The opinion of the court was delivered by: JOSE LINARES, District Judge
Edward Locke, serving a life sentence for felony murder, filed
a Petition for a Writ of Habeas Corpus pursuant to
28 U.S.C. § 2254(a). Respondents filed an Answer, arguing, inter alia,
that the Petition is an unexhausted mixed petition and that the
claims presented are in any event without merit. For the reasons
expressed below, the Court dismisses the Petition and declines to
issue a certificate of appealability. See 28 U.S.C. §§ 2253(c),
2254(a), (b), (c). I. BACKGROUND
Petitioner challenges a judgment of conviction entered on
January 9, 1995, and amended on May 2, 1997, in the Superior
Court of New Jersey, Law Division, Essex County, after a jury
convicted him of felony murder, aggravated manslaughter,
first-degree robbery and second-degree burglary. The Court
sentenced Petitioner to life imprisonment with a 30-year period
of parole ineligibility for felony murder, to a consecutive term
of 20 years imprisonment, with 10 years of parole ineligibility
for first degree-robbery, and concurrent sentences on the
aggravated manslaughter and burglary convictions.
Petitioner appealed and by opinion filed April 29, 1997, the
Appellate Division of the Superior Court of New Jersey affirmed
the convictions and remanded for entry of an amended judgment
merging the conviction for aggravated manslaughter into the
felony murder conviction. State v. Locke, N. A-4116-94T4 (App.
Div. Apr. 29, 1997). The Supreme Court of New Jersey denied
certification on July 11, 1997.
On October 31, 1997, Petitioner filed a petition for post
conviction relief ("PCR") in the Law Division, followed by a
supplemental petition. In a written opinion dated October 25,
1999, the Law Division denied relief. In an opinion filed April
16, 2001, the Appellate Division affirmed the order denying PCR.
On September 20, 2001, the Supreme Court of New Jersey denied
The Clerk received Petitioner's initial Petition October 22,
2001. The Court notified Petitioner of the consequences of filing
such a Petition under the Antiterrorism and Effective Death
Penalty Act ("AEDPA") and gave him an opportunity to withdraw the
Petition and file one all-inclusive Petition, pursuant to Mason
v. Meyers, 208 F.3d 414 (3d Cir. 2000). On December 3, 2001, Petitioner executed an almost identical Petition. This
Court construed the petition as an amended Petition and ordered
Respondents to answer it.
The amended Petition presents four grounds, which are set forth
Ground One: Constitutionally, the due process clause
protect[s] the accused, the State must prove beyond a
Supporting Facts: the events surrounding the
hospitalization and death of the victim remain
problematical and the actual cause of death of the
victim remain[s] debatable.
Ground Two: Trial Court violated defendant due
process right to a fair trial and law.
Supporting Facts: Trial court by instructing
unsupported first degree murder prejudice[d]
defendant, trial court abuse it[s] discretion without
affording defendant full evidentiary hearing, by
failure to caution jury of out of court statement
deprived defendant of fair trial.
Ground Three: the right to trial by jury hold a
hallowed place, the right must remain inviolated.
Supporting Facts: (1) The felony murder verdict was
not properly rendered, this verdict does not set
forth the finding of first degree guilt; (2) Facts
can be intelligently understood by the trier of facts
which province was violated.
Ground Four: Defendant [has] been denied the
effective assistance of counsel.
Supporting Facts: Defendant established a claim of
ineffective assistance of counsel by not
investigating and failure of medical experts and
develop a defense available to defendant[`s] case.
(Pet. ¶ 12.A. to 12.D.) The State filed an Answer seeking dismissal of the amended
Petition, arguing that the Court lacks jurisdiction over three
claims because they assert violation of state law, and that the
ineffective assistance of counsel claim does not satisfy the
standard for habeas relief.*fn1
A habeas corpus petition must meet "heightened pleading
requirements." McFarland v. Scott, 512 U.S. 849, 856 (1994)
(citing 28 U.S.C. § 2254 Rule 2(c)). The petition must specify
all the grounds for relief available to the petitioner, state the
facts supporting each ground, and state the relief requested.
28 U.S.C. § 2254 Rule 2(c)(1), (c)(2), (c)(3).
Section 2254(a) of Title 28 of the United States Code gives the
court jurisdiction to entertain a habeas petition challenging a
state conviction or sentence only where the inmate's custody
violates federal law:
[A] district court shall entertain an application for
a writ of habeas corpus in behalf of a person in
custody pursuant to the judgment of a State court
only on the ground that he is in custody in violation
of the Constitution or laws or treaties of the United
28 U.S.C. § 2254(a).
A district court must give deference to determinations of state
courts. Duncan v. Morton, 256 F.3d 189, 196 (3d Cir.), cert.
denied, 534 U.S. 919 (2001); Dickerson v. Vaughn, 90 F.3d 87,
90 (3d Cir. 1996). Federal courts "must presume that the factual
findings of both state trial and appellate courts are correct, a
presumption that can only be overcome on the basis of clear and convincing evidence to the contrary." Stevens v. Delaware
Correctional Center, 295 F.3d 361, 368 (3d Cir. 2002). Where a
federal claim was "adjudicated on the merits"*fn2 in state
court proceedings, § 2254 does not permit habeas relief unless
adjudication of the claim
(1) resulted in a decision that 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) resulted in a decision that was based on an
unreasonable determination of the facts in light of
the evidence presented in the State court proceeding.
28 U.S.C. § 2254(d).
"A decision is `contrary to' a Supreme Court holding if the
state court `contradicts the governing law set forth in [the
Supreme Court's] cases' or if it `confronts a set of facts that
are materially indistinguishable from a decision of the Supreme
Court and nevertheless arrives at a [different] result.'"
Rompilla v. Horn, 355 F.3d 233, 250 (3d Cir. 2004) (quoting
Williams v. Taylor, 529 U.S. 362, 405-06 (2000)).
Under the "`unreasonable application' clause, a federal habeas
court may grant the writ if the state court identifies the
correct governing legal principle from th[e Supreme] Court's
decisions but unreasonably applies that principle to the facts of
the prisoner's case." Williams, 529 U.S. at 413. Whether a
state court's application of federal law is "unreasonable" must
be judged objectively; an application may be incorrect, but still
not unreasonable. Id. at 409-10. A court begins the analysis by determining the relevant clearly
established law. See Yarborough v. Alvarado, 541 U.S. 652,
660 (2004). Clearly established law "refers to the holdings, as
opposed to the dicta, of [the Supreme Court's] decisions as of
the time of the relevant state-court decision." Williams,
529 U.S. at ...