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Spencer v. Erwin

United States District Court, E.D. Kentucky, Central Division, Frankfort

January 25, 2018



          David L. Bunning, United States District Judge

         This matter is before the Court upon Petitioner Robin Spencer's Petition for a Writ of Habeas Corpus pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254. (Doc. # 105). Pursuant to the Court's local practice, this matter was referred to Magistrate Judge Hanly A. Ingram for the purpose of reviewing the Petition and preparing a Report and Recommendation. After reviewing the issues raised by Petitioner, Magistrate Judge Ingram issued a Recommended Disposition on November 3, 2017 recommending that the Petition for a Writ of Habeas Corpus be dismissed with prejudice. (Doc. # 10). Petitioner having filed Objections to the R&R (Doc. # 11), and the Respondent having filed no response and the time for submitting such a response having expired, this matter is now ripe for the Court's review.

         In accordance with 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1), the Court has conducted a de novo review of those portions of the Recommended Disposition to which Petitioner has objected. For reasons that follow, Petitioner's Objections are overruled and Magistrate Judge Ingram's Recommended Disposition is adopted as the opinion of the Court.

         I. Factual and Procedural Background

         The underlying facts of this case have been recounted by the Kentucky Court of Appeals, so the Court will briefly summarize the facts as they are restated in Spencer v. Comm., No. 2014-CA-1878-MR, at 1-2 (Ky. Ct. App. April 22, 2016). Petitioner was indicted on two counts of Sexual Abuse in the First Degree and one count of Sodomy in the first degree. These charges stemmed from allegations that Petitioner sexually abused his two-stepdaughters when they were both under the age of twelve. Petitioner plead guilty to the two counts of Sexual Abuse in the First Degree and to the amended charge of Sodomy in the Third Degree. The court sentenced Petitioner to a total of fifteen years imprisonment. He was ordered to serve six months incarceration with the remainder of his sentence probated for a period of five years.

         Two years later, the two victims signed affidavits recanting their testimony. In the affidavits, the victims claimed that they made up the story about the abuse because they were angry with the Petitioner for divorcing their mother. Petitioner filed a motion to withdraw his guilty plea. A hearing was held and at the hearing the victims indicated that they wrote the letters at the direction of their mother. Both victims testified that the letters were false and the abuse actually occurred. The trial court denied the Petitioner's motion.

         After his motion was denied, Petitioner filed a motion to set aside his judgment under the Kentucky Rule of Civil Procedure 60.02. The Kentucky Court of Appeals affirmed the trial court's denial of his Rule 60.02 motion. Petitioner applied for discretionary review before the Kentucky Supreme Court, however, the application was denied.

         On October 2, 2017, Petitioner filed a petition pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254 in the Western District of Kentucky. (Doc. # 1). On October 5, Judge Thomas B. Russell ordered that the case be transferred to the Eastern District of Kentucky. (Doc. # 5). During the preliminary review phase of the petition, the Court has twice ordered Petitioner to amend his petition in a manner that specifies a basis for federal habeas corpus relief. (Doc. # 10 at 1). Yet, after three attempts to amend the petition, Magistrate Judge Ingram found the pleadings remain too vague for a meaningful response or evaluation by the Court. Id. Petitioner filed Objections to Magistrate Judge Ingram's findings, which are the subject of the Court's review.

         II. Analysis

         A. Legal Standards

         A state prisoner has a statutory right to attack his conviction. West v. Bell, 242 F.3d 338, 346 (6th Cir. 2001). A state prisoner may seek federal habeas corpus relief on the ground that he is being held in custody in violation of the Constitution, laws, or treaties of the United States. 28 U.S.C. § 2254(a).

         The Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act, Pub. L. No. 104-132, 110 Stat. 1214 (1996) (“AEDPA”), requires “heightened respect” for legal and factual determinations made by state courts. See Herbert v. Billy, 160 F.3d 1131, 1134 (6th Cir. 1998). This highly deferential standard is difficult to meet. Cullen v. Pinholster, 563 U.S. 170, 181 (2011). All of the state court's factual findings are presumed to be correct, and can be rebutted only by “clear and convincing evidence.” Mitchell v. Mason, 325 F.3d 732, 737-38 (6th Cir. 2003). Similarly, legal conclusions made by state courts also receive substantial dereference under AEDPA. “[A] federal habeas court may overturn a state court's application of federal law only if it is so erroneous that there is no possibility fair-minded jurists could disagree that the state court's decision conflicts with this Court's precedents.” Nevada v. Jackson, 569 U.S. 505, 133 S.Ct. 1990, 1992 (2013).

         If a party files objections to the recommendation, a district court must then consider those objections de novo and “accept, reject, or modify the recommendation, receive further evidence, or resubmit the matter to the magistrate judge with instructions.” Fed. R. Crim. P. 59(b)(3). The objections must be specific; “vague, general or conclusory objections . . . [are] tantamount to a complete failure to object.” Cole v. Yukins, 7 F. App'x 354, 356 (6th Cir. 2001). Moreover, “an ‘objection' that does nothing more than state a disagreement with a magistrate's suggested resolution, or simply summarizes what has been presented before, is not an ‘objection' as that term is used in this context.” VanDiver v. Martin, 304 F.Supp.2d 934, 938 (E.D. Mich. 2004).

         B. ...

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