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Johnson v. Stanley

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

September 30, 2019

ROBERT HAROLD JOHNSON, Petitioner,
v.
DREW STANLEY, Administrator, Warren Correctional Institution, and ERIK A. HOOKS, Secretary, N.C. Department of Public Safety, Respondents.

          ORDER

          FRANK D. WHITNEY CHIEF UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         THIS MATTER is before the Court on Respondents' Motion for Summary Judgment (Doc. No. 6) seeking denial of Petitioner Robert Harold Johnson's pro se Petition for Writ of Habeas Corpus, filed pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254 (Doc. No. 1). Also before the court is Petitioner's Motion for Summary Judgment (Doc. No. 12) seeking habeas relief.

         I. Background

         Petitioner is a prisoner of the State of North Carolina who, after a jury trial in Watauga County Superior Court, was found guilty of three counts of sex offense with a child and three counts of sex activity by a substitute parent. The North Carolina Court of Appeals summarized the evidence at trial as follows:

Defendant was arrested and a Watauga County Grand Jury indicted Defendant on three counts of sexual offense with a child, three counts of sexual activity by a substitute parent, and three counts of taking indecent liberties with a child. The charges were spread among three identical superseding indictments dated 5 January 2015, each of which contained one count of each offense.
Prior to jury selection, the State voluntarily dismissed the three counts of indecent liberties with a child. The remaining charges for sexual offense with a child and sexual activity by a substitute parent were joined for trial without objection.
Evidence presented by the State at trial tended to show Defendant forced his wife's ten-year-old son to perform fellatio on him, when Defendant was supposed to be taking the juvenile to school and at other times inside and outside the juvenile's grandparents' house, where Defendant and the juvenile lived.
On 3 December 2015, the jury returned verdicts finding Defendant guilty of all six charges-three counts of sex offense with a child and three counts of sex activity by a substitute parent. Based upon the verdicts, the trial court entered three separate judgments corresponding to the indictments, with one count of each offense included in each judgment. Defendant received three consecutive sentences of 300 to 420 months imprisonment. The court further ordered that upon Defendant's release from prison, Defendant shall register as a sex offender for life and enroll in SBM for the remainder of his life. Defendant filed notice of appeal on 11 December 2015.

State v. Johnson, 801 S.E.2d 123, 124 ( N.C. Ct. App. 2017). The Court of Appeals upheld Petitioner's convictions for the offenses but reversed the trial court's order for Petitioner to register for life as a sex offender and order for SBM. Id. at 127-28, 130.

         After the Court of Appeals ruling, Petitioner filed a Motion for Appropriate Relief (MAR) in Watauga County Superior Court seeking relief from his conviction. (Doc. No. 7-7). In his MAR, Petitioner alleged the following as grounds for relief: his convictions were obtained by a coerced confession; they were obtained by evidence gained in an unconstitutional search or seizure; that evidence was obtained by an unlawful arrest; the convictions were obtained by an unconstitutionally selected jury; the convictions were obtained as the result of a denial of his right to present evidence; the discovery of new evidence; and ineffectiveness of trial counsel. (Doc. No. 7-8, p. 2). The Honorable Gary M. Gavenus, presiding over the MAR, denied Petitioner's motion. Id. at 3. After being denied certiorari at the North Carolina Court of Appeals and the Supreme Court of North Carolina, see (Docs. Nos. 7-12, 7-14), Petitioner filed the instant pro se federal habeas petition in this Court on September 7, 2018 (Doc. No. 1). He raises the following grounds for relief: (1) ineffective assistance of counsel at trial; (2) new evidence proving Petitioner's innocence; (3) his confession to police was coerced or otherwise illegally obtained; and (4) the denial of his right to provide evidence or witnesses proving his innocence due to his lawyer's “freezing up” at trial. (Doc. No. 1).

         II. Legal Standard

         A. Summary Judgment

         Summary judgment is appropriate in those cases 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, disposition by summary judgment is appropriate. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248-49 (1986).

         B. ...


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