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Ferguson v. Lawler

June 7, 2010

DOUGLAS T. FERGUSON, PETITIONER,
v.
RAYMOND LAWLER, SUPERINTENDENT OF S.C.I. HUNTINGDON, ET AL, RESPONDENTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Lisa Pupo Lenihan United States Magistrate Judge

MEMORANDUM OPINION

Magistrate Judge Lisa Pupo Lenihan

Petitioner, Douglas T. Ferguson, a state prisoner incarcerated in the State Correctional Huntingdon, Pennsylvania, has petitioned, through counsel, for a writ of habeas corpus pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254 challenging his conviction and sentence in the Court of Common Pleas of Clearfield County for his conviction of burglary, robbery and aggravated assault. For the reasons that follow, the Petition should be denied.

A. Relevant Facts

The record evidence reveals the following. On October 14, 1996, Petitioner and his co-conspirator Robert Hoy, entered the home of Mr. and Mrs. Donald Harter disguised in Halloween masks, beat the couple, tied them up, and robbed them. Following a joint trial, a jury found them guilty of robbery, conspiracy to commit robbery, aggravated asault, simple assault, unlawful restraint, burglary, theft by unlawful taking and receiving stolen property. Petitioner was sentenced and then re-sentenced to an aggregate term of imprisonment of from thirty-two and one-half (321/2 ) to sixty (60) years. Following restoration of his appellate rights, Petitioner filed a direct appeal and a petition for relief under the Pennsylvania Post Conviction Relief Act (PCRA). Having completed his collateral attack in the state courts, Petitioner filed with this Court a petition for writ of habeas corpus pursuant to 28 U.S.C.§ 2254 raising the following claims.

1. Trial Counsel rendered ineffective assistance of counsel by failing to include in the certified record on his direct appeal, the preliminary hearing transcripts, which precluded review of a constitutionally improper identification of the defendant which ultimately led to his conviction.

2. Trial Counsel rendered ineffective assistance of counsel by failing to timely object to juror misconduct, when jurors discussed the case prior to deliberation.

3. Trial Counsel rendered ineffective assistance of counsel by failing to timely object and properly preserve and appeal the issue of the Commonwealth's failure to produce discovery related to receipts identifying the customers' names and amounts of money allegedly paid to the complainant prior to the robbery.

He raised these claims during his PCRA proceeding.

B. Standard of Review

In describing the role of federal habeas proceedings, the Supreme Court of the United States, in Barefoot v. Estelle, 463 U.S. 880, 887 (1983), noted:

[I]t must be remembered that direct appeal is the primary avenue for review of a conviction or sentence.... The role of federal habeas proceedings, while important in assuring that constitutional rights are observed, is secondary and limited. Federal courts are not forums in which to relitigate state trials.

In 1996, Congress enacted the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996, Pub.L. No. 104-132, 110 Stat. 1214, April 24, 1996, (AEDPA), which further "modified a federal habeas court's role in reviewing state prisoner applications in order to prevent federal habeas 'retrials' and to ensure that state-court convictions are given effect to the extent possible under law." Bell v. Cone, 535 U.S. 685, 693 (2002).

Amended Section 2254 of the federal habeas corpus statute provides the standard of review for federal court review of state court criminal determinations and provides, in relevant part, 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; or

(2) resulted in a decision that was based on an unreasonable determination of the facts in light of the evidence ...


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