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Gray v. Hooks

United States District Court, E.D. North Carolina, Western Division

March 21, 2018

WILLIAM ROBERT GRAY, JR., Petitioner,
v.
ERIK A. HOOKS, Respondent.

          ORDER

          JAMES C. DEVER, III CHIEF UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         On February 20, 2018, Magistrate Judge Numbers issued a Memorandum and Recommendation ("M&R") [D.E. 26] and recommended that the court deny respondent's motion to dismiss [D.E. 13]. Both parties objected to the M&R [D.E. 27, 28].

         "The Federal Magistrates Act requires a district court to make a de novo determination of those portions of the magistrate judge's report or specified proposed findings or recommendations to which objection is made." Diamond v. Colonial Life & Accident Ins. Co., 416 F.3d 310, 315 (4th Cir. 2005) (emphasis, alteration, and quotation omitted); see 28 U.S.C. § 636(b). Absent a timely 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, 416 F.3d at 315 (quotation omitted). Moreover, the court need not conduct a de novo review where a party makes only "general and conclusory objections that do not direct the court to a specific error in the magistrate's proposed findings and recommendations." Orpiano v. Johnson, 687 F.2d 44, 47 (4th Cir. 1982); see Wells v. Shriners Hosp, 109 F.3d 198, 200-01 (4th Cir. 1997). "Section 636(b)(1) does not countenance a form of generalized objection to cover all issues addressed by the magistrate judge; it contemplates that a party's objection to a magistrate judge's report be specific and particularized, as the statute directs the district court to review only those portions of the report or specified proposed findings or recommendations to which objection is made." United States v. Midgette, 478 F.3d 616, 621 (4th Cir. 2007) (quotation and emphasis omitted).

         As for those portions of the M&R to which the parties made no objection, the court is satisfied that there is no clear error on the face of the record. As for the objections, the court overrules them.

         I.

         A.

         On November 24, 1992, Gray (a dentist in Kinston, North Carolina) and his wife Roslyn Sage Gray were separated and engaged in highly contentious divorce proceedings. That evening, Roslyn Sage Gray returned their two children to Gray's residence following her visit with the children. Roslyn Sage Gray then went outside and entered her Jeep. See State v. Gray, 347 N.C. 143, 161-62, 491 S.E.2d 538, 543-44 (1997).

         A witness testified that he was jogging near Gray's residence and heard screaming and yelling inside the Jeep. Roslyn Sage Gray exited the Jeep and ran up the driveway towards the residence. Gray exited the Jeep, chased Roslyn Sage Gray, and tackled her. The two struggled. The witness asked what was happening. Gray told the witness to leave. Roslyn Sage Gray said, "Mister, please don't leave. If you leave, he'll kill me." The jogger then heard a shot, and Gray ran behind the residence. Roslyn Sage Gray died from a gunshot wound to her head. Roslyn Sage Gray also suffered injuries from a stun-gun and had been beaten with the butt of a pistol. See Id. at 162, 491 S.E.2d at 544.

         The police responded and arrested Gray. Gray denied knowing anything about the shooting or Roslyn Sage Gray's injuries or death and claimed that he had been in the bathtub inside his residence. Gray was indicted for first-degree murder, and North Carolina sought the death penalty. For nearly a year, Gray maintained that he had nothing to do with his wife's injuries or death.

         On October 22, 1993, nine days before Gray's trial was to begin, Gray admitted to his lawyers that he shot Roslyn Sage Gray during a fight in the driveway. See Gray v. Branker, 529 F.3d 220, 226 (4th Cir. 2008). Gray claimed that he and Roslyn Sage Gray were fighting and that he saw Roslyn Sage Gray holding a gun. Gray claims that he pushed the gun away, and it went off and killed his wife. See id.

         On November 1, 1993, Gray's trial began. At the end of the guilt phase, the jury convicted Gray of first-degree murder. Id. On December 14, 1993, the sentencing phase began. Id. At the end of the sentencing phase, the jury recommended a death sentence, and the court sentenced Gray to death. See Id. at 227. The Supreme Court of North Carolina affirmed Gray's conviction and sentence. See Gray, 347 N.C. at 163-93, 491 S.E.2d at 544-61. The United States Supreme Court denied certiorari. See Gray v. North Carolina, 523 U.S. 1031 (1998).

         Gray filed a motion for appropriate relief in state court. On December 1, 2000, the state trial court denied relief. See Gray, 529 F.3d at 227. The Supreme Court of North Carolina also denied relief. See id.

         In May 2002, Gray filed a petition for a writ of habeas corpus in this court, and the case was assigned to the Honorable Terrence W. Boyle. On March 28, 2006, this court denied relief. See id. Gray appealed. On June 24, 2008, the United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit held that Gray received ineffective assistance of counsel during the sentencing phase due to counsel's failure to investigate and present evidence of Gray's mental impairment. See Id. at 228-40. The Fourth Circuit otherwise affirmed this court's order rejecting Gray's other claims concerning his conviction and sentence. See Id. at 228-42. The Fourth Circuit ordered this court to "grant the writ of habeas corpus unless the State of North Carolina affords Gray a new sentencing hearing within a reasonable time." Id. at 242.

         On August 7, 2008, this court entered an order releasing Gray from his death sentence and imposing a sentence of life imprisonment if North Carolina did not initiate a new sentencing proceeding within 180 days. See Gray v. Lee,608 Fed.Appx. 172, 173 (4th Cir. 2015) (per curiam) (unpublished). In 2013, Gray filed several pro se motions in this court, including what the Fourth Circuit construed "as a motion under 28 U.S.C. § 2241 asking for his release on various constitutional grounds." Id. On January 13, 2014, this court, mistakenly believing that Lenoir County Superior Court had resentenced Gray, denied Gray's motions as moot. See id On February 10, 2014, Gray moved for reconsideration. On August 20, 2014, this court granted the motion for reconsideration, but denied relief on Gray's claim concerning his delayed resentencing proceedings. This court found that the delay was reasonable because Gray's state trial counsel had been negotiating with the state prosecutor and that plea bargaining concerning Gray's sentence was on-going. The district court requested updates from the parties every 30 days. On August 21, 2014, Gray filed a notice of appeal. On September 5, 2014, Gray requested reconsideration of this court's denial of relief. On October 28, 2014, ...


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