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Carbaugh v. Commonwealth

United States District Court, M.D. Pennsylvania

May 19, 2014



SYLVIA H. RAMBO, District Judge.

Petitioner Justin Carbaugh, an inmate currently incarcerated at the State Correctional Institution in Somerset, Pennsylvania ("SCI-Somerset"), initiated this action by filing a pro se petition for writ of habeas corpus pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254. (Doc. 1.) In the petition, Petitioner challenges his continued incarceration pursuant to his 2011 convictions and sentence in the Court of Common Pleas of York County, Pennsylvania ("trial court" or "York County court"), on the basis that his sentencing order does not exist. Petitioner also claims he is entitled to bail. For the reasons that follow, the petition will be denied.

I. Background

On October 7, 2011, following a jury trial, Petitioner was convicted of voluntary manslaughter and abuse of corpse in the York County court.[1] ( See Doc. 8-1, Ex. 1, Docket Sheet, Commonwealth v. Carbaugh, CP-67-CR-0006904-2010 (2010).) In their response to the habeas petition, Respondents provide the following relevant facts:

On August 5, 2010, the Pennsylvania State Police received a phone call from Cody Byrnes stating that Petitioner shot and killed the victim the previous day. State troopers arrived at the home in which Petitioner and the decedent lived. Petitioner confessed to killing the victim. Troopers found the victim's body in the woods, wrapped in a tarp. Petitioner had shot the victim three times and then cut the victim's finger tips off with hedge trimmers and cut off the victim's leg below the knee. Petitioner told the troopers that he attempted to destroy and conceal the victim's body. Further, Petitioner attempted to destroy evidence associated with the crime, including the hedge trimmers used to cut off the victim's finger tips and the victim's clothing.

(Doc. 8 at 2.) On November 21, 2011, Petitioner was sentenced to a term of incarceration of six (6) to twelve (12) years on the voluntary manslaughter conviction, a consecutive period of two (2) years probation on the tampering with evidence conviction, and another consecutive period of two (2) years probation on the abuse of corpse conviction. (Doc. 8-1, Ex. 1.) Petitioner filed no post-sentence motions or direct appeal. He also did not file any petitions for post-conviction collateral relief in state court.

Petitioner timely filed the instant petition for writ of habeas corpus pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254 on November 29, 2012.[2] (Doc. 1.) In the petition, Petitioner raises the following grounds for relief: (1) Petitioner is entitled to immediate release because he was not provided with a copy of his sentencing order, an order he claims does not exist[3]; and (2) Petitioner is entitled to bail. ( Id. ) Petitioner does not present a challenge to his underlying conviction. In accordance with United States v. Miller, 197 F.3d 644 (3d Cir. 1999) and Mason v. Myers, 208 F.3d 414 (3d Cir. 2000), the court issued a formal notice to Petitioner that he could either have the petition ruled on as filed, but lose his ability to file a second or successive petition, absent certification by the court of appeals, or withdraw his petition and file one all-inclusive § 2254 petition within the one-year statutory period prescribed by the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act ("AEDPA"). (Doc. 3.) Petitioner filed his Notice of Election form in response on December 10, 2012. (Doc. 4.) On December 19, 2012, the court issued an order directing service of the petition. (Doc. 5.) On January 8, 2013, Respondents filed their answer to the petition. (Doc. 8.) Petitioner filed a traverse on February 5, 2013. (Doc. 9.) Thus, the habeas petition is now ripe for disposition.

II. Standard of Review - AEDPA

The scope of this court's review on the merits of the issues presented in a Section 2254 habeas petition is set forth in 28 U.S.C. § 2254(d). That section states, in relevant part, that exhausted claims that have been adjudicated on the merits by the state courts are subject to review under the standard of whether they are "contrary to, or involved an unreasonable application of, clearly established Federal law, as determined by the Supreme Court of the United States, " 28 U.S.C. § 2254(d)(1), 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 proceeding, " § 2254(d)(2). AEDPA places the burden on the petitioner to make this showing. Williams v. Taylor, 529 U.S. 362 (2000).

The "contrary to" and "unreasonable application" clauses of Section 2254(d)(1) have independent meaning. Bell v. Cone, 535 U.S. 685, 694 (2002). A state court judgment is "contrary to" federal law when it is "diametrically different, opposite in character or nature, or mutually opposed" to "clearly established" decisions of the United States Supreme Court. Williams, 529 U.S. at 405. This may occur if "the state court ignores or misapprehends clear precedent or it confronts a set of facts that are materially indistinguishable from a decision of [the Supreme] Court and nevertheless arrives at a result different from [Supreme Court] precedent.'" Wilkerson v. Klem, 412 F.3d 449, 452 (3d Cir. 2005) (quoting Williams, 529 U.S. at 406). Alternatively, "[a]n unreasonable application' occurs when a state court identifies the correct governing legal principle from [the Supreme] Court's decisions but unreasonably applies that principle to the facts' of petitioner's case." Rompilla v. Beard, 545 U.S. 374, 380 (2005) (quoting Wiggins v. Smith, 539 U.S. 510, 519, 520 (2003)). For purposes of § 2254(d)(1), "[i]t is not enough that a federal habeas court, in its independent review of the legal question, is left with a firm conviction that the state court was erroneous." Lockyer v. Andrade, 538 U.S. 63, 75 (2003) (internal citations omitted). "Under § 2254(d)(1)'s unreasonable application' clause... a federal habeas court may not issue the writ simply because that court concludes in its independent judgment that the relevant state-court decision applied clearly established federal law erroneously or incorrectly." Id. at 75-76 (quoting Williams, 529 U.S. at 411). Rather, "[t]he state court's application of clearly established law must be objectively unreasonable" before a federal court may grant the writ. Andrade, 538 U.S. at 75.

Turning to Section 2254(d)(2), as well as the related Section 2254(e), the test for the "unreasonable determination of facts" clause is whether the petitioner has demonstrated by "clear and convincing evidence" that the state court's determination of the facts was unreasonable in light of the record. Rountree v. Balicki, 640 F.3d 530, 537 (3d Cir. 2011) (citing Rice v. Collins, 546 U.S. 333, 338-339, 126 S.Ct. 969, 163 L.Ed.2d 824 (2006) ("State-court factual findings, moreover, are presumed correct; the petitioner has the burden of rebutting the presumption by clear and convincing evidence.'") (quoting § 2254(e)(1)) (citing Miller-El v. Dretke, 545 U.S. 231, 240, 125 S.Ct. 2317, 162 L.Ed.2d 196 (2005)); see also Simmons v. Beard, 590 F.3d 223, 231 (3d. Cir. 2009) ("Under the § 2254 standard, a district court is bound to presume that the state court's factual findings are correct, with the burden on the petitioner to rebut those findings by clear and convincing evidence."). Further, as with § 2254(d)(1), the evidence against which a federal court measures the reasonableness of the state court's factual findings is the record evidence at the time of the state court's adjudication. Rountree, 640 F.3d at 538 (citing Cullen v. Pinholster, ___ U.S. ___, ___, 131 S.Ct. 1388, 1401-03 (2011)).

Finally, AEDPA scrutiny is applicable only if the state court adjudicated the petitioner's claims "on the merits." 28 U.S.C. § 2254(d); accord Appel v. Horn, 250 F.3d 203, 210 (3d Cir. 2001). "An adjudication on the merits' has a well settled meaning: a decision finally resolving the parties' claims, with res judicata effect, that is based on the substance of the claim advanced, rather than on a procedural, or other, ground." Rompilla v. Horn, 355 F.3d 233, 247 (3d Cir. 2004), rev'd on other grounds sub nom. Rompilla v. Beard, 545 U.S. 374 (2005) (quoting Sellan v. Kuhlman, 261 F.3d 303, 312 (2d Cir. 2001)). Further, an "adjudication on the merits" can occur at any level of state court. Thomas v. Horn, 570 F.3d 105, 115 (3d Cir. 2009). However, "to qualify as an adjudication on the merits, ' the state court decision must finally resolve the claim. This means that the state court's resolution of the claim must have preclusive effect." Id. (citing Rompilla, 355 F.3d at 247 (quoting Sellan, 261 F.3d at 311)). Where a state court has not reached the merits of a claim thereafter presented to a federal habeas court, the deferential AEDPA standards do not apply, and the federal court must exercise de novo review over pure legal questions and mixed questions of law and fact. Simmons v. Beard, 581 F.3d 158, 165 (3d Cir. 2009) (citing Appel, 250 F.3d at 210). However, the state court's factual determinations are still presumed to be correct, rebuttable upon a showing of clear and convincing evidence.[4] Simmons, 581 F.3d at 165 (citing Appel, 150 F.3d at 210).

III. Discussion

As set forth above, Petitioner raises two grounds for relief: (1) Petitioner is entitled to immediate release because he was not provided with a copy of his sentencing order, an order he claims does not exist; and (2) Petitioner is entitled to bail. Respondents make no argument that Petitioner has failed to exhaust his state court remedies with respect to these claims. In the interest of ...

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