United States District Court, W.D. Pennsylvania, Pittsburgh.
Marilyn J. Horan, United States District Judge.
Michael Wakefield ("Petitioner") is incarcerated at
SCI-Greene and has filed a Petition for Writ of Habeas Corpus
under 28 U.S.C. § 2241 (the "Petition"). (ECF
No. 3). Petitioner is currently serving a life sentence
without the possibility of parole based upon a 2014
first-degree murder conviction. In his Petition, he
challenges his "pre-trial detention" related to a
2018 criminal homicide charge where he allegedly caused the
death of his cellmate at SCI-Somerset.
case was referred to Magistrate Judge Maureen Kelly in
accordance with the Magistrate Judges Act, 28 U.S.C. §
636(b)(1), and Local Civil Rules 72.C and D.
Judge Kelly's Report and Recommendation, ECF No. 5, filed
on October 8, 2019, recommended that the Petition be
dismissed before service because the Petition is not
jurisdictionally proper given that Petitioner fails to show
that he exhausted state court remedies and that his claims
are meritless. The Court informed Petitioner that he could
file Objections to the Report by October 25, 2018. On October
30, 2019, Petitioner moved for Extension of Time to File a
Response/Reply to the Report and Recommendation, which was
granted. (ECF Nos. 6 and 7). On November 26, 2019, Petitioner
filed his Objections to Judge Kelly's Report and
Recommendation. (ECF No. 8). On the same date, Petitioner
also filed a Motion for Certificate of Appealability.
the Court's careful review, Petitioner's Objections
do not require rejection of the Report and Recommendation or
extended comment. From what the Court can discern, Petitioner
asserts two categories of Objections: 1) the validity of his
state court charges, and 2) whether he needs to exhaust his
state court remedies prior to the filing of a federal habeas
first contends that the Commonwealth never charged him with
first degree murder. Instead, he argues that the Commonwealth
only charged him with criminal homicide under 18 Pa.C.S.
§ 2501(a), which he calls an "illusory crime."
Petitioner was initially charged through a police criminal
complaint with Criminal Homicide, Assault by Prisoner, and
Aggravated Assault. (ECF No. 8-1). As addressed in the Report
and Recommendation, the Commonwealth then filed a subsequent
criminal information adding charges for Murder of the First
Degree, Murder of the Second Degree, and Murder of the Third
Degree, which reflect lesser-included offenses within the
Criminal Homicide statute. In the Crimes Code, the legislature
created "one major homicide offense, that of criminal
homicide." Com. v. Polirneni, 378 A.2d 1189,
1194 (Pa. 1977). "[T]he several types of homicide,
namely, murder of any of the three named degrees and
voluntary and involuntary manslaughter are constituent
subsidiary offenses within the single major offense. All
grades of unlawful killing thus have been made lesser
included offenses of the overall crime of criminal
homicide." Id. at 1194-95
Petitioner's assertion that he was never charged with
first-degree murder or that Criminal Homicide is not a crime
lacks merit both in procedural accuracy and substantive law.
The underlying state criminal record reflects both a Criminal
Homicide charge via criminal complaint, which would include
the lesser included charge of first-degree murder and a
subsequent information filed which included a charge of
first-degree murder. Under either circumstance, Petitioner
fails to identify that his pre-trial detention under these
charges violates "the Constitution or laws or treaties
of the United States" to support an application for a
writ of habeas corpus. See 28 U.S.C. § 2241.
Accordingly, the Report and Recommendation correctly
concluded that Petitioner's claim was meritless.
next contends that he need not exhaust his state court
remedies before pursuing a federal habeas petition. Under 28
U.S.C. § 2241(c)(3), the writ of habeas corpus may
extend to a prisoner in pretrial detention if "[h]e is
in custody in violation of the Constitution or laws or
treaties of the United States." While federal courts
have jurisdiction to issue a writ of habeas corpus before a
judgment is entered in a state criminal proceeding under 28
U.S.C. § 2241, in the pretrial setting, "federal
habeas corpus does not lie, absent 'special
circumstances' to adjudicate the merits of an affirmative
defense to a state criminal charge prior to a judgment of
conviction by a state court." Braden v. 30th
Judicial Circuit Court of Ky., 410 U.S. 484, 489 (1973).
Courts disfavor pretrial intervention in state criminal
proceedings based upon, "a principle of deference and
'proper respect' for state governmental functions in
our federal system." Evans v. Court of Common Pleas,
Del Cnty., Pa., 959 F.2d 1227, 1234 (3d Cir. 1992)
(citing Younger v. Harris, 401 U.S. 37, 44 (1971)).
has articulated no "special circumstances" that
would warrant divesting the state courts of their
jurisdiction of the pending criminal matter. Petitioner's
only argues that he will be tried for a crime, first-degree
murder, for which he was not charged. The underlying record,
as detailed above, demonstrates that this assertion lacks
merit. Further, by Petitioner's own filing, he as a two
pending appeals with the Superior Court and Supreme Court of
Pennsylvania in which he can exhaust his arguments. (ECF No.
8 at p. 3). Therefore, no special circumstances excuse
Petitioner's obligation to exhaust his state court
the Petition for a Writ of Habeas Corpus will be dismissed.
NOW, this 19th day of December 2019, after de novo
review of the record in this case, including the Report and
Recommendation, IT IS HEREBY ORDERED that the Petition for
Writ of Habeas Corpus, is DISMISSED, and, because reasonable
jurists could not conclude that a basis for appeal exists, a
certificate of appealability is denied.
FURTHER ORDERED that the Report and Recommendation, ECF No.
5, of Magistrate Judge Kelly, dated October 8, 2019, is
adopted as the opinion of the Court. The Clerk is to mark the