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Thomas A. Walsh v. Michael D. Klopotoski

January 25, 2012


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


Before the Court are Petitioner Thomas A. Walsh's Objections to the Report and Recommendation and Request for Appointment of Counsel. *fn1 Because Petitioner's Objections lack merit, the Court will overrule Petitioner's Objections, approve and adopt the Report and Recommendation, and deny the Petition. The Court will also deny the request to appoint counsel. *fn2


The Report and Recommendation ("R&R") of United States Magistrate Judge Lynne A. Sitarski describes in detail the facts and procedural history underlying the Petition. The background information is accurate and consistent with the record in this case and Petitioner does not object to this section of the R&R. The Court adopts the factual background and procedural history as contained in the R&R and sets forth herein only the context necessary to address Petitioner's objections.

Petitioner was tried by a jury in the Chester County Court of Common Pleas, convicted of Aggravated Assault, *fn3 two counts of Simple Assault, *fn4 Stalking, *fn5 Possession of an Instrument of a Crime, *fn6 two counts of Recklessly Endangering Another Person, *fn7 Criminal Mischief, *fn8 Terroristic Threats, *fn9 Loitering and Prowling at Nighttime, *fn10 and Retaliation against Witness, *fn11 and sentenced to 13-37 years imprisonment. The conviction stems from an encounter between Petitioner and his ex-wife, Dinah Walsh. On October 15, 2003, at approximately 8:30 p.m., Mrs. Walsh pulled into the driveway of her home. As Mrs. Walsh was opening her car door, Petitioner grabbed her from behind and began beating her in the head with a hammer. According to Mrs. Walsh, Petitioner alternated between hitting her with the hammer and breaking the windows of her car.

Petitioner had been released from prison about a week before the incident occurred. He had been prescribed the antidepressant drug Elavil while incarcerated, but was not provided with this medication upon release. Petitioner asserts that, at the time of the incident, he was experiencing withdrawal from Elavil. According to Petitioner, this withdrawal, when combined with what Petitioner claims is a pre-existing traumatic brain injury, caused Petitioner to become violent. He asserts that his trial counsel was ineffective for failing to raise a defense based on this mental impairment. Judge Sitarski agreed with the state court that the record showed that trial counsel was not ineffective. Petitioner objects to this conclusion.


The Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996 ("AEDPA"), *fn12 governs habeas petitions like the one before this Court. Under AEDPA, "a district court shall entertain an application for writ of a habeas corpus [filed 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." *fn13 Where, as here, the habeas petition is referred to a magistrate judge for a report and recommendation pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(B), a district court conducts a de novo review of "those portions of the report or specified proposed findings or recommendations to which objection is made," and "may accept, reject, or modify, in whole or in part, the findings or recommendations made by the magistrate judge." *fn14

Where the claims presented in a federal habeas petition have been decided on the merits in state court, a district court may not grant relief unless the adjudication of the claim in state court:

(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 presented in the State court proceeding. *fn15

A state court's decision is "contrary to" clearly established law if the state court applies a rule of law that differs from the governing rule set forth in Supreme Court precedent or "if the state court confronts a set of facts that are materially indistinguishable from a decision of [the Supreme Court] and nevertheless arrives at a result different from [its] precedent." *fn16 A decision is an "unreasonable application" of clearly established law if "the state court identifies the correct governing legal principle . . . but unreasonably applies that principle to the facts of the prisoner's case." *fn17 The "unreasonable application" clause requires more than an incorrect or erroneous state court decision. *fn18 Instead, the application of clearly established law must be "objectively unreasonable." *fn19


A. Petitioner's ...

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