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Martin v. Glunt

United States District Court, E.D. Pennsylvania

April 3, 2018





         Petitioner Desmond Martin filed a petition for writ of habeas corpus pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254, challenging his conviction in the Philadelphia County Court of Common Pleas of rape, robbery, burglary, theft by unlawful taking, and sexual assault. ECF No. 1. Magistrate Judge Timothy R. Rice issued a Report and Recommendation (“R&R”) recommending that the habeas corpus claims be denied. ECF No. 20. Petitioner has filed objections to the R&R. ECF No. 23. After de novo review, this Court adopts the R&R and denies habeas relief.


         A. R&R with objections

         When objections to a report and recommendation have been filed under 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(C), the district court must make a de novo review of those portions of the report to which specific objections are made. 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(C); Sample v. Diecks, 885 F.2d 1099, 1106 n.3 (3d Cir. 1989). “District Courts, however, are not required to make any separate findings or conclusions when reviewing a Magistrate Judge's recommendation de novo under 28 U.S.C. § 636(b).” Hill v. Barnacle, 655 F. App'x. 142, 147 (3d Cir. 2016). The “court may accept, reject, or modify, in whole or in part, the findings and recommendations” contained in the report. 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(C).

         B. Habeas corpus petitions under 28 U.S.C. § 2254

         Pursuant to the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act (“AEDPA”), “state prisoners must give the state courts one full opportunity to resolve any constitutional issues by invoking one complete round of the State's established appellate review process” before seeking federal habeas review. O'Sullivan v. Boerckel, 526 U.S. 838, 845 (1999). An unexhausted or procedurally defaulted claim cannot provide the basis for federal habeas relief unless the petitioner “can demonstrate cause for the default and actual prejudice as a result of the alleged violation of federal law, or demonstrate that failure to consider the claims will result in a fundamental miscarriage of justice.” See Coleman v. Thompson, 501 U.S. 722, 732-33, 750 (1991) (explaining that a “habeas petitioner who has defaulted his federal claims in state court meets the technical requirements for exhaustion [because] there are no state remedies any longer ‘available' to him”). The Supreme Court has held that the ineffectiveness of counsel on collateral review may constitute “cause” to excuse a petitioner's default. See Trevino v. Thaler, 133 S.Ct. 1911 (2013); Martinez v. Ryan, 566 U.S. 1 (2012).

         The AEDPA “imposes a highly deferential standard for evaluating state-court rulings and demands that state-court decisions be given the benefit of the doubt.” Felkner v. Jackson, 562 U.S. 594, 598 (2011) (internal quotations omitted); See also 28 U.S.C. § 2254(d);[1] Knowles v. Mirzayance, 556 U.S. 111, 123 (2009) (holding that there is a “doubly deferential judicial review that applies to a Strickland claim evaluated under the § 2254(d)(1) standard” because the question before a federal court is not whether the state court's determination was correct, but whether the determination was unreasonable); Hunterson v. Disabato, 308 F.3d 236, 245 (3d Cir. 2002) (“[I]f permissible inferences could be drawn either way, the state court decision must stand, as its determination of the facts would not be unreasonable.”). Additionally, “a federal habeas court must afford a state court's factual findings a presumption of correctness and that [] presumption applies to the factual determinations of state trial and appellate courts.” Fahy v. Horn, 516 F.3d 169, 181 (3d Cir. 2008). The habeas petitioner has the “burden of rebutting the presumption of correctness by clear and convincing evidence.” 28 U.S.C. § 2254(e)(1).

         III. ANALYSIS

         This Court has conducted de novo review and overrules Martin's objections for the reasons discussed below and for those set forth in the R&R. This Court has conducted de novo review of all of Martin's claims, but writes separately to address only a few of his objections. See Hill, 655 F. App'x. at 147.

         A. Sufficiency of the Evidence

         Martin argues that he was convicted of rape, robbery, and burglary on insufficient evidence. The United States Supreme Court has held that “a federal habeas court may review a claim that the evidence adduced at a state trial was not sufficient to convict a criminal defendant beyond a reasonable doubt.” Herrera v. Collins. 506 U.S. 390, 401 (1993) (citing Jackson v. Virginia, 443 U.S. 307 (1979)). However, “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, 443 U.S. at 319 (emphasis in original). This standard “does not permit a court to make its own subjective determination of guilt or innocence.” Id. at 320. Furthermore, “a federal court may not overturn a state court decision rejecting a sufficiency of the evidence challenge simply because the federal court disagrees with the state court. The federal court instead may do so only if the state court decision was “objectively unreasonable.” Coleman v. Johnson, 566 U.S. 650, 651 (2012) (quoting Cavazos v. Smith, 565 U.S. 1, 2 (2011)).

         1. Burglary and Robbery Convictions

         Magistrate Judge Rice found that the Pennsylvania courts reasonably concluded that sufficient evidence existed to convict Martin of burglary and robbery. R&R 6-7. Martin objects that the prosecution did not prove his intent to commit a crime in the victim's home, as required to convict him of burglary. Objs. 1. See 18 Pa. C.S. § 3502(a) (defining burglary as entering a building “with intent to commit a crime therein.”). Even assuming there was no direct evidence demonstrating Martin's intent to commit a crime in the victim's home, a jury may “draw reasonable inferences from basic facts to ultimate facts” and infer intent. Jackson, 443 U.S. at 319. At trial, the victim testified that Martin entered her bedroom with a weapon while she was asleep. From these facts, a jury easily could infer that Martin had the intent to commit a crime when he entered the victim's home. See Sierra v. Montgomery, No. EDCV1500333RKLS, 2015 WL 6549263, at *7 (finding that sufficient evidence allowed the jury to infer the intent element of burglary where defendant was caught trespassing on victim's properly, was seen near Shop-Vac even though he didn't remove it, and gave inconsistent explanations for his actions), report and recommendation adopted, 2015 WL 6513648 (C.D. Cal. Oct. 27, 2015).

         Martin further objects to these facts themselves and argues that the evidence against him consisted primarily of the victim's testimony, even though the physical “evidence is overwhelmingly in the petitioner[‘]s favor.” Objs. 2. Martin emphasizes once again that DNA testing of the cord used to tie up the victim did not reveal his DNA, and fingerprints collected from the victim's room do not match his. Id. Martin effectively asks this Court to reweigh the evidence presented at trial and credit the physical evidence more than the victim's testimony. However, “28 U.S.C. § 2254(d) gives federal habeas courts no license to redetermine credibility of witnesses whose demeanor has been observed by the state trial court, but not by them.” Marshall v. Lonberger, 459 U.S. 422, 434 (1983). The victim testified at trial that Martin appeared in her bedroom armed with a weapon, punched her in the head and raped her, and that he was neither licensed nor privileged to be inside her home-these facts allow a reasonable jury to convict Martin of burglary. Furthermore, the victim testified that after Martin raped her, he took her ATM card and coerced her into telling him her PIN number by telling her that an accomplice had a gun pointed at the back of her head-these facts allow a reasonable jury to convict Martin of robbery. Although Martin does not believe the victim was credible, the jury disagreed, and this Court may not disrupt the jury's finding. The state courts reasonably concluded that the prosecution brought forth sufficient evidence that a reasonable jury could find Martin had committed burglary and robbery.

         2. Rape Conviction

         Magistrate Judge Rice found that Martin's sufficiency of the evidence argument with respect to his rape conviction is procedurally defaulted, as he did not present it to the state courts.[2] R&R 8. Additionally, Magistrate Judge Rice found that the claim is meritless, as sufficient evidence supported Martin's conviction for rape. Id. In his objections, Martin attempts to explain away various pieces of evidence that Magistrate Judge Rice identified as corroborating the prosecution's theory that Martin committed the rape: for example, Martin argues that photographs of forced entry into the victim's house actually show a door damaged when the victim's nephew had kicked it in previously. Objs. 2. Martin also argues that the anatomical location of the DNA sample collected in the rape kit suggests that the victim planted the sample herself to frame Martin. Martin's contention that this fact “better supports his version that he was framed” reveals the heart of his argument: he does not dispute the sufficiency of the evidence that he committed rape, but merely the implications of the evidence or the inferences to be drawn from it. See Tibbs v. Florida, 457 U.S. 31, 37-38 (1982) (noting that insufficient evidence means that, even after viewing the evidence in the light most favorable to the prosecution, no rational factfinder could have found the defendant guilty beyond a reasonable doubt but “weight of the evidence” refers to “a determination [by] the trier of fact that a greater amount of credible evidence supports one side of an issue or cause than the other”).

         Martin believes that his narrative, that he was framed, is more credible under the facts than the prosecution's, and wishes this Court to reweigh the evidence. But as discussed above, the Court may not make its own determination of the victim's credibility. Moreover, this Court cannot accept Martin's alternative explanations of the various points of evidence because it must draw all inferences in favor of the prosecution. See Jackson, 443 U.S. at 319. After de novo review, this Court concludes that Martin has not shown that a reasonable jury could not find that he committed rape beyond a reasonable doubt. Therefore, his objections regarding sufficiency of the evidence are overruled.

         B. Batson Violation

         Magistrate Judge Rice found that Martin failed to demonstrate that the trial court's decision to remedy the Batson[3]violation by seating one of the two improperly stricken jurors was contrary to, or an unreasonable application of, Batson, given the broad discretion given to trial courts to remedy Batson challenges. In his objections, Martin argues that his conviction should be reversed because the trial court failed to remedy the second improperly-struck juror.

         Effectively, Martin complains that the trial court provided him with an inadequate remedy for the Batson violation. Although Batson requires a trial court to remedy illicit race-based peremptory strikes of jurors, the Batson court declined to specify what procedures a trial court should use after successful Batson challenges. Batson, 476 U.S. at 99 (“We decline, however, to formulate particular procedures to be followed upon a defendant's timely objection to a prosecutor's challenges.”). Instead, the Batson court recognized a “variety of jury selection practices” across the various state and trial courts and chose to “make no attempt to instruct these courts how best to implement our holding today, ” leaving the determination to the discretion of trial courts. Id. at 99 n.24.

         Although Martin argues that he received an inadequate remedy with respect to one of the two improperly struck jurors, Batson does not offer a clear answer on what remedy the Constitution requires. Thus, Martin cannot show that the state court unreasonably applied clearly established federal law when it concluded that seating one juror remedied the Batson violation, and “[u]nder the explicit terms of § 2254(d)(1), therefore, relief is unauthorized.” Wright v. Van Patten, 552 U.S. 120, 126 (2008) (holding that, “[b]ecause our cases gave no clear answer to the question presented, ” state court did not unreasonably apply federal law such that petitioner was not entitled to habeas relief). See also Carey v. Musladin, 549 U.S. 70, 77 (2006) (holding that state court's decision did not warrant habeas relief in the absence of Supreme Court holdings on the relevant issue). After de novo review, this Court finds that Magistrate Judge Rice correctly concluded that Martin cannot prevail on his Batson claim, and Martin's objection is overruled.

         C. Prosecutorial Misconduct

         Martin argues that the prosecution violated his due process rights by failing to disclose videotapes and photographs from the night of the rape and DNA profiles for saliva samples taken from the Powerade bottle on the victim's nightstand that the victim stated her attacker drank from. Martin contends that the prosecution either knew or should have known about evidence favorable to him and material to his guilt, and thus had the duty to disclose this evidence to him under Brady v. Maryland, 373 U.S. 83, 87 (1963). A Brady violation occurs if: (1) the evidence at issue is favorable to the accused, because it is either exculpatory or ...

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