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Saunders Mclaurin v. D.W. Pitkins

November 1, 2012

SAUNDERS MCLAURIN, PETITIONER,
v.
D.W. PITKINS, ET AL., RESPONDENTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Magistrate Judge Susan Paradise Baxter

OPINION AND ORDER*fn1

Presently before the Court is a petition for a writ of habeas corpus filed by Petitioner, Saunders McLaurin. [ECF No. 11]. He is challenging the judgment of sentence imposed upon him by the Court of Common Pleas of Erie County on January 28, 2009. For the reasons set forth below, his petition is denied and a certificate of appealability is denied.

I.

A. Relevant Background*fn2

Petitioner was charged in the Erie County Court of Common Pleas at Criminal Docket Number 2093 of 2008 with one count of Robbery, Theft By Unlawful Taking, and Receiving Stolen Property. The court appointed Assistant Public Defender Michael A. DeJohn, Esquire, to be his counsel. The Honorable Ernest J. DiSantis, Jr., presided over a non-jury trial on December 18, 2008.

The Superior Court of Pennsylvania summarized the basic facts of this case:

A review of the record discloses that on the 21st day of June, 2008, Kathleen Anderson and her daughter (Jamie Sheehan) were walking home from an evening at a local bar when Anderson had her purse stolen by a person later identified as [Petitioner]. Prior to the incident, Sheehan had managed to distance herself one-half block from her mother. During the course of the robbery, Anderson was hit in the eye by her assailant, which caused her to fall and yell for her daughter's intervention. Sheehan came to her mother's aid and, in the course thereof, retrieved the stolen purse from [Petitioner].. Anderson gave a videotaped statement to police but not before receiving treatment at the hospital, which diagnosed her with sustaining a subdural hematoma, draining, and a concussion.. Anderson could not select her assailant from a photo array, she did identify [Petitioner] as her attacker at the preliminary hearing. Also, Sheehan and Anderson selected [Petitioner] as the perpetrator of the offenses charged at his non-jury trial, which resulted in the trial court finding [Petitioner] guilty. (CP Dkt. No. 15, Commonwealth v. McLaurin, No. 156 WDA 2009, slip op. at 1-2 (Pa.Super. Oct. 7, 2009)).

In his subsequent appeal to the Superior Court, Petitioner claimed that there was insufficient evidence to support the trial court's verdicts. Attorney DeJohn submitted a "Statement of Intent to File an Anders/McClendon Brief," in which he explained that he believed that there were no non-frivolous issues that could be raised on direct appeal. (CP Dkt. No. 12).

On October 7, 2009, the Superior Court issued a Memorandum in which it affirmed Petitioner's judgment of sentence. It first concluded that DeJohn had complied with the requirements of Anders. (CP Dkt. No. 15, McLaurin, No. 156 WDA 2009, slip op. at 3). It then reviewed Petitioner's claim that there was insufficient evidence to support his convictions and rejected it on the merits. (Id. at 4-6).

On April 10, 2010, Petitioner filed a pro se motion under Pennsylvania's Post Conviction Relief Act ("PCRA"), 42 Pa.C.S. § 9541 et seq. (CP Dkt. No. 16). The court appointed William J. Hathaway, Esquire, to represent him. Hathaway subsequently filed a petition for leave to withdraw as counsel and an accompanying "no-merit" letter pursuant to Commonwealth v. Turner, 544 A.2d 927 (Pa. 1988) and Commonwealth v. Finley, 550 A.2d 213 (Pa. 1988). (CP Dkt. Nos. 19, 20).

On May 17, 2010, the PCRA Court granted Hathaway's petition for leave to withdraw and issued an Opinion and Notice of Intent to Dismiss PCRA Without a Hearing Pursuant to Pa.R.Crim.P. 907(1).

(CP Dkt. No. 21). Pursuant to Pennsylvania Rule of Criminal Procedure 907, Petitioner had 20 days to file a response to the PCRA Court's Notice of Intent to Dismiss. He did not file one. On June 10, 2010, the PCRA Court issued an Order in which it denied the PCRA motion. (CP Dkt. No. 22). Petitioner did not file an appeal with the Superior Court.

On or around February 18, 2011, Petitioner filed with this Court his petition for a writ of habeas corpus [ECF No. 11] and accompanying brief in support [ECF No. 12]. He claims, as he did in his direct appeal, that the Commonwealth introduced insufficient evidence to support the verdicts of guilt. He also raises numerous other claims, including that his Miranda rights were violated, that the indictment was amended improperly, that Attorney DeJohn provided him with ineffective assistance of counsel, and that Attorney Hathaway was ineffective.*fn3 Respondents have filed an Answer [ECF No. 19], in which they contend, inter alia, that Petitioner has procedurally defaulted most of his claims. They also contend that Petitioner's claim that there was insufficient evidence should be denied on the merits.

B. Discussion

(1) Insufficiency of the Evidence Claim

(a) Standard of Review

This case is governed by the federal habeas statute applicable to state prisoners, 28 U.S.C. § 2254, as amended by the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996, Pub.L. No. 104-132, 110 Stat. 1214, April 24, 1996 ("AEDPA"). Under this statute, habeas relief is only available on the grounds that Petitioner's judgment of sentence was obtained in violation of his federal constitutional rights. 28 U.S.C. § 2254(a). In addition, AEDPA "modified a federal habeas court's role in reviewing state prisoner applications in order to prevent federal habeas ...


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