United States District Court, M.D. Pennsylvania
MALACHY E. MANNION, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
before the court is the report of Magistrate Judge Karoline
Mehalchick, which recommends that the above-captioned
petition for writ of habeas corpus be denied. (Doc. 25). The
petitioner, through counsel, has filed objections. (Doc. 26).
Based upon the court's review of the record, the
petitioner's objections will be overruled and the report
of Judge Mehalchick will be adopted in its entirety.
objections are timely filed to the report and recommendation
of a magistrate judge, the district court must review de
novo those portions of the report to which objections
are made. 28 U.S.C. §636(b)(1); Brown v.
Astrue, 649 F.3d 193, 195 (3d Cir. 2011). Although the
standard is de novo, the extent of review is
committed to the sound discretion of the district judge, and
the court may rely on the recommendations of the magistrate
judge to the extent it deems proper. Rieder v.
Apfel, 115 F.Supp.2d 496, 499 (M.D.Pa. 2000) (citing
United States v. Raddatz, 447 U.S. 667, 676 (1980)).
those sections of the report and recommendation to which no
objection is made, the court should, as a matter of good
practice, “satisfy itself that there is no clear error
on the face of the record in order to accept the
recommendation.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 72(b), advisory committee
notes; see also Univac Dental Co. v. Dentsply Intern.,
Inc., 702 F.Supp.2d 465, 469 (M.D.Pa. 2010) (citing
Henderson v. Carlson, 812 F.2d 874, 878 (3d Cir.
1987) (explaining judges should give some review to every
report and recommendation)). Nevertheless, whether timely
objections are made or not, the district court may accept,
not accept, or modify, in whole or in part, the findings or
recommendations made by the magistrate judge. 28 U.S.C.
§636(b)(1); Local Rule 72.31.
petitioner is serving a life sentence without the possibility
of parole after having been convicted in a bench trial on
charges of first-degree murder, aggravated assault, carrying
a firearm without a license, possession of an instrument of a
crime, and recklessly endangering another person. The
petitioner pursued various state court remedies before filing
the instant petition for writ of habeas corpus pursuant to 28
U.S.C. §2254. The petitioner raises three grounds for
relief in his petition. First, the petitioner claims that the
trial judge demonstrated judicial bias before and during his
trial. This claim is based upon statements made by the judge
before and after trial, the relationship of the judge with
prosecution witnesses, and the judge's actions at trial,
including his permitting a witness to confer with his wife
while testifying, pressuring the witness to testify
consistently, and accepting only selective portions of the
witnesses testimony. In his second claim, the petitioner
challenges the trial judge's consideration of evidence
outside of the record. Finally, in his third claim, the
petitioner argues ineffectiveness of trial counsel for his
failure to file a timely notice of alibi.
report, Judge Mehalchick addressed each of the above claims
in turn. In doing so, Judge Mehalchick determined that the
each of the claims raised in the petition lack merit. For his
part, counsel for the petitioner challenges each of the
individual findings of Judge Mehalchick. The court has
reviewed the findings of Judge Mehalchick, as well as the
objections made thereto. The court finds that each of the
findings are supported by the record and agrees with the
sound reasoning presented by Judge Mehalchick for her
findings. The court, therefore, adopts the reasoning of Judge
Mehalchick in its entirety.
addition to challenging the individual findings of Judge
Mehalchick, petitioner's counsel objects to Judge
Mehalchick's report on the basis that she did not discuss
the cumulative impact of the claims raised. The cumulative
error doctrine provides that:
“Individual errors that do not entitle a petitioner to
relief may do so when combined, if cumulatively, the
prejudice resulting from them undermined the fundamental
fairness of his trial and denied him his constitutional right
to due process. Cumulative errors are not harmless if they
had a substantial and injurious effect or influence in
determining the jury's verdict, which means that a habeas
petitioner is not entitled to relief based on cumulative
errors unless he can establish actual prejudice.”
Fahy v. Horn, 516 F.3d 169, 205 (3d Cir. 2008)
(internal quotation marks omitted) (citations omitted).
Cumulative error claims are distinct, standalone, claims
subject to exhaustion and procedural default. See
Albrecht v. Horn, 485 F.3d 103, 139 (3d Cir. 2007);
Collins v. Sec'y of Pa. Dept. of Corrections,
742 F.3d 528, 541-43 (2014) (citing Wooten v.
Kirkland, 540 F.3d 1019, 1026 (9th Cir.
2008); Jimenez v. Walker, 458 F.3d 130, 149 (2d Cir.
2006); Keith v. Mitchell, 455 F.3d 662, 679
(6th Cir. 2006); Gonzales v. McKune, 279
F.3d 922, 925 (10th Cir. 2002); Bridges v.
Beard, 941 F.Supp.2d 584, 650-51 (E.D.Pa. 2013)
(parenthetical information omitted)).
review, the petitioner did not present a cumulative error
claim in the state courts and, therefore, the claim was not
exhausted. As it is now too late for him to return to the
state court to exhaust his claim, it is procedurally
defaulted and not properly before this court. The claim will
therefore be dismissed.
the petitioner requests that this court issue a certificate
of appealability on each of his claims. A petitioner may not
file an appeal from a final order unless a district or
circuit judge issues a certificate of appealability
(“COA”) pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §2253(c). A
COA shall not issue unless “the applicant has made a
substantial showing of the denial of a constitutional
right.” 28 U.S.C. §2253(c)(2). The petitioner must
show that “jurists of reason could disagree with the
district court's resolution of his constitutional claims
or that jurists could conclude the issues presented are
adequate to deserve encouragement to proceed further.”
Miller-El v. Cockrell, 537 U.S. 322, 327 (2003);
see also Slack v. McDaniel, 529 U.S. 473, 484
(2000). Here, a COA will not issue because the petitioner has
shown neither the denial of a constitutional right nor that
jurists of reason would disagree with this court's
resolution of his claims.
light of the above, an appropriate order shall issue.