Thomas v. Eagleton, C.A. No. 2:09-1344-PMD.

CourtUnited States District Courts. 4th Circuit. United States District Court of South Carolina
Writing for the CourtDonald John Zelenka, James Anthony Mabry, SC Attorney General's Office, Columbia, SC, for Respondent
Citation693 F. Supp.2d 522
Docket NumberC.A. No. 2:09-1344-PMD.
Decision Date04 March 2010
PartiesHaley J. THOMAS, Petitioner, v. Willie EAGLETON, Warden ECI, Respondent.

693 F. Supp.2d 522

Haley J. THOMAS, Petitioner,
v.
Willie EAGLETON, Warden ECI, Respondent.

C.A. No. 2:09-1344-PMD.

United States District Court, D. South Carolina.

March 4, 2010.


693 F. Supp.2d 524

Haley J. Thomas, Bennettsville, SC, pro se.

Donald John Zelenka, James Anthony Mabry, SC Attorney General's Office, Columbia, SC, for Respondent.

ORDER

PATRICK MICHAEL DUFFY, District Judge.

This matter is before the court on Petitioner Haley J. Thomas's ("Petitioner") pro se application for writ of habeas corpus filed in this court pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254 on May 18, 2009.1 On August 26, 2009, Willie Eagleton ("Respondent") filed a Motion for Summary Judgment. On November 24, 2009, in accordance with 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(B) and Local Rule 73.02, the Magistrate Judge entered a Report and Recommendation ("R & R") recommending that Respondent's Motion for Summary Judgment be granted and Petitioner's Habeas Corpus Petition be dismissed. Petitioner filed an Objection to the R & R on December 14, 2009. Having reviewed the entire record, including Petitioner's Objections, the court finds the Magistrate Judge fairly and accurately summarized the facts and applied the correct principles of law. Accordingly, the court adopts the R & R and fully incorporates it into this Order.

BACKGROUND

Petitioner is currently incarcerated at the Evans Correctional Institution of the South Carolina Department of Corrections ("SCDC"). Petitioner was arrested in Florida and charged with murder after Dashawn Patterson was found dead, with his throat slit in the Forest Acres area of Columbia. After Petitioner was arrested, he gave a statement to the police that admitted his involvement in the killing but giving some indication that he had acted in self defense. In his statement, Petitioner, a disabled veteran of the United States Armed Forces, admitted that he became involved with drugs after he was discharged from the military. According to the Petitioner's statement, the victim was a drug dealer that Petitioner owed money to, but that the Petitioner did not have enough money to repay him. According to Petitioner's statement, on the day of the killing, the victim and Petitioner were riding around the Columbia area in the Petitioner's vehicle gathering money from various financial sources of Petitioner. While parked and waiting for a bank to open, the victim allegedly repeatedly threatened Petitioner and his family with bodily harm over the debt. According to the Petitioner, the threats from the victim escalated into physical beatings of the Petitioner using the butt of a loaded pistol. Eventually, Petitioner claims that he "snapped" and fought back to defend himself. Petitioner claims that he acted instinctively using his Army Airborne fighting skills and killed the victim. Petitioner was indicted in 2003 in Richland County for murder. (R. p. 1.)

Petitioner was represented by Katherine Hudgins, Esquire, and on June 23, 2004, Petitioner pled guilty to voluntary manslaughter pursuant to a negotiated plea. (R. pp. 5-30.) Pursuant to the plea negotiations, the trial judge sentenced Petitioner to a term of imprisonment of twenty years.

693 F. Supp.2d 525
(R. p. 30.) Petitioner did not appeal his conviction or sentence

On December 6, 2004, Petitioner filed an application for post-conviction relief ("APCR") in the Court of Common Pleas for Richland County. (R. pp. 38-42.) Respondent's APCR contained vague allegations of ineffective assistance of counsel and involuntary guilty plea. (R. pp. 38-42.) On September 12, 2009, the Respondent filed a Return to Petitioner's APCR. (R. pp. 48-55.) On November 29, 2006, Petitioner filed an amendment to his APCR in which Petitioner specifically listed several grounds for relief, which are listed verbatim as follows:

1. The Applicant was unable to assist his lawyer in preparing his defense as a result of numerous prescription medications that he was prescribed during the time period leading up to his guilty plea and was thus incompetent to take a guilty plea.
2. The Applicant's guilty plea was unknowing and involuntary as a result of taking numerous prescription medications immediately prior to guilty plea.
3. Katherine Hudgins, the Applicant's criminal defense attorney, rendered ineffective assistance of counsel for failing to investigate the prescription medications that had been prescribed for the Applicant that impaired the Applicant's ability to assist in his defense preparation.
4. Katherine Hudgins rendered ineffective assistance in allowing the Applicant to plead guilty while he was incompetent as a result of taking numerous medications just prior to the guilty plea.
5. Katherine Hudgins rendered ineffective assistance of counsel for failing to investigate the facts, prepare a self defense case, and request a trial to assert self defense
(R. pp. 57-58).

Petitioner was represented in his PCR trial by Douglas Leadbitter, Esquire, and an evidentiary hearing was held on February 28, 2007. (R. pp. 65-116). On April 5, 2007, the PCR judge filed an order denying Petitioner's APCR. (R. pp. 156-65).

Petitioner timely filed an appeal of the denial of his APCR. Petitioner was again represented by Douglas Leadbitter, Esquire, and on February 1, 2008, filed a Petition for Writ of Certiorari to the South Carolina Supreme Court raising the following issues:

1. Did the PCR Court err in holding that Petitioner was able to assist his lawyer in preparing his defense and therefore competent to plead guilty?
2. Did the PCR Court err in holding that Petitioner's criminal defense attorney did not render ineffective assistance of counsel for failing to investigate the prescription medications that had been prescribed for Petitioner that impaired the Petitioner's ability to assist in his defense preparation and in failing to seek a psychiatric evaluation of Petitioner?
3. Did the PCR Court err in holding that Petitioner's criminal defense attorney did not render ineffective assistance of counsel for failing to investigate facts, prepare a self defense case, and request a trial to assert self defense?

On November 19, 2008, the South Carolina Supreme Court denied the petition and issued the Remittitur on December 5, 2008.

Petitioner filed his pro se habeas petition on May 18, 2009, in which he asserted the following grounds for relief, listed verbatim as follows:

Ground One: Petitioner's Sixth and Fourteenth, and 5th Amendments right to Effective Assistance of Counsel was violated. Petition for Writ of Certiorari.
693 F. Supp.2d 526
Supporting Facts: Petitioner's sixth, fourteenth and 5th Amendment right to Effective Assistance of Counsel was violated. Petition for Writ of Certiorari; Trial counsel failed to perfect the appeal from Petitioner's guilt plea and sentence; Trial Counsel failed to conduct reasonable investigations into the crime charged; Trial counsel failed to prepare a defense to the crime charged (and failed to inform petitioner of his right to an affirmative defense to the crime); Counsel failed to secure medical expert opinion regarding petitioners' medical condition, history and inability to assist in defense due to medical condition. (Internal Citations Omitted).
Ground Two: Petitioner's guilty plea was obtained in violation of his Sixth and Fourteenth and 5th Amendment rights. Supporting Facts: Petitioner's guilty plea was involuntarily entered due to counsel's failure to fully inform him of the nature and consequences of his plea, failure of counsel to investigate prescription medications taken prior to and during incarceration that hindered petitioner's ability to assist his defense, failure to inform petitioner of affirmative defenses and incompetency to enter plea.

Respondent moved for Summary Judgment on August 26, 2009. Petitioner filed a memorandum in opposition to Respondent's motion on November 13, 2009. On November 24, 2009, the Magistrate Judge recommended to this Court that Respondent's Motion for Summary Judgment be granted and Petitioner's Habeas Corpus Petition be dismissed.

STANDARD OF REVIEW

A. Legal Standard for Summary Judgment

To grant a motion for summary judgment, the court must find that "there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c). The judge is not to weigh the evidence, but rather to determine if there is a genuine issue of fact for trial. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 249, 106 S.Ct. 2505, 91 L.Ed.2d 202 (1986). If no material factual disputes remain, then summary judgment should be granted against a party who fails to make a showing sufficient to establish the existence of an element essential to that party's case, and on which the party bears the burden of proof. Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322, 106 S.Ct. 2548, 91 L.Ed.2d 265 (1986). All evidence should be viewed in the light most favorable to the non-moving party. Perini Corp. v. Perini Constr., Inc., 915 F.2d 121, 123-24 (4th Cir.1990).

B. Section 2254 Petitions

The court may grant habeas relief with respect to a claim adjudicated on the merits in state court proceedings only where such adjudication "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," 28 U.S.C. § 2254(d)(1), or "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," id. § 2254(d)(2). As "a determination of a factual issue made by a State court shall be presumed to be correct," Petitioner has "the burden of rebutting the presumption of correctness by clear and convincing evidence." 28 U.S.C § 2254(e)(1). With respect to reviewing the state court's application of federal law, "a federal habeas court may grant the writ if the state court identifies the correct governing legal principle from the...

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1 practice notes
  • Formica v. Superintendent of the Cent. Va. Reg'l Jail, Case No. 7:14cv000357
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 4th Circuit. United States District Court (Western District of Virginia)
    • September 21, 2015
    ...593 (4th Cir. 2011). Accordingly, the Court construes Claim 9 as an ineffective-assistance-of-trial-counsel claim. Thomas v. Eagleton, 693 F. Supp. 2d 522, 531-32 (D.S.C. 2010), aff'd 396 F. App'x 965 (4th Cir. 2010) (per curiam); cf. Lafler v. Cooper, --- U.S. --- 132 S. Ct. 1376, 1390 (20......
1 cases
  • Formica v. Superintendent of the Cent. Va. Reg'l Jail, Case No. 7:14cv000357
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 4th Circuit. United States District Court (Western District of Virginia)
    • September 21, 2015
    ...593 (4th Cir. 2011). Accordingly, the Court construes Claim 9 as an ineffective-assistance-of-trial-counsel claim. Thomas v. Eagleton, 693 F. Supp. 2d 522, 531-32 (D.S.C. 2010), aff'd 396 F. App'x 965 (4th Cir. 2010) (per curiam); cf. Lafler v. Cooper, --- U.S. --- 132 S. Ct. 1376, 1390 (20......

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