United States District Court, W.D. North Carolina, Statesville Division
MANUEL A. ECHEVERRA, Petitioner,
BRYAN WELLS, Administrator, Pender Correctional Institution, Respondent.
FRANK D. WHITNEY, Chief 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 pro se 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.
Petitioner is a prisoner of the State of North Carolina who was convicted in Wilkes County Superior Court following his tender of an Alford plea to sex offense in a parental role, indecent liberties with a minor and crime against nature. Petitioner was represented by counsel during this hearing and was sentenced according to the express terms of a written plea agreement to a term of 33 to 49 months and a consecutive term of 21 to 26 months. In exchange for his guilty plea, the State agreed to dismiss the charge of first-degree offense sex offense with a child. (Doc. No. 6-2: Transcript of Plea form). On July 25, 2011, the court entered judgment. (Id., Doc. No. 6-3). Petitioner did not appeal.
On March 30, 2012, Petitioner filed a pro se motion for appropriate relief (MAR) in Wilkes County Superior Court in an effort to challenge his guilty plea. Petitioner argued that his plea was not knowing and voluntary and he asserted that he had not received effective assistance of counsel. In challenging his guilty plea, Petitioner argued that he was suffering from mental illness at the time he entered his plea claiming that he was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), Bipolar disorder, anxiety, depression and he asserted that he experienced hallucinations and heard voices. Petitioner also argued that he was distressed because he had recently lost a child. (Id., Doc. No. 6-6: MAR). The superior court appointed N.C. Prisoner Legal Services to represent Petitioner and attorney Marcus Shields was assigned to review the case and ordered to either file an amended MAR on behalf of Petitioner or to file notice that no new amendment would be filed. Mr. Shields opted for the latter option and the State of North Carolina then filed its answer opposing relief and September 24, 2012, Judge Edgar Gregory entered an order denying the MAR. (Doc. No. 6-7). Petitioner filed a petition for a writ of certiorari with the North Carolina Court of Appeals and the State filed a response. On June 27, 2013, the court denied the petition. Echeverra v. State, No. P13-2445 ( N.C. Ct. App. June 27, 2013. (Id., Doc. No. 6-10). Petitioner then filed a second MAR in Wilkes County Superior Court contending again that he received ineffective assistance of counsel and asserting that he had obtained newly discovered evidence. Judge Gregory summarily denied it after finding that Petitioner was procedurally barred under North Carolina law from filing a second MAR and that his claims were the same as those he presented in his initial MAR. (Id., Doc. No. 6-12). Petitioner once again filed a petition for writ of certiorari with the court of appeals and this too was denied. (Id., Doc. 6-15).
This federal habeas petition follows. Respondent has filed a motion for summary judgment contending that Petitioner is not entitled to federal habeas relief. Petitioner was advised of his obligation to respond to the motion and he has filed his response. (Id., Doc. No. 7). Petitioner's contentions will be addressed herein.
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 ...