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Horton v. Lamas

United States District Court, Third Circuit

August 30, 2013

NAKIA HORTON, Petitioner
v.
MARIROSA LAMAS, ATTORNEY GENERAL OF THE STATE OF PENNSYLVANIA and SUPERINTENDENT OF SCI ROCKVIEW Respondents

NAKIA HORTON, Pro Se On behalf of Himself

DAVID CURTIS GLEBE, ESQUIRE Assistant District Attorney On behalf of Respondents

OPINION

JAMES KNOLL GARDNER, United States District Judge

The matter before the court is the Amended Petition for Writ of Habeas Corpus Pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254 which was filed by petitioner Nakia Horton pro se. Thereafter, a Report and Recommendation was filed by United States Magistrate Judge Timothy R. Rice which recommended that five of petitioner’s claims be denied as procedurally defaulted and, in the alternative, as meritless, and that petitioner’s properly exhausted claim be denied as meritless. Petitioner then filed objections to the Report and Recommendation.

For the reasons expressed in this Opinion, I approve and adopt the Report and Recommendation, overrule the objections, and deny the amended petition for writ of habeas corpus.

JURISDICTION

Jurisdiction in this case is based on 28 U.S.C. § 2254 which provides that the court shall entertain an application for writ of habeas corpus of a person in custody pursuant to the judgment of a State court on the ground that he is in custody in violation of the Constitution or laws or treaties of the United States.

VENUE

Venue is proper pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2241(d) because petitioner was convicted and sentenced in Montgomery County, Pennsylvania, which is within this judicial district.

PROCEDURAL HISTORY

On March 31, 1998 a jury sitting in the Court of Common Pleas for Philadelphia County, Pennsylvania, found petitioner Nakia Horton guilty of murder of the second-degree, robbery and possession of an instrument of crime. Immediately after the verdict, the trial judge sentenced petitioner to life imprisonment.

Petitioner did not file a timely appeal. However, on March 10, 2000 petitioner filed a timely petition pursuant to Pennsylvania’s Post Conviction Relief Act (“PCRA”). On September 5, 2002 the PCRA court reinstated petitioner’s direct appeal rights. However, petitioner did not file an appeal.

On July 22, 2003 petitioner filed another PCRA petition and on December 16, 2003 the PCRA court reinstated petitioner’s direct appeal rights and permitted petitioner to pursue a direct appeal of his conviction.

On April 26, 2005 the Superior Court of Pennsylvania affirmed petitioner’s conviction. Petitioner did not seek review from the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania.

On August 22, 2005 petitioner filed another PCRA petition. After being appointed counsel by the PCRA court, petitioner filed an amended petition on December 2, 2005.

On January 23, 2008 the PCRA court dismissed the petition and petitioner filed a timely appeal.

However, prior to the dismissal of his PCRA petition, petitioner also had filed numerous petitions and briefs pro se. On January 26, 2009 the PCRA court permitted petitioner to proceed pro se on his appeal of the January 23, 2008 dismissal of his PCRA amended petition.

On September 30, 2009 the Superior Court of Pennsylvania affirmed the dismissal of petitioner’s PCRA petition. On August 24, 2010 the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania denied review.

On September 14, 2010 petitioner filed the within habeas corpus petition. On April 14, 2011 United States Magistrate Judge Timothy R. Rice issued his Report and Recommendation.

On May 25, 2011 petitioner filed his objections to the Report and Recommendation. On June 30, 2011 respondents filed an answer in response to petitioner’s objections.

On July 13, 2011 petitioner filed a reply brief in support of his objections to the Report and Recommendation.[1]

On December 5, 2012 petitioner filed a Motion to Correct Procedural Defects With Requested Relief. On March 14, 2013 petitioner filed supplemental objections to the Report and Recommendation. On March 27, 2013 petitioner filed a Motion to Strike which sought to withdraw his motion to correct procedural defects.

Hence, this Opinion.

DISCUSSION

Habeas Corpus Petition

When objections are filed to a magistrate judge’s report and recommendation, I am required to make a de novo determination of those portions of the report, findings or recommendations made by the magistrate judge to which there are objections. 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1); Rule 72.1(IV)(b) of the Rules of Civil Procedure for the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania. Furthermore, district judges have wide latitude regarding how they treat recommendations of the magistrate judge. See United States v. Raddatz, 447 U.S. 667, 100 S.Ct. 2406, 65 L.Ed.2d 424 (1980).

Indeed, by providing for a de novo determination, rather than a de novo hearing, Congress intended to permit a district judge, in the exercise of the court’s sound discretion, the option of placing whatever reliance the court chooses to place on the magistrate judge’s proposed findings and conclusions. I may accept, reject or modify, in whole or in part any of the findings or recommendations made by the magistrate judge. Raddatz, supra.

Here, I conclude that many of petitioner’s objections to Magistrate Judge Rice’s Report and Recommendation (“R & R”) are merely a restatement of the underlying claims contained in his petition for habeas corpus and are without merit. They include petitioner’s claims that

(1) any procedural default was caused by the PCRA court’s refusal to permit petitioner to proceed pro se during his ...

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