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Ferdinand Aguirre v. Hon. Martin C. Carlson

December 3, 2010




This matter is before the Court on the Report and Recommendation ("R&R") of Magistrate Judge Martin C. Carlson (Doc. 18), filed on November 9, 2010, which recommends Ferdinand Aguirre's ("Petitioner" or "Aguirre") petition for habeas corpus pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254 be denied and this case be closed. Petitioner filed objections to the R&R on November 23, 2010. (Doc. 19). Accordingly, this matter is ripe for disposition. For the reasons set forth below, the Court will adopt the Magistrate Judge's R&R and close this case.


Petitioner, a prisoner at the State Correctional Institution, Huntingdon, filed this 28 U.S.C § 2254 petition on February 11, 2010 challenging his conviction of third-degree murder and related firearms offenses in the Court of Common Pleas of Philadelphia. Petitioner claims that he is actually innocent of the crimes for which he was convicted and that he received ineffective assistance of counsel at trial and on appeal. The Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, in opposition, argues that the Petitioner has procedurally defaulted on his claims and that they are otherwise without merit.

Magistrate Judge Carlson recommends that the petition be denied because

(1) a number of the claims that Aguirre seeks to advance in his federal petition were never fairly presented to the state courts*fn1 and (2) those claims that were presented in state court and adjudicated do not provide a basis for habeas relief in this case.


A. Review of a Magistrate Judge's Report

When objections are filed to the report of a magistrate judge, the district court makes a de novo determination of those portions of the report or specified proposed findings or recommendations to which objections are made. 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1); United States v. Raddatz, 447 U.S. 667, 674-75 (1980). The court may accept, reject, or modify, in whole or in part, the magistrate judge's findings or recommendations. Id. Although the standard of review is de novo, 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1) permits whatever reliance the district court, in the exercise of sound discretion, chooses to place on a magistrate judge's proposed findings and recommendations. Raddatz, 447 U.S. at 674-75; see also Mathews v. Weber, 423 U.S. 261, 275 (1976); Goney v. Clark, 749 F.2d 5, 7 (3d Cir. 1984).

B. Review of a 28 U.S.C. § 2254 Petition

Federal courts "may entertain an application for a writ of habeas corpus on behalf of a person in custody pursuant to the judgment of a State court only on the ground that he is in custody in violation of the Constitution or laws or treaties of the United States." 28 U.S.C. § 2254(a). By limiting habeas relief to state conduct which violates "the Constitution or laws or treaties of the United States," § 2254 places a high threshold on the courts. Typically, habeas relief will only be granted to state prisoners in those instances where the conduct of state proceedings led to a "fundamental defect which inherently results in a complete miscarriage of justice" or was completely inconsistent with rudimentary demands of fair procedure. See, e.g., Reed v. Farley, 512 U.S. 339, 354 (1994).

In reviewing the claims set forth in a Section 2254 petition, federal courts afford great deference to the rulings of the state court judge. Habeas relief is not available to a petitioner for any claim that has been adjudicated on its merits in the state courts unless it can be shown that the decision was either: (1) "contrary to" or involved an unreasonable application of a clearly established case law; see 28 U.S.C. § 2254(d)(1); or (2) was "based upon an unreasonable determination of the facts." see 28 U.S.C. § 2254(d)(2).*fn2 Applying this deferential standard of review, federal courts frequently decline invitations by habeas petitioners to substitute their legal judgments for the considered views of the state trial and appellate courts. See Rice v. Collins, 546 U.S. 333, 338-39 (2006); see also Warren v. Kyler, 422 F.3d 132, 139-40 (3d Cir. 2006); Gattis v. Snyder, 278 F. 3d 222, 228 (3d Cir. 2002).

Further, state prisoners seeking Section 2254 relief must also satisfy specific and precise procedural standards. As noted above, a petitioner must show that he has exhausted his state court remedies, or a federal court will refuse to entertain his petition. A petitioner bears the burden of showing that all of the claims alleged have been "fairly presented" to the state courts, and the claims brought in federal court must be the "substantial equivalent" of those presented to the state courts. Evans v. Court of Common Pleas, 959 F. 2d 1227, 1231 (3d Cir. 1992); Santana v. Fenton, 685 F.2d 71, 73-74 (3d Cir. 1982).*fn3

A necessary corollary to the exhaustion requirement is the procedural default doctrine. Certain habeas claims, while not exhausted in state court, may also be incapable of exhaustion in the state legal system by the time a petitioner files a federal habeas petition because the ...

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