The opinion of the court was delivered by: Yvette Kane, Chief Judge United States District Court Middle District of Pennsylvania
Presently pending before the Court is Magistrate Judge Mannion's Report and Recommendation addressing Petitioner Tyrone P. James's petition under 28 U.S.C. § 2254 for a writ of habeas corpus (Doc. No. 59) as well as Petitioner's objections (Doc. No. 68) and motion for a certificate of appealability (Doc. No. 69). For the reasons that follow, the Court will adopt the Report and Recommendation, overrule Petitioner's objections, and deny Petitioner's motion for a certificate of appealability.
On January 8, 2001, James H. Morgan, a narcotics agent employed by the Pennsylvania Office of Attorney General's Bureau of Narcotics Investigation and Drug Control, received information provided by Randall Sipes, an agent of the California Department of Justice. (Doc. No. 27-2 at 156-57, 159; Doc. No. 27-5 at 1083.) Specifically, Agent Morgan learned that a package containing marijuana was en route from California to a mailbox located at a Mailboxes, Etc. store in Springettsbury Township, Pennsylvania. (Doc. No. 27-2 at 156-57, 159; Doc. No. 27-5 at 1084.) Agent Morgan later discovered that Petitioner had rented the mailbox at issue, Box 164. (Doc. No. 27-2 at 158; Doc. No. 27-5 at 1084.)
On January 9, 2001, Agent Morgan, working with members of the York County Drug Task Force, created a fake package to be delivered to Box 164 in lieu of the package that had been mailed from California. (Doc. No. 27-2 at 157-58; Doc. No. 27-5 at 1084.) On January 10, 2001, Agent Morgan arranged for the fake package to be delivered to Box 164, and Petitioner retrieved the package on that date. (Doc. No. 27-2 at 159-60.) Upon leaving the Mailboxes, Etc. premises, Petitioner was approached by one of Agent Morgan's colleagues, prompting him to attempt to flee the scene. (Id. at 160; Doc. No. 27-5 at 1084.) Petitioner, however, was quickly apprehended and taken into custody. (Doc. No. 27-2 at 160; Doc. No. 27-5 at 1084.)
After being informed of his Miranda rights, Petitioner was questioned at the York County Police Station. (Doc. No. 27-2 at 160; Doc. No. 27-5 at 1084.) Petitioner explained that he had just flown to Pennsylvania from California, where he had retrieved his social security checks. (Doc. No. 27-5 at 1084.) He also explained that he believed that the package he had retrieved contained supplies for his wife's beauty shop. (Id.; Doc. No. 27-2 at 160.) The next day, Raymond Craul, a detective employed by the Springettsbury Township Police Department and a member of the York County Drug Task Force, searched Petitioner's wallet and found business cards listing eight separate Mailbox, Etc. locations. (Doc. No. 27-2 at 188-89.)
On January 11, 2001, Agent Morgan received the package that had been intercepted in California. (Id. at 161.)Brian Hall, a forensic chemist employed by the Drug Enforcement Agency at its northeastern laboratory in New York City, testified that the package contained marijuana. (Id. at 208-10.) Upon further investigation, law enforcement agents discovered that packages delivered to other Mailbox, Etc. mailboxes rented by Petitioner contained cocaine and marijuana. (Id. at 195-96, 205, 212; Doc. No. 27-5 at 1084.)
On November 15, 2001, following a jury trial in the Court of Common Pleas of York County, Pennsylvania, Petitioner was found guilty of criminal attempt to possess with intent to deliver marijuana, criminal attempt to possess with intent to deliver cocaine, and possession with intent to deliver cocaine. (Doc. No. 27-2 at 257.) On January 7, 2002, the Court of Common Pleas sentenced Petitioner to a minimum term of imprisonment of twelve-and-one-half years. (Id. at 1195, 1234, 1277.) Since that date, Petitioner has sought various forms of relief from his judgment of sentence in state court, all of which have been unsuccessful. This procedural history is comprehensively set forth in Magistrate Judge Mannion's Report and Recommendation and need not be reproduced here. (Doc. No. 59 at 2-5.) Petitioner filed the instant petition under 28 U.S.C. § 2254 for a writ of habeas corpus in this Court on August 13, 2010. (Doc. No. 1.)
A. De Novo Review of Objections to Report and Recommendation
Pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(B) and Rule 72(a) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, a magistrate judge has authority to file proposed findings and recommendations. In response, a party may file written objections to the proposed findings and recommendations. 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(C); Fed. R. Civ. P. 72(b)(2). In deciding whether to accept, reject, or modify any part of the magistrate judge's disposition, the Court must make a de novo determinations of the portions to which objection is made. 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1); Fed. R. Civ. P. 72(b)(3).
B. Review Under 28 U.S.C. § 2254
The Court 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). Under Section 2254(d), a federal district court's review is deferential. If a state court has adjudicated the petitioner's claims on the merits, the deferential standard set forth in Section 2254(d) applies. Section 2254(d) precludes habeas relief 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 presented in the State court proceeding.
28 U.S.C. § 2254(d)(1)-(2). Where the state court did not adjudicate the petitioner's claims on the merits, however, the federal district court should apply a de novo standard of review. Hameen v. State of Delaware, 212 F.3d 226, 248 (3d Cir. 2000). Factual determinations by a state court, regardless of whether the petitioner's claims were adjudicated on the merits, are presumed to be correct unless rebutted by clear and convincing evidence. 28 U.S.C. § 2254(e)(1); Palmer v. Hendricks, 592 F.3d 386, 392 (3d Cir. 2010). The district court "shall not hold an evidentiary hearing" on any claim unless the petitioner shows that: (1) the claim relies on "a new rule of constitutional law, made retroactive to cases on collateral review by the Supreme Court, that was previously unavailable" or "a factual predicate that could not have been previously discovered through the exercise of due diligence;" and (2) "the facts ...