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Culver v. Capozza

United States District Court, W.D. Pennsylvania

April 15, 2019

HENRY CULVER, EJ-1493, Petitioner,
v.
MARK CAPOZZA, et al., Respondents.

          REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION

          ROBERT C. MITCHELL, UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE

         I. Recommendation:

         It is respectfully recommended that the petitioner of Henry Culver for a writ of habeas corpus (ECF No. 1) be dismissed and because reasonable jurists could not conclude that a basis for appeal exists, that a certificate of appealability be denied.

         Airport:

         Henry Culver, an inmate at the State Correctional Institution-Fayette has presented a petition for a writ of habeas corpus.

         Culver is presently serving a sentence of life without parole imposed on December 13, 2012 at No. CP-02-CR-8632-2011 in the Court of Common Pleas of Allegheny County, Pennsylvania, following his conviction by a jury of first-degree murder, possession of a prohibited firearm, carrying a firearm without a license, terroristic threats and simple assault.

         An appeal was filed in which the questions presented were:

I. Did the trial court err in failing to suppress evidence that Mr. Culver signed a different name on a property inventory form when he was booked in jail considering Mr. Culver had invoked his right to remain silent and the question which asked for his name was calculated to elicit an incriminating response?
II. Did the trial court abuse its discretion in denying Mr. Culver's post-sentence motion that the verdict was against the weight of the evidence where the three witnesses who implicated Mr. Culver in the shooting provided entirely inconsistent and contradictory accounts of the incident, the witnesses' statements and actions immediately after the incident suggested they were covering up what actually occurred, the prosecution provided only a contrived and far-fetched motive for the shooting, and two of the Commonwealth's primary witnesses had a motive to fabricate their accounts of the incident?[1]

         On October 2, 2014, the judgment of sentence was affirmed.[2] Allowance of appeal was denied by the Pennsylvania Supreme Court on March 31, 2015.[3]

         On July 23, 2015, Culver filed a post-conviction petition. On December 14, 2016 the latter petition was dismissed.[4]

         A timely appeal was filed in which the questions presented were:

1. Did the ineffective assistance of petitioner's PCRA counsel and the PCRA court's failure to provide petitioner with his trial transcripts combine to deprive petitioner of his due process rights under the state and federal constitutions?
2. Did the PCRA court err in dismissing without a hearing the claim that trial counsel Lisa Middleman was ineffective for failing to present expert witness testimony concerning the DNA sample taken from the gloves found at the scene of the homicide?
3. Did the PCRA court err in dismissing without a hearing the claim that trial counsel Lisa Middleman was ineffective for failing to properly prepare for trial by interviewing witnesses LaPerry Raymond and Rasheeda Saxton before they testified?
4. Did the PCRA court err in dismissing without a hearing the claim that trial counsel Lisa Middleman was ineffective for failing to obtain medical records from Jefferson Memorial Clinic in Miami, Florida that would have explained that petitioner went to Florida seeking medical treatment, not to avoid apprehension by the police?
5. Did the PCRA court err in denying without a hearing the claim that trial counsel Lisa Middleman was ineffective for failing to challenge Albert Goodman's competency to testify?
6. Was trial counsel ineffective for failing to properly impeach Albert Goodman's testimony?[5]

         On October 13, 2017, the judgment of the post-conviction court was affirmed and leave to appeal was denied by the Pennsylvania Supreme Court on March 28, 2018.[6]

         In the instant petition filed on September 13, 2018[7], Culver alleges he is entitled to relief on the following grounds:

1. The State Court misapplied clearly established federal law when they sanctioned the Commonwealth's use of U.S. Marshal Ty Fallow's testimony combined with a jail property inventory form to show Culver's consciousness of guilt.
2. Did the ineffective assistance of petitioner's PCRA counsel and the PCRA court's failure to provide petitioner with his trial transcripts combine to deprive petitioner of his due process rights under the federal constitution?
3. Did the PCRA court err in dismissing without a hearing the claim that trial counsel was ineffective for failing to present expert witness testimony concerning the DNA sample taken from gloves found at the scene of the homicide?
4. Did the PCRA court err in dismissing without a hearing the claim that trial counsel was ineffective for failing to properly prepare for trial by interviewing witness LaPerry Raymond and Rasheeda Sexton before they testified?
5. Did the PCRA court err in dismissing without a hearing the claim that trial counsel was ineffective for failing to obtain medical records from Jefferson Memorial Clinic in Miami, FL that would have explained that petitioner went to Florida seeking medical treatment not to avoid apprehension by police?
6. Did the PCRA court err in denying without a hearing the claim that trial counsel was ineffective for failing to challenge Albert ...

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