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Jones v. Shanahan

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

March 13, 2014

RODNEY MOUCELL JONES, Petitioner,
v.
KIERAN J. SHANAHAN, Secretary, North Carolina Dept. of Public Safety, Respondent.

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 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 convicted by a jury in Buncombe County Superior Court on four counts of first-degree kidnaping, four counts of attempted robbery with a dangerous weapon, one count of conspiracy to commit robbery, and one count of being a habitual felon. Petitioner was sentenced on July 2, 2010, to a term of 40-years and 7-months' imprisonment and he filed an appeal to the North Carolina Court of Appeals which he voluntarily withdrew in December 2010. (Doc. No. 15-3 at 4; Doc. No. 15-27).

On June 9, 2011, Petitioner filed a motion for appropriate relief (MAR) in Buncombe County Superior Court and therein raised some twenty-five grounds for relief. In the twenty-fifth ground for relief Petitioner alleged ineffective assistance of trial counsel and set forth eighteen subparts. The state superior court denied each claim for relief, save for parts of ground twenty-five concerning ineffective assistance of counsel, after concluding that each of the claims could have been presented on direct appeal, and the court cited North Carolina's procedural bar which provides for dismissal of claims if "[u]pon a previous appeal the defendant was in a position to adequately raise the ground or issue underlying the present motion but did not do so." (Doc. No. 1-1 at 57) (citing N.C. Gen. Stat. § 15A-1419(a)(3)). The court specifically found that Petitioner could not overcome the State's procedural bar because he had failed to demonstrate "good cause resulting in actual prejudice or that a fundamental miscarriage of justice will result" if his arguments were not considered by the trial court. (Id.) (citing N.C. Gen. Stat. § 15A-1419(b)). The court appointed counsel to represent him on his surviving ineffective assistance of counsel claims and set the matter for an evidentiary hearing. (Id. at 58).[1]

Petitioner's surviving claims came on for hearing during the March 30, 2012, term of superior court. Prior to the presentation of evidence, the court was informed that Petitioner had met with his court-appointed counsel on two occasions however, Petitioner explained to the court that he was more prepared to present his case than anybody and that he wished to represent himself in the hearing. The Court examined him and found that his decision to represent himself was knowingly and voluntarily made. (Doc. No. 15-20). Following the presentation of evidence, which included testimony from Petitioner's trial counsel, and Petitioner, the Court filed a nine-page order which included numerous findings of fact and conclusions of law. The Court found that based on the evidence presented, Petitioner had failed to make any reasonable showing that he received ineffective assistance of counsel during his criminal proceedings and his MAR was therefore dismissed. (Id.); see also (Doc. No. 21-13: MAR Tr.) On August 29, 2012, the North Carolina Court of Appeals denied Petitioner's petition for a writ of certiorari and this federal habeas proceeding follows. (Doc. No. 15-25).

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 presented in the State court proceeding.

28 U.S.C. § 2254(d); see also Tice v. Johnson , 647 F.3d 87, 103 (4th Cir. 2011).

A claim is considered "adjudicated on the merits" when it is "substantively reviewed and finally determined as evidenced by the state court's issuance of a formal judgment or decree..." Young v. Catoe , 205 F.3d 750, 755 n.2 (4th Cir. 2000) (quoting Thomas v. Davis , 192 F.3d 445, 455 (4th Cir. 1999)). A state court's adjudication is "contrary to" clearly established federal law only if "the state court arrives at a conclusion opposite to that reached by [the United States Supreme] Court on a question of law or if the state court decides a case differently than [the United States Supreme] Court has on a set of materially indistinguishable facts." Williams v. Taylor , 529 U.S. 362, 412-13 (2000). "It is not enough for us to say that, confronted with the same facts, we would have applied the law differently; we can accord [the petitioner] a remedy only by concluding that the state court's application of the law in his case was objectively unreasonable." See Tice , 647 F.3d at 103 (citing Williams v. Ozmint , 494 F.3d 478, 483-84 (4th Cir. 2007)). "[W]e will not discern an unreasonable application of federal law unless the state court's decision lies well outside the boundaries of permissible differences of opinion.'" Id. at 108 (quoting Goodman v. Bertrand , 467 F.3d 1022, 1028 (7th Cir. 2006)).

III. DISCUSSION

A. Procedurally Barred Claims

The Court finds, as did the state court, that Petitioner is procedurally barred from presenting the following Grounds for relief in this federal habeas proceeding: Grounds 1-11, 13, 15-18, 22, 26, and 27. See (Doc. No. 19 at 5: Petitioner's Response). Petitioner voluntarily abandoned his right to present these claims on direct appeal to the North Carolina Court of Appeals and a review of these claims clearly demonstrates that Petitioner cannot establish good cause to excuse his failure to present the claims on direct appeal or that "the failure to consider the [claims] will result in a fundamental miscarriage of justice." See Rose v. Lee , 252 F.3d 676, 683 (4th Cir.) (noting mandatory effect of North Carolina's post-conviction procedural bar as codified in N.C. Gen. Stat. § 15A-1419), cert. denied, 534 U.S. 941 (2001)).

After Respondent filed his motion for summary judgment, this Court entered an order, pursuant to Roseboro v. Garrison , 528 F.2d 309 (4th Cir. 1975), informing Petitioner of his obligation to file a response to the evidence presented. See (Doc. No. 16). In his response, Petitioner has provided no just grounds for his failure to present the foregoing claims on direct appeal and the Court finds that the procedural bar should apply to prevent relief on federal habeas review. Moreover, the Court has ...


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