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Watts v. Wilson

November 21, 2008

TRACY WATTS PETITIONER,
v.
HARRY WILSON, THE DISTRICT ATTORNEY OF THE COUNTY OF PHILADELPHIA, AND THE ATTORNEY GENERAL OF THE STATE OF PENNSYLVANIA, RESPONDENTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Jan E. Dubois, J.

ORDER AND MEMORANDUM

ORDER

AND NOW, this 21st day of November, 2008, upon consideration of the Petition for Writ of Habeas Corpus filed by pro se petitioner Tracy Watts pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254 (Document No. 1, filed July 10, 2007); petitioner's Brief in Support of 28 U.S.C. § 2254 Petition for Writ of Habeas Corpus (Document No. 3, filed July 13, 2007); respondents' Response to the Petition for Writ of Habeas Corpus (Document No. 15, filed December 21, 2007); the Report and Recommendation of United States Magistrate Judge L. Felipe Restrepo (Document No. 17, dated June 30, 2008); and petitioner's Objections to United States Magistrate Judge L. Felipe Restrepo's Report and Recommendation (Document No. 21, filed September 8, 2008), for the reasons set forth in the attached Memorandum, IT IS ORDERED as follows:

1. The Report and Recommendation of United States Magistrate Judge L. Felipe Restrepo dated June 30, 2008 is APPROVED and ADOPTED;

2. Petitioner's Objections to United States Magistrate Judge L. Felipe Restrepo's Report and Recommendation are OVERRULED;

3. The Petition for Writ of Habeas Corpus is DISMISSED;

4. A certificate of appealability WILL NOT ISSUE because reasonable jurists would not debate this Court's rulings. See 28 U.S.C. § 2253(c)(2); Slack v. McDaniel, 529 U.S. 473, 484 (2000).

MEMORANDUM

I. INTRODUCTION

Petitioner, Tracy Watts, is currently incarcerated at the State Correctional Institution in Labelle, Pennsylvania ("SCI-Fayette"). On July 10, 2007, he filed a pro se Petition for Writ of Habeas Corpus pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254 in this Court. The petition was referred to United States Magistrate Judge L. Felipe Restrepo for a Report and Recommendation. In the Report and Recommendation dated June 30, 2008, the Magistrate Judge recommended (a) denial of petitioner's claim that his waiver of his appellate and collateral review rights was invalid on the ground that the waiver was knowing and voluntary and (b) dismissal of the other claims in the petition by reason of the waiver. Petitioner filed Objections to the Report and Recommendation on September 8, 2008. For the reasons set forth below, the Court overrules petitioner's Objections, approves and adopts the Report and Recommendation, and dismisses the Petition for Writ of Habeas Corpus.

II. FACTS AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY

The facts and procedural history of this case are detailed in the Report and Recommendation and are included in this Memorandum only insofar as necessary to address the issues raised by petitioner's Objections.

On May 5, 2001, during the course of a robbery, petitioner shot Marquis Henderson, who died from his injuries. Following a jury trial in the Philadelphia County Court of Common Pleas, on November 26, 2002, petitioner was convicted of murder in the first degree, robbery, possession of an instrument of crime, and conspiracy. The jury was convened the following day for the penalty phase of the trial to decide whether petitioner should be sentenced on the first degree murder conviction to death by lethal injection or to life in prison without parole. As aggravating factors, the Commonwealth stated that it was prepared to argue that the robbery was committed in conjunction with the murder and that petitioner had been previously convicted of violent felonies. Before the penalty hearing began, the Commonwealth offered to forgo its right to seek the death penalty in exchange for a waiver by petitioner of his rights to pursue appellate and collateral review of his conviction or sentence. Following a colloquy with Judge James A. Lineberger and a conference with his defense attorney and his father, petitioner consented and signed a Written Agreement Colloquy reflecting the terms of the agreement. On the count of murder in the first degree, petitioner was sentenced to life in prison without parole on March 13, 2003.

On April 10, 2003, petitioner filed a counseled direct appeal. Thereafter, petitioner filed a praecipe for discontinuance, and the appeal was discontinued on March 8, 2004. On March 15, 2004, petitioner filed a petition pursuant to Pennsylvania's Post Conviction Relief Act ("PCRA"), 42 Pa. C.S.A. ยงยง 9541--9546. The PCRA court dismissed the petition on June 15, 2005, and petitioner filed a pro se appeal in the Superior Court of Pennsylvania on July 13, 2005. The counsel appointed to represent petitioner filed a petition to withdraw ...


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