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Martin v. Diguglielmo

September 25, 2008

MARSHALL MARTIN, PETITIONER
v.
DAVID DIGUGLIELMO; THE ATTORNEY GENERAL OF THE STATE OF PENNSYLVANIA; THE DISTRICT ATTORNEY OF THE COUNTY OF ALLEGHENY, RESPONDENTS



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Magistrate Judge Amy Reynolds Hay

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

Marshal Martin ("Petitioner") seeks, by means of a Section 2254 habeas petition, to challenge the state courts' setting of bail at $150,000. Because Petitioner fails to demonstrate that the state courts' adjudication of his federal claims was contrary to or an unreasonable application of Supreme Court precedent, his petition will be denied.

Petitioner was convicted by a jury on March 26, 2002 of criminal attempt to commit homicide and firearms violations in connection with the shooting of Robert Epps, who was, at the time, a college fraternity member. The shooting arose due to a fight between Petitioner and an apparent rival for the affections of Petitioner's wife. The rival was a fraternity brother of Mr. Epps.

Petitioner was sentenced to 10 to 20 years. After unsuccessfully appealing his conviction, Petitioner filed a Post Conviction Relief Act ("PCRA") Petition and after conducting a hearing, the PCRA trial court granted him a new trial based on claims of ineffectiveness of counsel. The Commonwealth appealed the order of the PCRA trial court granting the new trial to the Superior Court and that appeal is now pending. Petitioner requested bail pending appeal. Specifically, Petitioner requested house arrest, i.e., electronic monitoring. After some proceedings in the state courts, a bail hearing was conducted by the PCRA court and bail was set at $150,000 straight. Petitioner thereafter filed a petition for modification/reduction of bail, Dkt. [10-2] at 15, which was denied. Id., at 16. Rather than appeal that order, it appears that Petitioner filed a motion to modify/reduce bond in the Superior Court, which was denied by the Superior Court on June 7, 2007. Dkt. [10-2] at 20. Thereafter, Petitioner filed an application for modification/reduction of bail in the Pennsylvania Supreme Court, which denied the application on July 26, 2007. See id., at 19.

Thereafter, Petitioner filed pro se the instant Section 2254 habeas petition, Dkt. [1] and a brief in support, Dkt. [2]. Petitioner raises the following issue in that petition:

DID THE STATE COURT ERROR [sic] LEGALLY AND ABUSE ITS DISCRETION WHEN SETTING BAIL PENDING APPEAL THAT IS EXCESSIVE AND UNREASONABLE, VIOLATING THE DUE PROCESS AND EQUAL PROTECTION CLAUSES OF [the] EIGHTH AND FOURTEENTH AMENDMENTS OF THE UNITED STATES CONSTITUTION.

Dkt. [1] at 7, ¶12. After being granted an extension of time, the Respondents filed an answer, wherein they contend that Petitioner is not entitled to relief on the merits. Dkt. [10]. In the answer, the Respondents included, inter alia, a copy of the transcript of the bail hearing. Dkt. [10-2] at 1 to 10.

More recently, Petitioner filed a motion for judgment on the pleadings, Dkt. [15], that was denied as duplicative of the habeas petition. Dkt. [16].

B. Applicable Legal Standards

An inmate confined pursuant to a state court order may seek federal habeas corpus relief only if he is in custody in violation of the United States Constitution or federal law. 28 U.S.C. § 2241(c)(3); § 2254(a). Smith v. Phillips, 455 U.S. 209 (1982); Zettlemoyer v. Fulcomer, 923 F.2d 284 (3d Cir. 1991). Violations of state law or state procedural rules alone are not sufficient; a petitioner must allege a deprivation of federal rights before habeas relief may be granted. Engle v. Isaac, 456 U.S. 107 (1982); Wells v. Petsock, 941 F.2d 253 (3d Cir. 1991).

The parties agree that this Court's jurisdiction to entertain this petition is premised on 28 U.S.C. § 2254.*fn1 Because Petitioner is alleging a violation of the Eighth Amendment clause banning excessive bail, he meets the threshold requirement of alleging a Constitutional violation cognizable in federal habeas proceedings. See, e.g., Sistrunk v. Lyons, 646 F.2d 64 (3d Cir. 1981)(finding that the Eighth Amendment ban on excessive bail is one of the rights enshrined in the Bill of Rights that applies by the doctrine of selective incorporation against the States via the substantive due process clause of the Fourteenth Amendment). Contra Garson v. Perlman, 541 F.Supp.2d 515 (E.D.N.Y. 2008). See also Kathleen Sullivan & Gerald Gunther, Constitutional Law, 446-47 (14th ed. 2000) ("As a result of the selective incorporation technique illustrated by Duncan, all the criminal process guarantees of the Bill of Rights are applicable to the states, with the exception of the grand jury indictment provision of the 5th Amendment and arguably, the 'excessive bail' provision of the 8th Amendment ....").

Given that the parties present this as being properly a Section 2254 petition, the following standard of review applies. Where the state courts have reviewed a federal issue presented to them and disposed of the issue on the merits, and that issue is also raised in a federal habeas petition, AEDPA provides the applicable deferential standards by which the federal habeas court is to review the state courts' disposition of that issue. See 28 U.S.C.§ 2254(d) and (e). Section 2254 (d)(1), which, in light of Petitioner's arguments, is applicable herein, provides as follows:

(d) An application for a writ of habeas corpus on behalf of a person in custody pursuant to the judgment of a State court shall not be granted with respect to any claim that was adjudicated on the merits in State court proceedings unless the adjudication of the claim--

(1) 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 In Williams v. Taylor, 529 U.S. 362 (2000), the Supreme Court has expounded upon the standard found in Section 2254(d)(1). In Williams, the Court explained that Congress intended that habeas relief may only be granted in two situations: (1) where the state court decision was "contrary to . . . clearly established Federal law as determined by the Supreme Court of the United States" or (2) where that state court decision "involved an unreasonable ...


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