United States District Court, M.D. Pennsylvania
D. Mariani United States District Judge
Keyon Freeland ("Freeland"), an inmate currently
confined at the Rockview State Correctional Institution in
Bellefonte, Pennsylvania, filed the instant pro se
petition for writ of habeas corpus pursuant to 28 U.S.C.
§ 2254. (Doc. 1). The matter is proceeding via
an amended petition. (Doc. 8). Freeland challenges his
conviction and sentence from the York County Court of Common
Pleas. [Id.). For the reasons discussed below, the
Court will deny the amended habeas petition.
factual background of this case has been aptly summarized by
the Pennsylvania Superior Court as follows:
On January 8, 2011, Kyree Maxfield and Ja'Quinn Barnes
were walking around the City of York after leaving a party.
They went to a friend's house on Smyser Street, but left
to go home after a fight broke out in front of the Smyser
Street residence. As Maxfield and Barnes left the house, a
car pulled alongside them, and a man, later identified as
Freeland, got out of the vehicle. Freeland told them to give
him everything they had. He pulled out two guns, then ordered
Maxfield and Barnes to undress and dress again. He then shot
at the pair, missing Barnes, but inflicting two gunshot
wounds to Maxfield's left leg and one to his hand. At the
time of the shooting, Maxfield and Barnes were about eight
feet away from Freeland. The area was dimly lit and the
shooter was not wearing a mask.
By the time police arrived minutes after the shooting,
Freeland had left the area. Maxfield was then transported to
the York Hospital. Dr. Keith Clancy treated Maxfield for the
severe injury to his femoral artery, which caused him to lose
his pulse in his leg and fifteen units of blood. Dr. Clancy
testified that were it not for emergency surgery, Maxfield
would have died.
On January 12, 2011 at around 3:45 p.m., Officer Ryan
Anderson attempted to pull-over a gray sedan on Philadelphia
Avenue by activating his lights and sirens. The vehicle
pulled away and Officer Anderson pursued it. The chase
continued until the sedan collided with a telephone pole, and
the passenger and driver fled on foot in opposite directions.
Officer Anderson chased the driver on foot, during which time
the driver threw two objects from his person. These objects,
retrieved after the driver and passenger were in custody,
were guns, Officer Anderson identified the driver as
Freeland, and one of the guns that Freeland threw during the
chase was later determined to be one of the guns that shot
(Doc. 16-1, pp. 315-317, Commonwealth v. Freeland,
No. 553 MDA 2012, unpublished memorandum (Pa. Super, filed
August 23, 2012) (footnotes omitted)).
State Court Proceedings
January 19, 2011, Freeland was charged with two counts of
criminal attempt homicide, two counts of aggravated assault,
and one count of persons not to possess a firearm.
See electronic docket sheet for Commonwealth v.
Freeland, No. CP-67-CR-0001946-2011 (York Cnty. Ct. Com.
PL), found at https://ujsportal.pacourts.us. Although
represented by counsel, Freeland filed his own omnibus
pre-trial motions, including a motion for substitution of
counsel. (Doc. 16-1, pp. 7-10, Motion for Substitution of
Counsel). On September 26, 2011, Judge Richard K. Renn of the
York County Court of Common Pleas scheduled a hearing on
Freeland's motion for substitution of counsel for
immediately prior to the commencement of trial. (Doc. 16-1,
p. 11, Order Scheduling Hearing). Although scheduled, the
hearing on Freeland's motion did not occur.
trial was held from December 6, 2011 through December 8,
2011, in the Court of Common Pleas of York County. (See
Commonwealth v. Freeland, No. CP-67-CR-0001946-2011;
see also Doc. 16-1, pp. 12-292, NT. Jury Trial,
12/6/11 -12/8/11). On December 8, 2011, the jury convicted
Freeland of attempted homicide of Maxfield, aggravated
assault (causing serious bodily injury) of Maxfield, and
illegal possession of a firearm. (Doc. 16-1, pp. 315-24,
Commonwealth v. Freeland, No. 553 MDA 2012). The
jury acquitted Freeland of the attempted homicide of Barnes,
and aggravated assault (serious bodily injury) of Barnes.
(See id.). On February 17, 2012, the court sentenced
Freeland to an aggregate term of fourteen to twenty-eight
years' incarceration in a state correctional institution.
(Doc. 16-1, pp. 285-90, NT. Sentencing, 2/17/12). Freeland
filed a post-sentence motion, which the trial court denied.
[See Doc. 16-1, p. 317, Commonwealth v.
Freeland, No. 553 MDA 2012).
pursued direct appeal proceedings challenging the sufficiency
of the evidence for attempted homicide, the publication to
the jury of the red-tinged color photo from the photo array
lineup that he claimed depicted injuries to his face, and the
trial court's admission of the police video of the car
chase and flight on foot. See Commonwealth v.
Freeland, 106 A.3d 768, 773 (Pa. Super. 2014). On August
23, 2012, the Pennsylvania Superior Court affirmed the
judgment of sentence, rejecting all three claims. (See Doc.
16-1, pp. 315-24, Commonwealth v. Freeland, No. 553
MDA 2012). Freeland did not file a petition for allowance of
appeal with the Pennsylvania Supreme Court. [See
Doc. 8, p. 2).
March 4, 2013, Freeland filed a pro se petition for
post-conviction collateral relief pursuant to the Post
Conviction Relief Act ("PCRA"), 42 PA. CONS. STAT.
§§ 9541-46. (Doc. 16-1, pp. 325-332, PCRA
Petition). The PCRA court appointed counsel, who filed an
amended petition on April 24, 2013. See Commonwealth v.
Freeland, 106 A.3d at 773. That counsel, and other
counsel, were subsequently permitted to withdraw. See
Id. The PCRA eventually appointed Attorney Scott A.
McCabe, who filed an amended petition on August 16, 2013.
(Doc. 16-1, pp. 344-47, Amended PCRA Petition). On September
25, 2013, a hearing was held and the PCRA court denied relief
from the bench. (Doc. 16-1, pp. 349-446, NT. PCRA Hearing,
9/25/13). The PCRA court subsequently issued a written order
denying relief, which also explained the reasons for its
denial. See Commonwealth v. Freeland, 106A.3dat773.
October 3, 2013, counsel filed a timely notice of appeal.
(Doc. 16-1, p. 448, Notice of Appeal). On March 13, 2014, the
Superior Court remanded the appeal back to the PCRA court for
a determination of whether counsel had abandoned Freeland by
failing to file a brief. (Doc. 16-1, p. 477, Order, per
curiam, 3/13/14). On remand, the PCRA court held a hearing
and found that counsel had drafted a
Turner/Finleyletter, but inadvertently failed to file
and serve it in a timely fashion. (Doc. 16-1, pp. 479-85, NT.
Hearing, 3/27/14; see also pp. 482-84, Order,
3/27/14). The PCRA court concluded that counsel had not
abandoned Freeland. [See id.). The PCRA court issued
an order directing counsel to file and serve his
Turner/Finley letter and application to withdraw
with the Superior Court. (See id.). The PCRA court
also recommended that the Superior Court permit counsel to
file his Turner/Finley letter. (See id.).
April 4, 2014, Attorney McCabe filed a petition to withdraw
with the Superior Court, attaching his Turner/Finley
"no merit" letter, with notice to Freeland that he
had the right to proceed pro se or retain private
counsel. See Commonwealth v. Freeland, 106 A.3d at
774. On April 29, 2014, Freeland filed an application for
relief. See id. On May 2, 2014, he filed a pro
se response to the Turner/Finley letter.
See Id. Freeland also requested an extension to file
a "cross-appeal" in support of his opposition to
counsel's petition to withdraw. See Id. After
being granted two extensions of time, Freeland filed a
pro se brief in response to counsel's petition
to withdraw. (Doc. 16-1, pp. 486-559, Pro Se Brief).
On December 11, 2014, the Superior Court affirmed the
decision of the PCRA court. (Doc. 16-1, pp. 596-624,
Commonwealth v. Freeland, No. 1790 MDA 2013 (Pa.
Super, filed December 11, 2014)). Specifically, the Superior
Court granted counsel's petition to withdraw, finding
that PCRA counsel fulfilled the mandates of
Turner/Finley, the issues in the PCRA petition had
no merit, and that Freeland's pro se response to
counsel's Turner/ Finley letter did not entitle
him to relief. See Id.
Standards of Review
statutory authority of federal courts to issue habeas corpus
relief for persons in state custody is provided by 28 U.S.C.
§ 2254, as amended by the Antiterrorism and Effective
Death Penalty Act of 1996 ("AEDPA"). A habeas
corpus petition pursuant to § 2254 is the proper
mechanism for a prisoner to challenge the "fact or
duration" of his confinement. Preiser v.
Rodriguez, 411 U.S. 475, 498-99, 93 S.Ct. 1827, 36
L.Ed.2d 439 (1973). "[I]t is not the province of a
federal habeas court to reexamine state-court determinations
on state-law questions." Estelle v. McGuire,
502 U.S. 62, 67-68, 112 S.Ct. 475, 116 L.Ed.2d 385 (1991).
Rather, federal habeas review is restricted to claims based
"on the ground that [petitioner] is in custody in
violation of the Constitution or laws or treaties of the
United States." 28 U.S.C. § 2254(a);
Estelle, 502 U.S. at 68.
corpus relief cannot be granted unless all available state
remedies have been exhausted, or there is an absence of
available state corrective process, or circumstances exist
that render such process ineffective to protect the rights of
the applicant. See 28 U.S.C. § 2254(b)(1). The
exhaustion requirement is grounded on principles of comity in
order to ensure that state courts have the initial
opportunity to review federal constitutional challenges to
state convictions. See Weils v. Vaughn, 228 F.3d
178, 192 (3d Cir. 2000).
prisoner exhausts state remedies by giving the "state
courts one full opportunity to resolve any constitutional
issues by invoking one complete round of the State's
established appellate review process."
O'Sullivan v. Boerckel, 526 U.S. 838, 845, 119
S.Ct. 1728, 144 L.Ed.2d 1 (1999). Respect for the state court
system requires that the petitioner demonstrate that the
claims in question have been "fairly presented to the
state courts." Castille v. Peoples, 489 U.S.
346, 351, 109 S.Ct. 1056, 103 L.Ed.2d 380 (1989). To
"fairly present" a claim, a petitioner must present
its "factual and legal substance to the state courts in
a manner that puts them on notice that a federal claim is
being asserted." McCandless v. Vaughn, 172 F.3d
255, 261 (3d Cir. 1999); see also Nara v. Frank, 488
F.3d 187, 197-98 (3d Cir. 2007) (recognizing that a claim is
fairly presented when a petitioner presents the same factual
and legal basis for the claim to the state courts). While the
petitioner need not cite "book and verse" of the
federal Constitution, Picard v. Connor, 404 U.S.
270, 278, 92 S.Ct. 509, 30 L.Ed.2d 438 (1971), he must
"give the State 'the opportunity to pass upon and
correct' alleged violations of its prisoners' federal
rights" before presenting those claims here, Duncan
v. Henry, 513 U.S. 364, 365, 115 S.Ct. 887, 130 L.Ed.2d
865 (1995) (quoting Picard, 404 U.S. at 275, 92
case, Respondents contend that Freeland failed to properly
exhaust his claims that trial counsel was ineffective for
failing to request an instruction on prior bad acts, failing
to object to statements made by Detective Clarkson, and
failing to object to his alleged illegal sentence. (Doc. 16).
court has determined that the exhaustion requirement is met
and, therefore, that review on the merits of the issues
presented in a habeas petition is warranted, the scope of
that review is set forth in 28 U.S.C. § 2254(d). Section
2254(d) provides, in pertinent part, that an application for
a writ of habeas corpus premised on a claim previously
adjudicated on the merits in state court shall not be granted
(1) [the decision] was contrary to, or involved an
unreasonable application of, clearly established Federal law,
as determined by the Supreme Court of the United States; or
(2) [the decision] was based on an unreasonable determination
of the facts in light of the evidence presented in the State
28 U.S.C. § 2254(d). To establish that the decision was
contrary to federal law "it is not sufficient for the
petitioner to show merely that his interpretation of Supreme
Court precedent is more plausible than the state court's;
rather, the petitioner must demonstrate that Supreme Court
precedent requires the contrary outcome." Matteo v.
Superintendent, 171 F.3d 877, 888 (3d Cir. 1999).
Similarly, a federal court will only find a state court
decision to be an unreasonable application of federal law if
the decision, "evaluated objectively and on the merits,
resulted in an outcome that cannot reasonably be justified
under existing Supreme Court precedent." Id.
under 28 U.S.C. § 2254(e)(1), a federal court is
required to presume that a state court's findings of fact
are correct. A petitioner may only rebut this presumption
with clear and convincing evidence of the state court's
error. Miller-El v. Cockrell, 537 U.S. 322, 341
(2003) (stating that the clear and convincing standard in
§ 2254(e)(1) applies to factual issues, whereas the
unreasonable application standard of § 2254(d)(2)
applies to factual decisions); Matteo, 171 F.3d at
888; Thomas v. Varner, 428 F.3d 492, 497-98 (3d Cir.
2005). This presumption of correctness applies to both
explicit and implicit findings of fact. Campbell v.
Vaughn, 209 F.3d 280, 286 (3d Cir. 2000). Consequently,
a habeas petitioner "must clear a high hurdle before a
federal court will set aside any of the state court's
factual findings." Mastracchio v. Vose, 274
F.3d 590, 597-98 (1st Cir. 2001).
the "unreasonable application" prong of paragraph
(1), a factual determination should be adjudged
"unreasonable" under paragraph (2) only if the
court finds that a rational jurist could not reach the same
finding on the basis of the evidence in the record. 28 U.S.C.
§ 2254(d)(2); Porter v. Horn, 276 F.Supp.2d
278, 296 (E.D. Pa. 2003); see also Torres v. Prunty,
223 F.3d 1103, 1107-08 (9th Cir. 2000); cf. Jackson v.
Virginia, 443 U.S. 307, 316 (1979). "This provision
essentially requires the district court to step into the
shoes of an appellate tribunal, examining the record below to
ascertain whether sufficient evidence existed to support the
findings of fact material to the conviction."
Breighner v. Chesney, 301 F.Supp.2d 354, 364 (M.D.
Pa. 2004) (citing 28 U.S.C. § 2254(d)(2) and
(f)). Mere disagreement with an inferential
leap or credibility judgment of the state court is
insufficient to permit relief. Porter, 276 F.Supp.2d
at 296; see also Williams v. Taylor, 529 U.S. 362,
408-09 (2000); Hurtado v. Tucker, 245 F.3d 7, 16
(1st Cir. 2001). Only when the finding lacks evidentiary
support in the state court record or is plainly controverted
by evidence therein should the federal habeas court overturn
a state court's factual determination. Porter,
276 F.Supp.2d at 296; see also Williams, 529 U.S. at
Fourteenth Amendment Claim
argues that the trial court violated his Fourteenth Amendment
rights by failing to conduct a hearing on his motion for
substitute counsel. Freeland presented this claim on
post-conviction appeal, and the state courts denied it as
waived and meritless. Accordingly, Freeland will only be
entitled to relief if the state court decisions were either
contrary to, or an unreasonable application of, clearly
established federal law.
PCRA court addressed this claim as follows:
Attorney Gross testified that he was aware the Motion [for
Substitute Counsel] was filed prior to trial; however, he had
continued to meet with Defendant in preparation for trial
even after the Motion was filed. (NT. 9/ 25/13 pp. 49-51).
When the court asked immediately prior to trial if there were
any other issues outstanding, neither Defendant nor his
counsel mentioned the Motion for new counsel. At that point,
we considered the issue waived by Defendant. If the issue was
not waived, we find the issue is without merit.
Defendant testified at the PCRA hearing as to the reasons he
wanted new counsel and we would not have granted
Defendant's request for any of the reasons stated. (NT.
9/ 25/13 pp. 14-16).
(Doc. 16-1, pp. 462-63, PCRA Court's 1925(a) Statement).
Pennsylvania Superior Court affirmed the PCRA court's
judgment denying postconviction relief, addressed this claim
Appellant claims denial of due process in the failure of the
trial court to appoint new counsel prior to trial. (See
Appellant's Brief, at 34-36). This claim against the
trial court does not present a cognizable issue under the
PCRA. See 42 Pa. C.S.A. § 9543; see also
Commonwealth v. Smith, 69 A.3d 259, 266 (Pa. Super.
2013), appeal denied, 83 A.3d 168 (Pa. 2013) (noting
that "'the right to appointed counsel does not
include the right to counsel of the defendant's
choice.' Rather, the decision to appoint different
counsel to a requesting defendant lies within the discretion
of the trial court.") (citations omitted).
Moreover, it would not merit relief. The PCRA court confirmed
that it would not have granted the request for new counsel
based on any of the reasons Appellant gave at the
PCRA hearing. (See PCRA Court Opinion, 12/10/13, at 6).
Therefore, even if re-framed as a claim of ineffective
assistance of counsel for failure to object, the issue would
fail because Appellant's underlying claim lacks arguable
merit. Furthermore, because the PCRA court confirmed that it
would not have appointed new counsel for any of the
reasons advanced by Appellant, Appellant cannot prove
prejudice. Notably, the PCRA court also resolved all issues
of credibility in favor of trial counsel, and against
Appellant. (See id. at 5 n. 1).
Commonwealth v. Freeland, 106 A.3d at 780 (emphasis
Sixth and Fourteenth Amendments guarantee that a person
brought to trial in any state or federal court must be
afforded the right to the assistance of counsel before he can
be validly convicted and punished by imprisonment. See
Powell v. Alabama, 287 U.S. 45, 53 S.Ct. 55, 77
L.Ed. 158 (1932); Johnson v. Zerbst, 304 U.S. 458,
58 S.Ct. 1019, 82 L.Ed. 1461 (1938); Gideon v.
Wainwright, 372 U.S. 335, 83 S.Ct. 792, 9 L.Ed.2d 799
(1963). "[T]he essential aim of the [Sixth] Amendment is
to guarantee an effective advocate for each criminal
defendant rather than to ensure that a defendant will
inexorably be represented by the lawyer he prefers."
Wheat v. United States, 486 U.S. 153, 159, 108 S.Ct.
1692, 100 L.Ed.2d 140 (1988). Consequently, the Sixth
Amendment right to counsel does not guarantee a meaningful
relationship between a defendant and counsel. Morris v.
Slappy, 461 U.S. 1, 13-14, 103 S.Ct. 1610, 75 L.Ed.2d
610 (1983). Additionally, although a defendant's right to
counsel includes the right to counsel of one's choice,
the "right to counsel of choice does not extend to
defendants who require counsel to be appointed for
them." United States v. Gonzalez-Lopez, 548
U.S. 140, 151, 126 S.Ct. 2557, 165 L.Ed.2d 409 (2006). Thus,
an indigent defendant requesting new counsel must show good
cause to warrant such substitution. Determining if good cause
exists for substitution of counsel is a factual inquiry, and
the defendant must be given an opportunity to provide the
court with the reason for his dissatisfaction. United
States v. Welty, 674 F.2d 185, 190 (3d Cir. 1982).
cause for substitution of counsel is defined as a
"conflict of interest, a complete breakdown of
communication, or an irreconcilable conflict with the
attorney." United States v. Goldberg, 67 F.3d
1092, 1098 (3d Cir. 1995). A disagreement between the
defendant and defense counsel over legal strategy does not
constitute good cause requiring substitution of counsel, nor
does a defendant's unilateral decision not to cooperate
with court appointed counsel. Id. at 1098-99;
United States v. Gibbs, 190 F.3d 188, 207 n. 10 (3d
Cir. 1999). A defendant's mere dissatisfaction with
counsel also does not warrant substitution of counsel.
See United States v. Moses, 58 Fed.Appx. 549, 555
(3d Cir. 2003). If the trial court determines that good cause
for substitution of counsel does not exist, then the court
must "inform the defendant that he can either proceed
with current counsel or represent himself."
Goldberg, 67 F.3d at 1098.
following state standard pertaining to substitution of
counsel is clearly in line with prevailing federal law.
Pennsylvania Rule of Criminal Procedure 122(C) provides
"[a] motion for change of counsel by a defendant for
whom counsel has been appointed shall not be granted except
for substantial reasons." Pa. R.Crim.P. 122(C). To
satisfy this standard, a defendant must demonstrate he has an
irreconcilable difference with counsel that precludes counsel
from representing him. Commonwealth v. Spotz, 562
Pa. 498, 756 A.2d 1139, 1150 (2000) (citing Commonwealth
v. Tyler, 468 Pa. 193, 360 A.2d 617, 619 (1976)). The
decision whether to appoint new counsel lies within the trial
court's sound discretion. Id. (citing
Commonwealth v. Segers, 460 Pa. 149, 331 A.2d 462,
PCRA hearing, Freeland testified that he sought substitute
counsel based on trial counsel's failure to file a
suppression motion, failure to appeal an adverse Rule 600
decision prior to trial, and failure to discuss evidentiary
issues with him sooner than he did. (Doc. 16-1, pp. 360-64,
NT. PCRA Hearing, 9/25/13). The state courts found that all
of these reasons lacked merit, and that Freeland failed to
establish good cause for substitution of counsel. Also at the
PCRA hearing, trial counsel testified that he was aware of
Freeland's pro se motion for substitute counsel,
however, Freeland never told him that he wanted him removed
from the case, and he did not remember the motion until his
closing argument. (Doc. 16-1, pp. 398-400, NT. PCRA Hearing,
9/25/13). Further, Freeland testified that nothing prevented
him from reminding the Court that he had filed a motion for
new counsel. (Doc. 16-1, pp. ...