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Claritt v. Mahally

United States District Court, W.D. Pennsylvania

August 30, 2017

GEORGE CLARITT, Petitioner,
v.
LAWRENCE P. MAHALLY, et al., Respondents.

          ORDER ADOPTING REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION AND DISMISSING CASE

          Barbara Jacobs Rothstein U.S. District Court Judge.

         The Court, having considered the Report and Recommendation of Magistrate Judge Susan Paradise Baxter, Petitioner's Objections to Magistrate Judge's Report and Recommendation, and the balance of record, HEREBY ORDERS:

(1) The Court ADOPTS the Report and Recommendation.
(2) Petitioner's request for a writ of habeas corpus is DENIED.
(3) Petitioner's request for a certificate of appealability is DENIED.

         The Court's reasoning follows.

         DISCUSSION

         The factual and procedural background of this case is laid out in admirable detail in the Magistrate Judge's Report and Recommendation. (ECF No. 10 at 1-4; “R&R.”) The Court adopts that account of the history of this litigation and incorporates it herein by reference. In brief, Petitioner was convicted in the Court of Common Pleas of Warren County, Pennsylvania on charges of aggravated assault, rape, involuntary deviate sexual intercourse by forcible compulsion, terroristic threats, and indecent assault and sentenced to an aggregate term of 301-602 months of incarceration. The conviction and sentence were affirmed by the Superior Court of Pennsylvania. (ECF No. 8-6.) His request for post-conviction relief (“PCRA”) was denied (ECF No. 8-3 at 22-30) and affirmed on appeal. (ECF No. 10, Ex. A.) In January 2016 petitioner filed a petition for writ of habeas corpus pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254, as amended by the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996 (“AEDPA”).

         Petitioner raises three grounds for relief, none of which the Magistrate Judge found meritorious. The findings of the R&R, Petitioner's objections and the Court's ruling on each claim are discussed below.

         Claim One: Petitioner's PCRA counsel was ineffective

         The R&R rejected this claim on the grounds that it is specifically prohibited by § 2254(i), which provides that “[t]he ineffectiveness of counsel during Federal or State collateral post-conviction proceedings shall not be ground for relief in a proceeding arising under section 2254.” See Coleman v. Thompson, 501 U.S. 722, 752 (1991), holding that “[t]here is no constitutional right to an attorney in state post-conviction proceedings.”

         In his objections to this finding, Petitioner cites a number of cases which he argues stand for the proposition that “a federal court can hear Petitioner's ineffective assistance of counsel claims.” (ECF No. 11, Objections at 4-7.) The cases he cites are all distinguishable, concerning either direct appeals or proceedings other than writs of habeas corpus. He does not cite a single case overturning 28 U.S.C. § 2254(i), which could not be clearer: in a 2254 proceeding such as that which Petitioner has brought, he may not raise ineffectiveness of counsel in state post- conviction proceedings as a ground for relief. The Court affirms the Magistrate Judge's finding on this claim and agrees that it is without merit.

         Claim Two: Petitioner's trial counsel failed to provide effective assistance of counsel

         Petitioner cites two grounds for this claim: first, his trial counsel's failure to file a motion requesting DNA testing of the victim and, second, his trial counsel's failure to ...


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