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House v. Palakovick

January 9, 2006

FREDERICK R. HOUSE, JR., PETITIONER,
v.
SUPERINTENDENT PALAKOVICK AND ATTORNEY GENERAL OF PENNSYLVANIA, RESPONDENTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Judge McClure

Magistrate Judge Mannion

ORDER

Petitioner Frederick R. House, Jr. pled guilty to murder in the first degree on June 18, 2002. He was sentenced to life imprisonment on August 20, 2002, and is currently incarcerated at SCI-Smithfield in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. On November 10, 2004, House filed a petition for writ of habeas corpus, pro se, pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254. Petitioner challenges his conviction in the Bradford County Court of Common Pleas.

In his petition, House raises four claims: (1) that he was denied his rights under Miranda v. Arizona, 384 U.S. 436 (1966); (2) that the search of his residence violated the Fourth Amendment; (3) that he was denied the right to counsel; and (4) ineffective assistance of counsel. The ineffective assistance of counsel claim is comprised of seven subclaims of error. Respondents argue that petitioner's claims are procedurally defaulted, and alternatively that they lack merit.

The matter was initially referred to United States Magistrate Judge Malachy E. Mannion. At the close of his seventeen page Report and Recommendation, Magistrate Judge Mannion concluded that the petition for a writ of habeas corpus should be dismissed, because House failed to exhaust available state remedies prior to filing the instant petition. House filed his timely objections to the Report, baldly asserting that he is an innocent man and requesting that the court "excuse default and review his claims" because his PCRA counsel was allowed to withdraw and petitioner was "not able 'mentally' to proceed pro se.'" The matter is now ripe for our review.

For the foregoing reasons, we adopt the Magistrate's Report and Recommendation in full and dismiss the petition for failure to exhaust state remedies.*fn1

STANDARD OF REVIEW

A district court reviews de novo those portions of a magistrate judge's report and recommendation to which a party objects. L.R. 72.3. The court may "accept, reject, or modify, in whole or in part, the findings or recommendations made by the magistrate judge." Id.

BACKGROUND

The magistrate judge's discussion of the facts is complete and we merely summarize here. On August 12, 2001, petitioner was charged with criminal homicide and other related charges stemming from the murder of Edward William Bond, petitioner's neighbor. Bond was shot four times on August 8, 2001, and died from the wounds. Petitioner disposed of Bond's body in a heavily wooded area of Barclay Mountain in Bradford County, and drove Bond's truck until he wrecked it two days later in Norwich, New York. On August 12, 2001, petitioner's father consented to a search of the house he shared with petitioner. Inside the house, a Pennsylvania State Trooperdiscovered the .22 caliber murder weapon with the blood of both victim and petitioner on it.

Petitioner was charged with criminal homicide on August 12, 2001, and the chief public defender for Bradford County was appointed as counsel. Petitioner pled not guilty at a preliminary hearing on January 15, 2002, and the Commonwealth indicated its intent to seek the death penalty should petitioner be convicted of first degree murder.

On June 18, 2002, petitioner pled guilty but mentally ill to one count of Murder in the First Degree. All other charges were dropped. Petitioner was sentenced to life without the possibility of parole on August 20, 2002. No direct appeal was filed.

On June 3, 2003, petitioner filed a Post Conviction Relief Act ("PCRA") petition pro se. The PCRA petition raised two issues: ineffective assistance of counsel and unlawful inducement of guilty plea.

The court appointed PCRA counsel, who eventually filed a "no merit" letter on August 22, 2003. The PCRA court denied and dismissed the PCRA petition on October 6, 2003. PCRA counsel filed a protective appeal with the Pennsylvania Superior Court on October 29, 2003, and filed a ...


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