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Milton v. Harlow

United States District Court, Third Circuit

August 21, 2013

MICHAEL HARLOW, et al., Respondents.


EDUARDO C. ROBRENO, District Judge.

Cleatus Milton (Petitioner) filed this pro se Petition for Writ of Habeas Corpus pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254 (Habeas Petition) challenging his custody. Petitioner is incarcerated in the State Correctional Institution in Albion, Pennsylvania. Consistent with Magistrate Judge Hey's Report and Recommendation (R&R), the Court will dismiss the Habeas Petition with prejudice.


On July 31, 2007, Petitioner was convicted in the Court of Common Pleas of Philadelphia County of rape of a child less than thirteen years old, involuntary deviate sexual intercourse, incest, indecent assault, and corrupting the morals of a minor. Commonwealth v. Milton, No. 331 EDA 2008, slip op. at 3 (Pa. Super. Ct. May 28, 2009). The charges arose from the rape of his ten-year-old, mentally-challenged daughter. Id . He received two consecutive sentences of imprisonment that totaled 47 1/2 to 95 years. Order, Commonwealth v. Milton, No. CP-51-CR-0311451-2006 (Ct. Com. Pl. Phila. Cnty. Dec. 18, 2007).

Petitioner appealed, challenging his sentence as excessive. Concise Statement of Errors Complained of on Appeal, Milton, No. CP-51-CR-0311451-2006. On May 28, 2009, the Pennsylvania Superior Court affirmed the judgment of sentence. Commonwealth v. Milton, No. 331 EDA 2008 (Pa. Super. Ct. May 28, 2009). Petitioner did not seek review in the Pennsylvania Supreme Court.

Petitioner then filed a timely pro se petition pursuant to Pennsylvania's Post Conviction Relief Act (PCRA) and amended the petition following the appointment of PCRA counsel. Amended Petition Under Post-Conviction Relief Act, Commonwealth v. Milton, No. CP-51-CR-0311451-2006 (Ct. Com. Pl. Phila. Cnty. Oct. 28, 2010). In that petition, he alleged that his trial counsel was ineffective for failing to seek dismissal of the charges against him based on a theory that the trial court violated Rule 600 of the Pennsylvania Rules of Criminal Procedure, which guarantees a speedy trial. Id . On October 28, 2010, the PCRA Court dismissed the petition. Order of October 28, 2010, Milton, No. CP-51-CR-0311451-2006. Petitioner appealed the PCRA Court's order, and on October 26, 2011, the Superior Court affirmed the order on both procedural grounds and on the merits of the claim. Commonwealth v. Milton, No. 3038 EDA 2010 (Pa. Super. Ct. Oct. 26, 2011). On February 28, 2012, the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania denied a petition for allowance of appeal. Commonwealth v. Milton, 656 EAL 2011 (Pa. Feb. 28, 2012).

On May 7, 2012, Petitioner filed a habeas petition directly with the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania. Docket Sheet, Milton v. Superintendent, 87 EM 2012 (Pa. 2012).[1] On July 19, 2012, the state supreme court denied his petition. Milton v. Superintendent, 48 A.3d 1244 (Pa. 2012). On January 11, 2013, Petitioner filed the instant Habeas Petition. Habeas Pet. 1, ECF No. 1. Upon referral, Magistrate Judge Hay submitted her R&R, recommending that the Habeas Petition be dismissed with prejudice. Petitioner objected, and the matter is now ripe for disposition.


The Court may refer an application for a writ of habeas corpus to a U.S. Magistrate Judge for a report and recommendation. Section 2254 R. 10 ("A magistrate judge may perform the duties of a district judge under these rules, as authorized under 28 U.S.C. § 636.); see also 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(B) (2006 & Supp. V 2011). A prisoner may object to the magistrate judge's report and recommendations within fourteen days after being served with a copy thereof. See 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1); E.D. Pa. L.R. Civ. P. 72.1(IV)(b). The Court must then "make a de novo determination of those portions of the report or specified proposed findings or recommendations to which objection is made." 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1). The Court does not review general objections. See Brown v. Astrue , 649 F.3d 193, 195 (3d Cir. 2011) ("We have provided that § 636(b)(1) requires district courts to review such objections de novo unless the objection is not timely or not specific." (internal quotation marks omitted)). The Court "may accept, reject, or modify, in whole or in part, the findings or recommendations made by the magistrate judge." Id . Therefore, the Court will conduct a de novo review of those portions of the R&R to which Petitioner objects.

On habeas review, the Court must determine whether the state court's adjudication of the claims raised was (1) contrary to, or an unreasonable application of, clearly established federal law, or (2) based on an unreasonable determination of the facts in light of the evidence presented. See 28 U.S.C. § 2254(d) (2006). Absent those findings, the Court will not grant an application for writ of habeas corpus.


In the Habeas Petition, Petitioner raises four grounds for relief: three claims that Pennsylvania's state statutes are unconstitutional and one claim that there is no valid sentencing order authorizing his incarceration. Habeas Pet. ¶ 12. In his reply brief, he also includes an additional claim that his federal speedy-trial right was violated. Pet'r's Reply 5, ECF No. 8.

In Magistrate Judge Hay's R&R, she recommends dismissing the Habeas Petition with prejudice due to procedural default. R&R 10. The majority of Petitioner's objections to the R&R address the merits of his underlying claims. Pet'r's Objections, ECF No. 11. He does not dispute that his claims are procedurally defaulted. Id. at 7. However, he asks the Court to consider his petition regardless of the procedural default because he was not "accorded a meaningful defense." Id . The Court will consider Petitioner's objections that relate to the Habeas Petition's procedural defects; it need not address those that reach the merits of his claims. After reviewing the applicable ...

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