Longworth v. Ozmint, CIV.A. 3:02-0744-08.

Citation302 F.Supp.2d 535
Decision Date03 November 2003
Docket NumberNo. CIV.A. 3:02-0744-08.,CIV.A. 3:02-0744-08.
PartiesRichard LONGWORTH, SK # 4812, Petitioner, v. Jon E. OZMINT, Commissioner, South Carolina Department of Corrections; and Henry D. McMaster, Attorney General, State of South Carolina, Respondents.
CourtU.S. District Court — District of South Carolina

David Grant Belser, Tanya Louise Davis, Belser and Parke, Asheville, NC, Robert Michael Dudek, SC Office of Appellate Defense, Columbia, SC, Amy E Ray, Asheville, NC, for petitioner.

Donald John Zelenka, SC Attorney General's Office, Columbia, for respondents.


BLATT, Senior District Judge.


The Petitioner is an inmate under a sentence of death which was entered by the Court of General Sessions for Spartanburg County on September 10, 1991. He has filed this petition for writ of habeas corpus, pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254.1 For the reasons that follow, the petition for writ of habeas corpus is denied.


As described by the Supreme Court of South Carolina on direct appeal, see State v. Longworth, 313 S.C. 360, 438 S.E.2d 219 (1993), the underlying facts of this case are as follows:

[Longworth] was convicted of kidnapping, armed robbery, and two counts of murder in connection with the deaths of Alex Hopps and James Todd Greene, employees of the Westgate Mall Cinema in Spartanburg. [Longworth] was sentenced to death for the murders and kidnapping plus twenty-five years for armed robbery.2


The murders in this case occurred on the night of January 7, 1991. An off-duty employee, David Hopkins, returned to the Westgate Mall Cinema and found no employees present although films were still being shown. The body of nineteen-year-old Alex Hopps was discovered behind the theatre outside an exit door. He had been shot at close range in the left temple.

When Hopkins arrived at the theatre he had seen and recognized [Longworth's] co-defendant, David Rocheville, rummaging through James Greene's car in the parking lot.3 Greene was the other employee on duty with Alex Hopps and he was missing from the theatre. Police arrested Rocheville at 5:00 a.m. the next morning. A few hours later, Rocheville led police to the body of James Greene which was found in a shallow ditch on the side of a rural road several miles from the cinema. [Longworth] was arrested later that day.

[Longworth] consented to be interviewed by police officers after waiving his rights. At the end of the interview, Chief [Deputy James] Murray prepared the following statement from his notes:

[Longworth] stated that on January 7, 1991, he left his home at approximately four o'clock p.m. in route to meet his friend, David Rocheville, at a television repair shop where Rocheville worked. After meeting him, they both traveled to Rocheville's home in Duncan, South Carolina where Rocheville cleaned up. They left there in Longworth's mini van that is actually owned by his father in route to the Continental Café located in the Hillcrest Mall in Spartanburg.

They arrived there at approximately 7:30 p.m. where he, Longworth, drank approximately six beers and three kamikazes. While there, they spoke to a bartender by the name of Larry, last name unknown, who works there and knows them. After leaving the café, he and Rocheville drove around town in the mini van for a short time, and eventually stopped at an unknown place between Hillcrest and West Gate where they purchased a twelve pack of beer. They continued driving around all the while drinking beer, and decided to rob the West Gate Cinema.

They arrived at the West Gate Theatre at an unknown time. But he knows it was before twelve o'clock midnight. Upon entering the theatre, Longworth remembered seeing James Greene, an employee, and, in fact, waved to him. Longworth and Rocheville walked around inside the theater for a short time, and believed the two of them went inside where the movie Dances with Wolves was playing. Longworth remembers that when they entered the theater through the front door, there was no one in the ticket booth. And accordingly, they walked in without having to pay.

After being seated in the theater for a short time, they decided it was time to rob the place. As they walked out toward the lobby of the theater, Longworth saw the usher, Alex Hopps, standing near the end of a counter. He went over to him, and they started walking down a hallway talking. His plan was to take the usher outside and knock him unconscious.

As they walked down the hallway, he knocked the usher to the floor by sweeping his feet out from under him. He then immediately jumped on him, and placed his hands over the usher's mouth. Rocheville, who had been given the gun that Longworth had carried into the theater in a shoulder holster hidden under his coat, was watching the activity. As Longworth and the usher walked outside using a side exit near where he and Rocheville had been seated in the theater, they were followed by Rocheville.

Once outside, Longworth stated that he grabbed the usher by the right arm and twisted it up behind his back. He then forced the usher to lean over a waist high bar that was in place to, to protect the building or a cooling unit, and then took his left hand pushing the usher or pinning him on the bar. Rocheville then shot the usher in the left side of the head while Longworth was holding him. The weapon used and the one which Longworth earlier had given to him is [a] .44 magnum Ruger, and it was loaded with semi wod cutters.

After the shooting, Rocheville returned the weapon to Longworth, and he placed it in the aforementioned shoulder holster. Longworth stated that he did not know the usher although it was pointed out to him that the usher had at one time worked for him at the Converse Theaters when Longworth was an assistant manager. After the shooting, Longworth advised that he and Rocheville walked around to the front of the theater to proceed with the robbery. However, when they arrived at the front, the doors were locked.

Longworth stated that he again saw James Greene, and motioned to him to open the doors. Greene complied. Once inside, Longworth stated that he drew this same gun on Greene, and stated something to the effect that he was sorry. But he was going to rob the theater. And requested that Greene open the safe. Greene, upon seeing the gun, became so nervous that it took him three tries to successfully open the safe.

Longworth took several money bags from the safe, and then asked Greene if he had made the deposits. Greene responded yes, and Longworth stated don't lie to me. Greene stated that the deposits were in his personal car. The three of them, Longworth, Greene, and Rocheville then walked to Greene's vehicle parked at the side of the cinema, obtained the remaining money bags, and gave them all to Rocheville. They then all got into the aforementioned mini van, which was parked next to Greene's vehicle. Longworth was driving. Rocheville was in the back. And Greene was seated in the passenger side.

Longworth stated that he then gave the .44 magnum Ruger to Rocheville, and stated if he moves shoot him referring to Greene. The three of them then proceed to drive up highway number 176 toward Inman, and then turned right off number 176 onto an unknown road. They drove a short distance and stopped the van. Longworth then told Greene to get out of the van, walk five paces, get down on your knees, and stare straight ahead.

He did as instructed. And at this point, Rocheville got partially out of the van perhaps with one foot on the ground and the other in the van, and shot Greene in the back of the head. Greene then rolled over into the ditch near where he had been kneeling.

Id. at 220, 222-24 (footnotes included but renumbered).

After the South Carolina Supreme Court rejected the appeal, id. at 225-26, and the United States Supreme Court denied certiorari, Longworth v. South Carolina, 513 U.S. 831, 115 S.Ct. 105, 130 L.Ed.2d 53 (1994), the Petitioner filed an application for state post-conviction relief (PCR). The state PCR court permitted discovery and held a lengthy evidentiary hearing. After requesting supplemental briefs, the PCR court directed the Respondents to submit a proposed order, which was substantially adopted by the PCR court in denying relief. The Supreme Court of South Carolina denied review.

The Petitioner then filed the instant petition for federal habeas relief, challenging his conviction and sentence on nineteen grounds. This Court stayed the Petitioner's scheduled execution in March, 2002, in order that his petition could be fully and completely evaluated. By local rule, this matter was referred to United States Magistrate Judge Joseph R. McCrorey for preliminary determinations. The Petitioner filed a substantive brief, to which the Respondents filed a motion for summary judgment. The Petitioner then filed a reply to the motion and requested partial summary judgment or, in the alternative, an evidentiary hearing on one of the grounds presented.

On June 6, 2003, the Magistrate Judge issued a report analyzing the issues presented and recommending that the Respondent's motion for summary judgment be granted, that the Petitioner's motion and request be denied, and that the petition for writ of habeas corpus be denied. The Petitioner filed objections to the report and recommendation on June 30, 2003, to which the Respondents have not responded. The matter is now ripe for decision.

I. Procedural Objections
A. § 2254(d) and § 2254(e)(1)

Prior to submitting substantive objections to the Magistrate Judge's findings and conclusions, the Petitioner submits a lengthy argument concerning the applicability of 28 U.S.C. §§ 2254(d) and (e)(1), which outline the standard of review in § 2254 petitions. Subsection (d) provides that no writ of habeas corpus may issue

to any claim that was adjudicated on the merits in the State court proceedings unless the adjudication of...

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