United States District Court, E.D. Pennsylvania
MEMORANDUM OPINION INTRODUCTION
I. QUIÑONES ALEJANDRO, JUDGE
Shannon Bess (“Petitioner” or
“Bess”), a Pennsylvania state prisoner proceeding
pro se, filed a petition for a writ of habeas
corpus pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §2254, in which he
asserted numerous claims of ineffectiveness of counsel and a
purported due process violation premised on the state
court's treatment of his PCRA petition. [ECF 1]. In
accordance with Title 28 U.S.C §636(b), Rule 8(b) of the
Rules Governing Section 2254 Cases in the United States
District Courts, and Local Civil Rule 72.1.IV(c), the
petition was randomly referred to United States Magistrate
Judge Timothy R. Rice (the “Magistrate Judge”)
for a Report and Recommendation
(“R&R”). [ECF 2]. On February 17, 2017, the
Magistrate Judge issued an R&R, which recommended that
the petition for a writ of habeas corpus be denied.
[ECF 14]. After requesting and being granted an extension of
time in which to do so, Petitioner filed objections to the
R&R. [ECF 19]. This matter is, therefore, ripe for a
de novo review and determination of the specific
objections to the R&R.
conducting a thorough and independent review of the state
court record and court filings, for the reasons stated
herein, Petitioner's objections are overruled, the
R&R is approved and adopted, and the petition for a writ
of habeas corpus is denied.
factual and procedural histories underlying Petitioner's
request for federal habeas relief are aptly
summarized in the R&R submitted by Magistrate Judge Rice
and will not be repeated except for context and to aid this
Court's analysis. With this caveat, on November 27, 2006,
following a bench trial, Petitioner was found guilty of
third-degree murder and firearms violations. See
Commonwealth v. Bess, 2015 WL 7188368, at *2 (Pa. Super.
Ct. May 22, 2015). The facts underlying Petitioner's
conviction are summarized as follows:
On the day of the shooting at around 11 a.m., Bess received
numerous phone calls from Tanaya Guy, (“Guy”),
the mother of his children. (N.T.11/27/06 at 109-110). Around
noon, Bess drove to the intersection of 54th
Street and Gainor Road. There, he interrupted an argument
between Guy and her estranged husband, the victim Danzell
Chandler, (id. at 41), held a handgun to
Chandler's head and pulled the trigger, but Chandler was
able to flee when the gun misfired. (Id. at 39-40).
Bess slipped while trying to follow Chandler on foot, then
pursued him by car, and shot him four times in the back.
(Id. at 40).
Philadelphia police arrived within three minutes of the
shooting and spoke to Chandler, who provided his name and
birthdate. (Id. at 7-8). Chandler identified Bess as
his shooter, but refused to answer further questions.
(Id. at 8-9). Chandler was transported to the
hospital and died almost three weeks later without offering
further statements. (Id. at 18).
At trial, the Commonwealth called two Gainor Road residents
and the victim's estranged wife as witnesses.
(Id. at 38, 55, 68). The first Gainor Road neighbor
testified that, just before noon, he had witnessed the victim
and a female arguing, and then saw another male pull up in a
four-door, American-made sedan. (Id. at 41). He saw
the driver leave the vehicle with a gun and put it to the
victim's temple, heard the gun misfire, and saw the
victim run away and the perpetrator try to chase him, slip,
and return to his car. (Id. at 39-40, 42-43). As the
shooter drove after the victim, the witness heard someone
yell “it's not worth it” at the shooter, who
responded by shouting back that the victim had hit his
baby's mother. (Id. at 53). The witness heard
additional gunshots while he called police. (Id. at
40). Later that day, the witness gave a statement to police
describing the shooter as a five-foot five-or-six-inch,
dark-complected African American man in his early twenties
wearing dark jeans and a yellow Polo shirt.
(Id. at 50). He was unable to identify the shooter
in a photo array. (Id.).
The second Gainor Road witness testified she was inside her
home and heard arguing in the street followed by several
gunshots. (Id. at 56-57). When she looked
out her front door, she saw the shooter pointing a firearm at
the facedown victim while standing over him, and held eye
contact with the shooter for “seconds.”
(Id. at 47). She testified the shooter wore a yellow
or gold polo shirt with long denim shorts, and that the
defendant “resemble[d]” the shooter, but she
could not be “100 percent positive” they were the
same man. (Id. at 58). The shooter did not
respond when the witness offered help, but instead jogged
back to his silver car and drove away. (Id.
at 59). Three weeks after the shooting, the second witness
reviewed a photo array and was unable to identify the
shooter. (Id. at 64).
The victim's estranged wife, Guy, testified that she
visited the police station at around 2 p.m. to report being
beaten by Chandler that day, only to learn that he had just
been shot. (Id. at 73-74). Although she
claimed to have no memory of the shooting at the time of
trial, she acknowledged telling police that she had fought
with Chandler until Bess arrived and tried to shoot him,
after which she argued with Bess to stop and ran
away. (Id. at 77-78). The statement also
identified Bess's car as a silver, four-door Regal; and
described the injuries and bruises she sustained from
Chandler that day. (Id. at 79-81).
Telephone records showed she was in close contact with Bess
between 11 a.m. and 1 p.m. on the day of the
shooting. (Id. at 109).
[See ECF 14, pp. 1-3].
procedural history of this matter is set forth in the
R&R, and need not be repeated in detail, and will be
summarized to the extent relevant to the analysis of
objections to an R&R are filed, the court must conduct a
de novo review of the contested portions of the
R&R, see Sample v. Diecks, 885 F.2d 1099, 1106
n.3 (3d Cir. 1989) (citing 28 U.S.C. §636(b)(1)(C)),
provided the objections are both timely and specific.
Goney v. Clark, 749 F.2d 5, 6-7 (3d Cir. 1984). In
conducting its de novo review, a court may accept,
reject, or modify, in whole or in part, the factual findings
or legal conclusions of the magistrate judge. 28 U.S.C.
§636(b)(1); United States v. Raddatz, 447 U.S.
667, 675-76 (1980). Although the review is de novo,
the statute permits the court to rely ...