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Michael Leon Hudson v. Paul K. Smeal

June 26, 2012


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Judge Cathy Bissoon



Pending before the Court is Petitioner Michael Leon Hudson's Petition for Writ of Habeas Corpus (Doc. 6). For the reasons stated herein, the Court will deny the Petition. BACKGROUND

A.Factual Background

On April 22, 1999, Petitioner Michael Leon Hudson was convicted in the Court of Common Pleas of Allegheny County on one count of burglary, four counts of robbery, one count of criminal conspiracy, and four counts of simple assault. On June 15, 1999, Petitioner was sentenced to an aggregate of 35 to 70 years in prison.

During Petitioner's trial, Valerie Budzinski, a victim of Petitioner's crimes, testified that she was unable to identify any of the perpetrators of the crimes. See Trial Tr. 157:21-161:1. Following Ms. Budzinski's testimony, Petitioner's trial counsel, Leslie Perlow, commented, "I appreciate your honesty." Trial Tr. 161:3. After the jury was dismissed that day, the prosecutor objected to Ms. Perlow's comment, and the trial court told Ms. Perlow that the comment "was uncalled for." Trial Tr. 163:21.

At the opening of proceedings the following day, the trial court addressed the jury as follows:

Good morning, ladies and gentlemen.

Yesterday, there was a comment made by Ms. Perlow, which I'm going to speak about before we start. Everybody in this Courtroom plays a role. Ms. Nagy's our Court Reporter. She's responsible for making sure the record is maintained and is accurately transcribed. Mr. Clark is the Prosecutor whose job it is to take the cases brought into the system and to put forth that information to a jury or, if a non-jury, to myself.

Ms. Perlow and Mr. Kalocay are Defense Counsel. They represent an individual who's accused. Their job is to put forward their information and make sure that the evidence is put in properly and to represent their clients accordingly. In a jury trial, my sole function is to make sure that the evidence is given to you properly and to make rulings on objections. The function of the jury is fact-finder. As fact-finder, you're going to pass on credibility.

The gratuitous statement by Ms. Perlow yesterday, thanking somebody for their honesty, was precisely that, and it was offensive to me. And I think it should be offensive to you because she was intending or unintentionally going into your particular province as fact-finder.

So I'm going to ask you disregard that remark, and we have already dealt with Ms. Perlow.

Trial Tr. 164:4-165:3. Ms. Perlow did not object to the trial court's statements, the trial proceeded, and Petitioner was convicted and sentenced.

Petitioner appealed the judgment of sentence to the Superior Court of Pennsylvania, raising various arguments, including: that the trial court denied Petitioner a fair and impartial trial by making prejudicial remarks to the jury, that trial counsel provided ineffective assistance of counsel by making the comment that prompted the trial court's remarks and by failing to request a mistrial following the trial court's remarks, and that the trial court erred by not explaining the sentencing guideline ranges and imposing an unreasonable sentence. See Petitioner's Appeal Brief to Pa. Super. Ct. (Doc. 14-2 at 1-41). The Superior Court affirmed the judgment of sentence against Petitioner. Commonwealth v. Hudson, 820 A.2d 720, 2003 PA Super 104 (Pa. Super. 2003). The Superior Court found that the trial court's remarks were proper and did not prejudice Petitioner. Id. at ¶ 11. The Superior Court also found that Petitioner's ineffective assistance of counsel claims failed because trial counsel's comment did not create a reasonable probability that the outcome of the proceeding would have been different. Id. at ¶¶ 17-19. Finally, the Superior Court found that Petitioner waived his right to challenge the discretionary aspects of his sentence because his appellate brief did not include a "concise statement of the reasons relied upon for allowance of appeal with respect to the discretionary aspects of a sentence," which is required by Pennsylvania Rule of Appellate Procedure 2119(f). Id. at ¶¶ 20-21.

Petitioner filed a Petition for Allowance of Appeal (Doc. 14-4 at 1-31) in the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania, and the Supreme Court denied the Petition. See Allocatur Docket Sheet, 185 WAL 2003 (Doc. 14-3 at 19).

Petitioner subsequently filed a Petition under Pennsylvania's Post-Conviction Relief Act ("PCRA") and, on July 22, 2005, filed an Amended Petition (Doc. 14-5 at 1-24). Petitioner raised several issues in his Amended Petition, including a claim that he received ineffective assistance of counsel when his appellate counsel waived Petitioner's right to challenge the discretionary aspects of Petitioner's sentence. The PCRA court denied the PCRA Petition on July 2, 2007. Petitioner appealed the PCRA court's decision to the Superior Court of Pennsylvania. Petitioner's counsel then filed a motion for leave to withdraw as counsel (Doc. 14-6 at 1-16), asserting that Petitioner's claims were without merit. Petitioner did not respond to his counsel's motion for leave to withdraw. The Superior Court granted the motion to withdraw and affirmed the PCRA court's denial of Petitioner's Amended PCRA Petition. Memorandum (Pa. Super. Ct. Jan. 28, 2009) Doc. 14-6 at 36-42.

B.Procedural Background

Petitioner filed a Petition for Writ of Habeas Corpus (Doc. 6) in this Court, asserting ...

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