United States District Court, E.D. Pennsylvania
PAUL S. DIAMOND, District Judge.
On February 5, 2013, state prisoner Jason Patrick Kollock, proceeding pro se, petitioned for federal habeas relief. 28 U.S.C. § 2254. On January 24, 2014, the Magistrate Judge recommended denying the Petition. (Doc. No. 18.) I will overrule Kollock's objections and deny relief.
On December 13, 2006, Kollock was charged in state court with sexually assaulting L.W., his 7-year old stepdaughter, between September 2005 and December 2005 at the family home in Bucks County. (Doc. No. 18 at 1.) L.W. testified at trial that Petitioner asked her to rub his feet and head while he lay on the sofa. On several occasions, when no one else was home, Petitioner ordered L.W. to suck his toes. On one of these occasions, Petitioner handcuffed and blindfolded L.W. and told her she was going to suck his toes again. L.W. testified that she "wasn't sucking his toes, " however. (Id. at 2.) Although the object inserted into her mouth "was skin, " it was "bigger than his toes" and "filled up her whole mouth." (Id.) She described the item as "a line" that was "straight, " and explained that when it was placed "into... the back of my neck, " she started kicking. (Id.) In response to Petitioner's attack on L.W.'s credibility, several witnesses testified that L.W. had told them in detail about these same incidents.
The jury found Petitioner guilty of involuntary deviate sexual intercourse with a child, false imprisonment, endangering the welfare of a child, and indecent assault. On June 25, 2007, he was sentenced to 13 to 27 years in prison. (Id. at 6.) The Pennsylvania Superior Court affirmed, and, on January 14, 2009, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court denied allocatur. (Id. at 7.) Kollock did not seek a writ of certiorari.
On May 1, 2009, Petitioner, proceeding pro se, sought PCRA relief. Court appointed counsel submitted a "no merit" letter and was permitted to withdraw. On May 4, 2010, Petitioner filed an amended pro se PCRA petition. The court denied relief, and the Superior Court affirmed on May 31, 2012. (Id. at 10.)
On February 5, 2013, Kollock, again proceeding pro se, filed the instant Petition. The Magistrate Judge recommended denying relief. (Id.) Kollock filed objections on February 14, 2014 (Doc. No. 21) and a "Petition to Amend Objections" (Doc. No. 22) on March 20, 2014.
II. STANDARD OF REVIEW
In reviewing the Magistrate Judge's Report and Recommendation, I must "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)(C). I may "accept, reject, or modify, in whole or in part" the Magistrate Judge's findings or recommendations. Id . As to those portions to which no objections have been made, I must "satisfy [myself] that there is no clear error on the face of the record in order to accept the recommendation." Fed.R.Civ.P. 72(b) Advisory Committee Notes; see Henderson v. Carlson , 812 F.2d 874, 878 (3d Cir. 1987) (explaining the district court's responsibility "to afford some level of review" when no objections have been made).
A. Sufficiency of the Evidence
Interpreting the due process clause, the Supreme Court has held that a person may be convicted of a crime only if, "after reviewing the evidence in the light most favorable to the prosecution, any rational trier of fact could have found the essential elements of the crime beyond a reasonable doubt." Jackson v. Virginia , 443 U.S. 307, 319 (1979). Pennsylvania courts follow the same rule. See Commonwealth v. Trill , 543 A.2d 1106, 1112 (Pa.Super. 1988). Under AEDPA, my sufficiency review here is limited to determining whether the trial evidence passes muster under Jackson. Plainly, it does.
Petitioner objects to the Magistrate Judge's determination that the state court had properly applied Jackson. (Doc. No. 21 at 2-5). His "sufficiency" contentions, however, relate to the question of L.W.'s credibility, which the Magistrate Judge rejected, correctly ruling that under AEDPA, federal courts are bound to respect state court credibility findings. See Weeks v. Snyder , 219 F.3d 245, 258 (3d Cir. 2000) ("[T]he federal habeas statute provides us no license to redetermine credibility of witnesses whose demeanor has been observed by the state trial court.'" (quoting Marshall v. Lonberger , 469 U.S. 422, 434 (1983))); Flecha v. Shannon, 2005 WL 851066, at *4 (E.D. Pa. Apr. 12, 2005) ("[T]he determination of the credibility of witnesses... fall[s] within the exclusive province of the jury. They are, therefore, beyond the scope of permissible federal habeas review." (citing Schlup v. Delo , 513 U.S. 298, 330 (1995))). Here, the jury believed L.W.'s testimony. Moreover, both the state trial court and Superior Court found ...