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Stone v. Beard

June 25, 2009


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Jones, J.


Before the Court are the Objections of Timothy Stone ("Petitioner") (Docket No. 12) ("Objections") to the Report and Recommendation ("R&R") issued on March 13, 2009, by Magistrate Judge Arnold C. Rapoport (Docket No. 11). In addition, the Court ordered Jeffrey Beard, et al., ("Respondents") to file a brief in response to Petitioner's Objections (Docket No. 14). After careful consideration of the foregoing, the Court will adopt Judge Rapoport's Report and Recommendation in its entirety and decline to issue a Certificate of Appealability.

I. Facts

For the purposes of judicial economy, the Court will not restate the facts of this matter here. Rather, the Court is satisfied with the factual background as delineated in the R&R, which was based upon the Court of Common Pleas decision denying Petitioner's Post Conviction Relief Act petition, Commonwealth v. Stone, No. 1132 (C.C.P. Phila. May 2, 2006). The Pennsylvania courts' findings of fact are presumed correct under the federal habeas statute, and Petitioner can only overcome that presumption by presenting clear and convincing evidence to the contrary. 28 U.S.C.A. § 2254(e)(1) (West 2006); Sumner v. Mata, 449 U.S. 539 (1981). The Court finds that Petitioner has presented no credible evidence to sustain his burden. Accordingly, the Court will adopt the factual recitation contained in the R&R.

II. Procedural Background*fn1

Petitioner was found guilty of criminal conspiracy and possession with intent to deliver a controlled substance. He was found not guilty of additional charges of possession of a controlled substance and possession of prohibited offensive weapons. In addition, the trial court granted his motion for acquittal on an unlicensed carrying of firearms charge. He was sentenced to ten to twenty years imprisonment on the possession with intent to distribute charge, and a consecutive term of five to ten years on the conspiracy charge.

After his conviction and sentencing, Petitioner filed a timely direct appeal with the Superior Court of Pennsylvania. On appeal, Petitioner argued that there was insufficient evidence upon which to convict him of both charges. He also argued that trial counsel was constitutionally deficient in several regards. The Superior Court denied his sufficiency of evidence claim, but reserved that ineffectiveness claims for collateral review. Petitioner then timely filed a petition on March 8, 2001, seeking relief under the Pennsylvania Post-Conviction Relief Act ("PCRA"), 42 Pa. Cons. Stat. §§ 9541-9546. The PCRA court held an evidentiary hearing on October 20, 2005. Following the hearing, the court denied the petition. On May 24, 2007, the Superior Court affirmed the PCRA court's order. Petitioner then filed his federal petition on July 18, 2008. In his petition, Petitioner raises the same four ineffective assistance of counsel claims that he raised in the PCRA petition, as well as purported due process claims.

Magistrate Judge Arnold C. Rapoport issued an R&R on March 13, 2009. Judge Rapoport agreed with the District Attorney and recommended that the Petition be dismissed.

III. Jurisdiction and Legal Standards

The District Court has jurisdiction over Petitioner's application for habeas relief pursuant to 28 U.S.C. 2254(a).

A. Habeas Relief

Where a case has been assigned to a Magistrate Judge, the final decision rests with the District Court. Mathews v. Weber, 423 U.S. 261, 271 (1976). A District Court may accept, reject or modify, in whole or in part, any of the Magistrate Judge's findings or recommendations. 28 U.S.C.A. § 636(b)(1) (West 2006). When a petitioner makes timely, specific objections to the Magistrate Judge's R&R, the District Court is required to review any portions of the report that are objected to de novo. 28 U.S.C.A. § 636(b)(1) (West 2006); Rules Governing § 2254 Cases, Rule 8(b). Although review of the objections is de novo, the Court has broad discretion to rely upon the Magistrate Judge's recommendations to the extent it deems proper. United States v. Raddatz, 447 U.S. 667, 676 (1980).*fn2

Whatever recommendations are made, the District Court's power to grant habeas relief is strictly limited by statute. Bell v. Cone, 535 U.S. 685, 693 (2002). A District Court sitting in habeas may only grant relief to a prisoner on a claim that was adjudicated by a state court if the state court's adjudication of that claim:

(1) resulted in a decision that was contrary to, or involved an unreasonable application of, clearly established federal law, as determined by the ...

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