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Smith v. Cooper

United States District Court, W.D. North Carolina, Charlotte Division

March 4, 2014

DAVID L. SMITH, Petitioner,
v.
ROY COOPER, Respondent.[1]

ORDER

ROBERT J. CONRAD, Jr., District Judge.

THIS MATTER is before the Court on consideration of Respondent's motion for summary judgment on the claims presented by Petitioner in his petition for a writ of habeas corpus, filed pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254. For the reasons that follow, Respondent's motion for summary judgment will be granted and Petitioner's Section 2254 petition will be denied and dismissed.

I. BACKGROUND

Petitioner is presently a prisoner of the State of North Carolina who was sentenced in Mecklenburg County Superior Court on May 4, 2011, following his entry of guilty pleas to one charge of attaining the status of habitual felon and one charge of possession of stolen goods. Petitioner's counsel negotiated a plea agreement with the State in advance of the sentencing hearing. In exchange for his agreement to plead guilty to the above charges, the State would agree to dismiss five additional charges and the parties agreed to a sentence of 87-114 months.

During his plea hearing, Petitioner was present with counsel and placed under oath. Petitioner acknowledged that his lawyer had explained the nature and elements of each charge and that he was satisfied with his attorney's services. Petitioner averred that he understood the elements of the charges and the potential penalties were explained by the Court. On the habitual felon charge, Petitioner faced a maximum term of 228 months' imprisonment, and on the possession of stolen goods charge he faced a maximum term of 30-months. Petitioner averred that he understood that he could elect to plead not guilty and face a jury trial where the State would have the burden of proving his guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. Petitioner admitted that he was pleading guilty pursuant to the terms of the plea agreement which expressly provided that he agreed to admit his status as a habitual felon and that the parties agreed that he would be sentenced to a term in the mitigated range of 87-114 months. Petitioner's pleas of guilty were accepted after the Court found that they were knowingly and voluntarily entered. Petitioner, Petitioner's counsel and the State signed the plea agreement and it was accepted by the Court. Petitioner was sentenced in accordance with the terms of the plea agreement. (Doc. No. 7-2: Transcript of Plea; Doc. No. 7-3: Judgment and Commitment).

On December 20, 2011, Petitioner filed a motion for appropriate relief (MAR) in the Mecklenburg County Superior Court.[2] In the MAR, Petitioner challenges the legality of his conviction on the charge for possession of stolen goods contending that the indictment failed to properly allege each element of the crime. Petitioner argued that the indictment contained a "fatal flaw" and his conviction on that charge should be vacated. (Doc. No. 13: MAR). On December 23, 2011, the superior court summarily denied the MAR. (Doc. No. 14). Apparently Petitioner was unaware that the state court denied his MAR and he later filed a petition for a writ of mandamus with the court of appeals seeking an order forcing the superior court to act on his MAR that was later denied. (Doc. Nos. 5 and 7).

In this federal habeas proceeding, Petitioner raises several claims of ineffective assistance of counsel which will be addressed in turn below. The State has responded to the § 2254 petition and raises several defenses in support of summary dismissal. The Court notified Petitioner, pursuant to Roseboro v. Garrison , 528 F.2d 309 (4th Cir. 1975), of his obligation in responding to the motion for summary judgment and he was provided thirty days to file a response. (Doc. No. 8). The Order was mailed to Petitioner by the Clerk and there is no indication that the Order was returned as undeliverable. The thirty-days have since expired and to date Petitioner has presented no response.

II. STANDARD OF REVIEW

A. Summary Judgment Standard

Summary judgment is appropriate where there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact, and it appears that the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c)(2); United States v. Lee , 943 F.2d 366, 368 (4th Cir. 1991). Any permissible inferences to be drawn from the underlying facts must be viewed in the light most favorable to the party opposing the motion. Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co., Ltd. v. Zenith Radio Corp. , 475 U.S. 574, 587-88 (1986). Where, however, the record taken as a whole could not lead a rational trier of fact to find for the non-moving party, summary judgment is appropriate. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc. , 477 U.S. 242, 248-49 (1986).

B. Section 2254 Standard

In addition to the motion for summary judgment standard set forth above, this Court must also consider the requirements set forth in 28 U.S.C. § 2254, which provides in relevant part, that an application for a writ of habeas corpus on behalf of a person in custody pursuant to the judgment of a State court shall not be granted with respect to any claim that was adjudicated on the merits in State court proceedings unless the adjudication of the claim-

(1) 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 ...

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