to meet
§ 2254(d)(l)'s standards, the Court adopts the Magistrate Judge's findings on this issue as its
Petitioner's third ground for relief is that the prosecution lost evidence that would have
been favorable to him at trial.
Petitioner did not discuss this ground for relief in his
memorandum in opposition to summary judgment, and he did not discuss it in his objections to
the R & R. The Court now adopts the Magistrate Judge's findings as his own.
The Court ADOPTS the R & R (Dkt. No. 25), GRANTS Respondent's Motion for
Summary Judgment (Dkt. No. 18), DENIES Petitioner's motion for summary judgment (Dkt.
No. 21), and DISMISSES the habeas petition.
Certificate of Appealability
The governing law provides that:
(c)(2) A certificate of appealability may issue ... only if the applicant has made a
substantial showing of the denial of a constitutional right.
(c)(3) The certificate of appealability . . . shall indicate which specific issue or
issues satisfY the showing required by paragraph (2).
28 U.S.C. § 2253(c). A prisoner satisfies the standard by demonstrating that reasonable jurists
would find this Court's assessment of his constitutional claims debatable or wrong and that any
dispositive procedural ruling by the district court is likewise debatable.
See Miller-EI v.
Cockrell, 537 U.S. 322, 336 (2003); Slack v. McDaniel, 529 U.S. 473, 484 (2000); Rose v. Lee,
252 F.3d 676, 683 (4th Cir. 2001). In this case, the legal standard for the issuance of a certificate
of appealability has not been met. Therefore, a certificate of appealability is DENIED.
AND IT IS SO ORDERED.
United States District Court Judge
Charleston, South Carolina
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