United States District Court, E.D. Pennsylvania
EDUARDO C. ROBRENO, J.
Haynes (“Petitioner”) is a Pennsylvania state
prisoner. Petitioner filed a pro se application seeking
relief through a writ of habeas corpus pursuant to 28 U.S.C.
§ 2254 (“Habeas Petition”). Magistrate Judge
Marilyn Heffley (“Judge Heffley”) recommended
that the Court dismiss the Habeas Petition. For the reasons
that follow, the Court will overrule Petitioner's
objections and approve and adopt Judge Heffley's Report
and Recommendation (“R&R”).
FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND
September 2005, Petitioner shot and killed Kevin Robbins, who
refused to give Petitioner the bag of cigarettes and incense
he was selling on a Philadelphia block. R&R at 2, ECF No. 17.
On March 23, 2007, following a bench trial in the Court of
Common Pleas, Petitioner was convicted of second-degree
murder, robbery, and possession of an instrument of crime.
Id. at 1. The trial court later imposed a life
sentence for second-degree murder and a consecutive sentence
of 16 to 48 months of imprisonment for possession of an
instrument of crime. Id. at 1-2.
direct appeal, Petitioner argued that the evidence was
insufficient to support his conviction. Id. at 2.
The Superior Court disagreed and denied his appeal.
Commonwealth v. Haynes, No. 1300 EDA 2007, slip op.
at 7 (Pa. Super. Ct. June 5, 2008), ECF No. 16-1. The
Pennsylvania Supreme Court also denied Petitioner's
request for allowance of appeal. R&R at 2. Petitioner then
filed a petition for post-conviction relief pursuant to
Pennsylvania's Post Conviction Relief Act
(“PCRA”); his petition was denied on August 28,
2012. Id. at 2-3. The Pennsylvania Superior Court
affirmed that denial on March 17, 2014, and the Pennsylvania
Supreme Court denied Petitioner's request for allowance
of appeal on October 1, 2014. Id. at 3.
filed the instant Habeas Petition on December 8, 2014. ECF
No. 1. Respondents filed a Response on October 15, 2015, ECF
No. 16, and Judge Heffley filed the R&R on March 11, 2016,
ECF No. 17. Petitioner filed timely objections, ECF No. 18,
which are now ripe for disposition.
Court may refer an application for a writ of habeas corpus to
a United States magistrate judge for a report and
recommendation. 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(B). A prisoner may
object to the magistrate judge's report and
recommendation within fourteen days after being served with a
copy thereof. See § 636(b)(1); E.D. Pa. R. Civ. P.
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.” § 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.'” (quoting Goney v. Clark, 749
F.2d 5, 6-7 (3d Cir. 1984))). The Court “may accept,
reject, or modify, in whole or in part, the findings or
recommendations made by the magistrate judge.” 28
U.S.C. § 636(b)(1).
habeas review, the Court must determine whether the state
court's adjudication of the claims raised was (1)
contrary to, or an unreasonable application of, clearly
established federal law, or (2) based on an unreasonable
determination of the facts in light of the evidence
presented. See 28 U.S.C. § 2254(d).
Habeas Petition contains four claims: (1) the evidence was
insufficient to support Petitioner's conviction; (2)
counsel was ineffective in failing to move to suppress
certain evidence obtained in a search of Petitioner's
mother's house; (3) counsel was ineffective in failing to
investigate and present an alibi witness; and (4) counsel was
ineffective in failing to offer an expert in firearms and
ammunition. See ECF No. 1. Judge Heffley concluded that each
of these claims is meritless. Petitioner objects as to each
Sufficiency of the Evidence
direct review of the sufficiency of the evidence to support a
conviction, “the relevant question is whether, after
viewing 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); see also Id. at 324. This standard
“must be applied with explicit reference to the
substantive elements of the criminal offense as defined by
state law.” Id. at 324 n.16.
the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996
(“AEDPA”), this Court does not itself apply the
Jackson standard. Rather, the question for this Court is
whether the state court reasonably applied the Jackson
standard. See 28 U.S.C. § 2254(d); Eley v.
Erickson, 712 F.3d 837, 853 (3d Cir. 2013) (“[I]n
addition to the first layer of deference we owe to the jury
under Jackson, we owe a second layer of deference to the
Superior Court under AEDPA.”). As a result, a federal
court may “overturn a state court decision rejecting a
sufficiency of the evidence challenge” only if
“the state court decision was ‘objectively
unreasonable.'” Cavazos v. Smith, 132
S.Ct. 2, 4 (2011) (per curiam) (quoting Renico v.
Lett, 559 U.S. 766, 733 (2010)).
Petitioner specifically argues that the evidence was
insufficient to support his conviction for second-degree
murder. The question, then, is whether the state court's
decision to uphold Petitioner's conviction for
second-degree murder was objectively unreasonable.
Pennsylvania, “[a] criminal homicide constitutes murder
of the second degree when it is committed while defendant was
engaged as a principal or an accomplice in the perpetration
of a felony.” 18 Pa. Cons. Stat. Ann. § 2502(b).
“Perpetration of a felony” is defined, in
relevant part, as “engaging in . . . or attempting to
commit robbery.” Id. § 2502(d).
direct review of Petitioner's conviction, the
Pennsylvania Superior Court concluded “that there was
sufficient evidence to support the trial court's finding
that the killing was perpetrated in furtherance of a
robbery.” Haynes, No. 1300 EDA 2007, slip op. at 5. The
Superior Court summarized the evidence as follows:
At trial, three eyewitnesses testified that they saw Robbins
being shot with a shotgun on the night of the murder. All
three witnesses testified that they knew Haynes personally.
Michael Woodson (“Woodson”) identified Haynes as
the shooter. Although not physically able to see the gun
used, Woodson noted that the sound of the blast was much
louder than a handgun. Shawn Newsome (“Newsome”)
also positively identified Haynes as the shooter. Newsome
stated that just prior to the murder, he was with Haynes when
Haynes retrieved a shotgun from a vacant lot near the site of
the murder and saw Haynes conceal that weapon in a leg of his
pants. Newsome also stated that he witnessed Haynes wield the
shotgun at Robbins and state, “Give it up.”
Newsome testified that Robbins was carrying a black shoulder
bag at the time. Newsome heard Robbins state that he would
not give up while he grabbed the shotgun and was ultimately
A third eyewitness, Reginald Ming (“Ming”)
witnessed the shooting from a second-story window close to
the murder scene. Ming testified that he was not able to
identify the shooter, but saw Robbins “arguing and
tussling over a [shoulder] bag.” Ming further stated
that he witnessed the shooter draw a shotgun and that he
“heard the gun go off, but they were still tussling
over the bag.” The physical evidence presented at trial
corroborated the aforementioned testimony. A medical examiner
testified that Robbins died of a single gunshot wound to his
chest and that the wound was consistent with the shotgun slug
which was recovered during the autopsy. In addition,
Detective Gary White (“Detective White”)
testified that, pursuant to the ...