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Woodruff v. Williams

United States District Court, E.D. Pennsylvania

February 15, 2017

METTA WOODRUFF, Petitioner,
v.
R. SETH WILLIAMS, et al. Respondents.

          MEMORANDUM ORDER

          J. WILLIAM DITTER, JR., J.

         Upon consideration of the petition for a writ of habeas corpus, the Commonwealth's Response, the Report and Recommendation of United States Magistrate Judge David R. Strawbridge, Petitioner's objections, and de novo review of the record, I make the following findings and reach the following conclusions:

1. Petitioner Metta Woodruff filed a pro se petition for writ of habeas corpus on February 24, 2014, attacking her 2007 conviction for aggravated assault, recklessly endangering another person, and possession of an instrument of crime. On November 30, 2016, Judge Strawbridge issued a Report and Recommendation concluding that Petitioner's petition should be denied because her claims were meritless.[1] Petitioner has filed objections arguing that Judge Strawbridge erred in analyzing her claims that the verdict was against the weight of the evidence and that she is serving an illegal sentence pursuant to Alleyne v. United States, 133 S.Ct. 2151 (2013).[2]
2. Petitioner first argues that Judge Strawbridge erred in concluding that her weight of the evidence claim did not merit federal habeas relief. More specifically, she contends that the Pennsylvania Superior Court did not have authority to rule on a “weight of the evidence” issue because members of the appellate court were not present at trial. As Judge Strawbridge properly determined, however, it is well established that a federal habeas court has no power to grant habeas corpus relief because it finds that a state conviction is against the “weight” of the evidence. See Tibbs v. Florida, 457 U.S. 31, 42-45 (1982). Petitioner's weight of the evidence claim is not cognizable on federal habeas review.
3. Petitioner next argues that Judge Strawbridge erred in concluding that Alleyne, supra, did not apply to her sentence. In Alleyne, the United States Supreme Court held that any fact that increases the mandatory minimum sentence for a crime is an “element” of that crime, not a “sentencing factor, ” and thus must be submitted to a jury. Petitioner's conviction became final on direct appeal in 2010. Alleyne was decided in 2013 while Petitioner's collateral appeal, a properly filed PCRA petition, was pending in state court. The Third Circuit Court of Appeals has concluded that Alleyne's new rule of law does not apply retroactively to cases on collateral review. United States v. Reyes, 755 F.3d 210, 212 (3d Cir. 2014). Thus, Alleyne does not provide Petitioner with any basis for federal habeas relief.[3]
4. Judge Strawbridge's proposed findings are amply supported by the record.

         Moreover, he has carefully and accurately applied the law. As a result, I will adopt and approve the report and recommendations of the learned magistrate judge.

         Therefore, I HEREBY ORDER that:

1. Petitioner's objections to the Report and Recommendation are OVERRULED.
2. The Report and Recommendation is APPROVED and ADOPTED.
3. The petition for a writ of habeas corpus is DENIED WITH PREJUDICE.
4. There is no probable cause to issue a certificate of appealability.
5. The Clerk of Court shall mark this case closed for ...

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