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BADGER v. HENDRICKS

October 5, 2005.

JAMES P. BADGER, Petitioner,
v.
ROY L. HENDRICKS, et al., Respondents.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: JOSEPH IRENAS, District Judge

OPINION

James P. Badger 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 should be dismissed as untimely and on the merits. Petitioner filed a Traverse. For the reasons expressed below, the Court dismisses the Petition with prejudice 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 October 23, 1992, in the Superior Court of New Jersey, Law Division, Cumberland County, after a jury convicted him of purposeful or knowing murder, first degree robbery, third degree possession of a weapon with a purpose to use it unlawfully, and felony murder. The Court sentenced Petitioner to a 30-year term of imprisonment, with a 30-year period of parole ineligibility, and a consecutive term of 20 years, with a 10-year period of parole ineligibility.

  Petitioner appealed, and by opinion filed June 29, 1994, the Appellate Division of the Superior Court of New Jersey affirmed the convictions and remanded for an evidentiary hearing on Petitioner's motion for a new trial to explore contentions that a co-defendant had recanted his testimony and that the prosecutor violated Brady v. Maryland, 373 U.S. 83 (1963), by failing to disclose leniency agreements with this co-defendant and with other witnesses. See State v. Badger, N. A-1572-92T1 slip op. (App.Div. June 29, 1994). After conducting an evidentiary hearing, the Law Division denied Petitioner's motion for a new trial on November 17, 1994. On June 11, 1996, the Appellate Division affirmed. On October 2, 1996, the Supreme Court of New Jersey denied certification.

  In November 1996, Petitioner filed a petition for post conviction relief in the Law Division. The Law Division denied relief in a written opinion dated January 29, 1998. Petitioner appealed and on June 12, 2000, the Appellate Division affirmed the order denying post conviction relief. The New Jersey Supreme Court denied certification on January 3, 2001. Petitioner executed the Petition which is now before the Court on December 21, 2001, and the Clerk received it on January 4, 2002. 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). The Petition presents five grounds.

  The State filed an Answer seeking dismissal of the Petition, arguing that the Petition is untimely and that none of the grounds asserted satisfies the standard for habeas relief. Petitioner filed a Traverse and a Memorandum of Law.

  II. STANDARD OF REVIEW

  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. See 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 States.
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"*fn1 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 th[e 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, ___, 124 S.Ct. 2140, 2147 (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 412; see also Lockyer v. Andrade, 538 U.S. 63, 71 (2003) (habeas court must determine "the governing ...


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