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Huggins v. Kerestes

United States District Court, Third Circuit

September 26, 2013

REYANDO HUGGINS, Petitioner,
v.
JOHN KERESTES, et al., Respondents.

MEMORANDUM

EDUARDO C. ROBRENO, J.

Petitioner Reyando Huggins (“Petitioner”) filed this pro se Petition for Writ of Habeas Corpus pursuant to the Antiterrorism and Efficient Death Penalty Act of 1996 (“AEDPA”), 28 U.S.C. § 2254. Petitioner is currently incarcerated at the State Correctional Institute at Mahanoy, Pennsylvania. Consistent with the Report and Recommendation (“R&R”) (ECF NO. 15), the Court will deny Petitioner’s Petition and dismiss it with prejudice.

I. BACKGROUND

On January 20, 2006, Petitioner was convicted in the Court of Common Pleas for Philadelphia County of the first-degree murder of Eric Baylis. Commonwealth v. Huggins, 05020236, January 20, 2006, at 67. After the trial, Petitioner received a mandatory life sentence. Id. at 70-71. The trial included testimony from an eyewitness who was in the car with the victim during the shooting; a taxi driver who was nearby at the time of the shooting; police officers who pursued Petitioner after the shooting; a police officer who recovered a gun stained with Petitioner’s blood; a police officer who recovered bullet casings from Petitioner’s car and the scene of the shooting; a ballistics expert; a DNA expert; and Petitioner. See, e.g., id., Notes of Testimony, at 10, 25-30, 44-48, 65, 67-69, 70-75, 82-85, 94-95, 94-146. Petitioner appealed his conviction after having his appellate rights reinstated during Post Conviction Relief Act (“PCRA”) proceedings pursuant to 42 Pa. CSA § 9541 et seq. (West 2013). Commonwealth v. Huggins, No. 1363 EDA 2007 (Pa. Super. 2008). On February 8, 2008, the Pennsylvania Superior Court upheld Petitioner’s conviction. Id. at 9-12. On September 25, 2008, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court denied allowance of appeal. Petition at ¶ 9(g).

Petitioner filed another PCRA petition on February 9, 2009, in which he argued that his trial counsel was ineffective for failing to object to the prosecutor’s closing statements as impermissible personal opinions. Commonwealth v. Huggins, No. 3228 EDA 2010 (Pa. Super. Aug. 4, 2011). On November 12, 2010, the PCRA court denied the petition without a hearing. Id. On August 4, 2011, the Superior Court affirmed the denial of relief. Id. On December 28, 2011, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court denied allowance of appeal. R&R at 5.

Petitioner filed a third PCRA petition on January 9, 2012, which is still pending. Petition at ¶ 11(b). In that petition, he alleges that his PCRA counsel was ineffective for failing to raise four grounds of his trial counsel’s ineffectiveness during his original PCRA proceeding: (1) failing to fully inform Petitioner of his right not to testify; (2) failing to inform Petitioner of his Vienna Convention rights to consult with Jamaican diplomats; (3) erroneously raising a claim of self-defense during Petitioner’s direct appeal; and (4) failing to file a motion to suppress the statements Petitioner made to police after the shooting. Id. He also raises a judicial interference claim not at issue in the instant case. Id.

Petitioner filed the instant habeas petition on June 28, 2012. Petitioner argues in his petition that he is entitled to habeas relief on three grounds:

(1) Evidence insufficient to establish guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.
(2) Petitioner’s trial counsel was ineffective for failing to object to the prosecutor’s improperly stated personal opinion concerning petitioner’s guilt.
(3) PCRA counsel was ineffective for failing to raise trial counsel’s ineffectiveness on petitioner’s first Amended PCRA petition.

Petition at 1, 7-8, ECF No. 1. In his objections to the R&R, Petitioner lists the four claims he raises in his pending PCRA petition as the reasons for which his trial counsel was ineffective. Pet’r’s Objections to R&R, ECF No. 19.

II. LEGAL STANDARD

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; see also 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(B) (2006 & Supp. V 2011). Parties may object to the magistrate judge’s report and recommendation within fourteen days after being served with a copy thereof. See 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1); E.D. Pa. R. 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 Report and Recommendation to which the parties object.

When reviewing a habeas petition, the Court must determine whether the state court’s adjudication of the claims raised was “contrary to, or involved an unreasonable application of, clearly established Federal law, as determined by the Supreme Court of the United States; or resulted in a decision that was based on an unreasonable determination of the facts in light of the evidence presented in the State court ...


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