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Rudd v. Beard

August 21, 2009

SHAREFF RUDD, PETITIONER,
v.
JEFFREY BEARD, RESPONDENT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Cynthia M. Rufe, J.

ORDER

AND NOW, this 21st day of August 2009, upon consideration of Report and Recommendation [Doc. No. 15], the Objections filed in the above captioned action pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254 [Doc. No. 41], the Government's Response [Doc. No. 43], and a review of the record it is hereby ORDERED as follows:

1. The Clerk of Court is directed to remove this action from the suspense docket and return it to the active docket;

2. The Report and Recommendation of United States Magistrate Judge Timothy R. Rice dated September 24, 2008 is APPROVED AND ADOPTED.

3. Petitioner's Objections to the Report and Recommendation are OVERRULED;

4. The Petition for Habeas Corpus Relief [Doc. No. 1] filed pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254 is DENIED;

5. A certificate of appealability SHALL NOT ISSUE.

6. The Clerk of Court shall CLOSE THIS CASE.

As a general matter, a district court may determine, in its discretion, the extent to which it will review the report and recommendation of a magistrate judge.*fn1 At a minimum, the court should be satisfied that there is no clear error on the face of the record,*fn2 and should "give some reasoned consideration to the magistrate's report before adopting it as the decision of the court."*fn3 This Court finds that Magistrate Judge Rice's Report and Recommendation is thorough and factually and procedurally correct, and that it should be adopted. However, a district court is required to review de novo those parts of a magistrate judge's report to which a litigant makes specific objection.*fn4

A. First Objection: The Magistrate Judge Applied an Inappropriate Level of Deference to the State Court's Determination that No Interrogation Took Place

Petitioner contends that Magistrate Judge Rice applied an inappropriate level of deference to the state trial court's factual determinations regarding whether Petitioner's statements were obtained in violation of his constitutional rights. Petitioner asserts that "no presumption of correctness should have been applied since the issue of custodial interrogation is a mixed question of fact and law under 2254 § (e)(1)."*fn5

A federal court reviewing a § 2254 petition should presume that the state-court's fact findings are correct. However, a state-court determination that a suspect was not "in custody" when he confessed is not strictly a finding of fact warranting a presumption of correctness. The issue of whether a suspect is "in custody" presents a mixed question of law and fact qualifying for independent review in habeas corpus proceedings.*fn6

In his Report and Recommendation ("R&R"), Magistrate Judge Rice amply acknowledged and correctly applied the standard requiring him to review the record as to both law and fact. The R&R contains a detailed analysis of the interplay between the two specific portions of § 2254 that he was obligated to consider. The Magistrate Judge acknowledged that under § 2254(e)(1) Petitioner would be permitted to rely upon evidence not presented to the state court in support of his habeas petition, which could result in a reassessment of the facts.*fn7

However, he also noted that any new evidence allowed under § 2254(e)(1) must be considered in conjunction with the language of § 2254(d)(2), which states that habeas relief shall only be granted if a rational jurist could not reach the same finding on the basis of the evidence in the record.*fn8 Moreover, Magistrate Judge Rice acknowledged that deference to a state court's factual findings is reserved for "basic, primary, or historical facts," resolution of which depends heavily on the trial court's "appraisal of witness credibility and demeanor."*fn9 He pointed out that "[s]uch inquiries allow a fact finder to assess ...


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