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Grow v. Attorney General of The State

United States District Court, W.D. Pennsylvania

February 19, 2014

JASON PAUL GROW, Petitioner,
v.
THE ATTORNEY GENERAL OF THE STATE OF PENNSYLVANIA; THE DISTRICT ATTORNEY OF THE COUNTY OF GREENE, Respondents.

MEMORANDUM OPINION

MAUREEN P. KELLY, Magistrate Judge.

Jason Paul Grow ("Petitioner") has filed this Petition under 28 U.S.C. § 2254 for Writ of Habeas Corpus by a Person in State Custody (the "Petition"), seeking to attack his state court convictions for burglary, criminal attempt, aggravated assault, recklessly endangering another and harassment. ECF No. 4-18 at 2. Petitioner entered a negotiated plea deal where, in exchange for pleading guilty, the Commonwealth agreed to dismiss other charges and Petitioner would be sentenced to a term of 3 to 10 years of incarceration. Petitioner claims that his plea counsel rendered ineffective assistance of counsel and, therefore, he is entitled to federal relief in this habeas corpus proceeding. For the reasons that follow, Petitioner fails to show that the state courts' adjudication of the claims that he raises in his Petition was contrary to or an unreasonable application of precedents from the United States Supreme Court. Accordingly, the Petition will be dismissed and a Certificate of Appealability will be denied.

I. PROCEDURAL HISTORY

The Pennsylvania Superior Court summarized the relevant procedural history in its opinion affirming the denial of Petitioner's Post Conviction Relief Act ("PCRA") Petition, as follows:

On November 30, 2009, Appellant entered the residence at 322 Green Street in Cumberland Township, placed a knife to the victim's throat, and struck her several times. On January 26, 2010, the Commonwealth filed a criminal information charging Appellant with burglary, aggravated assault, and related offenses (18 Pa.C.S.A. §§ 3502(2), 2702(a)(4), respectively). On April 14, 2010, Appellant executed a written guilty plea colloquy. That same say, the court conducted Appellant's guilty plea hearing. Appellant entered a negotiated guilty plea to one count each of burglary, criminal attempt, aggravated assault, recklessly endangering another person, and harassment. In exchange, the Commonwealth agreed to dismiss certain other charges. The Commonwealth also agreed to recommend an aggregate term of three (3) to ten (10) years' imprisonment. The court accepted Appellant's guilty plea and sentenced him in conformance with the plea agreement to an aggregate term of three (3) to ten (10) years' imprisonment. Thereafter Appellant did not file a post-sentence motion or notice of appeal with this Court.
On December 29, 2010, Appellant filed a timely pro se PCRA petition, alleging ineffective assistance of counsel in conjunction with the entry of the guilty plea. The court appointed counsel, who filed an amended PCRA petition on March 8, 2011. On March 29, 2011, the PCRA court conducted an evidentiary hearing. On June 20, 2011, the PCRA court denied relief.

Superior Court slip op., ECF No. 4-18 at 1 to 2.

Petitioner then filed a counseled appeal to the Pennsylvania Superior Court, which affirmed the denial of relief on February 17, 2012. Id . Petitioner filed a counseled Petition for Allowance of Appeal with the Pennsylvania Supreme Court, which denied it on July 18, 2012.

Petitioner then filed pro se the instant Petition. He raises the following four grounds on which he claims he is being held in violation of the Constitution, laws or treaties of the United States:

GROUND ONE: Defendant Maintained his innocence, And plea Counsel allowed Defendant to plea guilty without informing the Courts....
Plea Counsel failed to bring to the Trail Courts attention that while going through the Written plea Colloquy Defendant was not taking Responsibility for the crimes. Plea Counsel stated at the Post Conviction Collateral Relief Act Evidence Hearing on March 29th 2011... "He was disappointed, he was pleading guilty but I wouldn't that... he was disappointed, he was depressed that he was pleading guilty but he was, and he was still at that point was not taking full Resonsibility."

ECF No. 1 at 5 (sic throughout).

GROUND TWO: Plea Counsel was not Educated enough in the defendant case to allow defendant to plead guilty.... Plea Counsel did not know who the Responding officers were.... Plea Counsel did not Investigate the Crime scene nor spoke to any of the Witnesses provided by the Defendant.

Id. at 7.

GROUND THREE: Defendant's plea was not Knowingly, Voluntarily nor Intelligent.... Plea Counsel allowed defendant to plead guilty when defendant did not understand and knew this with out bring it to the Trail Courts Attention.

Id. at 8.

GROUND FOUR: Lack of ability to read and write the English Language and Mentel Health Illness.... Plea Counsel did not bring to the Trail Courts Attention that the defendant's "ability to Read and Write the English Language" was limited... Plea Counsel knew the defendant was Educationally young for his age... and did not notify Trail Court of this Matter.

Id. at 10.

Respondents filed their Answer, ECF No. 4, attaching copies of a large portion of the state court record as exhibits, and pointing out that Petitioner is not entitled to relief. All parties have filed their consent to have the Magistrate Judge exercise plenary jurisdiction. ECF Nos. 9 and 10.

II. AEDPA STANDARDS

The Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996, Pub. L. No. 104-132, tit. I, §101 (1996) (the "AEDPA") which amended the standards for reviewing state court judgments in federal habeas petitions filed under 28 U.S.C. § 2254 was enacted on April 24, 1996. Because Petitioner's habeas Petition was filed after its effective date, the AEDPA is applicable to this case. Werts v. Vaughn , 228 F.3d 178, 195 (3d Cir. 2000).

Where the state courts have reviewed a federal issue presented to them and disposed of the issue on the merits, and that issue is also raised in a federal habeas petition, the AEDPA provides the applicable deferential standards by which the federal habeas court is to review the state courts' disposition of that issue. See 28 U.S.C. § 2254(d) and (e).

In Williams v. Taylor , 529 U.S. 362 (2000), the United States Supreme Court has expounded upon the standard found in 28 U.S.C. § 2254(d). In Williams, the Supreme Court explained that Congress intended that habeas relief for errors of law may only be granted in two situations: 1) where the state court decision was "contrary to... clearly established Federal law as determined by the Supreme Court of the United States" or 2) where that state court decision "involved an unreasonable application of[] clearly established Federal law as determined by the Supreme Court of the United States." Id . at 404-05 (emphasis deleted). The Supreme Court explained the two situations in the following terms:

Under the "contrary to" clause, a federal habeas court may grant the writ if the state court arrives at a conclusion opposite to that reached by this Court on a question of law or if the state court decides a case differently than this Court has on a set of materially indistinguishable facts. Under the "unreasonable application" clause, a federal habeas court may grant the writ if the state court identifies the correct governing legal ...

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